What are the background, major events and results of Boston Massacre and what the role did this conflict have on the impending Revolution?

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, occured just after the repeal of the Stamp Act.  The colonists thought they had won an important political victory over the British Parliament, but this had just led to more and worse trouble with the Customs service over smuggling and taxation.  The captain of a British naval ship, the 'Romney" had attempted to impress American sailors into his crew, which resulted in a riot and the threat of naval gunfire into the crowd.  Actions like this continued to enrage the colonists.

On the very cold night of March 5 a lone British soldier (Pvt. Hugh White) was on sentry duty at the Customs House.  A mob  of mostly young men gathered and began taunting him.  One was a wigmaker's apprentice named Edward Garrick, who claimed White's company commander had cheated his master.  As the scene got louder, more people joined and the taunts grew to the throwing of rocks and larger missiles.  The crowd grew more agitated and armed themselves with palings from a fence.  The crowd dared White to fire at them, and grew to such a degree that many in the mob later claimed they feared for the soldier's life.  Fire alarms were rung, and the majority of the town's male population turned out.

Captain Thomas Prescott took a patrol out, ordered White to join his detachment and attempted to leave.  The mob pressed the soldiers into a small semi-circle against the Customs House, and refused to move.  The soldiers stood with bayonets bare, and Prescott tried to reason with the crowd. Richard Palmes, a merchant, asked Prescott if his troops would fire and the captain replied, "By no means."  The standoff continued until Private Montgomery was knocked down by a club, and he rose and fired, hitting no one. After some scuffling Private Kilroy fired, followed by other shots.  Prescott ordered the fire to cease.  Crispus Attucks, 40-year old free black man from the Bahamas, was killed, as was Samuel Gray and Samuel Maverick, who was running away.  Patrick Carr, was mortally wounded, and Robert Patterson was wounded.

The men and Prescott were tried seperately, the soldiers claiming they followed orders and Prescott that he had not ordered the men to fire.  Defense attornies were John Adams and Josiah Quincy, cousins and patriots.  Neither side wanted any serious verdict, as it weould cause more trouble.  Palmes and other witnesses claimed the crowd was out of control, and there was a statement from a doctor who attended Carr, who had said he did not blame the men for firing.  The soldiers were acquited except two, Kilroy and Montgomery, who were guilty of manslaughter branded on the thumb.  Prescott was acquited.

Both sides were relieved, and things settled down again.  But the Massacre left hard feelings between the soldiers and the townspeople, which continued to smolder through the entire period.  The Massacre had no real direct bearing on the Revolution, but it was another in the list of incidents to which Patriots could point to as evidence of Britain's contempt, and left the Patriots with an annual commemoration for propoganda purposes, which they used well.

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