What happened at the Boston Massacre March 5, 1770?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Five civilians were killed on the night of March 5, 1770, when British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of rioters who had assembled and attacked the unwelcome troops. British troops had been sent to Boston in 1768 to quell the public furor over the Townshend Acts, the unpopular legislation enacted to help to increase the enforcement of trade taxes and restrict the burgeoning smuggling market.

The Boston Massacre began when a shop owner's apprentice falsely accused an on-duty British officer of refusing to pay his bill. The officer ignored the the charge, but the apprentice soon showed up with friends who continued hurling insults at the officer. Soon, the civilians began throwing snowballs at their target.  A British private rushed to his defense and struck the apprentice in the head with his musket. A crowd eventually grew to a size of 300 or more, and the small group of British soldiers were reinforced.

The crowd grew into an unruly mob who continued to throw snowballs and other objects until one soldier was felled by a club swung by a local innkeeper. The soldier angrily rose to his feet and encouraged his fellow infantrymen to fire; meanwhile, the civilians themselves were daring the soldiers by calling "fire" to the armed men. Although apparently not ordered to do so by their commanding officer, a number of soldiers fired into the crowd, hitting at least 11 civilians.

A total of five Bostonians died of their wounds, and several of the soldiers were later charged with murder. The next day, the soldiers were removed from the town center to a fort in Boston Harbor. At the later trial, six of the indicted soldiers were found not guilty of murder, while two privates were found guilty of manslaughter. Their punishment? They had their thumbs branded.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Boston Massacre refers to a famous incident of the American War of Independence in which British troops fired on a crowd of Americans, killing five people. This event contributed substantially to turn the Americans against the British

In this incident, which took place in Boston on March 5, 1770, a group of about 400 Bostonians led by Crispus Attucks, surrounded a detachment of British Troops stationed in Boston. Provoked by this the British troops fired killing five people.

A monument has been erected in Boston to honour the people who died in this incident.

donjohn8 | Student

A famous lithograph by Paul Revere (which neglects to portray a non-white victim) was used by the terrorist organization known as The Sons of Liberty (led by ne'er-do-well agitator Samuel Adams) to inflame the rebellion against what had so far been  just British rule. Note that John Adams defended the accused British soldiers, nearly acquitting them.


Notice how the British Grenadiers are shown standing in a straight line shooting their rifles in a regular volley, whereas when the disturbance actually erupted both sides were belligerent and riotous.

Notice also that Revere's engraving shows a blue sky. Only a wisp of a moon suggests that the riot occurred after nine o'clock on a cold winter night.

Notice too the absence of snow and ice on the street, while Crispus Attucks — a black man lying on the ground closest to the British soldiers — is shown to be white. As an aside, it should be noted that as a result of his death in the Boston Massacre, Crispus Attucks would emerge as the most famous of all the black men to fight in the cause of the Revolution, and become its first martyr.


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