Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Today In History; Boston Massacre

1770: During the reign of King George III, British soldiers killed five men in a dispute we now refer to as the Boston Massacre. The crown had sent soldiers to Boston, which was a colonial center of revolutionary sentiment. The soldiers had been quartered with the townspeople, who resented their presence, and, even though the soldiers were there to keep the peace, skirmishes were common. The situation was growing increasingly tense, and the "massacre" was a result of that tension.

The Boston Massacre began when a young apprentice yelled an insult at a custom house guard. The guard responded by hitting the teenager on the head with the butt of his rifle. The young man called for help, and the soldier found himself confronted with an angry crowd of (mostly) young men. He shouted for back-up and was joined by six more redcoats and an officer, who directed the soldiers to fix bayonets but not to load their weapons. Soon the crowd was several hundred strong and had begun to throw rocks and chunks of ice. Led by Crispus Attucks, they dared the soldiers to fire. The soldiers loaded their guns but didn't shoot until some in the mob began to attack them with clubs and a cutlass. When finally they did fire a volley, three men were killed and two more were mortally wounded. Six others were wounded but survived. As a result of the incident, the British withdrew their troops from the town, arrested those who had fired on the crowd, and scheduled a trial for the following fall. John Adams defended the soldiers, all but two of whom were acquitted; those two were found guilty of manslaughter and branded.

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