The Boston massacre is considered as one of the events that triggered the rebellion in USA and is often pointed out as one of the most important episodes before the revolutionary war. The “future” Americans claimed that the eight British soldiers fired into a nearby crowd, killing only civilians, without any reasons at all. The British had their version; apparently they had stopped a huge rebellion that would have decimated the city of Boston. Doing this with a minimum of casualties.
So what happened?
Between 1765-1775 Boston had a reputation of having the biggest collection of rascals and thugs in the “the new land”. Law was upheld with a bloody hand and by the help of British soldiers. A cold winter morning on march 5, 1770 a small group of colonist “bad boys”, was up to their usual activity of bothering and tormenting lone British soldiers by yelling and throwing snow balls at them. But today was different, when they began upsetting a lone sentry guard he responded by ringing the bell, which meant that he needed urgent reinforcements.
This soon escalated and soon eight soldiers were on place, all armed and ready. The tension was high and nerve-racking. Their captain, Thomas Preston obviously had a formidable task in front of him. The colonists, who though they had found a lone guard, now began provoking the other soldiers as well, remember that they did have the advantage of numbers.
What happened next, no one really knows. What we do know is that the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five and wounding several others. Here are some eyewitness accounts to help you make your own conclusion:
“They attacked us with heavy clubs, we had no choice but to fire at them”.
“I did not order my men to fire, but suddenly all hell was loose, my soldiers will pay for this undisciplined behavior”.
“The captain ordered his men to fire, it was bitter cold murder, and we all heard it”. “A colonist fired into the air, to help the soldiers, but they though they were under attack instead”.
A group of police officers wrote down all the statements, but could never blame anyone of the civilians, because all the arguments were so contradictory and they knew that even though over 36 eyewitnesses claimed the soldiers fired first, they could never prosecute any of them, since the country was still under British rule.
But, what we can say about the whole episode is that the patriots greatly used the event in their favor. This was what they needed, a bloody story to tell all who had not yet chosen side. And when the story about the Boston massacre spread, thousands of young men took up arms against the British. It could actually be fair saying that the episode really gathered the rebels under one standard, giving them a common platform, an event they all knew about, an example of the British injustice made upon them. Something that they felt had to be stopped, immediately.
We all know the rest of the story. And who knows? Maybe the entire USA is founded on one Captain and his acts and decisions that cold winter morning in Boston?