Welcome to iBoston
Monday, March 5, 1770
Susan Wilson's Boston Sights and Insights (Published by Beacon Press)
is a spirited and well written introduction to the history and environs
Below is an excerpt from it which offers some perspective on the boston
"Tensions ran high between the red-coated British "regulars" stationed in
Boston and the local residents. Some radicals - like Sam Adams, John's rabble-rousing
cousin-fanned every flame they could, hoping to incite outright American
On Monday, March 5, 1775, at 8pm a young wigmaker's apprentice began a pestering
British sentry about an unpaid barber bill, although the bill was paid and
the officer even had a receipt. A soldier (perhaps the same one) eventually
butted the taunting kid with his musket. Crowds began to assemble and the
situation grew to a standoff. As more soldiers arrived, the crowd became
Church bells began ringing and someone yelled "Fire!" (Ringing bells were
often used as fire alarms.) Why and exactly when the bells were rung, incidently,
are widely argued points. They may have been ringing to announce the impending
danger, much like a modern siren; or they may not have started tolling until
after the shout of "Fire!" Whatever the order of events the British soldiers
fired their guns, and five men eventually died from the wounds inflicted.
Among the dead was an African-American former slave named Crispus
Attucks, the first casualty of the Boston Massacre and the American
Patriot activists milked the incident for all it was worth. Paul Revere
made and distributed his famous engraving of the "massacre", closely based
on Henry Pelham's original, featuring the Old State House in the background.
The factually inaccurate image of the Boston Massacre was used as propaganda
to push the colonies closer to rebellion."
John Adams defended the soldiers, who ultimately won their acquittal. Paul
Revere went on to host dramatic exhibits at his home, where thousands gathered
to see painted pictures of the massacre, illuminated from behind by candlelight,
displayed one after another from inside his house.
For more info
The controversial origins of this etching are discussed by the US
State Department on their web site. Still more
details on the Revere's production of this famous engraving.
In honor of Crispus Attucks, his
grave marker in the Old Granary Burying Yard and a theatre
bearing his name.
book ad for Hiller Zobel's research of the Boston Massacre and the trial