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Boston Massacre
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 of Boston.
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Below is an excerpt from it which offers some perspective on the boston massacre.

"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 Rebellion.

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 rowdy.

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 Revolution.

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.

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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.

A book ad for Hiller Zobel's research of the Boston Massacre and the trial following it.

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