How Many People Died During the Boston Massacre

February 28, 2024

How Many People Died During the boston massacre

Boston in 1770 was a hotbed of radical revolutionary ideas and sentiment. The colonists had grown discontented with the presence of British troops in their city, which had been stationed there to support crown-appointed officials and enforce unpopular Parliamentary laws. On March 5, a group of angry men taunted a British sentry near the Customs House, and the soldier responded by striking the man with the butt of his rifle. The crowd retorted, and soon church bells began to toll and the streets grew agitated. A group of soldiers under Captain Thomas Preston arrived, and the mob pelted them with coal, ice, and oyster shells. When the soldiers tried to withdraw from the area, they were pressed upon by the crowd and two of them fired, killing three on the spot (black sailor Crispus Attucks, rope maker Samuel Gray, and mariner James Caldwell) and wounding eight more, including two who died later (Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr).

The incident became known as the Boston Massacre and helped turn public sentiment away from reform and toward revolution. The riot inflamed feelings already running high against the British, and Patriots like Paul Revere promoted it as a noble struggle for liberty by depicting it in an engraving that was widely distributed. Over the next five years, it helped rouse a reluctant colony to rebellion against the Crown, leading to the Boston Tea Party and formation of the First Continental Congress, effectively launching the American Revolutionary War. The trial of Captain Preston and his fellow soldiers was a landmark in American history—John Adams and Josiah Quincy were among the lawyers representing them—and while all were ultimately acquitted, the event further inflamed hatred of the British and heightened the urgency of the revolution.

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