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What Really Happened in the Boston Massacre: The Trial of Captain Thomas Preston…I’ll upload essay and when you done reading let me know so i can give you questions

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E)iscovering the
American Past
A Look at the Evidence
VoLUME I: To 1877
William Bruce Wheeler
University of Tennessee
Susan D. Becker
University of Tennessee, Emerita
Lorri Glover
St. Louis Univers1ty
1 .,.
CENGAGE l earningAustralia · Braz il • Japan • Korea · Mexico · Singapore · Spain · United Kingdom • United States
What Really
Happened in the
Boston Massacre?
The Trial of Captain
Thomas Preston
The Problem
On the chilly evening of March 5, 1770,
a small group of boys began taunting
a British sentry (called a centinel or
sentinel) in front of the Boston Custom
House. Pushed to the breaking point by
this goading, the soldier struck one of
his tormentors with his musket. Soon a
crowd of fifty or sixty gathered around
the frightened soldier, prompting him
to call for help. The officer of the day,
Captain Thomas Preston, and seven
British soldiet:S hurried to the Custom
House to proteCt the sentry.
Upon arriving at the Custom House,
Captain P reston must have sensed how
precarious his position was. The crowd
had swelled to more than one hundred,
some anxious for a fight, others simply curiosity seekers, and still others
called from their homes by the town’s
church bells, a traditional signal that a
fire had broken out. Efforts by Preston
and others to calm the crowd proved
useless. And because the crowd had
enveloped Preston and his men as it
had the lone sentry, retreat was nearly
What happened next is a subject
of considerable controversy. One of
the soldiers fired his musket into the
crowd, and the others followed suit, one
by one. The colonists scattered, leaving five dead 1 and six wounded, some
of whom were probably innocent bystanders. Preston and his men quickly
returned to their barracks, where the~
were placed under house arrest. They
were later taken to jail and charged
with murder.
1. Those killed were Crispus Attucks (a
part African, part Native American seaman
in his forties, who also went by the name of _
Michael Johnson), James Caldwell (a sailor),
Patrick Carr (an immigrant from Ireland who
worked as a leather-breeches maker), Samuel
Gray (a ropemaker), and Samuel Maverick
(a seventeen-year-old apprentice).
I 821
The Problem
Preston’s trial began on October 24,
1770, delayed by the authorities in an
attempt to cool the emotions of the
townspeople. The anger of most Bostonians, however, did not abate. The
day after what some people already
were beginning to call “the massacre,”
an enormous town meeting demanded
that the British troops be removed,
a demand that Lieutenant Governor
Thomas Hutchinson rejected. That
same day, witnesses began to appear
before the town’sjustices of the peace
to give sworn depositions of their versions of what had taken place, depositions that leaked out in a pamphlet
undoubtedly published by anti-British
extremists. 2 Then, on March 8, a massive funeral procession of 10,000 to
12,000 mourners accompanied the
four caskets to the burial ground. 3
Four days later, Paul Revere’s engraving (Source 4 in the Evidence section
of this chapter) appeared in Boston
Gazette. Therefore, when Preston’s
trial finally began seven months after
the event, emotions still were running
John Adams, Josiah Quincy, and
Robert Auchmuty had agreed to defend
Preston, 4 even though the first two
were staunch Patriots. They believed
that the captain was entitled to a fair
trial and did their best to defend him.
Mter a difficult jury selection, the
trial began, witnesses for the prosecution and the defense being called
mostly from those who had given depositions to the grand jury. The trial
lasted for four days, an unusually
long trial for the times. The case
went to the jury at 5:00 P.M. on October 29. Although it took the jury only
three hours to reach a verdict, the
decision was not announced until the
following day.
In this chapter, you will be using portions of the evidence given at the murder trial of Captain Thomas Preston
to reconstruct what actually happened
on that March evening in Boston,
Massachusetts. Was Preston guilty as
charged? Or was he innocent? Only by
reconstructing the event that we call
the Boston Massacre will you be able to
answer these questions.
2. For the ninety six depositions, see A Short
Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston
(Boston: Edes and Gill, 1770). Thirty-one
depositions were taken by those favorable to
Preston, delivered to London, and published
as A Fair Account ofthe Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston (London: B. White, 1770).
3. Patrick Carr lived until March 14.
4. Adams, Quincy, and Auchmuty (pronounced
Auk’muty) also were engaged to defend the
soldiers, a practice that would not be allowed
today because of the conflict of interest (defending more than one person charged with
the same crime).
What Really
Happened in the
Boston Massacre?
The Trial of
Captain Thomas
The town of Boston5 had been uneasy
throughout the first weeks of 1770.
Tension had been building since the
early 1760s because the town was increasingly affected by the forces of
migration, change, and maturation.
The protests against the Stamp Act had
been particularly bitter there, and in
the wake of a new slate of taxes known
as the Townshend Duties (1767), men
such as Samuel Adams were encouraging their fellow Bostonians to be
even bolder in their remonstrances. In
response, in 1768, the British government ordered two regiments of soldiers
to Boston to restore order and enforce
the laws of Parliament. Knowing the
colonists better than did the British
government, three years earlier Benjamin Franklin had quipped, “They
will not find a rebellion; they may
indeed make one. “6
Instead of bringing calm to Boston,
the presence of soldiers, as Franklin
had predicted, only increased tensions.
Clashes between Bostonians and redcoats were common on the streets, in
taverns, and at the places ofemployment
of British soldiers who sought parttime jobs to supplement their meager
5. Although Boston was one of the Largest
urban centers in the colonies, the town was
not incorporated as a city. Several attempts
were made, but residents opposed them, fearing they would lose the institution of the town
6. For Franklin’s statement, see MTestimony
to the House of Commons, February 13, 1755,”
quoted in Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin, An American Life (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 2003), p. 230.
salaries. Known British sympathizers and informers were harassed, and
Crown officials were openly insulted.
Indeed, the town of Boston seemed to
be a power keg just waiting for a spark
to set off an e11:plosion.
On February 22, 1770, British sympathizer and informer Ebenezer Richardson tried to tear down an anti-British
sign. He was followed to his house by an
angry crowd that proceeded to taunt him
and break his windows with stones. One
of the stones struck Richardson’s wife.
Enraged, he grabbed a musket and fired
almost blindly into the crowd. Elevenyear-old Christopher Seider7 fell to the
ground vvith eleven pellets of shot in his
chest. The boy died eight hours later.
The crowd, by now numbering about
one thousand, dragged Richardson
from his house and through the streets,
finally delivering him to the Boston jail.
Four days later, the town conducted a
huge funeral for Christopher Seider,
probably arranged and organized by
Samuel Adams. Seider’s casket was carried through the streets by children, and
approximately two thousand mourners
(one-seventh of Boston’s total population) took part. All through the next
week Boston was an angry town. Gangs
of men and boys roamed the streets at
night looking for British soldiers foolish enough to venture out alone. Simi- .
larly, off-duty soldiers prowled the same
streets looking for someone to challenge
them. A fight broke out at a ropewalk

7. Christopher Seider is sometimes referred to
as Christopher Snider.
The Method
between some soldiers who worked
there part time and some unemployed
colonists. Tempers grew even uglier,
and only two days before the “massacre” British Lieutenant Colonel Maurice
Carr complained to the Lieutenant Governor “of the frequent abuses offered to
his men, and of very insolent, provoking
language given to some of them. . . . “8
Crowd disturbances had been an
almost regular feature of life in both
England and America. Historian John
Bohstedt has estimated that England
was the scene of at least one thousand
crowd disturbances and riots between
1790 and 1810.9 Colonial American
towns were no more placid; demonstrations and riots were almost regular
features of the colonists’ lives. Destruction of property and burning of effigies
were common in these disturbances. In
August 1765, in Boston, for example,
crowds protesting against the Stamp
Act burned effigies and destroyed the
homes of stamp distributor Andrew
Oliver and Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson.10
Indeed, it was almost as if the entire
community was willing to countenance
demonstrations and riots as long as
they were confined to parades, loud
gatherings, and limited destruction of
property. In almost no cases were there
any deaths and authorities almost never
fired into the crowds, no matter how
loud and demonstrative they became.
Yet on March 5, 1770, both the crowd
and the soldiers acted uncharacteristically. The result was the tragedy that
colonists dubbed the “Boston Massacre. ” Why did the crowd and the soldiers behave as they did?
To repeat, your task is to reconstruct
the so-called Boston Massacre so as to
understand what really happened on
that fateful evening. Spelling and punctuation in the evidence have been modernized only to clarify the meaning.
The Method
Many students (and some historians)
like to think that facts speak for themselves. This is especially tempting when
analyzing a single incident like the
Boston Massacre, many eyewitnesses
of which testified at the trial. However,
discovering what really happened,
even when there are eyewitnesses, is
never quite that easy. Witnesses may
be confused at the time; they may see
8. Thomas Hutchinson, The HLStory of the
Colony and Province of Ma.ssachusetts-Bay, cd.
Lawrence Shaw Mayo (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1936). voL 3, p. 195. For
some accounts of the fight at the ropewalk, see
A Short Narrative, pp. 17-20.
9. John Bohstedt, Riots and Community Politics
in England and Wales, 17~1810 (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 5.
10. Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the
Colony and Province of Massachu..setts-Bay,
ed. Lawrence Shaw Mayo (Cambridge: Haward
University Press, 1936), vol. 3, pp. 88-91. See
also EdmundS. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan,
The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1953), pp. 123-127.
What Really
Happened in the
Boston Massacre?
The Trial of
Captain Thomas
only part of the incident; or they may
unconsciously “see” only what they
expect to see. Obviously, witnesses also
may have reasons to lie. Thus the testimony of witnesses must be carefully
scrutinized, for both what the witnesses
mean to tell us and other relevant
information as well. Therefore, historians approach such testimony with considerable skepticism and are concerned
not only with the testimony itself but
also with the possible motives of the
Of the 81 people who gave depositions to the justices ofthe peace, only 15
were called by the crown as witnesses.
Many of those that were discarded maintained that the soldiers had planned the
March 5 incident and, after the shootings, “seemed bent on a further massacre of the inhabitants.” On the other
side several pro-Preston depositions asserted that the colonists had planned the
incident and were preparing to attack
the main barracks. None of these depositions could be admitted as evidence in
the trial, although their publication in
pamphlets meant that the jurors almost
surely knew about them. 11
As for Preston himself, neither he
nor the soldiers were allowed to testify
at the captain’s trial. English legal custom prohibited defendants in criminal
cases from testifying on their own behalf, the expectation being that they
would perjure themselves. One week
after the “massacre,” however, in a
sworn statement or deposition, Captain Thomas Preston gave his account
11. For examples of unreliable depositions,
see A Short Narrative, pp. 14-29: A Fatr Account, pp. 14-20; and Frederic Kidder, History
of the Boston Massacre (Albany: Joel Munsell,
1870), pp. 10-12.
of the incident. Although the deposition could not be introduced at the
trial, it too had been published in one of
the local newspapers, and therefore the
jury very likely also was aware of what
Preston had said. For this reason, we
have reproduced a portion of Preston’s
statement. How does it agree or disagree with other eyewitness accounts?12
Three months before his trial was
scheduled to begin, Preston complained
to his commanding general that witnesses favorable to him “are being spirited away or intimidated into silence.”
While intimidation of potential witnesses would not have been unlikely, especially since their depositions had been
published, there is no corroborating
evidence to support Preston’s charge. 13
No transcript of Preston’s trial survives, if indeed one was ever made.
Trial testimony comes from an anonymous person’s summary of what each
person said, the notes of Robert Treat
Paine (one of the lawyers for the prosecution), and one witness’s (Richard
Palmes’s) reconstruction of his testimony and cross-examination. Although
historians would prefer to use the original trial transcript and would do so
if one were available, the anonymous
summary, Paine’s notes, and one witness’s recollections are acceptable
substitutes because probably all three
people were present in the courtroom
(Paine and Palmes certainly were) and
12. Preston’s statement appeared in the Boston Gazette, March 12, 1770. See Publications
of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts (Boston: The Colonial Society, 1905). p. 6.
13. For Preston’s charge see Preston to Gen.
Thomas Gage, August 6, 1770, in Randolph G.
Adams, “New Light on the Boston Massacre,”
in American Antiquarian Society Proceedings,
New Series, vol. 47 (Oct. 1937), pp. 321-322.
[86 I

——- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The Method
the accounts tend to corroborate one
Almost all the witnesses were at the
scene, yet not all their testimony is of
equal merit. First, try to reconstruct
the scene itself: the actual order in
which the events occurred and where
the various participants were standing.
Whenever possible, look for corroborating testimony-that of two or more reliable witnesses who heard or saw the
same things.
Be careful to use all the evidence.
You should be able to develop some reasonable explanation for the conflicting
testimony and those things that do not
fit into your reconstruction very well.
Almost immediately you will discover that some important pieces of
evidence are missing. For example, it
would be useful to know the individual
backgrounds and political views of the
witnesses. Unfortunately, we know
very little about the witnesses themselves, and we can reconstruct the political ideas of only about one-third of
them. Therefore, you will have to rely
on the testimonies given, deducing
which witnesses were telling the truth,
which were lying, and which were simply mistaken.
The fact that significant portions of
the evidence are missing is not disastrous. Historians seldom have all the
evidence they need when they attempt
to tackle a historical problem. Instead,
they must be able to do as much as they
can with the evidence that is available,
using it as completely and imaginatively as they can. They do so by asking questions of the available evidence.
[ 87
Where were the witnesses standing?
Which one seems more likely to be telling the truth? Which witnesses were
probably lying? When dealing with the
testimony of the witnesses, be sure to
determine what is factual and what is
a witness’s opinion. A rough sketch of
the scene has been provided. How can
it help you?
Also included in the evidence is Paul
Revere’s famous engraving of the incident, probably plagiarized from a
drawing by artist Henry Pelham. It is
unlikely that either Pelham or Revere
was an eyewitness to the Boston Massacre, yet Revere’s engraving gained
widespread distribution, and most
people-in 1770 and today-tend to recall that engraving when they think of
the Boston Massacre. Do not examine
the engraving until you have read the
trial account closely. Can Revere’s engraving help you find out whaL really
happened that night? How does the engraving fit the eyewitnesses’ accounts?
How do the engraving and the accounts
differ? Why?
Keep the central question in mind:
What really happened in the Boston
Massacre? Throughout this exercise,
you will be trying to determine whether
an order to fire was actually given. If so,
by whom? If not, how can you explain
why shots were fired? As commanding officer, Thomas Preston was held
responsible and charged with murder.
You might want to consider the evidence available to you from the point of
view of either a prosecution or defense
attorney. Which side had the stronger
What Really
Happened in the
Boston Massacre?
The Trial of
Captain Thomas
The Evidence
Source 1 from Paul Revere, Plan of the Boston Massacre of 1770 (Boston: The Boston
Public Library).
1. Paul Revere’s Sketch of the Boston Massacre Scene, in Boston
Public Library. u
1 ~I
J’l O!J
~ ~

14. Note that Revere’s sketch contained only four dead, proof that the sketch was done prior to
March 14, when the fifth person, Patrick Carr, died.
[ 88)
T”e Evidence
Source 2 from Publication.s of The Colonial Society of MMsachusetts (Boston: The
Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1905), Vol. VII, pp. 8-9.
2. Deposition of Captain T homas Preston, March 12, 1770 (excerpt).
The mob still increased and were outrageous, striking their clubs or bludgeons
one against another, and calling out, come on you rascals, you bloody
backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare, G-d damn you, flre and be
damned, we know you dare not, and much more such language was used.
At this time I was between the soldiers and the mob, parleying with, and
endeavoring all in my power to persuade them to retire peaceably, but to
no purpose. They advanced to the points of the bayonets, struck some of
them and even the muzzles of the pieces, and seemed to be endeavoring
to close with the soldiers. On which some well behaved persons asked me
if the guns were charged. I replied yes. They then asked me if I intended
to order the men to fire. I answered no, by no means, observing to them
that I was advanced before the muzzles of the men’s pieces, and must fall
a sacrifice if they fired; that the soldiers were upon the half cock15 and
charged bayonets, and my giving the word fire under those circumstances
would prove me to be no officer. While I was thus speaking, one of the
soldiers, having received a severe blow with a stick, stepped a little to one
side and instantly fired. . . . On this a general attack was made on the men
by a great number of heavy clubs and snowballs being thrown at them, by
which all our lives were in imminent danger, some persons at the same time
from behind calling out, damn your bloods-why don’t you fire. Instantly
three or four of the soldiers fired . . . . On my asking the soldiers why they
fired without orders, they said they heard the word fire and supposed it came
from me. This might be the case as many of the mob called out fire, fire, but
I assured the men that I gave no such order; that my words were, don’t fire,
stop your firing. 16
15. The cock of a musket had to be fully drawn back (cocked) for the musket to fire. In half cock,
the cock was drawn only halfway back so that priming powder could be placed in the pan. The
musket , however, would not flre at half cock. This is the origin of ” Don’t go off half cocked.”
16. Depositions also were taken from the soldiers, three of whom claimed, “We did our Captain’s
orders and if we don’t obey his commands should have been confined and shot.”
[ 89 )
What Really
Happened in the
Boston Massacre?
The Trial of
Captain Thomas
Sow·ce 3: Reprinted by permission of the publisher from The Adams Papers: The Legal
Papers ofJohn Adams- Volume III, Cases 63 & 64, edited by L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller
B.Zobel,pp.50,53,54,56,57,58,59,61,63,65-66,67,68,69,72,74,76,77, 79,80-81,92-93,
Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright© 1965 by
the Massachusetts Historical Societ.y.
3. The Trial of Captain Thomas P reston (R ex v. P reston ), October 24-29
Witnesses for the King (Prosecution)
Edward Gerrish (or Garrick)
I heard a noise about 8 o’clock and went down to Royal Exchange Lane. Saw
some Persons with Sticks coming up Quaker Lane. I said [to the sentry] Capt.
Goldsmith owed my fellow Apprentice. H e said he was a Gentleman and
would pay every body. I said there was none in the Regiment}? He asked for
me. I went to him, was not ashamed of my face. . . . The Sentinel left his Post
and Struck me. I cried. My fellow Apprentice and a young man came up to
the Sentinel and called him Bloody back. 18 He called to the Main Guard.
There was not a dozen people when the Sentinel called the Guard.
William Wyat
I went to Town House. Some hallowing, and crying where are they. 8 or 10
Soldiers came out[.] Prisoner walk’d at the left with a Stick. Somebody took
him by [the) arm and said for G[od’s] Sake Captain . . . mind what you are
about and keep the Soldiers in Order. They drew up. He bid ’em face about
and then load. 19 The Officer in Rear . . . 100 people, shouting, they called
fire, I then heard some Body say fire and took it to be the prisoner. Somebody
called him Capt. Preston . . . Prisoner stood behind soldiers[;] I think he had
a Cloath Coloured Surtot20 on. Stampt and said damn your blood fire[,] let the
consequence be what it will. They fired and people scattered. . . . After firing
Capt. Preston knocked up Guns and reprimanded ’em for firing. It was the
same Person who gave Orders to flre .
17. To say that there was no gentleman in the regiment was an insult to the sentry’s superior
officer, Captain Goldsmith.
18. British soldiers’ coats were red.
19. Muskets were loaded from the muzzle with powder, wadding, a ball, and more wadding. The
hammer was drawn back halfway, and powder was poured into the small pan under the hammer.
There was a small piece of flint attached to the cock so that when the trigger was pulled, the cock
would come down and the flint would spark and ignite the gunpowder in the pan. The fire would
then ignite the gunpowder in the breech and ftre the gun. If the powder in the pan exploded but
did not ignite the powder in the breech, the result was a “flash in the pan” and a musket that
did not fire.
20. Surtout: a type of overcoat.
The Evidence
John Cox
I saw the officer after the firing and spoke to the Soldiers and told ’em it was
a Cowardly action to kill men at the end of their Bayonets. They were pushing
at the People who seemed to be trying to come into the Street. The Captain
came up and stamped and said Damn their bloods fire again and let ’em take
the consequence. I was within four feet of him. He had no surtout but a red
Coat with a Rose on his shoulder.. .. I said don’t kill us who are carrying of[f)
the Dead. I were within 4 or 5 feet of the Soldiers. . . . I heard no Threats.
Benjamin Burdick
When I came into King Street about 9 o’Clock I saw the Soldiers round the
Centinel. I asked one if he was loaded and he said yes. I asked him if he would
fire, he said yes by the Eternal God and pushd his Bayonet at me. After the
firing the Captain came before the soldiers and put up their Guns with his
arm and said stop firing, dont fire no more or don’t fire again. I heard the
word fire and took it and am certain that it came from behind the Soldiers. I
saw a man passing busily behind who I took to be an Officer. The ftring was a
little time after. I saw some persons fall. Before the firing I saw a stick thrown
at the Soldiers. The word fire I took to be a word of Command. I had in my
hand a highland broad Sword which I brought from home. Upon my coming
out I was told it was a wrangle21 between the Soldiers and people, upon that
I went back and got my Sword. I never used to go out with a weapon. I had
not my Sword drawn till after the Soldier pushed his Bayonet at me. I should
have cut his head off if he had stepd out of his Rank to attack me again. At
the first firing the People were chiefly in Royal Exchange lane, there being
about 50 in the Street. After the firing I went up to the Soldiers and told
them I wanted to see some faces that I might swear to them anolher day. The
Centinel in a melancholy tone said perhaps Sir you may.
Daniel Calef
I was present at the firing. I heard one of the Guns rattle. I tumed about and
lookd and heard the officer who stood on the right in a line with the Soldiers
give the word fire twice. I lookd the Officer in the face when he gave the word
and saw his mouth. He had on a red Coat, yellow Jacket and Silver laced hat,
no trimming on his Coat.22 The Prisoner is the Officer I mean. I saw his face
plain, the moon shone on it. I am sure of the man though I have not seen
21. A quarrel.
22. The 29th Regiment, to which Preston belonged, wore uniforms that exactly ma tehed Calef’s
descript ion.
( 91]
What Really
Happened in the
Boston Massacre?
The Trial of
Captain Thomas
him since before yesterday when he came into Court with others. I knew him
instantly. I ran upon the word fire being given about 30 feet off. The officer
had no Surtout on.
Robert Goddard
The Soldiers came up to the Centinel and the Officer told them to place
themselves and they formd a half moon. The Captain told the BOY.S to go
home least23 there should be murder done. They were throwing Snow balls.
Did not go off but threw more Snow balls. The Capt. was behind the Soldiers.
The Captain told them to frre. One Gun went off. A Sailor or Townsman
struck the Captain. He thereupon said damn your bloods fire think I’ll be
treated in this manner. This Man that struck the Captain came from among
the People who were seven feet off and were round on one wing. I saw no
person speak to him. I was so near I should have seen it. After the Capt. said
Damn your bloods fire they all fired one after another about 7 or 8 in all, and
then the officer bid Prime and load again. He stood behind all the time. Mr.
Lee went up to the officer and called the officer by name Capt. Preston. I saw
him coming down from the Guard behind the Party. I went to Gaol24 the next
day being sworn for the Grand Jury to see the Captain. Then said pointing to
him that’s the person who gave the word to fire. He said if you swear that you
will ruin me everlastingly. I was so near the officer when he gave the word
frre that I could touch him. His face was towards me. He stood in the middle
behind the Men. I looked him in the face. He then stood within the circle.
When he told ’em to fire he turned about to me. I lookd him in the face.
Diman Morton
Between 9 and 10 I heard in my house the cry of fire but soon understood
there was no fire but the Soldiers were fighting with the Inhabitants. I went
to King Street. Saw the Centinel over the Gutter, his Bayonet breast high. He
retired to the steps-loaded. The Boys dared him to fire. Soon after a Party
came down, drew up. The Captain ordered them to load. I went across the
Street. Heard one Gun and soon after the other Guns. The Captain when he
ordered them to load stood in the front before the Soldiers so that the Guns
reached beyond him. The Captain had a Surtout on. I knew him well. The
Surtout was not red. I think cloth colour. I stood on the opposite corner of
Exchange lane when I heard the Captain order the Men to load. I came by my
knowledge of the Captain partly by seeing him lead the Fortification Guard.
23. Lest: for fear 1-hat.
24. Gaol: jail.
The Evidence
Nathaniel Fosdick
Hearing the Bells ring, for fire I supposed I went out and came down by the Main
Guard. Saw some Soldiers fixing their Bayonets on. Passed on. Went down to
the Centinel. Perceived something pass me behind. Turned round and saw the
Soldiers coming down. They bid me stand out of the way and damnd my blood. I
told them I should not for any man. The party drew up round the Centinel, faced
about and charged their Bayonets. I saw an Officer and said if there was any
disturbance between the Soldiers and the People there was the Officer present
who could settle it soon. I heard no Orders given to load, but in about two minutes
after the Captain step’d across the Gutter. Spoke to two Men-I don’t know whothen went back behind his men. Between the 4th and 5th men on the right. I then
heard the word fire and the first Gun went off. In about 2 minutes the second
and then several others. The Captain had a Sword in his hand. Was dressd in his
Regimentals. Had no Surtout on. I saw nothing thrown nor any blows given at all.
The first man on the right who flred after attempting to push the People slipped
down and drop’d his Gun out of his hand. The Person who stepd in between the
4th and 5th Men I look upon it gave the orders to fire. His back was to me. I shall
always think it was him. The Officer had a Wig on. I was in such a situation that
I am as well satisfied there were no blows given as that the word fire was spoken.
Isaac Pierce
The Lieut. Governor asked Capt. Preston didn’t you know you had no power
to fire upon the Inhabitants or any number of People collected together unless
you had a Civil Officer to give order. The Captain replied I was obliged to,
to save my Sentry.
Joseph Belknap
The Lieut. Governor said to Preston Don’t you know you can do nothing
without a Magistrate. He answered I did it to save my Men.
Witnesses for the Prisoner (Preston)
Edward Hill
After all the firing Captain Preston put up the Gun of a Soldier who was going
to fire and said fire no more you have done mischief enough.
Richard Palmes
Somebody there said there was a Rumpus in King Street. I went down. When I
had got there I saw Capt. Preston at the head of 7 or 8 Soldiers at the Custom
[ 93]
What Really
Happened in the
Boston Massacre?
The Trial of
Captain Thomas
house drawn up, their Guns breast high and Bayonets fixed. Found Theodore
Bliss talking with the Captain. I heard him say why don’t you frre or words to
that effect. The Captain answered I know not what and Bliss said God damn
you why don’t you frre. I was close behind Bliss. They were both in front. Then I
step’d immediately between them and put my left hand in a familiar manner on
the Captains right shoulder to speak to him. Mr. John Hickling then looking over
my shoulder I said to Preston are your Soldiers Guns loaded. He answered with
powder and ball. Sir I hope you dontintend theSoldiersshall fueon the Inhabitants.
He said by no means. The instant he spoke I saw something resembling Snow
or Ice strike the Grenadier-25 on the Captains right hand being the only one then
at his right. He instantly stepd one foot back and fued the first Gun. I had then
my hand on the Captains shoulder. After the Gun went off I heard the word fire.
The Captain and I stood in front about half between the breech and muzzle of the
Guns. I dont know who gave the word fue. I was then looki.