Boston was considered the center of the Patriot cause, and its residents had organized resistance to British tax policies. When Bostonians responded to 1767’s Townshend Acts with mass protests and riots, the Crown sent several regiments of soldiers to police the city. It wasn’t long before locals began clashing with soldiers.
On the evening of March 5, 1770, British Private Hugh White stood near the Custom House. Boston roads were blanketed with a foot of snow and frozen ice. As White shivered in his sentry box, a group of British soldiers and Boston townsmen crossed paths on the street in front of him. Insults and accusations led to a scuffle between them. A colonist Edward Garrick was hit in the head by White with a musket.
The scuffle caught the attention of bystanders, who rushed to Garrick’s aid and began taunting White and throwing snowballs at him. He took cover on the steps of the Custom House and loaded his weapon. More men began pouring into the streets, forming a mob of 50. White found himself pinned near the locked door of the Custom House with no means of escape. He began screaming for help.
Word of White’s predicament soon reached British Captain Thomas Preston, who was well-liked by most of the Boston citizenry. Fearing for White’s safety, he led seven men through the crowd. Upon reaching White, the soldiers formed into a semicircle and used their bayonets to keep the townsmen away. The mob had grown to several hundred people. Captain Preston screamed at them to disperse and return to their homes, but they responded only with shouts and snowballs.
The troops were pelted by a steady stream of ice chunks and debris. As the men grew restless, colonist Richard Palms stepped out with a wooden stick. Moments later, someone hurled a wooden club from the crowd, striking Private Hugh Montgomery. The soldier struggled to his feet and raised his weapon. “Damn you! Fire!” he yelled, before firing his musket.
After the shot rang out, Palms struck Montgomery with his stick and gave Captain Preston a whack on the arm. Two bullets hit and killed Crispus Attucks, a former slave-turned-sailor who had been at the front of the fray wielding a club. By the time Captain Preston got his troops to stop firing, five men lay dead or dying and six more were injured.
Source: Remembering the Boston Massacre
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