Boston Massacre Historical Society


Historic Timeline

It took only few hours for the tragic events to unfold on the evening in March of 1770, starting from a confrontation with the British regulars and ending with the death of five colonists. It took several years to get to the situation. The Boston Massacre is best understood in the context of several other key historic events.

June 29, 1767 – the British Parliament Passes the Townshend Acts

The heavy presence of British troops in Boston that lead to the fatal shooting was the direct results of the Townshend Acts passed by British Parliament to impose additional taxes on common products imported into the Colonies. These products among others included paper, glass and tea.

October 1, 1768 - British Troops Start Arriving to Boston

On October 1, 1768 a group of British regulars arrived in Boston, MA to maintain order. The civilians reacted to the redcoats like they were invaders by taunting them through name calling, spitting, and fighting. The people of Boston had gained control of the reigns of power and prevented the soldiers from carrying out their duties. During the next eighteen months tension mounted between the two sides.

March 5, 1770 - The Boston Massacre Occurs

On March 5, 1770 the Twenty-Ninth Regiment came to the relief of the Eighth on duty at the Customs House on King (now State) Street. The soldiers, led by Captain Thomas Preston, were met by a large and taunting crowd of civilians. Captain Preston was unable to disperse the crowd and as they chanted "Fire and be damned" he ordered his troops "Don't Fire!" With all the commotion the soldiers probably did not hear his orders and they opened fire on the crowd killing three men instantly and another two who died later.

October 24-30, 1770 - The Trial of Captain Preston

Seven months later, in October of 1770, Captain Preston was tried for murder in a Boston courtroom. He was defended by John Adams and Robert Auchmuty and assisted by Josiah Quincy Jr. Captain Preston was acquitted by a Boston jury. It was never satisfactory explained why the radicals Adams and Quincy represented Preston, and later the soldiers, although some surviving documents suggest that the jury in Preston's case was "packed." When the soldiers case came to trial soon after they were defended by Adams, Quincy, and Sampson Salter Blowers. The jurors in their case came from outside of Boston and they won acquittals a month after the trial began.

November 27 - Dec 14, 1770 - the Trial of the British Soldiers

The eight British soldiers accused of murder were tried separately from their officer Captain Preston. But just like the Preston’s trial the proceedings were delayed by 8 months after the incident to allow emotions to cool down. As a result of the trial, six soldiers were acquitted on the grounds of self-defense, but two were found guilty of murder because of the overpowering proof that they fired into the crowd.



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