Boston Massacre Historical Society


Facts about the Boston Massacre that you may not have known

  • It all started from a wig! The Massacre started when young wigmaker's apprentice named Edward Gerrish called out to a British officer on duty, Captain Lieutenant John Goldfinch, that he had not paid his master's bill.

  • Another fatal incident occurred just few days before the Boston Massacre. Christopher Seider was shot dead on February 22, 1770 in a fight between the mob and the British loyalists that started from throwing rocks at the shop of a Loyalist merchant.

  • After the Massacre many believed that Captain Preston was the one who gave the order to fire on the crowd. The famous engraving by Paul Revere even shows him raising his hand in command. But the subsequent trial decided that Preston could not have ordered to fire, as he was standing in front of the guns, between his men and the crowd of protesters.

  • One of the most unusual outcomes of the Boston Massacre trial was the defense of the two British regulars. The defense was called the ‘benefit of the clergy’ and reduced the change from murder to manslaughter by simply proving that the accused … were simply literate enough to read from the Bible. However the two privates were punished by branding ‘M’ on their thumbs. This was done to prevent from using the same defense in the future.

  • It is not certain that Paul Revere was present during the fatal accident, even though his engraved depiction of the event was used as the evidence in the B.M. trial to establish the locations of the bodies.

  • By other accounts Revere’s engraving was a copy of an earlier painting made by a Boston artist by the name of Henry Pelham.

  • Originally twelve British soldiers and Capt. Preston were arrested, but only eight were finally tried in November 1770. The other four were suspected in shooting into the crowd from the window of the Customs House, but this has never been proven.

  • John Adams wasn’t the only defense counsel. Another member of the team, Josiah Quincy, Jr, conducted questioning of some witnesses. Yet another counselor, Robert Auchmuty, carried out parts of the summation for the jury.

  • During the B.M. trials, under British law, the defendants weren’t allowed to speak as witnesses on their own behalf. This was because they had an interest in the case.



Paul Revere's Engraving


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