On March 5, 1770 a boy, pointing to a British officer walking along the street, called out that he was too mean to pay his barber for cutting his hair. A sentinel standing near the Customs House overheard the insult and knocked the boy down with the butt of his musket. The boy yelled for help which quickly attracted a crowd to the spot. An alarm bell was rung and the excitement spread. The boy pointed out the soldier who had struck him, and the crowd began pelting the soldier with snowballs and lumps of ice. The soldier raised his musket but the weapon misfired. The crowd rushed at him and he ran to the Customs House nearby.
Captain Preston, the officer of the day, sent out eight soldiers with unloaded muskets with ball cartridges. As the detachment approached, the citizens hurled snow and ice at them, shouting insults. The soldiers, seeing that a fight was imminent, began loading their guns. Capt. Preston begged the mob to refrain but his appeal was in vain.
Crispus Attucks, a Nantucket Indian sailor, aimed a blow at Preston’s head with his club. The club missed its target, instead striking a soldier’s musket which fell to the ground. Both Attucks and the soldier wrestled violently for the musket. The soldier twisted the weapon from the hands of Attucks and shot him dead. At that point a half-dozen soldiers fired their guns into the crowd.
As the frightened mob scattered, eight men were on the ground, while three others were slightly hurt. Three were dead. Of the five remaining, two were mortally wounded.
News of the tragedy spread like wild fire from one end of Boston to the other. Alarm bells were ringing, drums beating, and men swarmed to the scene. Capt. Preston and eight soldiers were arrested, and the next day were charged with murder. That autumn the accused stood trial before a court in Boston. Capt. Preston and six of the soldiers were declared not guilty. The others were convicted of manslaughter, branded with a hot iron on the hand in open court, and discharged.
Verne Strickland: The punishment did not fit the crime. Revenge seemed inevitable. And, in time, it came, changing the course of our Nation forever.