The Incident on King Street


Engraved by Paul Revere

NOT the Boston Massacre…

Jason Christie, Writer and Cartoonist

March 5, 1770.  A group of colonists gather around British soldiers in protest to unfair taxation. The soldiers tolerate it for a little while, but then the group begins getting unruly.  The soldiers organize, the captain gives the order, and the troops fire into the crowd, killing innocent protesters. 

This is how most Americans think about the Boston Massacre. But did it really happen this way? To tell the truth, it actually didn’t. It was very different. In this article, I will explore what actually happened leading up to and during the Boston Massacre.

Most people say that Crispus Attucks was the first casualty in the Revolutionary War. This is far from true. The first casualty was actually an 11 year old boy named Christopher Seider. On February 22, a mob of patriots attacked a loyalist’s store. Customs officer Ebenezer Richardson, who lived nearby, tried to break up the rock-pelting mob by firing a shot out his window. The musket ball hit Christopher, and he later (as in about a minute) died of his wounds. To instigate more anti-British sentiment, the patriots held an elaborate funeral for Christopher, even attended by renowned poet and ardent Patriot, Phillis Wheatley.

On the evening of March 5, Pvt. Hugh White was the only soldier guarding the King’s money in the Customs House. Before long, angry colonists begin to gather. They insulted him and even threatened violence.

White fought back and struck a colonist with a bayonet. This only angered the colonists further. They began to throw snowballs, ice, and rocks. Bells began to ring- usually indicative of fire- which brought more colonists into the street. As the attack on White continued, he was eventually forced to call for reinforcements. In response, Capt. Thomas Prescott arrived and took on a defensive position in front of the Customs House. Some colonists reportedly pleaded with the soldiers to hold their fire, while the others were taunting them, daring them to fire. The situation got worse, with colonists attacking the British with sticks and rocks. There are different accounts as to what happened next, but supposedly after someone said “fire,” a British soldier fired his musket. Historians are unsure if the discharge was intentional. Once this shot was fired, the other soldiers opened fire, killing five and wounding six more.

After the incident, Capt. Prescott and his men were soon jailed. Both sides used it as a means to obtain propaganda. The famed silversmith Paul Revere created the picture you see above. Not many people know this, but future President John Adams, a lawyer, actually defended Capt. Prescott in court. He won the case, but the soldiers were brought back to England for a retrial.

I hope you enjoyed learning what really happened at the Boston Massacre. If you liked this article, check out some of my other articles by searching “Jason Christie” on Bye!