"When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty."
~ Thomas Jefferson

About This Document

Eager to share their own version of events with the government in Britain, Boston selectmen appoint James Bowdoin, Samuel Pemberton, and Joseph Warren to prepare an account of the King Street affair. Their narrative -- together with an appendix containing ninety-six depositions -- is published as a pamphlet a few days later, and copies are sent to England to counter Dalrymple's military depositions. Remaining copies are impounded. With the soldiers' trial anticipated in Boston, patriot leaders choose to flaunt their neutrality. Surely they know, however, that even if the Narrative is not distributed in Boston, it will have its effect in England and in versions reimported through other colonial ports. Robert Treat Paine uses the pamphlet presented here as he prosecutes Thomas Preston and his soldiers; Paine's notes appear in the pamphlet's margins (view those in the images of each page at www.masshist.org/revolution.

This document comes courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society. They have preserved and digitally presented this pamphlet in a page-by-page digital reference and the transcription that appears here is theirs. I have simply taken it to create a single searchable page here. I claim no rights to the text or the images of the document and am presenting them for educational purposes only.
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Transcription
Original Image (Click to Enlarge)
Page 1
A Short
NARRATIVE
OF
The horrid Massacre in BOSTON,
PERPETRATED
In the Evening of the Fifth Day of March, 1770,
BY
Soldiers of the XXIXth Regiment ;
WHICH WITH
the XIVth Regiment
Were then Quartered there ;
WITH SOME
OBSERVATIONS
ON THE
STATE OF THINGS
PRIOR TO THAT
CATASTROPHE.
Printed by Order of the Town of BOSTON,
And Sold by EDES and GILL, in Queen-Street,
And T. & J. FLEET, in Cornhill, 1770.
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Page 2
[This page is blank.]
Page 3
Boston, ss. At a Meeting of the Free-
holders and the other Inhabitants
of the Town of Boston, duly
qualified and legally warned,
in public Town-Meeting assem-
bled at Faneuil-Hall, on Mon-
day the 12th day of March,
Anno Domini, 1770.
THAT Article in the Warrant,
for calling this Meeting, viz.
" What Steps may be further neces-
" sary, for obtaining a particular Account
" of all Proceedings relative to the Mas-
" sacre in King-Street on Monday Night
" last, that a full and just Representation
" may be made therefore," was read,
Whereupon,
VOTED, That the Honorable James
Bowdoin, Esq; Doctor Joseph Warren, and
Samuel Pemberton, Esq; be a Committee
for this important Business ; and they are
desired to report as soon as may be.
Attest. William Cooper, Town-Clerk.
THE following Report, containing a Nar-
rative of the late Massacre, is submitted to
the Town. In the Name of the Committee,
James Bowdoin
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Page 4
AT the Town Meeting held on the 19th of
March, 1770, by Adjournment.
The aforementioned Report was Read and
Considered, whereupon Voted Unanimously,
That the same be accepted, and that it be
immediately Printed, and the Committee are
desired to transmit Copies thereof, as soon as
possible to the following Gentlemen, viz. The
Right Honorable Isaac Barré, Esq; one of his
Majesty's most Honorable Privy Council ; Thomas
Pownall, Esq; late Governor of the Massachu-
setts ; William Bollan, Esq; Agent for his Ma-
jesty's Council ; Dennys DeBerdt, Esq; Agent
for the House of Representatives ; Benjamin
Franklin, Esq; L.L.D. and Barlow Trecothick,
Esq; a Member of Parliament for the City of
London.
Attest.
William Cooper, Town-Clerk.
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Page 5
A short Narrative of the horrid
Massacre in Boston, perpetrated in the
Evening of the Fifth Day of March,
1770, by Soldiers of the XXIX th Re-
giment ; which with the XIV th Regi-
ment were then quartered there : with
some Observations on the State of
Things prior to that Catastrophe.
IT may be a proper introduction to this nar-
rative, briefly to represent the state of things
for some time previous to the said massacre :
And this seems necessary in order to the
forming a just idea of the causes of it.
At the end of the late war, in which this
Province bore so distinguished a part, a happy
union subsisted between Great-Britain and the
Colonies. This was unfortunately interrupted
by the Stamp-Act : but it was in some measure
restored by the Repeal of it. It was again in-
terrupted by other acts of parliament for taxing
America ; and by the appointment of a Board of
Commissioners, in pursuance of an act, which
by the face of it was made for the relief and
encouragement of commerce, but which in it's
operation, it was apprehended, would have, and
it has in fact had, a contrary effect. By the said
act the said Comissioners were “ to be resident
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in some convenient part of his Majesty's do-
minions in America". -- This must be understood
to be in some part convenient for the whole --
But it does not appear, that in fixing the place
of their residence, the convenience of the whole
was at all consulted, for Boston being very far
from the centre of the colonies, could not be
the place most convenient for the whole. --
Judging by the act, it may seem this town was
intended to be favoured, by the Commissioners
being appointed to reside here ; and that the
consequence of that residence would be the re-
lief and encouragement of commerce : but the
reverse has been the constant and uniform effect
of it : So that the commerce of the town, from
the embarrassments in which it has been lately
involved, is greatly reduced. For the particulars
on this head, see the state of the trade not long
since drawn up and transmitted to England by a
committee of the merchants of Boston.
The residence of the Commisssioners here, has
been detrimental, not only to the commerce, but
to the political interests of the town and pro-
vince ; and not only so, but we can trace from
it the causes of the late horrid massacre. Soon
after their arrival here in November 1767, in-
stead of confining themselves to the proper busi-
ness of their office, they became partizans of
Governor Bernard in his political schemes ; and
had the weakness and temerity to infringe upon
one of the most essential rights of the house of
commons of this province -- that of giving
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their votes with freedom, and not being accoun-
table therefor but to their constituents. One
of the members of that house Capt. Timothy
Folgier, having voted in some affair contrary to the
mind of the said Commissioners, was for so doing
dismissed from the office he held under them.
These proceedings of theirs, the difficulty of
access to them on office-business, and a superci-
lious behavior, rendered them disgustful to peo-
ple in general, who in consequence thereof
treated them with neglect. This probably sti-
mulated them to resent it : and to make their
resentment felt, they and their coadjutor, Gover-
nor Bernard, made such representations to his
Majesty's ministers as they thought best calculated
to bring the displeasure of the nation upon the
town and province : and in order that those re-
presentations might have the more weight, they
are said to have contrived, and executed plans
for exciting disturbances and tumults, which
otherwise would probably never have existed ;
and when excited, to have transmitted to the
ministry the most exaggerated accounts of them.
These particulars of their conduct his Majesty's
Council of this province have fully laid open in
their proceeding in council, and in their address
to General Gage, in July and October 1768 ;
and in their letter to Lord Hillsborough of the
15th of April, 1769. -- Unfortunately for us,
they have been too successful in their said repre-
sentations, which, in conjunction with Governor
Bernard's, have occasioned his Majesty's faithful
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subjects of this town and province to be treated
as enemies and rebels, by an invasion of the
town by sea and land : to which the approaches
were made with all the circumspection, usual
where a vigorous opposition is expected. While
the town was surrounded by a considerable
number of his Majesty's ships of war, two regi-
ments landed and took possession of it ; and to
support these, two other regiments arrived some
time after from Ireland : one of which landed
at Castle Island, and the other in the town.
Thus were we, in aggravation of our other
embarrassments, embarrassed with troops,
forced upon us contrary to our inclination
-- contrary to the spirit of Magna Charta, --
contrary to the very letter of the Bill of
Rights, in which it is declared, that the
raising or keeping a standing army within the
kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with the
consent of parliament, is against law -- and with-
out the desire of the civil magistrates, to aid
whom was the pretence for sending the troops
hither : who were quartered in the town in direct
violation of an act of parliament for quartering
troops in America : and all this in consequence
of the representations of the said Commissioners
and the said Governor, as appears by their me-
morials and letters lately published.
As they were the procuring cause of troops
being sent hither, they must therefore be the re-
mote and a blameable cause of all the disturban-
ces and bloodshed that have taken place in con-
sequence of that Measure.
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But we shall leave them to their own reflec-
tions, after observing, that as they had some
months before the arrival of the troops, under
pretence of safety to their persons, retired from
town to the Castle, so after the arrival of the
troops, and their being quartered in the town,
they thought proper to return : having answered,
as they doubtless thought, the purpose of their
voluntary flight.
We shall next attend to the conduct of the
troops, and to some circumstances relative to
them. -- Governor Bernard without consulting
the Council, having given up the State-house to
the troops at their landing, they took possession
of the chambers, where the representatives of the
province and the courts of law held their meet-
ings ; and (except the council-chamber) of all
other parts of that house : in which they conti-
nued a considerable time, to the great annoyance
of those courts while they sat, and of the mer-
chants and gentlemen of the town, who had al-
ways made the lower floor of it their exchange.
They had a right so to do, as the property of it
was in the town : but they were deprived of
that right by meer power. The said Governor
soon after, by every stratagem and by every me-
thod, but a forcibly entry, endeavored to get
possession of the manufactory-house, to make a
barrack of it for the troops : and for that pur-
pose caused it to be besieged by the troops, and
the people in it to be used very cruelly; which
extraordinary proceedings created universal un-
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easiness, arising from the apprehension ; that the
troops under the influence of such a man would
be employed to effect the most dangerous pur-
poses ; but failing of that, other houses were pro-
cured, in which, contrary to act of parliament,
he caused the troops to be quartered. After
their quarters were settled, the main guard was
posted at one of the said houses, directly opposite
to, and not twelve yards from, the State-house,
(where the General Court, and all the Law
courts for the county were held), with two
field pieces pointed to the State-house. This
situation of the main guard and field pieces
seemed to indicate an attack upon the constitu-
tion, and a defiance of law ; and to be intended
to affront the legislative and executive authority
of the province.
The General Court, at the first Session after
the arrival of the troops, viewed it in this light,
and applied to Governor Bernard to cause such
a nuisance to be removed ; but to no purpose.
Disgusted at such an indignity, and at the appear-
ance of being under duresse, they refused to do
business in such circumstances ; and in conse-
quence thereof were adjourned to Cambridge, to
the great inconvenience of the members.
Besides this, the challenging the inhabitants
by centinels posted in all parts of the town be-
fore the lodgings of officers, which (for about
six months, while it lasted), occasioned many
quarrels and uneasiness.--
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Capt. Wilson’s, of the 59th, exciting the ne-
groes of the town to take away their masters
lives and property, and repair to the army for
protection, which was fully proved against him.
-- The attack of a party of soldiers on some of
the magistrates of the town – the repeated res-
cues of soldiers from peace officers – the firing
of a loaded musket in a public street, to the en-
dangering a great number of peaceable inhab-
itants -- the frequent wounding of persons by
their bayonets and cutlasses, and the numerous
instances of bad behavior in the soldiery,
made us early sensible, that the troops were not
sent here for any benefit to the town or pro-
vince, and that we had no good to expect from
such conservators of the peace.*
It was not expected however, that such an
outrage and massacre, as happened here on the
evening of the fifth instant, would have been
perpetrated. There were then killed and wound-
ed, by a discharge of musquetry, eleven of his
Majesty's subjects, viz.
Mr. Samuel Gray, killed on the spot by a
ball entering his head.
Crispus Attucks, a mulatto, killed on the spot,
two balls entering his breast.
Mr. James Caldwell, killed on the spot, by
two balls entering his back.
  • The inhabitants, instead of making application to the military
officers on these occasions, chose rather to oppose the civii [civil] au-
thority and the laws of the land to such offenders ; and had
not the soldiery found means to evade legal punishments, it is
more than probable their insolence would have received a check,
and some of the most melancholy effects of it been prevented.
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Page 12
Mr. Samuel Maverick, a youth of seventeen
years of age, mortally wounded : he died the
next morning.
Mr. Patrick Carr mortally wounded : he died
the 14th instant.
Christopher Monk and John Clark, youths
about seventeen years of age, dangerously wound-
ed. It is apprehended they will die.
Mr. Edward Payne, merchant, standing at his
door : wounded.
Messi’rs. John Green, Robert Patterson, and
David Parker : all dangerously wounded.
The actors in this dreadful tragedy were a
party of soldiers commanded by Capt. Preston
of the 29th regiment : This party, including
the Captain, consisted of eight, who are all com-
mitted to goal.
There are depositions in this affair which
mention, that several guns were fired at the same
time from the Custom-House ; before which this
shocking scene was exhibited. Into this matter
inquisition is now making. -- In the mean time
it may be proper to insert here the substance of
some of those depositions.
Benjamin Frizell, on the evening of the 5th
of March, having taken his station near the west
corner of the Custom-house in Kingstreet, be-
fore and at the time of the soldiers firing their
guns, declares (among other things) that the
first discharge was only of one gun, the next
of two guns, upon which he the deponent thinks
he saw a man stumble : the third discharge was
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Page 13
[Text transcription unavailable. Rely on clarity of image.]
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Page 14
the flashes thereof from out of the house, now cal-
led the CUSTOM-HOUSE, as they evidently ap-
peared to him, and which he the said deponent
at the same time declared to the aforesaid Moli-
neux and Simpson, being then near him, saying
to them, (at the same time pointing his hand to-
wards the custom-house), there they are out of
the custom-house.
George Coster, being in King-street at the time
above mentioned, declares that in five or six mi-
nutes after he stopped, he heard the word of
command given to the soldiers fire; upon which
one gun was fired, which did no execution, as
the deponent observed, about half a minute after
two guns, one of which killed one Samuel Gray
a ropemaker, the other a molatto man, between
which two men the deponent stood, after this
the deponent heard the discharge of four or five
guns more, by the soldiers ; immediately after
which the deponent heard the discharge of two
guns or pistols, from an open window of the middle
story of the CUSTOM-HOUSE, near to the place
where the centry box is placed, and being but a
small distance from the window, he heard the
people from within speak and laugh, and soon
after saw the casement lowered down ; after
which the deponent assisted others in carrying
off one of the corps.
Cato, a Negro man, servant to Tuthill Hub-
bart, Esq; delcares, that on Monday evening the
fifth of March current, on hearing the cry of fire,
he ran into Kingstreet, where he saw a number
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Page 15
of people assembled before the Custom-House,
that he stood near the centry-box and saw the
soldiers fire on the people, who stood in the
middle of said street ; directly after which he saw
two flashes of guns, one quick upon the other, from
the chamber window of the CUSTOM-HOUSE ;
and that after the firing was all over, while the
people were carrying away the dead and wound-
ed, he saw the Custom-House door opened, and
several soldiers (one of whom had a cutlass) go
into the Custom-House and shut the door after
them.
Benjamin Andrews declares, that being desired
by the committee of enquiry to take the ranges
of the holes made by musquet balls, in two houses
nearly opposite to the Custom-House, he finds the
bullet hole in the entry door post of Mr. Payne's
house (and which graz’d the edge of the door,
before it enter’d the post, where it lodged, two
and a half inches deep) ranges just under the
stool of the westernmost lower chamber window of
the CUSTOM-HOUSE.
Samuel Drowne, towards the end of his depo-
sition (which contains a pretty full account of
the proceedings of the soldiers on the evening of
the 5th instant) declares, that he saw the flashes
of two guns fired from the CUSTOM-HOUSE,
one of which was out of a window of the chamber
westward of the balcony, and the other from the
balcony ; the gun (which lie clearly discerned)
being pointed through the ballisters, and the per-
son who held the gun, in a stooping posture with-
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Page 16
drew himself into the house, having a handker-
chief or some kind of cloth over his face.
These depositions shew clearly that a number
of guns were fired from the Custom-House. --
As this affair is now enquiring into, all the no-
tice we shall take of it is, that it distinguishes
the actors in it into Street-Actors and House-Actors ;
which is necessary to be observed.
What gave occasion to the melancholy event
of that evening seems to have been this. A
difference having happened near Mr. Gray's
ropewalk, between a soldier and a man belong-
ing to it, the soldier challenged the ropemakers
to a boxing match. The challenge was accepted
by one of them, and the soldier worsted. He
ran to the barrack in the neighborhood, and
returned with several of his companions. The
fray was renewed, and the soldiers were driven
off. They soon returned with recruits and were
again worsted. This happened several times,
till at length a considerable body of soldiers was
collected, and they also were driven off, the
ropemakers having been joined by their brethren
of the contiguous ropewalks. By this time
Mr. Gray being alarmed interposed, and with
the assistance of some gentlemen prevented any
further disturbance. To satisfy the soldiers and
punish the man who had been the occasion of
the first difference, and as an example to the rest,
he turned him out of his service; and waited on
Col. Dalrymple, the commanding officer of the
troops, and with him concerted measures for
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Page 17
preventing further mischief. Though this affair
ended thus, it made a strong impression on the
minds of the soldiers in general, who thought
the honor of the regiment concerned to revenge
those repeated repulses. For this purpose they
seem to have formed a combination to commit
some outrage upon the inhabitants of the town
indiscriminately ; and this was to be done on
the evening of the 5th instant or soon after : as
appears by the depositions of the following per-
sons, viz.
William Newhall declares, that on Thursday
night the first of March instant, he met four soldi-
ers of the 29th regiment, and that he heard them
say, there were a great many that would eat their
dinners on Monday next, that should not eat any
on Tuesday.
Daniel Calfe declares, that on Saturday even-
ing the 3d of March a camp-woman, wife to
James McDeed a grenadier of the 29th, came in-
to his father's shop, and the people talking about
the affrays at the rope-walks, and blaming the
soldiers for the part they had acted in it, the
woman said, the soldiers were in the right ; add-
ing, that before Tuesday or Wednesday night they
would wet their swords or bayonets in New En-
gland people's blood.
Mary Brailsford declares, that on Sabbath
evening the 4th of March instant a Soldier came to
the house of Mr. Amos Thayer where she then
was. He desiring to speak with Mr. Thayer
was told by Mrs. Mary Thayer, that her bro-
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Page 18
ther was engaged, and could not be spoke with.
He said, your brother as you call him, is a man
I have a great regard for, and I came on purpose
to tell him to keep in his house, for before Tuesday
night next at Twelve o'clock, there will be a great
deal of bloodshed, and a great many lives lost :
and added, that he came out of a particular re-
gard to her brother to advise him to keep in his
house, for then he would be out of harm's way.
He said, your brother knows me very well : my
name is Charles Malone. He then went away. --
Of the same import, and in confirmation of this
declaration, are the depositions of Mary Thayer
and Asa Copeland, who both live with the said
Mr. Thayer, and heard what the soldier said
as abovementioned. It is also confirmed by the
deposition of Nicholas Ferriter.
Jane Usher declares, that about 9 o'clock on
Monday morning the 5th of March current,
from a window she saw two persons in the habit
of soldiers, one of whom being on horse back
appeared to be an officer's servant. The person
on the horse first spoke to the other, but what
he said, she is not able to say, though the win-
dow was open, and she not more than twenty
feet distant : the other replied, He hoped he
should see blood enough spilt before morning.
Matthew Adams declares, that on monday
evening the 5th of March instant between the
hours of 7 and 8 o'clock, he went to the house
of corporal Pershall of the 29th regiment, near
Quaker-lane, where he saw the corporal and his
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Page 19
wife, with one of the fifers of said regiment.
When he had got what he went for, and was
coming away, the corporal called him back, and
desired him with great earnestness to go home to
his master's house as soon as business was over,
and not to be abroad on any account that night
in particular, for the soldiers were determined to
be revenged on the ropewalk people ; and that
much mischief would be done. Upon which the
fifer (about 18 or 19 years of age) said, he hoped
in God they would burn the town down. On
this he left the house, and the said corporal called
after him again, and begged he would mind
what he said to him.
Caleb Swan declares, that on monday night
the 5th of March instant, at the time of the
bells ringing for fire, he heard a woman's voice
whom he knew to be the supposed wife of one
Montgomery, a grenadier of the 29th regiment,
standing at her door, and heard her say, it was
not fire ; the town was too haughty and too proud ;
and that many of their arses would be laid low
before the morning.
Margaret Swansborough declares, that a free
woman named Black Peg, who has kept much
with the soldiers, on hearing the disturbance on
monday evening the 5th instant said, the soldiers
were not to be trod upon by the inhabitants, but
would know before morning, whether they or the
inhabitants were to be masters.
Joseph Hooton, junr. declares, that coming
from the South-end of Boston on Monday even-
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Page 20
ing the 5th of March instant, against Dr. Sewall's
meeting he heard a great noise and tumult, with
the cry of murder often repeated. Proceeding
towards the town-house he was passed by several
soldiers running that way, with naked cutlasses and
bayonets in their hands. He asked one of them
what was the matter, and was answered by him,
by God you shall all know what is the matter
soon. Between 9 and 10 o'clock he went into
King-street, and was present at the tragical scene
exhibited near the Custom-house; as particularly
set forth in his deposition.
Mrs. Mary Russell declares, that John Brails-
ford a private soldier of the fourteenth regiment,
who had frequently been employed by her (when
he was ordered with his company to the Castle,
in consequence of the murders committed by the
soldiers on the evening of the 5th of March) com-
ing to the deponent's house declared, that THEIR
regiment were ORDERED to hold themselves in
readiness, and accordingly was ready THAT EVE-
NING, upon the inhabitants firing on the soldiery,
to come to the assistance of the soldiery. On which
she asked him, if he would have fired upon any
of the inhabitants of this town. To which he
replied, yes, if he had orders : but that if he saw
Mr. Russell, he would have fired wide of him.
He also said, it's well there was no gun fired
by the Inhabitants, for had there been, WE should
have come to the soldiers assistance.
By the foregoing depositions it appears very
clearly, there was a general combination among
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Page 21
the soldiers of the 29th regiment at least, to
commit some extraordinary act of violence upon
the town ; that if the inhabitants attempted to
repel it by firing even one gun upon those sol-
diers, the 14th regiment were ordered to be in
readiness to assist them ; and that on the late
butchery in King-street they actually were ready
for that purpose, had a single gun been fired on
the perpetrators of it.
It appears by a variety of depositions, that on
the same evening between the hours of six and
half after nine (at which time the firing began)
many persons, without the least provocation, were
in various parts of the town, insulted and abused
by parties of armed soldiers patrolling the streets :
particularly --
Mr. Robert Pierpont declares, that between the
hours of 7 & 8 in the same evening, 3 armed soldiers
passing him, one of them who had a bayonet gave
him a back-handed stroke with it, on complaint
of this treatment he said the deponent should
soon hear more of it, and threatened him very hard.
Mr. Henry Bass declares, that at 9 o'clock a
party of soldiers came out of Draper's alley lead-
ing to and from Murray's barracks, and they
being armed with large naked cutlasses, made at
every body coming in their way, cutting and
slashing, and that he himself very narrowly es-
caped receiving a cut from the foremost of them,
who pursued him.
Samuel Atwood, declares, that 10 or 12 sol-
diers armed with drawn cutlasses, bolted out of
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Page 22
the alley leading from Murray's barracks into
dock-square, and met the deponent, who asked
them if they intended to murder people ? they
answered, yes, by God, root and branch ; saying
here is one of them ; with that one of them
struck the deponent with a club, which was re-
peated by another : the deponent being unarm-
ed turned to go off; and he received a wound on
the left shoulder, which reached the bone, dis-
abled him, and gave him much pain. Having
gone a few steps the deponent met two officers,
and asked them, gentlemen, what is the matter ?
they answered, you will see by and by ; and as he
passed by Col. Jackson's he heard the cry, turn
out the guards.
Capt. James Kirkwood, declares, that about
nine of the clock in the evening of the fifth day
of March current, he was going by Murray's
barracks : hearing a noise he stopt at Mr. Rhoads's
Door, opposite the said barracks, where said
Rhoads was standing, and stood some time and
saw the soldiers coming out of the yard from
the barracks, armed with cutlasses and bayonets,
and rushing thro’ Boylstone's alley into cornhill,
two officers, viz. Lieuts. Minchin and Dickson
came out of the mess house, and said to the
soldiers, my lads come into the barracks and don't
hurt the inhabitants, and then retir’d into the
mess house. Soon after they came to the door
again, and found the soldiers in the yard ; and
directly upon it, Ensign Mall came to the gate
of the barrack yard and said to the soldiers, turn
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out, and I will stand by you ; this he repeated
frequently, adding, Kill them ! stick them ; knock
them down; run your bayonets thro’ them, with a
great deal of language of like import. Upon
which a great number of soldiers came out of the
barracks with naked cutlasses, headed by said Mall,
and went thro' the aforesaid alley; that some offi-
cers came & got the soldiers into their barracks,
and that Mall, with his sword or cutlass drawn in
his hand, as often had them out again, but were
at last drove into their barracks by the afore-
said Minchin and Dickson.
Mr. Henry Rhoads's declaration agrees with
Capt. Kirkwood's.
Mr. Matthias King of Halifax in Nova Scotia,
declares, that in the evening of the fifth day of
March instant about nine of the clock, he was at
his lodgings at Mrs. Torrey's near the town pump,
and heard the bells ring and the cry of fire ; upon
which he went to the door and saw several sol-
diers come round the south side of the town
house, armed with bayonets, and something
which he took to be broad swords ; that one
of those people came up almost to him and Mr.
Bartholomew Kneeland ; and that they had but
just time to shut the door upon him ; otherwise
he is well assured they must have fell victims to
their boundless cruelty. He afterwards went into
the upper chamber of the said house, and
was looking out of the window when the drum
and the guard went to the barrack, and he saw
one of the guards kneel and present his piece,
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with a bayonet fixed, and heard him swear he
would fire upon a parcel of boys who were then
in the street, but he did not : He further de-
clares, that when the body of troops was drawn
up before the guard house (which was presently
after the massacre), he heard an officer say to ano-
ther, that this was fine work, and just what he
wanted ; but in the hurry he could not see him,
so as to know him again.
Robert Polley declares, that on monday even-
ing the 5th instant, as he was going home, he
observed about ten persons standing near Mr.
Taylor's door; after standing there a small space
of time he went with them towards Boylston's
alley opposite to Murray's barracks ; we met
in the alley about eight or nine arm’d soldiers,
they assaulted us, and gave us a great deal of
abusive language, we then drove them back to
the barracks with sticks only ; we looked for
stones or bricks, but could find none, the ground
being covered with snow ; some of the lads
dispersed, and he the said Polley with a few
others were returning peaceably home,
when we met about nine or ten other sol-
diers armed : one of them said, " Where are
the sons of bitches": They struck at several
persons in the street, and went towards
the head of the alley. Two officers came and
endeavored to get them into their barracks ; one
of the lads proposed to ring the bell ; the sol-
diers went thro’ the alley, and the boys huzza’d,
and said they were gone thro’ royal exchange
lane into Kingstreet.
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Samuel Drowne declares, that about nine of
the clock of the evening of the fifth of March
current, standing at his own door in Cornhill,
he saw about 14 or 15 soldiers of the 29th re-
giment, who came from Murray's barracks arm’d
with naked cutlasses, swords, &c. and came upon
the inhabitants of the town, then standing or
walking in Cornhill, and abused some, and vio-
lently assaulted others as they met them ; most
of whom were without so much as a stick in
their hand to defend themselves, as he very clear-
ly could discern, it being moon light, and him-
self being one of the assaulted persons. All or
most of the said soldiers he saw go into King-
street, (some of them through Royal Exchange
lane) and there followed them, and soon dis-
covered them to be quarrelling and fighting with
the people whom they saw there, which he
thinks were not more than a dozen, when the
soldiers came there first, armed as aforesaid. Of
those dozen people, the most of them were gen-
tlemen, standing together a little below the
Town-House, upon the exchange. At the ap-
pearance of those soldiers so arm’d, the most of
the twelve persons went off, some of them being
first assaulted.
The violent proceedings of this party, and
their going into King-street, " quarrelling and
fighting with the people whom they saw there"
(mentioned in Mr. Drowne's deposition), was im-
mediately introductory to the grand catastrophe.
These assailants, who issued from Murray's
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barracks (so called) after attacking and wound-
ing divers persons in Cornhill, as above men-
tioned, being armed, proceeded (most of them) up
the Royal Exchange lane, into King-street ;
where, making a short stop, and after assaulting
and driving away the few they met there, they
brandished their arms and cried out, where are
the Boogers ! where are the Cowards. At this
time there were very few persons in the street
beside themselves. -- This party in proceeding
from Exchange lane into King-street must pass
the centry posted at the westerly corner of the
Custom House, which butts on that lane and
fronts on that street: This is needful to be
mentioned, as near that spot and in that street
the bloody tragedy was acted, and the street-ac-
tors in it were stationed : Their station being but
a few feet from the front side of the said Custom
House. -- The outrageous behavior and the
threats of the said party occasioned the ringing
of the meeting house bell near the head of King-
street : which bell ringing quick as for fire, it
presently brought out a number of the inhabi-
tants, who being soon sensible of the occasion
of it, were naturally led to King-street, where
the said party had made a stop but a little while
before : and where their stopping had drawn to-
gether a number of boys, round the centry at the
Custom-House. Whether the boys mistook the
centry for one of the said party, and thence took
occasion to differ with him, or whether he first
affronted them, which is affirmed in several depo-
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Page 27
sitions, -- however that may be, there was much
foul language between them : and some of them
in consequence of his pushing at them with his
bayonet, threw snowballs at him:* [Asterisk reference mark indicates note below.]which occa-
sioned him to knock hastily at the door of the
Custom-House. From hence two persons there-
upon proceeded immediately to the main guard,
which was posted (opposite to the State-house) at
a small distance, near the head of the said street.
The officer on guard was Capt. Preston, who
with seven or eight soldiers with fire arms, and
charged bayonets, issued from the guard house,
and in great haste posted himself and his soldiers
in the front of the Custom House, near the cor-
ner aforesaid. In passing to this station the
soldiers pushed several persons with their bay-
onets, driving through the people in so rough
a manner that it appeared they intended to
create a disturbance. This occasioned some
[Asterisk reference mark]* Since writing this narrative, several depositions have appeared
which make it clear, that the centry was first in fault.--He
overheard a barber's boy, saying that a captain of the 14th (who
had just passed by) was so mean a fellow as not to pay his bar-
ber for shaving him ; upon this the centry left his post and
followed the boy into the middle of the street, where he told
him to shew [show] his face ; the boy pertly reply'd, I am not asham'd
to shew [show] my face to any man : Upon this the centry gave him
a sweeping stroke on the head with his musket, which made him
reel and stagger and cry much. A fellow apprentice asked
the centry what he meant by this abuse? He reply'd, damn
your blood, if you do not get out of the way I will give you
something ; and then fixed his bayonet and pushed at the lads,
who both run out of his way. This dispute collected a few
persons about the boy, near the custom-house. Presently after
this, the party above-mentioned came into kingstreet, which
was a further occasion of drawing people thither, as above
related. (See deposition of Benja. Broaders and others.)
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snow balls to be thrown at them : which
seems to have been the only provocation that
was given. Mr. Knox (between whom and
Capt. Preston there was some conversation on
the spot) declares, that while he was talking with
Capt. Preston, the soldiers of his detachment had
attacked the people with their bayonets ; and
that there was not the least provocation given to
Capt. Preston, or his party : the backs of the
people being towards them when the people
were attacked. He also declares, that Captain
Preston seemed to be in great haste and much
agitated ; and that according to his opinion there
were not then present in Kingstreet above seventy
or eighty persons at the extent.
The said party was formed into a half circle,
and, within a short time after they had been
posted at the Custom-House, began to fire upon
the people.
Captain Preston is said to have ordered them to
fire, and to have repeated that order. One gun
was fired first : then others in succession, and
with deliberation, till ten or a dozen guns were
fired ; or till that number of discharges were
made from the guns that were fired. By which
means eleven persons were killed, and wounded,
as above represented.
These facts with divers [diverse] circumstances attend-
ing them, are supported by the depositions of a
considerable number of persons : and among
others, of the following, viz. Messir’s. Henry Bass,
Samuel Atwood, Samuel Drowne, James Kirk-
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Page 29
wood, Robert Polley, Samuel Condon, Daniel
Usher, Josiah Simpson, Henry Knox, Gillam
Bass, John Hickling, Richard Palmes, Benjamin
Frizzel, and others ; whose depositions are in
the appendix.
Soon after the firing, a drum with a party
from the main guard went to Murray's and
the other barracks, beating an alarm as they
went, which with the firing had the effect of a
signal for action. Whereupon all the soldiers of
the 29th regiment, or the main body of them,
appeared in Kingstreet under arms ; and seem-
ed bent on a further massacre of the inhabi-
tants, which was with great difficulty prevented.
They were drawn up between the State House
and main guard : their lines extending across
the street and facing down Kingstreet, where the
town-people were assembled. The first line
kneeled ; and the whole of the first plattoon [platoon] pre-
sented their guns ready to fire, as soon as the
word should be given. They continued in that
posture a considerable time. But by the good
Providence of God, they were restrained from firing.
That they then went into Kingstreet with
such a disposition will appear probable by the
two following depositions.
Mrs. Mary Gardner, living in Atkinson street,
declares, that on Monday evening the 5th of
March current, and before the guns fired in
Kingstreet, there were a number of soldiers as-
sembled from Green's barracks towards the street,
and opposite to her gate ; that they stood very
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Page 30
still until the guns were fired in Kingstreet, then
they clapped their hands and gave a cheer, say-
ing, this is all that we want. They ran to their
barrack, and came out again in a few minutes,
all with their arms, and ran towards Kingstreet.
William Fallass declares, that (after the mur-
der in Kingstreet) on the evening of the 5th
instant, upon his return home, he had occasion
to stop opposite to the lane leading to Green's
barracks, and while he stood there, the soldiers
rushed by him with their arms, towards King-
street, saying, this is our time or chance : and
that he never saw men or dogs so greedy for
their prey as those soldiers seemed to be, and the
sergeants could hardly keep them in their ranks.
These circumstances with those already men-
tioned, amount to a clear proof of a combination
among them to commit some outrage upon the
town on that evening ; and that after the enor-
mous one committed in Kingstreet, they intend-
ed to add to the horrors of that night by mak-
ing a further slaughter.
At the time Capt. Preston's party issued from
the main guard, there were in Kingstreet about
two hundred persons, and those were collected
there by the ringing of the bell in consequence
of the violences of another party, that had been
there a very little while before. When Captain
Preston had got to the Custom-house, so great a
part of the people dispersed at sight of the sol-
diers, that not more than twenty or thirty then
remained in Kingstreet, as Mr. Drowne declares,* [Asterisk reference mark indicates note below.]
[Asterisk reference mark]* See his Deposition.
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and at the time of the firing not seventy, as Mr.
Palmes thinks.*[Asterisk reference mark indicates note below.]
But after the firing, and when the slaughter
was known, which occasioned the ringing of all
the bells of the town, a large body of the inha-
bitants soon assembled in Kingstreet, and conti-
nued there the whole time the 29th regiment
was there under arms, and would not retire till
that regiment and all the soldiers that appeared,
were ordered, and actually went, to their bar-
racks: after which, having been assured by the
Lieutenant Governor, and a number of the civil
magistrates present, that every legal step should
be taken to bring the criminals to justice, they
gradually dispersed. For some time the appear-
ance of things was dismal. The soldiers out-
rageous on the one hand, and the inhabitants
justly incensed against them on the other : both
parties seemed disposed to come to action. In
this case the consequences would have been ter-
rible. But by the interposition of his Honor,
some of his Majesty's council, a number of civil
magistrates, and other gentlemen of weight and
influence, who all endeavored to calm and pa-
cify the people, and by the two principal officers
interposing their authority with regard to the
soldiers, there was happily no further bloodshed
ensued ; and by two o'clock the town was re-
stored to a tolerable state of quiet. About that
time, Capt. Preston, and a few hours after, the
party that had fired, were committed to safe
custody.
[Asterisk reference mark]* See his Deposition.
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One happy effect has arisen from this melan-
choly affair, and it is the general voice of the
town and province it may be a lasting one -- All
the troops are removed from the town. -- They
are quartered for the present in the barracks at
Castle-Island ; from whence it is hoped they
will have a speedy order to remove intirely [entirely]
out of the province, together with those persons
who were the occasion of their coming hither.
In what manner this was effected, it is not fo-
reign from the subject of this narrative to relate.
The morning after the massacre, a town-meet-
ing was held ; at which attended a very great
number of the freeholders and other inhabitants
of the town. They were deeply impressed and
affected by the tragedy of the preceding night,
and were unanimously of opinion, it was incom-
patible with their safety that the troops should
remain any longer in the town. In consequence
thereof they chose a committee of fifteen gentle-
men to wait upon his Honor the Lieutenant-
Governor in Council, to request of him to issue
his orders for the immediate removal of the troops.
The message was in these words :
That it is the unanimous opinion of this meeting
that the inhabitants and soldiery can no longer
live together in safety ; that nothing can ratio-
nally be expected to restore the peace of the town
and prevent further blood and carnage, but the
immediate removal of the troops ; and that we
therefore most fervently pray his Honor, that his
power and influence may be exerted for their in-
stant removal.
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" His Honor's reply, which was laid before the
town then adjourned to the old south meeting-
house, was as follows:
Gentlemen,
I am extremely sorry for the unhappy differences
between the inhabitants and troops, and especially
for the action of the last evening, and I have ex-
erted myself upon that occasion, that a due enquiry
may be made, and that the law may have its course.
I have in council consulted with the commanding
officers of the two regiments who are in the town.
They have their orders from the General at New
York. It is not in my power to countermand those
orders. The Council have desired that the two
regiments may be removed to the Castle. From
the particular concern which the 29th regiment
has had in your differences, Col. Dalrymple, who
is the commanding officer of the troops, has signi-
fied that that regiment shall without delay be
placed in the barracks at the castle, until he can
send to the General and receive his further orders
concerning both the regiments, and that the main-
guard shall be removed, and the 14th regiment so
disposed, and laid under such restraint, that all oc-
casion of future disturbances may be prevented.
The foregoing reply having been read and
fully considered -- the question was put, Whether
the report be satisfactory? Passed in the Negative
(only one dissentient) out of upwards of 4000
voters.
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A respectable committee was then appointed to
wait on his Honor the Lieutenant Governor, and
inform him, that it is the unanimous opinion of
this meeting, that the reply made to a vote of the
inhabitants presented his Honor in the morning,
is by no means satisfactory ; and that nothing less
will satisfy, than a total and immediate removal
of all the troops.
The committee having waited upon the Lieut.
Governor, agreeable to the foregoing vote, laid
before the inhabitants the following vote of
Council received from his Honor.
His Honor the Lieutenant Governor laid be-
fore the Board a vote of the town of Boston,
passed this afternoon, and then addressed the
Board as follows :
Gentlemen of the Council,
" I lay before you a vote of the town of Boston,
which I have just now received from them, and
I now ask your advice what you judge necessary
to be done upon it."
The Council thereupon expressed themselves to
be unanimously of opinion, " that it was absolutely
necessary for his Majesty's service, the good order
of the town, and the peace of the province, that
the troops should be immediately removed out of
the town of Boston, and thereupon advised his
Honor to communicate this advice of the Council
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Page 35
to Col. Dalrymple, and to pray that he would
order the troops down to Castle William." The
committee also informed the town, that Col. Dal-
rymple, after having seen the vote of Council,
said to the committee,
" That he now gave his word of honor that
he would begin his preparations in the morning,
and that there should be no unnecessary delay until
the whole of the two regiments were removed to
the Castle."
Upon the above report being read, the inha-
bitants could not avoid expressing the high sa-
tisfaction it afforded them.
After measures were taken for the security
of the town in the night by a strong military
watch, the meeting was dissolved.
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[This page is blank in the original.]
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In the concluding Paragraph of the foregoing Nar-
rative it is said, that the Town-Meeting was dis-
solved after the measures were taken for the security
of the Town in the night, by a strong military watch.
Our implacable enemies, in pursuance of their plan of
misrepresentation, have taken pains to misrepresent this most
necessary measure, by declaring it to have been contrary to
the mind of the Commander in Chief, and against law.
This matter will be judged of, by stating the fact, and
producing the Law.
When the Committee, who had waited on the Lieutenant
Governor, had reported to the Town, that the Troops would
be removed to Castle-Island, (at which time it was near
night) it was thought necessary for the safety of the Town,
and for preventing a rescue of the persons committed to
goal [jail] for firing upon, and killing a number of, his Majesty's
subjects, that there should be a military watch : and divers [diverse]
Gentlemen were desired to take the needful steps for that
purpose. It being then night, it was impossible a regular no-
tification should issue from the officers of the militia : a con-
siderable number of respectable persons therefore offered
themselves voluntiers [volunteers] , and did the duty of a military watch
under the direction of the Lieutenant-Colonel, who attend-
ed that service with the approbation of the chief Colonel of
the Boston regiment. The next day, with two of the Select-
men of the Town, the chief Colonel went to the the Lieutenant-
Governor, & they informed him it was apprehended absolute-
ly necessary for the safety of the Town, there should be a mili-
tary warch kept ; and that the Colonel then waited upon him
to receive his orders. The Lieutenant Governor declined
giving any orders concerning it, but said the Law was clear,
that the Colonel, as chief officer of the regiment, might order
a military watch ; and that he might do about it as he
thought fit. In conseqience of this, and knowing the Law
gave him such a power, the Colonel issued his orders for that
purpose, & a regular watch was kept the following night. The
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Page 38
next day the Lieutenant Governor sent for the Colonel, and
let him know, that he was in doubt about the legality of
the appointment of the military watch : and recommended
to the Colonel to take good advice, whether he had a right
by Law to order such a watch.
This being quite unexpected, occasioned the Colonel to
express himself with some fervor. He also said, he had already
taken advice, and had no doubt of his own power ; but had
the preceding day waited upon his Honor as Commander in
Chief to receive his orders : which as his Honor had declined
giving, and left the matter with himself, he had appointed a
military watch : and judged it a necessary measure to quiet
the fears and apprehensions of the town. The interview
ended with the Lieut. Governor's recommending again, that
the Colonel would take care to proceed according to law ; and
without his forbidding a military watch.
This military watch was continued every night, till Col.
Dalrymple had caused the two Regiments under his command
to be removed to the barracks at Castle-Island. During the
continuance of the watch, the Justices of the Peace in their
turns attended every night : and the utmost order and regula-
rity took place through the whole of it.
This is the state of the fact, upon which every one is left to
make his own observations.
Now for the Law : with respect to which nothing more is
necessary than just to recite it. It runs thus, " That there
be military watches appointed and kept in every town, at such
times, in such places, and in such numbers, and under
such regulation, as the chief military officers of each town
shall appoint, or as they may receive orders front the chief
officer of the regiment."*[Asterisk reference mark indicates note below.] -- This needs no comment. It
clearly authorizes the chief officer of the regiment to appoint
military watches. The late military watch in Boston being
founded on such an appointment was therefore according
to Law.
[Asterisk reference mark]*See a Law of the Province for regulating the Militia, made in
the 5th year of William and Mary, Chap. 7. Sec. 10.
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APPENDIX
Containing the several Depositions referred
to in the preceeding NARRATIVE ; and
also other Depositions relative to the
Subject of it.
(No. 1.)
I John Wilme of lawful age, testify that about ten days be-
fore the late massacre, Christopher Rumbly of the 14th
regiment was at my house at the north part of the town, with
sundry other soldiers ; and he the said Rumbly, did talk very much
against the town, and said if there should be any interruption,
that the grenadiers company was to march up King-Street; and
that if any of the inhabitants would join with them, the wo-
men should be sent to the castle, or some other place ; and
that he had been in many a battle ; and that he did not know
but he might be soon in one here ; and that if he was, he would
level his piece so as not to miss ; and said that the blood would
soon run in the streets of Boston ; and that one Sumner of the
same regiment did say that he came here to make his
fortune ; and that he would as soon fight for one king as ano-
ther; and that the two gaps would be stop'd, said one of the
soldiers; and that they would soon sweep the streets of Boston.
And further saith [sayeth] , that he heard a soldier's wife, named
Eleanor Park say, that if there should be any disturbance in the
town of Boston, and that if any of the people were wounded, she
would take a stone in her handkerchief & beat their brains out,
and plunder the rebels. -- And further I say not. JOHN WILME.
Suffolk, ss. Boston, March 21, 1770. John Wilme above-
named, after due examination, made oath to the Truth
of the aforesaid Affidavit, taken to perpetuate the
remembrance of the Thing.
Before, JOHN RUDDOCK, Just. Peace & of the Quorum.
And, JOHN HILL, Jus. Peace.
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