BOSTON (MARCH 6, 1770) — Five people are dead and six more wounded after a tense confrontation yesterday at the Custom House between British soldiers and residents in Boston.
Several years of ongoing tension between Boston residents and British troops stationed in the area boiled over after Pvt. Hugh White allegedly struck Boston man Edward Garrick on the side of the head with his musket. Garrick had reportedly been shouting a slew of insults at White and another soldier stationed at the Custom House.
According to witnesses, Garrick then rallied other residents in the area to push back against the soldiers, who were stationed there to maintain order in the area after the passing of the Townshend Acts. As the crowd size reportedly neared 50 and tensions escalated, White called for backup from the nearby barracks.
Capt. Thomas Preston arrived on scene shortly after, accompanied by six other soldiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot, all armed with fixed bayonets. Reports then indicate that the raucous crowd surrounding the soldiers, which grew up to 400 men, began throwing snowballs and ice at the troop of soldiers.
“Come on you rascals, you bloody backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare, G** damn you, fire and be damned, we know you dare not,” one unidentified Boston man allegedly said to the soldiers.
“Fire and be damned,” others in the crowd allegedly chanted at the soldiers.
According to authorities, although Preston gave no command for his troops to fire, an altercation between Pvt. Hugh Montgomery and an angry resident led to Montgomery discharging his weapon, but some conflicting reports indicate Montgomery’s weapon went off as he was knocked to the ground. Though Preston told authorities he never told his men to fire, others could be heard yelling “fire” into the crowd as the soldiers shot at the angry mob.
Five men died in the altercation, including Crispus Attucks, a former runaway slave. Six others were treated for their injuries and released.
Preston and eight other soldiers were arrested on the scene and charged with manslaughter. A trial date for the soldiers has not yet been set.