In the winter of 1770, tensions were high in Boston. British troops had been stationed there since 1768 to enforce Parliamentary legislation, and in late February an eleven-year-old named Christopher Seider had been killed by a British customs officer during a protest. On the night of March 5, a group of Bostonians gathered in front of the Old State House where a member of the British 29th Regiment of Foot was standing sentry. The group verbally assaulted the soldier and the incident escalated. Additional soldiers were called the scene as the number of participants grew to between 300 and 400. The crowd grew more agitated and rowdier, and shots were fired by the British soldiers. In the end, five individuals died; Crispus Attucks, Samuel Grey, and James Caldwell at the scene, and Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr from their injuries in the days that followed. The event turned public sentiment even further against King George and British rule, and in describing the day, John Adams wrote that the "foundation of American independence was laid."
The March 12, 1770 edition of the Boston Gazette and Country Journal included a description of the incident. The Boston Gazette was an influential colonial newspaper published by John Gill and Benjamin Edes. Printed weekly, it shared news from abroad as well as from within the colonies, and its patriot-leaning content was critical of British rule. The State Library holds a run of the newspaper, including the March 12 edition which was the first printed account of the massacre and comprised four columns across two pages. The account covers not just the event of March 5, but also provides a description of the days that followed up to the victims’ funeral on March 8. The funeral account describes a large procession that moved through the city from Faneuil Hall to the Granary Burying Ground, and stated that “on this occasion most of the shops in town were shut, all the bells were ordered to toll a solemn peal, as were also those in the neighboring towns of Charlestown, Roxbury, etc.”
Visit the library throughout March to see the Boston Gazette article exhibited alongside the 1970 restrike of Paul Revere’s Bloody Massacre print. These two items together provide a vivid contemporaneous account of a key moment in our nation’s formation. And to read more about the Boston Massacre, check out The Boston Massacre: A Family History by Serena Zabin.