Date: March 5, 1770
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
After Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765, violence and intimidation against English customs agents heightened. It subsided with the repeal of the Stamp Act. With the passage of the Townshend Act, though, violence increased since it was viewed as a successful tactic. In 1768, officials requested military protection and on October 1, 1768, British soldiers arrived in Boston and established a garrison. For months tensions built while mobs antagonized the soldiers who were posted outside public offices.
On March 5, 1770, a young apprentice insulted the soldier on sentry duty outside the Customs House. The soldier cuffed the boy on his ear with the butt of his rifle in response. The boy soon returned with some 60 boys and continued to harass the soldier. The soldier called for reinforcement from the main guard and was joined by six soldiers and an officer. Church bells were rung and soon the mob swelled.
The mob now pelted the British soldiers with insults, snowballs and ice. The mob grew closer to the soldiers who loaded their weapons, but the officer, Captain John Preston, ordered them not to fire. The confrontation had now lasted for several hours and the British soldiers began to lose their composure. As Preston attempted to stop them, some of the soldiers opened fire, five citizens were mortally wounded and six others had lesser wounds.
The eight soldiers as well as four men who allegedly fired from inside the Customs House were arrested. All British troops were immediately evacuated to Castle William in Boston Harbor. The Massachusetts Superior Court postponed the trials until the Fall. When the trials began on October 24, prominant lawyers John Adams and Josiah Quincy defended the British. Captain Preston and four of the soldiers were acquitted, while two soldiers were convicted of manslaughter. Those two were released and discharged from military service. The Sons of Liberty used the incident for propaganda marvelously.