Setting the Stage

Welcome... this is not an easy case.

Hello detectives.  Thank you so much for coming early.  We have a lot of work ahead of us because this case is a tricky one.  Today is March 6, 1770 and last night there was some type of fight between the colonists here in Boston and the British soldiers that are stationed here.  We're not sure what happened but all we know is that shots were fired and five colonists are dead.  It is our job to solve this case and determine whether the British soldiers murdered the American colonists or whetehr the entire incident was an accident that happened in self defense?





We have exclusive footage of the aftemath of the incident.  Watch this and look for clues.

Your Task

Your task is to sort through all the evidence and decide whether the British soldiers were murderers or if tit was simply and accident or possibly even self defense.  As you read and listen to the accounts as well as look at the art, please remember that the people and artists have bias, which means that they were on one side or the oter.  Their perception of the event might change what they see or they may even be willing to lie about the incident.  Your job is to sort through all the evidence and try to determine the facts. The people of Boston are exremely angry right now o we want to make sure we do a good job of truly studying the evidence.  As you find important information, write it appropriately in your detective notebook.  Good luck... this might be the hardest case you will ever try to solve.

Exhibit A: Crime Scene
Study the entire crime scene.  At each crime scene marker, study the information card.  If you find evidence of murder log it into your notebook and make sure you write the source (crime scene).  If you find evidence that it was an accident/self defense, log that into your notebook as well.

Exhibit B: Captain Preston's Account (Excerpt)


On Monday night about 8 o'clock two soldiers were attacked and beat..... About 9 some of the guard came to and informed me the town inhabitants were assembling to attack the troops, and that the bells were ringing as the signal for that purpose and not for fire, and the beacon intended to be fired to bring in the distant people of the country…


In my way there I saw the people in great commotion, and heard them use the most cruel and horrid threats against the troops...... They immediately surrounded the sentry posted there, and with clubs and other weapons threatened to execute their vengeance on him. I was soon informed by a townsman their intention was to carry off the soldier from his post and probably murder him.



Exhibit C: Andrew's Account (Slave in Boston) - modified

I heard the bells ring and went to the gate. I stayed there a little and saw Mr. Lovell coming back with his buckets. I asked him where was the fire. He said it was not fire.

Numbers of boys on the other side of the way were throwing snowballs at the soldiers. The sentinels were enraged and swearing at the boys. The boys called them, "Lobsters, bloody backs," and hollered, "Who buys lobsters!"

There were also a number of people who stood where I did and were picking up pieces of sea coal that had been thrown out thereabout and snowballs, and throwing them over at the sentinel.

I went to cross over to where the soldiers were and as soon as I got a glimpse of them, I heard somebody huzza and say, "Here is old Murray with the riot act"—and they began to pelt snowballs.


Exhibit D: George Sanderlin's Account

On hearing the noise [of a fight], Samuel Atwood came up to see what was the matter, and entering the alley heard the latter part of the combat, and when the boys [who had been fighting] had dispersed he met the ten or twelve soldiers [who had been fighting with them] rushing down the alley toward the square, and asked them if they intended to murder people? They answered "Yes, [we do]," [and struck and wounded Atwood].

Immediately after, those heroes [the British officers] appeared in the square, asking "where were the cowards?" One of them advanced toward a youth who had a stave in his hand. But the young man, seeing a person near him with a drawn sword, held up his stave in defiance, and they quietly passed by him up the little alley to King street, where they attacked single and unarmed persons till they raised much clamor.

Thirty or forty persons, mostly lads, being by this means gathered in Kingstreet, Capt. Preston, with a party of men with charged bayonets, came from the main guard to the Commissioner's House, the soldiers pushing their bayonets, crying, "Make way!" They

Exhibit E: William Wyatt's Account
I, William Wyat, of Salem, coaster, testify and say, that last Monday evening, being the fifth day of March current, I was in Boston, down at Treat's wharf, where my vessel was lying, and hearing the bells ring, supposed there was a fire in the town, whereupon I hastened up to the Town house, on the south side of it, where I saw an officer of the army lead out of the guard house there seven or eight soldiers of the army, and lead them down in seeming haste, to the Custom house on the north side of King street, where I followed them, and when the officer had got there with the men, he bid them face about. I stood just below 

Exhibit F

Exhibit G

Exhibit G

Exhibit H

"Paul Revere's Engraving - Boston Massacre C.S.I." Paul Revere's Engraving - Boston Massacre C.S.I. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.


"A Second Picture - Boston Massacre C.S.I." A Second Picture - Boston Massacre C.S.I.N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <>.



"A Third Picture - Boston Massacre C.S.I." A Third Picture - Boston Massacre C.S.I.N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <>.




They (the soldiers) soon rushed through the people, and by charging their bayonets in half-circles, kept them at a little distance. The mob still increased and were more outrageous, striking their clubs or bludgeons one against another, and calling out, come on you rascals, you bloody backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare, G-d damn you, fire and be damned, we know you dare not, and much more such language was used. At this time I was between the soldiers and the mob, parleying with, and endeavouring all in my power to persuade them to retire peaceably, but to no purpose.


They advanced to the points of the bayonets, struck some of them and even the muzzles of the pieces, and seemed to be endeavouring to close with the soldiers. On which some well behaved persons asked me if the guns were charged. I replied yes. They then asked me if I intended to order the men to fire. I answered no, by no means.... While I was thus speaking, one of the soldiers having received a severe blow with a stick, stepped a little on one side and instantly fired, on which turning to and asking him why he fired without orders, I was struck with a club on my arm, which for some time deprived me of the use of it, which blow had it been placed on my head, most probably would have destroyed me.

On this a general attack was made on the men by a great number of heavy clubs and snowballs being thrown at them, by which all our lives were in imminent danger, some persons at the same time from behind calling out, damn your bloods-why don't you fire. Instantly three or four of the soldiers fired, one after another, and directly after three more in the same confusion and hurry. The mob then ran away….​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The first word I heard was a grenadier say to a man by me, "Damn you, stand back."

Question. How near was he to him?

Answer. He was so near that the grenadier might have run him through if he had stepped one step forward. While I stopped to look at him, a person came to get through ..... He turned about and said, "You damned lobster, bloody back, are you going to stab me?"

The soldier said, "By God, will I!"

One of the persons who was talking with the officer turned about quick to the people and said, "Damn him, he is going to fire!" Upon that, they cried out, "Fire and be damned, who cares! Damn you, you dare not fire," and began to throw snowballs and other things, which then flew pretty thick.

Question. Did they hit any of them?

Answer. Yes, I saw two or three of them hit. One struck a (soldier) on the hat. And the people who were right before them had sticks, and as the soldiers were pushing their guns back and forth, they struck their guns, and one hit a grenadier on the fingers.

The people .... crying, "Damn them, they dare not fire!" "We are not afraid of them!"

One of these people, a stout man with a long cordwood stick, threw himself in and made a blow at the officer. The stout man then turned round and struck the soldier's gun at the Captain's right hand and immediately fell in with his club and knocked his gun away and struck him over the head. The blow came either on the soldier's cheek or hat.

This stout man held the bayonet with his left hand and twitched it and cried, "Kill the dogs! Knock them over!" .... I turned to look towards the officer, and I heard the word, "Fire!" I thought I heard the report of a gun and, upon hearing the report, I saw the same grenadier swing his gun and immediately he discharged it.

Question. Did the soldiers of that party, or any of them, step or move out of the rank in which they stood to push the people?

Answer. No, and if they had they might have killed me and many others with their bayonets.

Question. Did you, as you passed through the people towards Royal Exchange Lane and the party, see a number of people take up any and everything they could find in the street and throw them at the soldiers?

Answer. Yes, I saw ten or fifteen round me do it.

Question. Did you yourself.…

Answer. Yes, I did.

Question. After the gun fired, where did you go?

Answer. I run as fast as I could into the first door I saw open … I was very much frightened.

took place by the Custom House, and continuing to push to drive the people off, pricked some in several places; on which they were clamorous, and, it is said, threw snow-balls.

On this, the Captain commanded then to fire, and more snow-balls coming, he again said, “ . . . Fire, be the consequences what it will!" One soldier then fired, and a townsman with a cudgel struck him over the hands with such force that he dropt his firelock; and rushing forward aimed a blow at the Captain's head, which grazed his hat and fell pretty heavy on his arm. However, the soldiers continued to fire, successively, till seven or eight or, as some say, eleven guns were discharged.

By this fatal manoeuvre, three men were laid dead on the spot, and two more struggling for life.

them on the left wing, and the said officer ordered his men to load, which they did accordingly, with the utmost dispatch, then they remained about six minutes, with their firelocks rested and bayonets fixed, but not standing in exact order. I observed a considerable number of young lads, and here and there a man amongst them, about the middle of the street, facing the soldiers, but not within ten or twelve feet distance from them ; I observed some of them . . . had sticks in their hands, laughing, shouting, huzzaing, and crying fire; but could not observe that any of them threw anything at the soldiers, or threatened any of them. Then the said officer retired from before the soldiers and stepping behind them, towards the right wing, bid the soldiers fire; they not firing, he presently again bid 'em fire, they not yet firing, he stamped and said, " . . . fire, be the consequence what it will ;" then the second man on the left wing fired off his gun, then, after a very short pause, they fired one after another as quick as possible, beginning on the right wing; the last man's gun on the left wing flashed in the pan, then he primed again, and the people being withdrawn from before the soldiers, most of them further down the street, he turned his gun toward them and fired upon them. Immediately after the principal firing, I saw three of the people fall down in the street; presently after the last gun was fired off, the said officer, who had commanded the soldiers (as above) to fire, sprung before them, waving his sword or stick, said, ". . . ye, rascals, what did ye fire for" and struck up the gun of one of the soldiers who was loading again, whereupon they seemed confounded and fired no more. I then went up behind them to the right wing, where one of the people was lying, to see whether he was dead, where there were four or five people about him, one of them saying he was dead. And I remember as the said officer was going down with the soldiers towards the Custom house, a gentleman spoke to him and said, " Capt. Preston, for God's sake keep your men in order, and mind what you are about." And further I say not.