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"Case of Capt. Thomas Preston of the 29th Regiment."

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CASE of Capt. THOMAS PRESTON
of the 29th Regiment.

IT is Matter of too great Notoriety to need any Proofs,
that the Arrival of his Majesty's Troops in Boston
was extremely obnoxious to it's Inhabitants. They
have ever used all Means in their Power to weaken
the Regiments, and to bring them into Contempt, by
promoting and aiding Desertions, and with Impunity,
even where there has been the clearest Evidence of the
Fact, and by grossly and falsly propagating Untruths
concerning them. On the Arrival of the 64th & 65th,
their Ardour seemingly began to abate ; it being too
expensive to buy off so many ; and Attempts of that
Kind rendered too dangerous from the Numbers. --
But the same Spirit revived immediately on it's being
known that those Regiments were ordered for Halifax,
and hath ever since their Departure been breaking out
with greater Violence. After their Embarkation, one
of their Justices, not thoroughly acquainted with the
People and their Intentions, on the Trial of the 14th
Regiment, openly and publicly, in the Hearing of
great Numbers of People, and from the Seat of Justice,
declared, ' that the Soldiers must now take Care of
' themselves, nor trust too much to their Arms, for they
' were but a Handful ; that the Inhabitants carried
' Weapons concealed under their Cloaths, and would
' destroy them in a Moment if they pleased.' This,
considering the malicious Temper of the People, was
an alarming Circumstance to the Soldiery. Since which
several Disputes have happened between the Towns-
People and Soldiers of both Regiments and the former be-
ing encouraged thereto by the Countenance of even

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some of the Magistrates, and by the Protection of all
the Party against Government. In general such Dis-
putes have been kept too secret from the Officers.
On the 2d instant, two of the 29th going through one
Gray's Rope-Walk, the Rope-makers insultingly ask-
ed them if they would empty a Vault. This unfortu-
nately had the desired Effect by provoking the Soldiers,
and from Words they went to Blows. Both Parties
suffered in this Affray, and finally, the Soldiers retired
to their Quarters. The Officers, on the first Know-
ledge of this Transaction, took every Precaution in
their Power to prevent any ill Consequences. Not-
withstanding which, single Quarrels could not be pre-
vented ; the Inhabitants constantly provoking and
abusing the Soldiery. The Insolence, as well as utter
Hatred of the Inhabitants to the Troops, increased
daily ; insomuch, that Monday and Tuesday, the 5th
and 6th instant, were privately agreed on for a gene-
ral Engagement ; in consequence of which several of
the Militia came from the Country, armed to join their
Friends, menacing to destroy any who should oppose
them. This Plan has since been discovered.

On Monday Night about Eight o'Clock two Soldiers
were attacked and beat. But the Party of the Towns-
People, in order to carry Matters to the utmost Length,
broke into two Meeting-Houses, and rang the Alarm
Bells, which I supposed was for Fire as usual, but was
soon undeceived. About Nine 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. This, as I was
Captain of the Day, occasioned my repairing imme-
diately to the Main-Guard. In my Way there I saw
the People in great Commotion, and heard them use
the most cruel and horrid Threats against the Troops.
In a few Minutes after I reached the Guard, about an
hundred People passed it, and went towards the Cus-
tom-House, where the King's Money is lodged. They
immediately surrounded the Sentinel 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 Sol-
dier from his Post, and probably murder him. On
which I desired him to return for further Intelligence ;
and he soon came back and assured me he heard the
Mob declare they would murder him. This I feared
might be a Prelude to their plundering the King's Chest.
I immediately sent a non-commissioned Officer and
twelve Men to protect both the Sentinel and the King's-
Money, and very soon followed myself, to prevent (if
possible) all Disorder ; fearing lest the Officer and Sol-
diery by the Insults and Provocations of the Rioters,
should be thrown off their Guard and commit some
rash Act. They soon rushed through the People, and,
by charging their Bayonets in half Circle, kept them
at a little Distance. Nay, so far was I from intending
the Death of any Person, that I suffered the Troops to
go to the Spot where the unhappy Affair took Place,
without any Loading in their Pieces, nor did I ever
give Orders for loading them. This remiss Conduct in
me perhaps merits Censure ; yet it is Evidence, result-
ing from the Nature of Things, which is the best and
surest that can be offered, that my Intention was not
to act offensively, but the contrary Part, and that not
without Compulsion. The Mob still increased, and
were more outrageous, striking their Clubs or Blud-
geons 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 damn'd ; 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 re-
tire 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 in-
tended to order the Men to fire ; I answered no, by no
Means ; observing to them, that I was advanced be-
fore the Muzzles of the Men's Pieces, and must fall a
Sacrifice if they fired ; that the Soldiers were upon the
Half-cock and charged Bayonets, and my giving the
Word fire, under those Circumstances, would prove
me no Officer. While I was thus speaking, one of
the Soldiers, having received a severe Blow with a Stick,
stept 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 my of the Use of it ; which Blow, had
it been placed on my Head, most probably would have
destroyed me. On this general Attack was made on
the Men by a great Number of heavy Clubs, and Snow-
Balls 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, except three unhappy
Men who instantly expired, in which Number was
Mr. Gray, at whose Rope-Walk the prior Quarrel
took Place ; one more in since dead, three others are
dangerously, and four slightly wounded. The Whole
of this melancholy Affair was transacted in almost 20
Minutes. On my asking the Solidiers why they fired
without Orders, they said they heard the Word "Fire,"
and supposed it came from me. This might be the
Case, as many of the Mob called out "Fire, fire,"
but I assured the Men that I gave no such Order, that


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my Words were, "Don't fire, stop your Firing :"
In short it was scarce possible for the Soldiers to know
who said fire, or don't fire, or stop your Firing. On
the People's assembling again to take away the dead
Bodies, the Soldiers, supposing them coming to attack
them, were making ready to fire again, which I pre-
vented by striking up their Firelocks with my Hand.
Immediately after a Townsman came and told me,
that 4 or 5000 People were assembled in the next
Street, and had sworn to take my Life with every
Man's with me; on which I judged it unsafe to remain
there any longer, and therefore sent the Party and
Sentry to the Main-Guard, where the street is nar-
row and short, there telling them off into Street Fi-
rings, divided and planted them at each End of the
Street to secure their Rear, momently expecting an
Attack, as there was a constant Cry of the Inhabitants,
" To Arms, to Arms, -- turn out with your Guns,"
and the Town Drums beating to Arms. I ordered
my Drum to beat to Arms, and being soon after join-
ed by the different Companies of the 29th Regiment,
I formed them as the Guard into Street Firings. The
14th Regiment also got under Arms, but remained at
their Barracks. I immediately sent a Serjeant [Sergeant] with a
Party to Col. Dalrymple, the Commanding Officer,
to acquaint him with every Particular. Several Offi-
cers going to join their Regiment were knocked down
by the Mob, one very much wounded, and his Sword
taken from him. The Lieutenant Governor and Col.
Carr soon after met at the Head of the 29th Regiment,
and agreed that the Regiment should retire to their
Barracks, and the People to their Houses ; but I kept
the Piquet to strengthen the Guard. It was with great
Diffculty that the Lieutenant-Governor prevailed on
the People to be quiet and retire : At last they all
went off excepting about an Hundred.

A Council was immediately called, on the breaking
up of which three Justices met, and issued a Warrant
to apprehend me and eight Soldiers. On hearing of
this Procedure, I instantly went to the Sheriff and sur-
rendered myself, though for the Space of four Hours
I had it in my Power to have made my Escape, which
I most undoubtedly should have attempted, and could
have easily executed, had I been the least conscious of
any Guilt.

On the Examination before the Justices, two Wit-
nesses swore that I gave the Men Orders to fire ; the
one testified he was within two Feet of me ; the other,
that I swore at the Men for not firing at the first Word.
Others swore they heard me use the Word "Fire,"
but whether do or do not fire they could not say ;
others, that they heard the Word "Fire," but could
not say if it came from me. The next Day they got
five or six more to swear I gave the Word to fire. So
bitter and inveterate are many of the Malcontents here,
that they are industriously using every Method to fish
out Evidence to prove it was a concerted Scheme to
murder the Inhabitants. Others are infusing the ut-
most Malice and Revenge into the Minds of the People
who are to be my Jurors by false Publications, Votes
of Towns, and all other Artifices, that so from a set-
tled Rancour against the Officers and Troops in gene-
ral, the Suddenness of my Trial after the Affair, while
the People's Minds are all greatly inflamed, I am
though perfectly innocent, under most unhappy Cir-
cumstances, having nothing in Reason to expect but
the Loss of Life in a very ignominious Manner, with-
out the Interposition of his Majesty's Royal Goodness.

Boston-Gaol, Monday, 12th March 1770.

Messieurs EDES & GILL,

PERMIT me thro' the Channel of your Paper, to
return my Thanks in the most publick Manner to
the Inhabitants in general of this Town -- who
throwing aside
all Party and Prejudice, have with the
utmost Harmony and Freedom stept forth Advocates for
Truth, in Defence of my injured Innocence, in the
late unhappy Affair that happened on Monday Night
last : And to assure them, that I shall ever have the
highest Sense of the
Justice they have done me,

Which will be ever gratefully remembered, by
Their much obliged and most obedient humble Servant,

   
THOMAS PRESTON.