A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston...

A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston...


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    [ This description is from the project: Coming of the American Revolution ]

    Published within days of the events of the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770 and including an appendix of ninety-six depositions from eyewitnesses, this "Short Narrative" was sent to England to share with the crown the Patriot point of view. This copy formerly belonged to Robert Treat Paine and contains some of his notes written during the trial of Capt. Thomas Preston in October 1770.

    A Sinister Plot?

    Eager to share their own version of events with the government in Britain, Boston selectmen appoint James Bowdoin, Samuel Pemberton, and Joseph Warren to prepare an account of the King Street affair. Their narrative -- together with an appendix containing ninety-six depositions -- is published as a pamphlet a few days later, and copies are sent to England to counter Dalrymple's military depositions. Remaining copies are impounded. With the soldiers' trial anticipated in Boston, patriot leaders choose to flaunt their neutrality. Surely they know, however, that even if the Narrative is not distributed in Boston, it will have its effect in England and in versions reimported through other colonial ports. Robert Treat Paine uses the pamphlet presented here as he prosecutes Thomas Preston and his soldiers; Paine's notes appear in the pamphlet's margins.

    Questions to Consider

    1. In the first few pages of the narrative, the authors clearly place the blame for the massacre on a particular group--which group? What examples do the authors give to support their claim that this group is responsible for the massacre?

    2. Who is listed as being killed or wounded?

    3. Review some of the testimonies printed in the Appendix section. Identify 3-5 examples of the soldiers' threats and forewarnings that witnesses claim they overheard prior to the evening of 5 March. Do their testimonies imply that the events of 5 March were planned?

    4. Who is the intended audience for this narrative? How might the narrative's publication affect public opinion about the upcoming trial?

    Further Exploration

    5. Imagine that you were in Boston on 5 March 1770. Write your own narrative of the evening's events based on details from this document and other documents on this website.


    • Preston, Thomas
    • Paine, Robert Treat
    • Trials
    • Boston Massacre