On this day in history
Here is Paul Revere's famous engraving depicting the massacre. Click on the picture to see a larger view.
Here is Lord John's account of the events, from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
Boston is by all Accounts a perfect Hellhole of republican Sentiment, with so-called "Marching Societies" at large in the Streets in every Weather, these being no more than an Excuse for the Assembly of Mobs, whose chief Sport is the tormenting of the Troops quartered there.It seems only natural that Lord John, a career soldier and former Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, would be outraged at the ill-treatment of British soldiers in Boston, and sympathetic to the plight of Bobby Higgins, who was convicted of manslaughter and branded as punishment. I have always been quite entertained by the notion that Bobby Higgins would have met John Adams, who defended the British soldiers at their trial.
Higgins tells me that no Man would dare go out alone in Uniform, for fear of these Mobs, and that even when in greater Numbers, harassment from the public soon drove them back to their Quarters, save when compelled by Duty to persist.
A Patrol of five Soldiers was so beset one Evening, pursued not only by insults of the grossest Nature, but by hurled Stones, Clods of Earth and Dung, and other such Rubbish. Such was the Press of the Mob around them that the Men feared for their Safety, and thus presented their Weapons, in hopes of discouraging the raucous Attentions rained upon them. So far from accomplishing this Aim, the Action provoked still greater Outrages from the Crowd, and at some Point, a Gun was fired. No one can say for sure whether the Shot was discharged from the Crowd, or from one of the Soldier's Weapons, let alone whether it were by Accident or in Deliberation, but the Effect of it...well, you will have sufficient Knowledge of such Matters to imagine the Confusion of subsequent Events.
In the End, five of the Mob were killed, and while the Soldiers were buffeted and badly handled, they escaped alive, only to be made Scapegoats by the malicious Rantings of the mob's Leaders in the Press, these so styled as to make it seem a wanton and unprovoked Slaughter of Innocents, rather than a Matter of Self-defense against a Mob inflamed by Drink and Sloganeering.
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Victim of a Massacre". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can learn more about the Boston Massacre at the official site of the Boston Massacre Historical Society.
UPDATE 3/5/2012 6:51 am: When I mentioned this blog post to Diana on Twitter, she replied, "Very cool! Thank you--had no idea today was the anniversary. <g>"