Customs House on King Street in Boston
(Source: Library of Congress)
On the evening of March 5,
1770, Private Hugh White was on guard in front of the
Customs House on King Street in Boston. A crowd of people
had gathered and began harassing the soldier. His calls
for help brought nine soldiers led by Captain Thomas
Preston. The crowd continued to harass the soldiers with
insults, and were throwing snowballs at them.
commotion, someone yelled, "Fire!" and soldiers
began shooting. Three townspeople were killed and eight
more were wounded, two of which died later. No one knew
who gave the order to fire.
After the shooting, the people of Boston were
demanding the soldiers be tried and executed for the
shootings. The governor ordered Captain Preston and eight
soldiers be put in prison pending a trial. In order to ensure a fair trial the lawyer John Adams defended the soldiers. John Adams convinced the jury that the soldiers fired in self defense. As a result of
the trial, Captain Preston and six soldiers were set
free. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of
manslaughter. They were branded as convicts and then
released. Interestingly, John Adams would later become Vice President of the United States under President George Washington, and then the second President of the United States of America.