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Ceremonies planned to mark Boston Massacre’s 250th anniversary

Paul Revere, "The Bloody Massacre Perpetuated in King-Street Boston on March 5th 1770," 1770Paul Revere (custom credit)/Courtesy American Antiquarian Society

As the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre nears, several events are being held to remember the fatal violence of March 5, 1770, a milestone on the country’s road to independence.

In honor of the victims of the massacre, the Daughters of the American Revolution will hold a formal service at the graves of Crispus Attucks, James Caldwell, Patrick Carr, Samuel Gray, and Samuel Maverick, who were killed by British soldiers on that fateful night. The service will be held at the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m on Thursday, March 5.

“We would love for more Americans to better understand the events… and the remarkable courage and bravery of the men who stood up to the most powerful government in the world,” said Denise VanBuren, the president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a group of about 185,000 descendants of Revolutionary War patriots, founded in 1890.

With more than 200 people expected to be in attendance, the ceremony will feature a musket salute followed by a wreath-laying ceremony, which will be led by VanBuren.


“We think it is critically important to recognize the significance of Boston in the revolution,” VanBuren said. “It really becomes a foundational element in the American fight for independence.”

BOSTON, MA. 11/ 21/ 2011: A finished Boston Massacre site which was all cleaned up by the Old State House. ( David L Ryan / Globe Staff Photo ) SECTION : METRO/FEATURE TOPIC :stand alone photos REPORTERDavid L. Ryan/Globe Staff/David L Ryan ,The Boston Globe

Five years before the start of the American Revolution, the massacre marked one of the first major retaliations from colonists against imposing British forces. John Adams would later say it was the night the “foundation of American independence was laid.”

On March 5, 1770, a mob of Bostonians gathered outside the Customs House on King Street, frustrated by the taxes imposed by the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts and the heavy British presence in the city. The colonists hurled ice and rocks at the Redcoats, and one Bostonian struck a soldier with a club, knocking him down. When the soldier got back up, he fired into the crowd.


Few details from the night are certain, but what’s known for sure is that five colonists were killed. Outrage ensued, and the soldiers were brought to trial.

“People are calling for blood, people are calling for the heads of these soldiers who have killed the Bostonians,” Amanda Norton, the digital production editor at The Adams Papers, said at an event at the Massachusetts Historical Society last week.

With John Adams defending the British troops, six of eight soldiers and Captain Thomas Preston were acquitted of any crimes. Two men — Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Kilroy ― were found guilty of manslaughter. As was law in England, both soldiers were branded with an “M” on their thumbs for “Manslaughter”.

On the evening of March 5, history buffs can attend the official commemoration of the massacre, where several community leaders, including Governor Charlie Baker, will reflect on the significance of the massacre in Boston’s history. The event will be held at the Old South Meeting House from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Registration for the event is required, and 50 to 100 seats are available for the public.

Those who want a front-seat experience of Boston a quarter of a millennium ago can view the Boston Massacre Reenactment, where actors will reinterpret the event at the Old State House, the Old South Meeting House, and the Printing Office of Edes & Gill at Faneuil Hall. The reenactment of the massacre will happen from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. outside the Old State House by the Boston Massacre Site on Saturday, March 7.


Both events are being hosted by Revolutionary Spaces, a non-profit that oversees both the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House.

Matt Berg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.