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Here is a copy of Paul Revere’s “The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street”. This print is famous today as America’s first propaganda piece!  Though, did Paul Revere really paint this? And how accurate are the events in the picture?

This picture was not entirely thanks to Paul Revere.  His name is at the bottom of the engraving/print and therefore he got all the credit.  In fact, the man who actually, originally drew this picture was a man named Henry Pelham.  Revere later copied his print and added some details of his own, such as more smoke, then gained credit for the print when his name was printed on the bottom.  But, regardless of whether Revere was the original artist or not, there are key differences to note between what really happened the night of the Boston Massacre versus what the picture shows.  

On the night of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, a group of teenage boys came across a British guard in front of the Town House. One of the Boys recognized the soldier as a customer at the wig shop for which he was an apprentice.  He began insulting the soldier, saying he was no gentleman, for he had not paid his bill, and never intended to.  He continued to keep up his insults and eventually the soldier knocked him in the head with the butt of his musket.  The boys then ran to a tavern down the street claiming this “mean” soldier had unjustly injured the poor boy.

The seamen and rope workers who would have been in the tavern after a long day of work at the time, began to pour out of the tavern and surround the soldier, throwing swears and insults at him.  As the crowd grew from the neighboring taverns and neighborhoods, one of the British Officers, Captain Preston, staying near by with his troops, the 29th regiment of foot, saw the events unfolding and gathered 7 grenadiers amongst his men.  To be a Grenadier one had to at least be 6 feet tall so these were big intimidating looking men.  Together, with their captain, these 7 men pushed through the crowd and made a defensive line around the British soldier who was being abused by the crowd.  At this point the night began growing later and someone was ringing a church bell.  This bell was normally rung when there was a fire or trouble afoot, so many people poured into the streets to see what was going on. Some of them even emerging from their homes with buckets of water in a confusion. Now the crowd had clubs and weapons, and the crowd began throwing things, such as snowballs, at the soldiers, daring them to fire. Captain Preston, however, stood in front of his men ordering them not to fire, for he knew they could not fire on the riotous crowd unless a magistrate had come to read the Riot Act to the crowd.  This act stated that after it was read, the crowd had 1 hour to disperse before the soldiers could fire upon them.  But there was no magistrate in sight and the crowd was growing both angrier and in number against these 9 men.  Eventually one of the soldiers stumbled and fell, firing his musket by accident as he did so. Since the crowd was still screaming, and it was hard to hear anything through the confusion, the rest of the soldiers thought they had missed an order to fire and began firing as well.  However, their captain was right in front of them which was not a good position for the captain to be in if he had given the order.  With some quick thinking he soon jumped behind his men, screaming at them and asking, who told them to fire?  Three men died on the spot, 6 more were injured, and 2 would be so critically injured, they would die in the following days to come.  This brought the total number of casualties to 11, though only 5 died. 

Paul Revere’s print shows us a different story.  It shows us a well to do, wealthy crowd, not seamen and rope workers, peacefully passing by, as the soldiers fire in an orderly fashion at the crowd.  Meanwhile, Captain Preston, instead of being in front of his men ordering them not to fire, is shown behind his men, sword raised, maliciously ordering them TO fire.  But what is the dog for? Some believe that the dog is there to symbolize the colonists as loyal subjects to the crown so as to emphasize the brutality of the soldiers who would fire upon their own loyal subjects.  Others believe it maybe a symbol that this was an incident that, as the saying goes, “Went to the dogs.” But no matter what story this print depicts, it is the story that most colonists saw, being printed not only in the colony of Massachusetts, but other colonies such as Pennsylvania and New York as well. This print became so inscribed in the colonists’ minds that even those who witnessed the events, would in their old age, change their account from Captain Preston being in front of his men ordering them not to fire, to being behind them ordering them TO fire.

Here is a copy of Paul Revere’s “The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street”. This print is famous today as America’s first propaganda piece! Though, did Paul Revere really paint this? And how accurate are the events in the picture?

This picture was not entirely thanks to Paul Revere. His name is at the bottom of the engraving/print and therefore he got all the credit. In fact, the man who actually, originally drew this picture was a man named Henry Pelham. Revere later copied his print and added some details of his own, such as more smoke, then gained credit for the print when his name was printed on the bottom. But, regardless of whether Revere was the original artist or not, there are key differences to note between what really happened the night of the Boston Massacre versus what the picture shows.

On the night of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, a group of teenage boys came across a British guard in front of the Town House. One of the Boys recognized the soldier as a customer at the wig shop for which he was an apprentice. He began insulting the soldier, saying he was no gentleman, for he had not paid his bill, and never intended to. He continued to keep up his insults and eventually the soldier knocked him in the head with the butt of his musket. The boys then ran to a tavern down the street claiming this “mean” soldier had unjustly injured the poor boy.

The seamen and rope workers who would have been in the tavern after a long day of work at the time, began to pour out of the tavern and surround the soldier, throwing swears and insults at him. As the crowd grew from the neighboring taverns and neighborhoods, one of the British Officers, Captain Preston, staying near by with his troops, the 29th regiment of foot, saw the events unfolding and gathered 7 grenadiers amongst his men. To be a Grenadier one had to at least be 6 feet tall so these were big intimidating looking men. Together, with their captain, these 7 men pushed through the crowd and made a defensive line around the British soldier who was being abused by the crowd. At this point the night began growing later and someone was ringing a church bell. This bell was normally rung when there was a fire or trouble afoot, so many people poured into the streets to see what was going on. Some of them even emerging from their homes with buckets of water in a confusion. Now the crowd had clubs and weapons, and the crowd began throwing things, such as snowballs, at the soldiers, daring them to fire. Captain Preston, however, stood in front of his men ordering them not to fire, for he knew they could not fire on the riotous crowd unless a magistrate had come to read the Riot Act to the crowd. This act stated that after it was read, the crowd had 1 hour to disperse before the soldiers could fire upon them. But there was no magistrate in sight and the crowd was growing both angrier and in number against these 9 men. Eventually one of the soldiers stumbled and fell, firing his musket by accident as he did so. Since the crowd was still screaming, and it was hard to hear anything through the confusion, the rest of the soldiers thought they had missed an order to fire and began firing as well. However, their captain was right in front of them which was not a good position for the captain to be in if he had given the order. With some quick thinking he soon jumped behind his men, screaming at them and asking, who told them to fire? Three men died on the spot, 6 more were injured, and 2 would be so critically injured, they would die in the following days to come. This brought the total number of casualties to 11, though only 5 died.

Paul Revere’s print shows us a different story. It shows us a well to do, wealthy crowd, not seamen and rope workers, peacefully passing by, as the soldiers fire in an orderly fashion at the crowd. Meanwhile, Captain Preston, instead of being in front of his men ordering them not to fire, is shown behind his men, sword raised, maliciously ordering them TO fire. But what is the dog for? Some believe that the dog is there to symbolize the colonists as loyal subjects to the crown so as to emphasize the brutality of the soldiers who would fire upon their own loyal subjects. Others believe it maybe a symbol that this was an incident that, as the saying goes, “Went to the dogs.” But no matter what story this print depicts, it is the story that most colonists saw, being printed not only in the colony of Massachusetts, but other colonies such as Pennsylvania and New York as well. This print became so inscribed in the colonists’ minds that even those who witnessed the events, would in their old age, change their account from Captain Preston being in front of his men ordering them not to fire, to being behind them ordering them TO fire.