US History to 1865
Hey at Least it Wasn’t During a Marathon
On March 5 1770 in Boston, hostilities that had been brewing for nearly a decade boiled over in a confrontation between a riotous crowd of colonists and a handful of British soldiers, that has become known as the Boston Massacre. Leading the ordinance of soldiers that fired on the colonials was a man named Thomas Preston, Captain. Whether or not Captain Preston was guilty of murder is a question that has plagued historians for centuries. Using several documents linked in connection with Preston’s trial one will see that: Captain Preston was not guilty of committing murder during the Boston Massacre because of the contradicting testimony arising on the side of the prosecution, Preston not having issued the order to fire, and finally the fact, corroborated by both sides of the court, that the soldiers acted in self defense.
The Prosecution’s case relied on contradictory testimony. In the testimony of William
Wyat he alleges that Preston “bid ‘em about face and then load...behind the soldiers… he had a cloath coloured surtot.” This would mean that Preston stood behind the soldiers, hooded, ordered them to face the riot, load all of their weapons, and order them to fire on the crowd; however, Daniel Calef describers Preston as “the office who stood on the right in a line with the soldiers… he had on a red coat, yellow jacket and silver laced hat, no trimming on his coat.”
The discrepancy between the testimonies becomes apparent immediately, Preston is a completely different person in these commentaries, he is in different places, doing different things, Daniel Calef includes no commentary on Preston ordering his men to load and aim their weapons, and another important issue brought forth from these testimonies is that he is wearing
different clothing. The testimony brought forth by the prosecution can be broken down further by introducing more of its own evidence. John Cox describes Preston as not wearing a surtout like Wyat alleges but says he is dressed differently from how Daniel Calef described. Nathaniel
Fosdick contradicts Wyat again by saying that he “hear no Orders given to load” when Diman
Morton alleges that the Captain did order the soldiers to load. Finally Robert Goddard introduces a completely new version of events alleging that “A Sailor or Townsman struck theCaptain. He therupon said damn your bloods fire …” Goddard makes the claim that the captain was struck by a stick or ball of ice and that is what lead to him giving the order to fire, the order to load, and fire is so confused by the prosecution that no one can derive any substantial information as to whether the Captain really did anything. In fact with all the different recountings of the situation the “Captain” the prosecution’s witnesses describe could have been several different individuals. The contradicting testimony of the Prosecution fails to establish a clear picture of the events construed that night and therefore can not prove anything.
Captain Preston did not give the order to fire. The testimony of the defense compiled can be used to depict the events leading up to the shooting and Captain Preston’s location at the time, in his own deposition Preston confirms that “At this time I was between the soldiers and the mob…. I was advanced before the muzzles of the men’s pieces” this statement is corroborated in Mattjew Murray’s testimony and also in Rychard Palmes’ statement “I saw Capt.
Preston at the head of 7 or 8 soldiers” Captain Preston was in the path of physical harm if he had ordered his men to shoot. He had positioned himself between the colonists and his soldiers weapons. More evidence is brought forth in Prestons defense in James Woodall’s crossexamination where he says “No officers never give order to fire from charged bayonet.
They would all have fired together.” Two important pieces of information…