Print, The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street on March 5th, 1770, By a Party of the 29th Regt.

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  • Engraver and Publisher: Paul Revere; After Work by: Henry Pelham
  • America, New England, Massachusetts, Boston
  • 1770
  • Black and white line engraving with period hand color
  • 1966-1

The upper margin reads, "The BLOODY MASSACRE perpetrated in King Street BOSTON on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th REG.T."

Immediately below the printed image is a small box which reads, "Engraved, Printed & Sold by PAUL REVERE BOSTON." Beneath the image is the text,

"Unhappy Boston! see thy Sons deplore,/
Thy hallow'd Walks besmear'd with guiltless Gore./
While faithless P--n and his savage Bands,/
With murdrous Rancour stretch their bloody Hands;/
Like fierce Barbarians grinning o'er their Prey,/
Approve the Carnage and enjoy the Day./

If scalding drops from Rage Anguish wrung/
If Speechless Sorrows lab'ring for a Tongue,/
Or if a weeping World can ought appease/
The plaintive Ghosts of Victims such as these:/
The patriot's copious Tears for each are shed,/
A glorious Tribute which embalms the Dead./

But know Fate summons to that awful Goal./
Where JUSTICE strips the Murd'rer of his Soul:/
Should venal C--ts the scandal of the Land,/
Snatch the relentless Villian from her Hand,/
Keen Execrations on this Plate inscrib'd,/
Shall reach a JUDGE who never can be brib'd./

The unhappy Sufferers were Mess.s SAM.L GRAY, SAM.L MAVERICK, JAM.S CALDWELL, CRISPUS ATTUCKS & PAT.K CARR/ Killed. Six wounded; two of them (CHRIST.R MONK & JOHN CLARK) Mortally"

The print depicts the bloody skirmish between the British troops stationed in Boston, and the citizens. The Boston State House with clock-tower is in the background. In the center is the public square, framed by buildings on both sides. Lined up in front of these buildings on the right is a row of British soldiers in red coats, black boots and black hats. Each has his gun outstretched with the bayonets pointing at the patriots gathered along the left of the print. Billowing smoke around the British soldiers suggests the shots that have been fired. In the foreground four wounded civilians, one lying on the ground with blood coming from his side.

"The Bloody Massacre" reflects a patriot perspective on this important event in American history. However, much about the famous engraving's interpretation is less than historically accurate. It depicts seven British soldiers instead of the actual eight, and does not show Crispus Attucks, the African American who was the first to be killed in the incident. The Boston Customs House directly behind the soldiers has been renamed "Butcher's Hall." The soldier's are shown lined up in military formation, but in reality the scene was a moment of confusion, high emotion, and disorganization. They also seem to be firing their weapons, apparently without provocation, into an orderly, unarmed crowd of citizens. The crowd that night was, in fact, quite vocal, unruly, and armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons. Finally, Captain Preston is shown raising his hand giving the command to fire, but he could not have done so, as he was standing in front of the guns, between his men and the crowd of protesters.

The details in Paul Revere's depiction of the Boston Massacre were intended to raise American colonist's fear and concerns. The image served as a very effective propaganda piece that helped turn colonist's opinions against the British and Parliament's policies in the American colonies.

( Source: written by Margret Atkinson, Bill Neer, and Jodi Norman.)

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