The Boston Massacre (the killing of five men by British soldiers on March 5, 1770) was the result of tensions that had been growing between the colonist and the English troops since the troops first appeared in Massachusetts in October 1768. The soldiers were in Boston to keep order, but townspeople viewed them as a threat. Because the colonist did not like the English army in their city, fights between the two sides were common.
The Boston Massacre began when a young apprentice shouted an insult at a British officer. A soldier on duty in front of the customs house gave the apprentice a knock on the ear with the butt of his rifle. The boy cried for help, and an crowd gathered. Someone rang the bells in a nearby church. This action drew more people into the street. The English guard found himself confronting an angry mob. He stood his ground and called for the main guard. Six men, led by a corporal, responded. They were joined by the officer on duty, Captain John Preston.
The crowd soon swelled to almost 400 men. They began pelting the soldiers with snowballs and chunks of ice. Led Crispus Attucks, a freed slave, the colonist surged to within inches of the fixed bayonets and dared the soldiers to fire. Finally, the squad fired into the unruly crowd, killing five men. As the gun smoke cleared, Crispus Attucks and four others lay dead or dying. Six more men were wounded.
The massacre served as anti-British propaganda for Boston radicals and elsewhere heightened American fears of English armies.