Boston Massacre APUSH Study Guide

March 5, 1770

The Boston Massacre was a violent incident that took place on March 5, 1770, in Boston, Massachusetts. Five Americans were killed in what is referred to as the the first bloodshed of the American Revolution. This study guide provides a quick overview for students and teachers who are preparing for the AP US History exam.

Boston Massacre, 1770, Lantern Slide, DCMNY

This illustration depicts the Boston Massacre. Image Source: Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York.

Boston Massacre Definition

The definition of the Boston Massacre for APUSH is a deadly confrontation between British soldiers and Boston townspeople that took place on March 5, 1770. The incident led to the deaths of five colonists, including Crispus Attucks, and the wounding of six others. It is widely viewed as one of the key events in the American Revolution. The incident was sparked by tensions between the British troops and the colonists over a variety of issues, including the presence of the troops in Boston, the restrictions on trade and commerce, and the high taxes imposed on the colonists.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As — The “Bloody Massacre” and the “Incident on King Street.”
  • Date — March 5, 1770
  • Location — Boston, Massachusetts.
  • People Involved — Edward Garrick, Bartholomew Broaders, Hugh White, John Goldfinch, Thomas Preston, Hugh Montgomery, Matthew Kilroy, Crispus Attucks, Henry Knox, John Adams, Joseph Warren, and Thomas Hutchinson.
Boston Massacre, 1770, Paul Revere, Engraving, LOC
This engraving by Paul Revere depicts the “Bloody Massacre” where British troops fired into the mob on the night of March 5. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Overview

  • During the Townshend Acts Crisis, several key events took place in Boston and New York that raised tension between American colonists and British officials and soldiers.
  • On the night of March 5, 1770, an argument started between two young men and a pair of British soldiers, leading to a soldier hitting one of the men in the head with his gun.
  • An angry crowd gathered and harassed the soldiers, who called for help.
  • Captain Thomas Preston arrived with seven soldiers.
  • As the crowd advanced on the soldiers, one of Preston’s men fired his gun. Some of the others panicked and also fired into the crowd, which included Henry Knox and John Adams.
  • Three Bostonians, including Crispus Attucks, were killed immediately and two others died later from their wounds. Six others were wounded but survived.
  • Dr. Joseph Warren responded and treated the wounded.
  • Thomas Hutchinson restored order.
  • Captain Preston and his men stood trial, and were defended by John Adams. Two of the soldiers, Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Kilroy, were convicted and branded with the letter “M” — for manslaughter — on their hands, where the palm meets the thumb.
  • Samuel Adams coined the phrase “Boston Massacre.”

APUSH Significance

The Boston Massacre is important to the APUSH curriculum because it contributed to the growing tension between the American Colonies and Great Britain. It is the first time Americans are known to have been killed by British soldiers. Because of this, the incident is often called the “First Bloodshed of the American Revolution.”

Video

This video from the Daily Bellringer provides an overview of the Boston Massacre.

Boston Massacre APUSH Resources

Use the following links and videos to study the Boston Massacre, the American Revolution, and the American Revolutionary War for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.

APUSH Units

The Boston Massacre is part of the following:

  • APUSH Unit 3: 1754–1800
  • APUSH Unit 3: Topic 3.5 — The American Revolution

Lesson Plans and Resources

American History Central Resources

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Boston Massacre APUSH Study Guide
  • Date March 5, 1770
  • Author
  • Keywords Boston Massacre APUSH
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 30, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 1, 2024

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