On Wednesday, 28 Nov 1770, the Crown called James Brewer, blockmaker, to the witness stand at the trial of soldiers for the shootings on King Street the previous March. The prosecutors were Solicitor General Samuel Quincy and an attorney specially hired by the town of Boston, Robert Treat Paine. Their questioning started like this:
Q: Please to look upon the prisoners, do you know any of them?NEXT: Brewer’s testimony continues.
Brewer: I think I remember this man. [He pointed to Pvt. Mathew Kilroy.]
Q: Was you in King-street the fifth of March last?
B: Yes, in the evening.
Q: Please to inform the Court and Jury what you saw there?
B: I came up Royal-exchange-lane, and as I got to the head of it, I saw the Sentry [Pvt. Hugh White] on the steps of the Custom-house, with his bayonet breast high, with a number of boys round him: I called to him, and said, I did not think any body was going to do him harm. I saw Capt. [Thomas] Preston and some soldiers come down.
Q: Which of the prisoners was the Sentry?
B: I cannot tell, I was not so nigh him to know his face.
Q: How many boys were there round him?
B: I think about twenty.
Q: How old were those boys?
B: About fourteen or fifteen years old, perhaps some of them older, I saw no men there except one, who came up Royal-exchange-lane with me, thinking it [the alarm bell] was fire. He went back again.
Q: What did you take to be the reason that the Sentry charged his bayonet?
B: I could not tell what the reason was; there was no body troubling him. I was at the corner of Royal-exchange-lane, and a young man went up to the Sentry and spoke to him; what he said I do not know.
Q: Was you there at the time of the firing?
B: Yes, I went toward the Sentry-box, where I saw Capt. Preston. I said to him, Sir, I hope you are not going to fire, for everybody is going to their own homes. He said I hope they are. I saw no more of him. He immediately went in amongst the soldiers.
Q: What number of soldiers were there?
B: I think seven or eight, I did not count them. [There were eight enlisted men, including White.]
Q: Did Capt. Preston lead or follow them down?
B: I think he was upon the right of them. [Preston arrived a short time after his men, who were led by a corporal.] As they came down they had their guns charged breast high. I saw Christopher Monk [a sixteen-year-old shipwright’s apprentice], who was wounded that night, I turned to speak to him, and directly they fired, and he seemed to faulter. I said are you wounded, he said yes. I replied, I do not think it, for I then apprehended they fired only powder [i.e., the soldiers had fired blanks].