J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Boston Massacre and the Rising Generation

Last Saturday’s reenactment of the Boston Massacre drew scores of volunteers from at least as far north as New Hampshire and at least as far south as Virginia and Kentucky. Their dedication was awe-inspiring, as always.

I was especially impressed by some of the younger participants:
  • the drummer for His Majesty’s 29th Regiment of Foot.
  • the young children adding pathos as the offspring of Pvt. Edward and Isabela Montgomery.
  • the young men playing wigmakers’ apprentices Edward Garrick and Bartholomew Broaders, diligent in working out their cues with the narrator.
They suggest this reenactment has a fine future ahead.

I’m never tired of pointing out that in 1770 most Bostonians were under the age of sixteen. The same pattern applied throughout the British Empire, and probably throughout the world. In an era of short life expectancy and large families, children easily outnumbered adults.

It was only natural, then, that young people were caught up in the violence that year. For example, John Appleton (1758-1829) testified at the soldiers’ trial:
About 9 o’clock I was sent of an errand, in King street. I was going home—at Jenkin’s alley about 20 soldiers, one came to me with his cutlass.

I cried soldier spare my life,

no d—n you we’ll kill you all and struck me upon the shoulder.

I dodged or he would have hit me on the head.
John Adams recorded those words in his trial notes. Young John Appleton had stumbled into one of the several brawls around Boston earlier that night, but he was home by the time of the big fatal fight on King Street. He grew up to become a merchant in France before returning to Massachusetts.

Appleton’s testimony showed that the experience of Boston’s pre-Revolutionary turmoil wasn’t just for adults. And neither are the reenactments.

[The thumbnail above leads to Brian D’Amico’s photographs of the event on Flickr.]

1 comment:

cinnamonblue said...

Sounds like a fine event. Congrats. Thanks for posting the link to the photoe. They were awesome.