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, July 18, 2007

James Brewer at the Boston Massacre, part 2

Yesterday I quoted the start of blockmaker James Brewer’s testimony about what he had seen on King Street on the night of Monday, 5 Mar 1770. Here’s more from his time in the witness-box as the prosecutors led him to fill in his account—particularly a detail he’d left out earlier, but which was probably crucial to the case they were trying to make.

Q: Was it the first gun that you thought wounded [Christopher] Monk?

B: No.

Q: Did you see any of these prisoners there?

B: I think I saw [Pvt. Mathew] Kilroy, and that he was the man who struck me with his bayonet, when they came down, before they formed.

Q: Did any body near you do any violence to him?

B: No, I saw none.

Q: Had you seen Monk that evening before?

B: No, nor the day before.

Q: How near were you to the soldiers when they fired?

B: I was about ten or fifteen feet from them, I stood in the street just above Royal-exchange-lane, about six or seven feet from the gutter.

Q: Could you see the whole party?

B: Yes, they stood in a circle, or half moon.

Q: Did you take notice of the distance betwixt the first and second gun?

B: No.

Q: Was your back to them, when that first gun was fired?

B: No, my face was to them.

Q: Where did the firing begin?

B: Towards the corner of Royal-exchange-lane. I think it was the man quite to the right.

Q: Did you know him?

B: No.

Q: Did the man that struck you do it on purpose, or accidentally, do you think?

B: I think he did it on purpose, I apprehended it so; I was standing by the gutter, and he was before me.

Q: Said he anything to you?

B: No, nor I to him: he came to form, and I was closer than I wished I was, and he struck me.
Pvt. Kilroy was key to the prosecutors’ hopes of convincing the jury that the British soldiers were out for blood when they arrived on King Street. He had been at the brawl between soldiers and ropemakers the previous Friday. He had a bad reputation in Boston, shoemaker George R. T. Hewes would recall. And according to Brewer, he had struck out at the crowd with his bayonet “on purpose” and been the first to fire his gun.

(Image of musket and bayonet above from the Black Watch Regimental Museum.)

COMING UP: James Brewer’s cross-examination.

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