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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Friday, March 09, 2012

The Boston Massacre as You’ve Never Exactly Seen It Before

Tomorrow the Old State House hosts its annual commemoration and reenactment of the Boston Massacre. This winter has been far from wintry, but we’ll all pretend it’s a chilly, moonlit night with snow and ice on the ground. The schedule of events—

Little Redcoats: Kids Reenact the Massacre
11:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M.
With little red coats and styrofoam snowballs, young visitors will be the stars in a recreation of the Boston Massacre. Free; outside.

Trial of the Century
11:30 A.M. and 2:30 P.M.
Immediately following the Kids’ Reenactment, come inside to watch patriot lawyers John Adams and Josiah Quincy defend the British soldiers accused of murdering Bostonians. Audience members are invited to act as witnesses and jurors for this celebrated case. Free with museum admission, but space is limited; tickets for both performances go on sale at 9:00 A.M. at the museum’s front desk.

Boston Massacre Reenactment
7:00 P.M.
Become a part of this infamous event as it is reenacted in front of the Old State House, in the very place where it took place in 1770. Decide for yourself if the soldiers fired into the crowd in self-defense or cold-blooded murder. Before the action unfolds, hear from patriots, loyalists, and moderates who will talk about the events and attitudes that led to that fateful night. Free; in front of the Old State House.

This year the reenacting unit that portrays the soldiers will debut their 29th Regiment of Foot uniforms. The photo by bettlebrox above shows the mix of uniforms that soldiers wore five years ago—each individually authentic, but somewhat motley when combined. Commissioning multiple hand-sewn uniforms of the actual company involved in the shooting is the meticulous attention to detail that makes us civilians think reenactors are awe-inspiring and a little crazy. But all of us involved in this event have the goal of improving it every year.

For folks who can’t be in town tomorrow night, the Freedom Trail Foundation has started a podcast, and the first episode is devoted to the Massacre, with an audio portrayal and interviews.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the uniforms weren't commissioned. They were researched by the unit, and then made by hand by the members of that unit. There was a great presentation on the material culture of the reconstructed 29th regiment a couple of weeks ago at the old state house.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the correction. That is, of course, an even more impressive display of dedication.

I heard good things about the Old State House presentation on the 29th (in both senses of that phrase). I’d hoped to go, but a virus forced me to stay within easy firing range of household plumbing.