Paul Revere Heritage Project


Boston Massacre Site

Paul Revere’s role in the historic Boston Massacre was not without controversy. It is not exactly known if he was present at the time of the shooting but it is almost certain that he visited the site, perhaps even several times to precisely determine the position of the participants and the bodies. He also personally knew the eyewitnesses, some of whom later participated with him in the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Massacre Site

So why was Revere so interested in the Boston Massacre? He hardly needed this information to produce his famous engraving that he published under the long name “The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regiment”. This is because the depiction in the engraving was almost an identical copy of an earlier image created by the Boston artist Henry Pelham. Pelham later published a letter to Revere in Boston newspaper accusing the engraver of copying his drawing and calling it “the most dishonorable action”.

Despite of copying the print, Revere did actually create an original depiction of the Boston Massacre, but it was hand-drawn with a pencil and is virtually unknown. But the accuracy of this schematic drawing was believed to be very good. It was even presented as the evidence during the Boston Massacre trial of the British soldiers and the officers.

The diagram shows the street plan of the location with figures of the bodies lying down marked with the initials of those whom they belong. It takes some effort to decipher
Revere's Diagram
these marks. On the bottom left, you can see two bodies laying together marked by ‘A’ and ‘G’ close the hard-pressed circle of British bayonets. These are Attucks and Gray who, witness agreed, died at the soldiers’ feet. The boy, Maverick, was shot while standing in Quaker Lane. In the diagram his little figure is marked with a ‘G’, presumably for his master, Isaac Greenwood. James Caldwell is indicated correctly with a ‘C’. This drawing was made before Patrick Carr died, because his is not present in it.

Visitors to Boston can easily find the location of the Boston Massacre site directly in front of the Old State House where it is marked by a circle of dark stones. Exactly at this site on March 5, 1770 an argument between Boston residents and British regulars turned violent killing five colonists.

The Old State House is the only original building that remained on the exact site of the Boston Massacre, but it’s the most recognized structure thanks it’s prominent depiction in Paul Revere’s engraving, the Bloody Massacre Perpetrated on King’s Street. It is commonly mistaken for the Customs House in front of which the British Soldier was standing on guard. The actual Customs House would have been directly on the right of the cobble stone circle. Just a block away sought-west from the Old State House is another famous building depicted in Revere’s engraving, King’s Chapel. In 1770 it was called the First Church of England in Boston or simply the First Church.