Questions for Thought
When we study primary sources, we need to ask ourselves some questions:
- Look through the text. Identify words that contain emotion or opinion.
- What claim is the author making? Does Captain Preston believe the "massacre" was an accident or murder?
- What evidence does CaptainPreston present to back his/her claim?
- What is the document about? Write a two sentence summary.
- Take into consideration where and when this document was created. What was happening historically at the time?
- Consider the author. What was their role at the time? How were they connected to the events their describing?For more information on Captain Preston, click here.
- How might the author’s role give them a perspective on daily life and events of the time?
On Monday night about 8 o'clock two soldiers were attacked and beat..... About 9 some of the guard came to and informed me the town inhabitants were assembling to attack the troops, and that the bells were ringing as the signal for that purpose and not for fire, and the beacon intended to be fired to bring in the distant people of the country…
In my way there I saw the people in great commotion, and heard them use the most cruel and horrid threats against the troops...... They immediately surrounded the sentry posted there, and with clubs and other weapons threatened to execute their vengeance on him. I was soon informed by a townsman their intention was to carry off the soldier from his post and probably murder him.
They (the soldiers) soon rushed through the people, and by charging their bayonets in half-circles, kept them at a little distance. The mob still increased and were more outrageous, striking their clubs or bludgeons one against another, and calling out, come on you rascals, you bloody backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare, G-d damn you, fire and be damned, we know you dare not, and much more such language was used. At this time I was between the soldiers and the mob, parleying with, and endeavouring all in my power to persuade them to retire peaceably, but to no purpose.
They advanced to the points of the bayonets, struck some of them and even the muzzles of the pieces, and seemed to be endeavouring to close with the soldiers. On which some well behaved persons asked me if the guns were charged. I replied yes. They then asked me if I intended to order the men to fire. I answered no, by no means.... While I was thus speaking, one of the soldiers having received a severe blow with a stick, stepped a little on one side and instantly fired, on which turning to and asking him why he fired without orders, I was struck with a club on my arm, which for some time deprived me of the use of it, which blow had it been placed on my head, most probably would have destroyed me.
On this a general attack was made on the men by a great number of heavy clubs and snowballs being thrown at them, by which all our lives were in imminent danger, some persons at the same time from behind calling out, damn your bloods-why don't you fire. Instantly three or four of the soldiers fired, one after another, and directly after three more in the same confusion and hurry. The mob then ran away….