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 George Sanderlin believe the "massacre" was an accident or murder?
- What evidence does George Sanderlin 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? (This is located in the reading) How were they connected to the events their describing?
- How might the author’s role give them a perspective on daily life and events of the time?
On hearing the noise [of a fight], Samuel Atwood came up to see what was the matter, and entering the alley heard the latter part of the combat, and when the boys [who had been fighting] had dispersed he met the ten or twelve soldiers [who had been fighting with them] rushing down the alley toward the square, and asked them if they intended to murder people? They answered "Yes, [we do]," [and struck and wounded Atwood].
Immediately after, those heroes [the British officers] appeared in the square, asking "where were the cowards?" One of them advanced toward a youth who had a stave in his hand. But the young man, seeing a person near him with a drawn sword, held up his stave in defiance, and they quietly passed by him up the little alley to King street, where they attacked single and unarmed persons till they raised much clamor.
Thirty or forty persons, mostly lads, being by this means gathered in Kingstreet, Capt. Preston, with a party of men with charged bayonets, came from the main guard to the Commissioner's House, the soldiers pushing their bayonets, crying, "Make way!" They took place by the Custom House, and continuing to push to drive the people off, pricked some in several places; on which they were clamorous, and, it is said, threw snow-balls.
On this, the Captain commanded then to fire, and more snow-balls coming, he again said, “ . . . Fire, be the consequences what it will!" One soldier then fired, and a townsman with a cudgel struck him over the hands with such force that he dropt his firelock; and rushing forward aimed a blow at the Captain's head, which grazed his hat and fell pretty heavy on his arm. However, the soldiers continued to fire, successively, till seven or eight or, as some say, eleven guns were discharged.
By this fatal manoeuvre, three men were laid dead on the spot, and two more struggling for life.