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 William Wyatt believe the "massacre" was an accident or murder?
- What evidence does William Wyatt 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?
I, William Wyat, of Salem, coaster, testify and say, that last Monday evening, being the fifth day of March current, I was in Boston, down at Treat's wharf, where my vessel was lying, and hearing the bells ring, supposed there was a fire in the town, whereupon I hastened up to the Town house, on the south side of it, where I saw an officer of the army lead out of the guard house there seven or eight soldiers of the army, and lead them down in seeming haste, to the Custom house on the north side of King street, where I followed them, and when the officer had got there with the men, he bid them face about. I stood just below them on the left wing, and the said officer ordered his men to load, which they did accordingly, with the utmost dispatch, then they remained about six minutes, with their firelocks rested and bayonets fixed, but not standing in exact order. I observed a considerable number of young lads, and here and there a man amongst them, about the middle of the street, facing the soldiers, but not within ten or twelve feet distance from them ; I observed some of them . . . had sticks in their hands, laughing, shouting, huzzaing, and crying fire; but could not observe that any of them threw anything at the soldiers, or threatened any of them. Then the said officer retired from before the soldiers and stepping behind them, towards the right wing, bid the soldiers fire; they not firing, he presently again bid 'em fire, they not yet firing, he stamped and said, " . . . fire, be the consequence what it will ;" then the second man on the left wing fired off his gun, then, after a very short pause, they fired one after another as quick as possible, beginning on the right wing; the last man's gun on the left wing flashed in the pan, then he primed again, and the people being withdrawn from before the soldiers, most of them further down the street, he turned his gun toward them and fired upon them. Immediately after the principal firing, I saw three of the people fall down in the street; presently after the last gun was fired off, the said officer, who had commanded the soldiers (as above) to fire, sprung before them, waving his sword or stick, said, ". . . ye, rascals, what did ye fire for" and struck up the gun of one of the soldiers who was loading again, whereupon they seemed confounded and fired no more. I then went up behind them to the right wing, where one of the people was lying, to see whether he was dead, where there were four or five people about him, one of them saying he was dead. And I remember as the said officer was going down with the soldiers towards the Custom house, a gentleman spoke to him and said, " Capt. Preston, for God's sake keep your men in order, and mind what you are about." And further I say not.