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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Irish Connections to the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770

Irish sailor Patrick Carr was one of five people shot and killed by British troops on Monday, March 5, 1770, during a confrontation that became known as the Boston Massacre. The shooting came after a tense week of acrimony between Bostonians and the British, which included a fist fight in a local tavern, small skirmishes on the streets and taunting threats by both sides.

There are several interesting Irish connections to this episode:

. The 29th British regiment, led by Captain Thomas Preston, was mostly Irish soldiers who had been conscripted, often against their will.  The names of the British troops involved in the shooting were William Wemms, James Hartigan, William McCauley, Matthew Kilroy, William Warren, John Carroll and Hugh Montgomery.

. It was Captain Preston who ordered his men to present arms to keep the crowd at bay, but the taunting continued.  Only years later was it revealed that the person who yelled out the fatal call to fire on the citizens was Montgomery.

. Thirty-one year old Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor who had come out of a house on Court Street and was moving toward the ruckus with fellow sailor Charles Connor, was the last man to be shot. He lingered for a few days and was able to give dying testimony that ultimately exonerated the soldiers.  Carr and the other four victims are buried at the Old Granary Burying Ground

. As the trial of Preston and his men loomed, the anti-Catholic dimension emerged.  The Boston Gazette revealed that many of the soldiers the British sent to Boston were Irish Catholics...The Providence Gazette suggested that Pope's Day, a virulent anti-Catholic event, should take place on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre so as to include Preston and the others in the effigy burning.

. The famous drawing of the Boston Massacre by engraver Paul Revere was actually done by 21 year old Henry Pelham, half brother of artist John Singleton Copley.  Their mother, Mary Singleton Copley, had emigrated to Boston from County Clare in Ireland in 1736.  Pelham was furious when he learned that his friend Revere had used his illustration without Pelham's permission.

. Over a century after the Massacre, in 1888, when the Boston Massacre Memorial was unveiled on Boston Common, Irish-born poet John Boyle O'Reilly was selected to write and deliver a poem for the ceremony. 

Find out more about the Boston Massacre and colonial history by visiting the Bostonian Society at the Old State House.   

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com

This information is taken from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past by Michael  Quinlin, published by Globe Pequot Press  in 2013.