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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boston Massacre Memorial Unveiled on Boston Common in November 1888

The Boston Massacre Memorial, located on the Tremont Street Mall on Boston Common, commemorates the famous episode in which five men were shot by British soldiers in Boston on March 5, 1770.  The shooting and its aftermath helped launch the Revolutionary War.

Putting up a monument to commemorate these men seemed like a good idea in the 19th century, and an number of citizens gathered together to do just that.  

The memorial was unveiled on Wednesday, November 14, 1888.  Governor Oliver Ames attended, along with Mayor Hugh O'Brien, the city's first Irish-born mayor of Boston.  The orator for the event with Irish-born poet John Boyle O'Reilly, who had penned a poem for the occasion he entitled Crispus Attucks, in honor of the African American who was one of the five martyrs killed that evening, along with Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell and Sam Maverick.   

But surprisingly, there was opposition to the Memorial from old-line Bostonians.  Jeffrey Roche noted in his biography of O'Reilly:

"A vigorous attempt was made by certain gentlemen of Tory proclivities to prevent the (memorial), by showing that Attucks and his comrades were "rioters" and "rebels."  The Massachusetts Historical Society petitioned Governor Ames to refuse his sanction to the bill, and made a bitter attack on the memory of the Revolutionary martyrs.  O'Reilly, true to his democratic instincts, ranged himself on the side of those who desired to honor the (patriots)."

Read more about John Boyle O'Reilly

For a thorough account of the Memorial by Boston author and history blogger Chris Klein.   

For more about Boston history and the Boston Irish contribution, visit