Unit Title: Interpreting the Past – The Case of the “Bloody Massacre” Designed by: Fran O’Malley Director, Delaware Social Studies Education Project

Strategy 3: Extending and Refining Fishbowl Jury Deliberations (if you conduct a jury trial)

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Strategy 3: Extending and Refining
Fishbowl Jury Deliberations (if you conduct a jury trial)

Students playing the role of jurors deliberate in a circle in the center of the class while the rest of the class listens attentively in the outer circle. Through the deliberation discussion, the jurors should refer to the graphic organizer that they created. The outer circle should create a T-chart or matrix on which they record differences in evidence that is central to the verdict.

Background Information for the Teacher

In his deposition (see Appendix 8), Captain Preston denied having given the order to fire. He noted that he was standing in front of the soldiers when the first shot was fired and that it would have been suicidal for him to have given an order to fire. He stated that one of the soldiers fired after having been hit with a stick. He went on to state that the crowd continued to taunt and throw objects at the soldiers. Shortly after the first shot, several other soldiers fired. He also stated that, “All our lives were in great danger….”

The jury found Captain Preston to be “not guilty.”

Trial of the Other Soldiers (Rex v. Wemms)

Since the jury concluded that Captain Preston did not give the order to fire, the issue in the trial of the other soldiers was whether there was sufficient provocation to fire and/or whether any of the soldiers acted out of malice. Additionally, if the soldiers were assembled legally on the night of March 5th, the prosecution had the burden of proving that specific soldiers actually shot and killed specific individuals. This proved difficult in most of their cases. The prosecution even conceded that Corporal Wemms’ musket had not even fired.

The evidence was, however, particularly damaging to two privates—Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Killroy. Several witnesses specifically identified Montgomery as the one who killed Crispus Attucks, testifying that he fired after recovering from being hit by a stick. Regarding Killroy, testimony about conversations held prior to March 5th revealed that he stated that “he would never miss an opportunity of firing upon the Inhabitants. He had wanted such an opportunity ever since he had been in the Country.” (Wroth and Zobel, 130).

Perhaps the most dramatic testimony to surface at either trial came from Dr. John Jeffries, the physician who tended to the dying Patrick Carr (recall that he survived his wounds until the 14th of March). Acting on the advice of those who realized the importance of Carr’s testimony, Dr. Jeffries repeatedly interviewed Carr as he lay dying. On the stand, Jeffries corroborated testimony, revealing that Carr “told me [Dr. Jeffries] he thought the soldiers would have fired long before [they actually did]… for he thought the soldiers were abused a great deal.” Then, possibly sealing at least six of the soldiers’ verdicts, Jeffries testified that “he [Carr] really thought they did fire to defend themselves; that he did not blame the man whoever he was, that shot him.” (Wroth and Zobel, 213-214)

On December 5, 1770, the verdicts were read. Corporal William Wemms, James Hartegan, William McCauley, Hugh White, and William Warren were found “not guilty.” Privates Matthew Killroy and Hugh Montgomery were found “guilty” of manslaughter.

Killroy and Montgomery successfully pleaded benefit of clergy. On Friday, December 14, 1770, they were branded on the thumb and released.

Check for Understanding

How did the use of the sources or questions influence the jury’s verdict (conclusion)? Support your answer with examples.


2 – This response gives a valid explanation with an accurate and relevant example.

1 – This response gives a valid explanation with an inaccurate, irrelevant, or no example.

Lesson Three

Essential Question

  • Why might historians disagree about the same historical event?

Instructional Strategies

Strategy 1: Gathering Information
Analyzing a Primary Document Think/Pair/Share

Activity 1: Distribute copies of Appendix 12. Ask students to answer the questions in Column 1 based exclusively on the Statement of the Case and the testimony given at the Mock Trial. Pair students to discuss their answers, and then share responses with the entire class.

Activity 2: Divided Image. Distribute copies of Handout 13—the Pelham-Revere engraving of the “Bloody Massacre.”

Ask students to cover up the right side of the engraving and individually analyze the side populated by British soldiers. Then have them cover up the left side and analyze individually the section populated by colonists. Lastly, have them analyze the engraving as a whole. After analyzing the engraving, ask students:

  • How might this source be used to support or harm the patriot cause?

  • How might the engraving influence the conclusions of historians writing about March 5, 1770?

Have volunteers report their conclusions during a class-wide debriefing.

Check for Understanding

Draw a version of shootings on March 5, 1770, that offers a balanced interpretation of the tragedy. Explain how your source (i.e., drawing) might be used to arrive at different interpretations of the past.


2 – The drawing offers a balanced interpretation with a persuasive explanation of how it might be used to arrive at different interpretations.

1 – The drawing offers a balanced interpretation with a mediocre or no explanation of how it might be used to arrive at different interpretations.

Strategy 2: Extending and Refining

Ask students to return to Appendix 12. Tell them to address the same 10 questions in Column 1 and then record their responses in Column 3, relying exclusively on the information presented in the Pelham-Revere engraving of the “Bloody Massacre.” After completing the chart, students should get into small groups and discuss:

  • Were the answers to the questions the same or different when you compared previous testimony (Column 2) to the engraving (Column 3)? Why might there be differences?

  • How might this chart illustrate the importance of questions when investigating the past?

  • Should we expect there to be more than one history of the same event? Why?

  • What are some other questions that might be asked about the engraving that might lead to new accounts of March 5, 1770?

Then the groups will revisit the concept of “massacre” from Lesson One. Ask them:

  • What is a reasonable definition of the term massacre?

  • Do the events of March 5, 1770, qualify as a “massacre?” Support your answer with evidence.

  • Why might the event have been labeled a massacre?

Introduce the concept of propaganda. Ask students if they have ever heard of the word and elicit definitions. Suggest a dictionary definition (e.g., Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: “the act of instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty”) and then distribute copies of Appendix 14: Frayer Model with “propaganda” as the word or concept to be defined. Work with the whole class to come up with:

  • A definition

  • Characteristics

  • One example

  • One non-example

Pose the following questions to the students:

  1. Who might have been responsible for the “Bloody Massacre” propaganda and what was their purpose?

  2. Might historians be divided over whether propaganda was used in the case of the Boston Massacre? Explain.

  3. Should propaganda evidence be used by historians who tell the story of the past? If so, how?

  4. How should you and other researchers approach historical sources/accounts now that you know about propaganda?

Debrief: Tell students that propaganda is a common tactic used during conflicts to sway people to a certain side. Historians often raise the question, why do people leave the safety of their everyday life to join sides in a conflict? One answer is propaganda. The Revere-Pelham engraving is considered to be one of the earliest and most effective illustrations of propaganda in American history. Note, however, that propaganda is still used in situations other than war (e.g., advertising).

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