Thursday, January 17, 2008
"Damned Lobsterbacks" and the Boston Massacre
The evening of March 5, 1770 was like any other evening in colonial America...well...almost. As young Private Hugh White of the British Colonial 14th Regiment took his post in front of Boston's custom house, one wonders if he sensed the impending doom that would shortly come. As the evening progressed, young Private White was met by his superior, Captain John Goldfinch, and the two men "exchanged in pleasant conversation." The conversation was to be interrupted, however, by the intrusion of a young local apprentice named Edward Garrick. Garrick accused the soldiers of several misdeeds, all of which were ignored by the British soldiers. Angry that his accusations were being swept aside, Garrick attacked the men through obscenity, calling the British soldiers, "a bunch of damned lobsterbacks." This insult was apparently sufficient provocation to cause Private White to strike Garrick on his head with the stock of his musket.
Upon seeing and hearing this altercation, scores of Boston citizens rallied to defend the young Garrick. As we all know, tensions were high to begin with, and the people of Boston did not need much provocation to start a riot. In literally minutes, the crowd gathered to roughly 300. Seeing the possibility of a riot, Captain Thomas Preston sent reinforcements to help support Private White and the other soldiers present. The crowd had already surrounded white, backing him up all the way to the customs door. As the other British soldiers arrived to help White, several were knocked down by the crowd, which caused the British soldiers to fix bayonets.
As the crowd continued to grow, more and more Bostonians joined in the chorus of obscenity that was directed to the British. Chants of "damned lobsterbelly" and "fight you wretched, damned lobsterbacks" brought the level of tension to its ultimate crescendo. As the snowballs, oysters, and insults continued to be hurled at the British (who were, quite frankly, having a very difficult time getting organized), several soldiers began to point their muskets at the crowd. This new sign of force caused even more snowballs to fly, and harsher insults to be shouted. Seventeen-year-old Samuel Maverick dared the soldiers to do their worst. "Come on and fire you damned lobsterback!" The rest of the crowd also joined in, yelling "Fire, Fire, FIRE!!!"
As we all know (even though the specifics are greatly debated), the British fired into the crowd, striking 11 random people. Young Samuel Maverick was instantly killed, along with four other Bostonians.
In the weeks after the "massacre," several of young Samuel Maverick's closest friends decided to join the movement for revolution. Many of them joined the army as soon as possible (most of them were under the age of 16). When asked why he had joined, the young William Greenwood (a friend of Samuel Maverick), stated "to kill those damned lobsterbacks."