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Disturbance at Boston

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

Two very different versions of an altercation in Boston.January 20. –A little after ten o’clock this evening, two young men passing down Milk street, near the entrance into Long Lane, they were accosted by an officer, not in the English, but as they supposed in another language, which they did not understand; they asked him what he meant; he replied he meant to tell them to go about their business. They had not gone far before the officer called to them to stop. They stopped till he came up to them, and angry words ensued. The young men, however, parted from him the second time, and went on their way towards their homes. The officer followed and overtook them near the head of the lane, and stopped them again, telling them he supposed they were stiff Americans; to which one of them said he gloried in the character. Here again words ensued, and the officer drew his sword, flourished it and struck one of the young men on the arm, who immediately seized him. At this juncture, three or four of the town watch, who were upon the patrol, came up and separated them, advising them to go home. The two young men did so, but the officer refused, saying he was prisoner of the watch and would go with them; they told him he was not their prisoner, but might go where he pleased, and if he desired it, they would see him safe home: but he insisted upon it that he was their prisoner. The watchmen went down the lane towards their head-quarters in King street, where they had been going before, and the officer accompanied them. In the way they met with several persons, whom they took to be servants of officers, who, supposing the officer to be in custody of the watch, attempted to rescue him but he insisted upon being a prisoner, and said the watchmen were his friends, and he would go with them. They then went forward, and in Quaker Lane, which leads into King street, they were met and assaulted by more than twenty officers of the army, who took several of their watch poles from them, and wounded some of them. 1

 

1 Edes and Gills’ account, as published in Rivington’s Gazette, Feb. 9. The same paper contains the following “Other Side of the Question: “–You have read in that fund of lies and sedition, Edes and Gill, * of a “high-handed riot.” There have been five field officers on a court of inquiry, to inspect into the conduct of the officers concerned on that occasion. It commenced by Lieutenant Myers, 38th Regiment, being, without the smallest cause, insulted by two townspeople, who not only called him a Tory, rascal, scoundrel, &c., but damned the king, governor, army, and every friend to government; the former he put up with, the latter resented, by knocking the person down. He was immediately surrounded by the watch; and though he immediately surrendered, and gave his sword to a Mr. Winslow, who came up at the time, (a private gentleman,) and informed them, and this gentleman, of the cause of the quarrel, they treated him with every indignity possible; not only allowed the two men to knock him down in the midst of them, but they themselves kicked and beat him all the way to the watch-house, a little short of a quarter of a mile. The noise about the watch-house brought together a few officers, whom Mr. Myers requested not to interfere, concealed from them the cruel treatment he had met with, and insisted on remaining in custody. The insolence of the watch to those gentlemen occasioned a fresh riot, when the interposition of a party from the main guard prevented any bad consequences. Immediately after, Myers was released, by order from the governor. Complaints were immediately lodged against the officers, and bail is to be given to-morrow for their appearance. I cannot quit this subject without observing, that the high-flyers are much disappointed in the event of this riot; not only at the little mischief done, but at the ready submission of every officer concerned, to the laws of the country.

The spirit of the people here seems to subside a little; and we have every reason to believe, that, in order to keep it up, the vagabonds of the town are employed to insult the troops, which they do daily, in hopes of bringing about another massacre.

* The publishers of the Boston Gazette and Country Journal.

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