The British military presence was not a discreet one. Redcoats, on and off-duty, were everywhere; in the streets, in the taverns and coffee house, in the shops, at various checkpoints, and on the Common, day and night. This in a Boston very much different from the Boston of today. A person, walking briskly, could see all of 1770's Boston in about an hour.
The events that would lead to and trigger the event that occurred on Monday, March 5th, 1770 and known today as "The Boston Massacre" started on Friday, March 2nd, 1770 at a ropewalk in Boston's South End. John Gray owned a ropewalk which consisted of a ropewalk, a warehouse, a residence and several buildings, located a few hundred yards from a British barracks. Gray employed a regular crew of journeymen and apprentices but often hired temporary workers as well. That morning a British soldier ambled by the ropeworks and a journeymen shouted to him asking him if he wanted to work. The poorly paid British soldiers were always trying to supplement their incomes with off duty work and the Boston ropeworks provided a splendid opportunity. This particular British soldier from the 29th Regiment, however, was being setup. When the soldier eagerly answered yes, the journeyman responded gleefully - "Then go and clean my shithouse!" The soldier, humiliated and furious, answered that he would "seek satisfaction" and that he was not afraid of any rope worker. While the soldier tried to restore his dignity, a day worker at the ropeworks stealthily approached the soldier and pulled his feet out from under him. As the soldier fell, his coat flew open, revealing an unsheathed cutlass. Another ropeworker spotted the cutlass, grabbed it, and took it inside. Without his weapon and badly outnumbered, the soldier retreated.
|This cutout from the above map clearly shows the location of "MacNeal's" rope yard. Gray's was next to it.|
|An image from Stark's "Antique Views of Boston" shows a ropewalk running through Beacon Hill.|
|Bonner's 1722 map of Boston. Ropewalk locations are in red.|