The first casualty of the American Revolution was Crispus Attucks. He was an African American man who was killed during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Attucks was one of the five colonists who died when British soldiers fired into a crowd of protesters. His death became a symbol of resistance against British oppression and played a significant role in fueling the revolutionary spirit among the American colonists. Attucks is often considered a hero and a martyr of the American Revolution.
Are you familiar with the tale of the American Revolution? If so, you might be acquainted with a few names such as George Washington, Paul Revere, and Molly Pitcher. These individuals are often regarded as heroes. Today’s Wonder of the Day revolves around another American hero. Who might that be? Crispus Attucks!
In historical accounts, Crispus Attucks remains somewhat enigmatic. At the onset of the American Revolution, he resided in Boston, Massachusetts. He was employed as a sailor and a rope maker. What did he do prior to that? No one can say for certain.
Nevertheless, many speculate that Attucks managed to escape slavery before arriving in Boston. As evidence, they point to a 1750 advertisement featuring a runaway slave named “Crispas” who bore a resemblance to Attucks. If this was indeed Attucks, then he was born in 1723 in Framingham, Massachusetts and subsequently fled to Boston.
Once in Boston, Attucks frequently came and went from the city on the ships he worked on. In 1770, tensions ran high between Britain and its American colonies. Americans were outraged by unfair taxes and the presence of British troops. Simultaneously, Britain sought tighter control over the colonies.
Things were particularly dire in Boston. Britain had already dispatched two groups of soldiers to the city, where they were met with hostility. These soldiers had the authority to search people’s homes and businesses at will. They even took up residence in many public buildings. Additionally, many soldiers took on part-time jobs in the city, which angered Bostonians struggling to find work.
The tension reached its boiling point in 1770. On March 5th of that year, a British soldier entered a Boston pub in search of work. Inside, he encountered a group of infuriated sailors, one of whom was Attucks.
As the evening progressed, Attucks’s group grew in size. They confronted a guard stationed in front of the Boston customs house, taunting him by throwing sticks and snowballs. Soon, more British soldiers arrived to assist the guard, while more Bostonians joined the group as well. Eventually, the soldiers began firing into the crowd.
This event, known as the Boston Massacre, was one of the initial incidents of the American Revolution. The shooting resulted in the deaths of five individuals. Attucks is believed to have been the first casualty, thus earning him the title of the first victim of the American Revolution.
Later on, Attucks became a symbol for the anti-slavery movement. Presently, the Crispus Attucks memorial stands in the Boston Commons. He is sure to be remembered for many years to come.
Give It a Go
Engage in one or more of these activities with a friend or family member:
- Examine these other individuals involved in the American Revolution. Which person do you find most intriguing? Compose a paragraph explaining what you have learned about them for a friend or family member.
- Observe this portrayal of the Boston Massacre. What appears to be taking place? How would you feel if you were an American witnessing this in 1770? Discuss it with a friend or family member.
- Heroes are not limited to the past! Who are some contemporary heroes you can think of? What qualities make them heroic? Discuss it with a friend or family member and create a list of modern heroes.
Sources for Further Exploration
- https://www.biography.com/military-figure/crispus-attucks (accessed on 26 July 2019)
- http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p24.html (accessed on 26 July 2019)
- http://www.crispusattucksmuseum.org/crispus-attuck/ (accessed on 26 July 2019)
- https://www.britannica.com/list/timeline-of-the-american-revolution (accessed on 26 July 2019)
1. Who was the first casualty of the American Revolution?
The first casualty of the American Revolution was Crispus Attucks. He was an African American sailor and is widely regarded as the first person killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Attucks became a symbol of the fight for American independence and his death played a significant role in rallying support for the revolution.
2. How did Crispus Attucks become the first casualty?
Crispus Attucks was among a group of protesters who confronted British soldiers in Boston. The soldiers were being harassed by the crowd, and in the chaos that ensued, shots were fired. Attucks, along with four others, was killed in the incident. His death became a rallying cry for the colonists and helped fuel the growing discontent with British rule.
3. Why is Crispus Attucks considered an important figure in American history?
Crispus Attucks is considered an important figure in American history because of his role in the Boston Massacre and the American Revolution. As an African American, his sacrifice challenged the notion that only white colonists were fighting for freedom. Attucks became a symbol of resistance and his death helped unite the colonists against British oppression, paving the way for the eventual independence of the United States.
4. Are there any memorials honoring Crispus Attucks?
Yes, there are several memorials honoring Crispus Attucks. The most notable one is the Crispus Attucks Monument located in the Boston Common, which was erected in 1888. There are also schools, parks, and buildings named after him across the United States. Attucks’ legacy as a revolutionary hero and an advocate for freedom is remembered and celebrated through these memorials.
5. How did Crispus Attucks’ death impact the American Revolution?
Crispus Attucks’ death had a significant impact on the American Revolution. It galvanized public opinion against British rule and contributed to the growing desire for independence. Attucks’ sacrifice inspired others to join the cause, and his death became a symbol of the fight for freedom. The events surrounding the Boston Massacre and Attucks’ martyrdom helped unite the colonists and set the stage for the revolutionary war that followed.