Thomas Preston (British Army officer)
Thomas Preston (c.1722—c.1798) was a British officer, a captain who served in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He commanded some troops in the Boston Massacre in 1770 and was tried for murder, but he was acquitted. Historians have never settled whether he ordered his men to fire on the colonists. Preston was originally from Ireland; his people were among the Protestants settled there.
Thomas Preston was an officer of the 29th Regiment of Foot, part of the British garrison in Boston under the overall command of Thomas Gage. He was present at the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770, when British troops fired on colonists of the city, after an aggressive mob had confronted the troops and thrown objects at them.
Charges were brought against him and other soldiers, but he was acquitted in a trial held in Boston, Massachusetts. Future United States President John Adams was his attorney. It is still unknown whether or not Preston gave the order to fire; many historians believe that he did not. Two of his men, Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Kilroy, were found guilty of manslaughter and they were tarred and feathered. Matthew Kilroy did not survive, but Hugh Montgomery did. He later suffered from 3rd degree burns. Captain Preston was not punished in any way.
After his trial, Preston retired from the army. He reportedly settled in Ireland. Adams later recalled seeing him in London in the 1780s, when Adams was serving there as US Minister to Britain.
Legacy and honors
The communities of East Preston and North Preston, Nova Scotia may have been named for him.
In popular culture
- In the 2008 American miniseries, John Adams, Preston was played by British actor Ritchie Coster.
- In the 2015 History Channel miniseries, Sons of Liberty, Preston, is portrayed by Shane Taylor.
- Captain Preston's Unknown Biography, Boston Massacre Historical Society
- Hibbert p.13
- Captain Thomas Preston's Account of the Boston Massacre
- Zobel, Hiller B (1970). The Boston Massacre, p. 197
- Hibbert, Christopher. Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes. Avon Books, 1990.
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