5 Massacres Where Almost Nobody Died

Boston Massacre
Paul Revere's famous engraving of the Boston Massacre shows the British soldiers shooting defenseless men, though there was violence on both sides. Crispus Attucks, the man lying closest to the soldiers was black but was depicted as white. © Bettmann/CORBIS

The Boston Massacre is seen as such a pivotal point in American history, it's re-enacted every year on the massacre site -- the front lawn of Boston's Old State House. The scuffle occurred on March 5, 1770, when the American colonists were still under British rule and angry about the imposition of new taxes. The colonists were heckling a British sentry that day, so a squad of British soldiers came to his assistance. But instead of calmly dispersing the crowd, the soldiers fired into it, killing three immediately. Two later died of their wounds.

While not an especially brutal killing, nor one that took many lives, leaders of the rebellion quickly dubbed it a massacre. Patriot and silversmith Paul Revere created an engraving about it, which was widely distributed. The colonists were so enraged by the killings, they threatened retaliation. The British officer in charge, Capt. Thomas Preston, was arrested along with eight of his men; all were charged with manslaughter. Interestingly, although tried in a colonial court, Preston and six of his men were acquitted; the two who were found guilty of manslaughter simply received a brand on the hand. The incident resulted in the removal of British troops from Boston. It also helped draw many colonists to the Patriot cause, thanks to the "massacre" label, which made the killings seem planned [source: History].