Eleven down — three dead on the spot, and two more whisked away to suffer the same fate a bit later. The last verbal salvo that led to this spring of gunfire — "Why don't you go back to England?!" — sent British soldiers charging with their muskets, shaping the gory scene that would become a turning point in the creation of America.
But watching the re-enactment of the Boston Massacre unfold in front of the Old State House this past weekend, something seemed off. Perhaps it was the fact that almost all of the roughly dozen participants in this recreation of America's 240-year-old bloody baptism were children.
Yes, kids playing colonists were egged on to hurl insults ("Lobsterback!") at kids playing redcoats. The latter group of pre-pubescents, armed with wooden sticks, fired on the former group, leading to their playing dead by laying on the cobblestone ground. (Well, they were supposed to fire on their colleagues, but both sets seemed confused by those instructions.)
"It's made to be appropriate for children," said Karen Yourell, a park ranger who's performed the routine in front of the Old State House (under the auspices of Adams National Historical Park) for a number of years.
But still, a massacre with kids?
Participating tykes were assigned roles upon arrival. Captain Preston — history's real-life officer actually tried and acquitted for the act, here played by an adult actor — guided the British "troops." When instructing his "men" to load their muskets, they hesitated, then suddenly remembering their cue after Preston gestured once more, took to their pockets and pulled out . . . nothing. (Well, okay, pretend bayonets.)
"We're using our simulated knives," he announced to the crowd as the redcoats fit their wooden sticks with padded caps, their hands representing the intended weapon.
Little could be discerned from the megaphone Yourell wielded, even by the mini rebellers and loyalists standing close by, which lead to more cute confusion. "And then he struck him!" she said twice, taking the hand of one of the redcoats and motioning his stick atop a colonist.
Some of the 50-or-so spectators came prepared, equipped with cameras and, of course, children. Others joined in as they walked by on the sunny Saturday afternoon, booing and cheering when prodded, offering unsolicited "awws" for this strangely precious take on a very bloody historical moment. Next up: an adorable kid-cast recreation of the sinking of the Titanic?