Little Christopher Seider probably just wanted to play. I will wager that, like any ten-year-old boy, he was short on attention and long on energy. Running through town with his friends, throwing whatever he could fit in his hands, and yelling were not strange activities to him.
I can say all that because I was ten once, though it was quite a while ago. I did all those things. I also rode a bike, played with toys, watched a little TV, and so on. The biggest difference between myself and Christopher Seider (besides the year in which we were ten) is that I lived to see my eleventh birthday.
Christopher Seider did not.
In fact, little Seider died on this day in history. But his death was not just another in a long line of deaths that has plagued a world where death rates run pretty close to 100%. This young boy lost his life at a significant time in history, and while you may not have heard of him, he was famous.
To know Christopher, you must also know Ebenezer Richardson. Well, we can’t fully know him, because there isn’t a lot to know. He was something of a shady character with a spotted reputation around Boston. He was a Loyalist, which should give you a hint that we’re heading toward the time of the American Revolution. He also was an informant to the Attorney General, giving up information about “rebel” activity in town.
February 22, 1770 was a cold, bleak, wintery Thursday that found the Boston townsfolk in an uproar about a local Loyalist merchant. The standard action was to raise a ruckus at the shopkeeper’s home, yell a lot, throw some rocks, break a window or two, and make their point. Ebenezer Richardson, wanting to protect a fellow Loyalist, tried to stop the mob, but they simply threw rocks at him, at least one of which hit him in the head.
So Richardson did what all too many people do when something doesn’t go their way: get a gun and shoot somebody. More specifically, he went to his house, grabbed his musket, and headed for the shopkeeper’s house, where the mob had gathered. He climbed to the top of a neighboring building and…
Christopher Seider had little idea what the mob was about, but here was a chance to run down the streets of Boston and throw some rocks. He and his friends were having a ball. The people they were with were not only going to let them throw rocks, they were going to do it themselves. For a ten-year-old, this was pretty exciting. Exciting, that is, until the bullets started flying.
Richardson, in an effort to break up the mob, began firing randomly into the crowd. He hit Christopher twice, in the chest and head, and the little boy died that evening. Ebenezer was immediately apprehended and jailed, but later acquitted.
Needless to say, Seider’s death galvanized Bostonians against the British. Where there used to be vocal exchanges between the two groups, there now snowballs, which became rocks and homemade spears. The tensions rapidly reached the breaking point.
Two weeks later, the rocks and snowballs morphed into a physical group attack, as angry citizens charged into a group of British soldiers. This most famous of events, which we know as the Boston Massacre, left another five people dead.