Preston was an officer of the 29th Regiment of Foot, part of the British garrison in Boston under the overall command of Thomas Gage, who was present at the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770. He was acquitted of all charges in a trial held in Boston, Massachusetts. Future United States President John Adams was his attorney. Two of his men, Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Kilroy, were found guilty of manslaughter and branded on the thumb with a hot iron. After his trial, Preston retired from the army and reportedly settled in Ireland, though Adams recalled seeing him in London in the 1780s. It is still unknown whether or not Preston gave the order to fire, however many historians believe that he didn't.
In the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adams, Preston was played by actor Ritchie Coster.
- Hibbert, Christopher. Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes. Avon Books, 1990.
- Zobel, Hiller (1970). The Boston Massacre. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-00606-3.
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