The Powder Alarm

This Day in History

On this day in 1774, 260 British soldiers set off on the Mystic River and arrived at The Old Powder House in Somerville, Massachusetts with orders from General Thomas Gage, the royal governor of the colony of Massachusetts to seize all of the gunpowder contained within its storehouse.

According to the leader of the provincial militia, William Brattle, who was an appointee of Gage, the gunpowder at Powder House appeared to be the only stored supply of gunpowder in the Boston area. With all of the unrest amongst the disgruntled colonists, it seemed only logical to the Crown that an uprising was looming in the near future and confiscating the colonial supply of gunpowder made perfect sense.

The situation quickly got out of control as word spread to the countryside that colonial blood had been shed at the hands of the Royal Governor and his British loyalists. This was not true but the rumor drew thousands of militiamen out of the countryside and into Boston and Cambridge to the utter horror of the governor and his loyalist who had to flee the city.

After having the Stamp Act, the Intolerable Acts and a host of other tyrannical infringements forced upon them, the colonist’s emotive states teetered on a hair trigger and thus the slightest infringement of their liberty animated like nothing else.

The Powder Alarm, was the “dress rehearsal” for what was to follow at Concord and Lexington six months later in 1775. It is perhaps not a well-known historical event, but it certainly did much to “kick the can down the road” and stoke an already fiery conflict that was soon to ignite into the American Revolution.

William Brattle in his British Garb by John Copley
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