Categories
Historic America

Williamsburg Gunpowder Incident: The Spark that (Almost) Ignited the Revolution

In 1775, the ‘shot heard ’round the world’ almost occurred in Williamsburg, Virginia and not Lexington and Concord. Cooler heads prevailed.

Most people are familiar with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. However, seemingly few people are familiar with the Gunpowder Affair: a near simultaneous outbreak on a second front in Virginia the very next day. Today, you can visit a reconstruction of the magazine where it all happened.

By April of 1775, tensions were high. The Intolerable Acts, a series of laws that closed the Boston port, transferred greater control to Royal governors, and allowed quartering of British troops among other things, had drawn ire throughout the colonies. Meanwhile, word had spread at the First Continental Congress of General Thomas Gage’s removal of gunpowder from an installation near Boston, further exacerbating tensions.

In Virginia, opposition to British rule was hitting a fervor. Patrick Henry’s famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech in March of 1775 led Virginia Royal Governor Lord Dunmore to grow weary of the presence of militias. He hatched a plan to remove gunpowder from a magazine in Williamsburg under the shadow of nightfall.

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