Gunpowder Incident

The Gunpowder Incident (or Gunpowder Affair) was a conflict early in the American Revolutionary War between Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of colonial Virginia, and militia led by Patrick Henry.

On April 20, 1775, a day after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Lord Dunmore attempted to remove the gunpowder from the magazine in Williamsburg, Virginia to a British ship.

In July 1775, newly appointed General Washington arrived outside Boston to take charge of the colonial forces and to organize the Continental Army. Realizing his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder, Washington asked for new sources. Arsenals were raided and some manufacturing was attempted; 90% of the supply (2 million pounds) was imported by the end of 1776, mostly from France.

In this reenactment of the Gunpowder Incident, British marines make final preparations at the Governor's Palace to remove the gunpowder from the Magazine. Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor, arranged for the gunpowder to be secretly moved to a ship in the James River. The governor "was surprised to hear the people were under arms on this occasion, and that he should not think it prudent to put powder into their hands in such a situation."

Virginians were outraged. Virginia militia under the command of Patrick Henry marched on Williamsburg.Violence was averted by Carter Braxton who successfully negotiated a compromise -- the powder would be paid for out of royal accounts managed by his father-in-law Richard Corbin, Deputy Collector of the Royal Revenue in Virginia.

The Gunpowder Incident (also known as the Gunpowder Affair) was a conflict early in the American Revolutionary War between Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of colonial Virginia, and militia led by Patrick Henry.

The incident began on April 20, 1775, a day after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, an event with some parallels. Lord Dunmore attempted to remove the gunpowder where it was stored in a magazine in Williamsburg, Virginia to an armed British ship in the James River. Dunmore saw rising unrest in the colony and sought to deprive Virginia militia of supplies needed for insurrection. The Second Virginia Convention had elected delegates to the Continental Congress. Dunmore issued a proclamation against electing delegates to the Congress, but did not take serious action. Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech at the Second Convention and the accompanying resolution calling for forming an armed resistance made Dunmore think "think it prudent to remove some Gunpowder which was in a Magazine in this place.” Dunmore gave a key to Lieutenant Henry Colins, commander of H.M.S. Magdalen, and ordered him to remove the powder.