We Want Our Gunpowder! Causes of the American War of Independence

We Want Our Gunpowder! Causes of the American War of Independence

The events leading up to the American Revolution were mainly political in nature, especially in Virginia. The one event that sparked a chain of events leading to revolution in the royal colony was the removal of gunpowder from the town magazine by Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia. If not for this single act, the people of Williamsburg and the rest of Virginia may not have fought fire with fire.

The gunpowder was for the militia’s use only, and was paid for by the taxes of the citizens of the colony. When Dunmore removed the gunpowder in the middle of the night without permission from the colonists, it caused an uproar[1]. Plus, earlier that month he removed all of the fire locks from the muskets. The people of Williamsburg stormed the palace green in order to demand that the gunpowder be returned.  They did not take into account, however, their governor’s personality. Dunmore was quick to anger, and seeing that there was a threat to not only him, but his family and servants, he believed that it was an action against both him and the king. After the crowd dispersed, thanks to Peyton  Randolph When he met with influential leaders in Williamsburg, he told them that he would hold onto the gunpowder until it was needed. This of course was not the answer they wanted.

 

It did not help the situation when he threatened them crowd. Dunmore stated that he would free and arm their slaves if they continued (Free Virginians, 271) and that he would burn the city to  the ground [1].  Everyone was already fearing a slave uprising after hearing of several plots all over the place in the colonies. The people saw this as a threat and saw the former hero as a villain.  Ealier that year Dunmore had made peace with the Indians and returned as a hero [1]. He even named his daughter, the first (and last) child of a royal governor born in the palace,  “Virginia”.

Lord Dunmore

Lord Dunmore

All the kissing up could not have helped Dunmore in his current situation. His threats were not well received with the people. Plus, the Intolerable Acts placed on the city of Boston caused everyone to panic: would similar acts be forced onto them? After he suspended the House of Burgesses, the one form of representative government was lost.

 

He was angered more when he heard news of several militias marching to Williamsburg, one being lead by none over than Patrick Henry. Henry had gathered volunteers from Handover and was leading them to Williamsburg, but stopped after getting word from  Randolf to disband. The damage was already done, though.It was clear that the colonists would go as far as fight to get their rights back.

Statue of Patrick Henry

Statue of Patrick Henry

 

Of course the removal of the gunpowder was not the only leading factor. After the Seven Years War, Parliament passed several acts taxing the colonies. The Stamp Act and the Tea Act are only two of them. When several men dressed as Indian braves dumped tea into Boston Harbor,  the entire city of Boston was blamed. Their representative government was taken away, and what was known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts was forced onto the citizens. The Intolerable Acts caused everyone to worry that they would lose their government as well.

Boston Tea Party

Boston Tea Party

In Virginia, the House of Burgesses refused to meet, instead taking a day of “fasting and prayer” in protest to the acts [1]. Lord Dunmore did not like this at all and suspended the House not too long after.

Tensions peaked when word of a battle in Lexington and Concord reached Virginia. It was appalling that British soldiers had opened fire on a militia trying to protect their gunpowder stores. They had heard that the British had orders to confiscate all gunpowder and had decided to take a stand. The “shot heard ’round the world” certainly was heard in Virginia. Speaker Randolph quickly headed to Philadelphia for the 2nd Continental Congress, escorted to the border by the Virginia militia [1], and then something shocking occurred. Lord Dunmore and his family fled Williamsburg in the middle of the night and took residence on a British warship on the Chesapeake.

Battle of Lexington and Concord, where The Shot Heard Around the World was made

Battle of Lexington and Concord, where The Shot Heard Around the World was made

 

After Dunmore fled the Governor’s Palace, the colonists had many questions. Does he plan on returning? Will his family accompany him? They heard word from him when Dunmore sent word stating that any patriot leader who wished to speak with him could, they just had to come to the warship in order to [1]. It was clear that anyone who would actually do that was a moron. The British troops most likely had orders to arrest any leader who came aboard and send them back to England for trial, being that these leaders were seen as traitors to not only the governor, but to the king, England, and God himself. Therefore, no one met with him. Plus there were no leaders to meet with him in Virginia at the time. Almost all of them were in Philadelphia meeting with other leaders from the rest of the colonies, discussing what must be done in response.

 

It soon became clear that the only path left to take was war. So, on July 4th, 1776, the colonies declared independence from Great Britain and formed the United States of America. But it would take four long years of fighting and help from countries such as France, Spain, Prussia and even Poland to achieve freedom. People in Loyalist colonies such as New York would spy on the British and send word to Washington in order to reveal British plans.

Map of Long Island, home of the Setauket Spy Ring, AKA the Culper Spy Ring

Map of Long Island, home of the Setauket Spy Ring, AKA the Culper Spy Ring

 

Dunmore would return, but as an enemy to the cause and lead an army against the rebels. But he could not ever dream of what his previous actions could have lead to. If Lord Dunmore had not been such a moron and threatened his people, they may not have rebelled. But his actions fed the fire that would spark a war pitting the strongest army and navy in the world against 13 independent colonies.

Drawing of a Patriot and a British soldier

Drawing of a Patriot and a British soldier

 

 

 

 

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