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April 11, 2005

CW re-creates "The Gunpowder Incident" of 1775

One of the defining moments of the American Revolution, “The Gunpowder Incident,” will come to life April 18-24 in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. The stage for the “Incident” was set on March 23, 1775, at Henrico Parish Church, now St. John’s Church, in Richmond, Va., when Patrick Henry proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death!” That became Virginia’s call to arms in its intensifying political struggle with Great Britain. The Second Virginia Convention, where Henry issued his legendary oration, immediately passed a resolution for arming and defending the colony. Two days later, the Convention elected delegates to return to Philadelphia to a Second Continental Congress.

To forestall patriot mobilization, Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s royal governor based in Williamsburg, obtained keys to the city’s public gunpowder magazine. Before dawn on April 21, 1775, British marines, acting on orders from the governor, removed the colonists’ gunpowder from the Magazine. The next morning, when residents of Virginia’s 18th-century capital discovered that the gunpowder was missing, they took to the streets and threatened retaliation against the governor. The series of events surrounding the removal of the powder has become known as The Gunpowder Incident and many of them will be re-enacted April 18-24 in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.
Monday, April 18.

  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “For Defense of Country.” Powder Magazine. In April 1775, the counties of Virginia have formed independent militia companies to protect their rights and liberties from British aggression.
  • 10:35 a.m. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” Governor’s Palace Gardens. Patrick Henry’s world famous call to arms, delivered March 23, 1775, at Henrico Parish Church, Richmond, Va., is re-created.
  • Noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” Courthouse. Patrick Henry’s world famous call to arms is re-created. Reservations required.
    Tuesday, April 19
  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “Into a Posture of Defense.” Powder Magazine. In April 1775, the free men of Virginia have formed independent militia companies to protect their homes and country.
  • 10 a.m. – noon; 2-4 p.m. “A House Divided, Liberty for Whom, Freedom from What.” Peyton Randolph House Site. In the spring of 1775, the divisions between American and Great Britain had extended into individual families, most notably the Randolphs of Williamsburg. African Virginians considered the irony of their masters’ protests when the masters themselves enslaved African Virginians.
    Wednesday, April 20
  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “For Defense of Country.” Powder Magazine.
  • 9:30 a.m. “The Powder is Gone!” Courthouse. City fathers appeal for calm in the face of this alarming discovery. The Municipal Hall prepares an address to the Royal Governor.
  • 10 a.m. – 11:40 a.m. “Lady Dunmore’s Dilemma.” Governor’s Palace East Advance Building. Rumors of street riots and threats against the Palace cause Lady Dunmore to fear for her family’s safety. Reservations required.
  • 2 – 3:40 p.m. “Guardians of the City.” Governor’s Palace East Advance Building. City fathers beseech the Royal Governor and encourage him to return the gunpowder. Every 20 minutes. Reservations required.
    Thursday, April 21
  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “Into a Posture of Defense.” Powder Magazine.
  • 10 – 11:40 a.m. “Defending His Majesty’s Interest.” Governor’s Palace East Advance Building. Governor Dunmore expresses outrage at challenges to his authority by Williamsburg Patriots. Every 20 minutes.
  • 2 – 4 p.m. “The Most Diabolical Notions.” Raleigh Tavern. Gentlemen discuss their fears that the Royal Governor will offer freedom to their slaves.
    Friday, April 22
  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “For Defense of Country.” Powder Magazine.
  • 9:30 a.m. “An Appeal for Calm.” By the Courthouse. City fathers appeal to enraged patriots not to threaten or take up arms against the Royal Governor.
  • 10 a.m. – noon; 2-4 p.m. “A House Divided, Liberty for Whom, Freedom from What.” Randolph Site.
  • 10 – 11:40 a.m. “By God, I Can Fight Against Them!” Governor’s Palace East Advance Building. Governor Dunmore threatens to raise the slaves against their masters. Every 20 minutes. Reservations required.
  • 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. “In a State of Nature: The Revolution in 1775.” Governor’s Palace East Advance Building. Join a Colonial Williamsburg historian for a discussion about the American Revolution in the spring of 1775. Reservations required.
    Saturday, April 23
  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “Into a Posture of Defense.” Powder Magazine.
  • 10 a.m. – noon; 2 – 4 p.m. “A House Divided, Liberty for Whom, Freedom from What.” Randolph Site.
  • 5 p.m. “For Virtue, Honor and Love of Country.” Courthouse steps. Peyton Randolph gives a final address to the people of Williamsburg asking for calm and patience in light of the news from Lexington and Concord before he returns to congress.
    Sunday, April 24
  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “Into a Posture of Defense.” Powder Magazine.
  • 10 – 11:40 a.m. “Lord Dunmore’s Dilemma.” Governor’s Palace East Advance. Building. Every 20 minutes. Reservations required.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket is required for most programs. Reservations are required where indicated.

    Media Contact:
    Lorraine C. Brooks
    (757) 220-7280



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