WILLIAMSBURG, April 22, 1775.
To his Excellency the Right Hon. John Earl of Dunmore... My Lord, We his Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Council, of the city of Williamsburg, in Common Hall assembled, humbly beg leave to represent to your Excellency, that the inhabitants of this city were this morning exceedingly alarmed by a report that a large quantity of gunpowder was in the preceding night, while they were sleeping in their beds, removed from the public magazine in this city, and conveyed, under the escort of marines, on board one of his Majesty's armed vessels lying at a ferry on James river. We further beg leave to inform your Excellency, that, from various reports at present prevailing in different parts of the country, we have too much reason to believe that some wicked and designing persons have instilled the most diabolical notions into the minds of our slaves, and therefore the utmost attention to our internal security is become the more necessary… --- Considering ourselves as guardians of the city, we therefore humbly desire to be informed by your Excellency, upon what motives, and for what particular purpose, the powder has been carried off in such a manner; and we earnestly entreat your Excellency to order it to be immediately returned to the magazine. [To which his Excellency returned this verbal answer] That, hearing of an insurrection in a neighbouring county, he had removed the powder from the magazine, where he did not think it secure, to a place of perfect security, and that, upon his word and honour, whenever it was wanted on any insurrection, it should be delivered in half an hour, that he had removed it in the night time to prevent any alarm, and that Captain Collins had his express commands for the part he had acted; he 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.
Virginia Gazette (Dixon & Hunter) April 22, 1775
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The colonies were full of rumors and unrest in April of 1775. Only a few days before, the British and Americans had exchanged bullets at Lexington and Concord. The Virginians had not heard about it yet, but after Dunmore requested the key to the Magazine from the keeper they began guarding the Powder Magazine. After a week of watching, they called off the guard and immediately Dunmore sent a detachment of marines to take the powder. John Frederick Miller, the Keeper of the Magazine reported to the House of Burgesses that there were 21 1/2 barrels of gunpowder.
Sources: Noel Hume, 1775 Chapter Four, "April"