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The Gunpowder Plot: How Bermuda Helped Win the Revolutionary War

The American Revolution might not have suceeded if it weren't for a few bold Bermudians. It’s a classic story with intrigue, adventure, action and 100 barrels of gunpowder.  

Fort St. Catherine in Bermuda's East End

Rewind to the summer of 1775: the American colonies are in revolt and Bermuda is divided. While much of the island’s populace remains loyal to the English Crown, there are many who sympathize with the Continental Congress’ fight for independence – including one of Bermuda’s most powerful merchants, Colonel Henry Tucker, a resident of the Town of St. George.

Plotting in the Colonies

A born-and-bred Bermudian, Tucker is a man of action, not content to sit idly by in these fractious times. He travels to Philadelphia to attempt to re-open trade routes with the colonies. But Benjamin Franklin has other ideas. He wants gunpowder, and he knows that more than 100 barrels of it are sitting in a lightly guarded magazine in St. George’s. Together, Tucker and Franklin hatch the daring Gunpowder Plot. (Today, Tucker House, where Henry lived, is a museum.)

Tucker House Museum

Have Barrels, Will Travel

Night falls on St. George’s on August 15, 1775. Under the cover of darkness, Colonel Tucker, a small party of trusted Bermudians and incognito American sailors gather in a cobblestone alley. Few words are spoken as the band heads to the magazine where the barrels of precious gunpowder are stored. The plotters are in luck: just one unarmed sentry guards the magazine, and he is easily overcome. But now comes the challenge: how do you get 100 barrels of gunpowder from St. George’s to Tobacco Bay, where two American sloops, the Lady Catherine and the Packet, are anchored?

How do you get 100 barrels of gunpowder from St. George’s to Tobacco Bay, where two American sloops are anchored?

You roll them, of course. We don’t know what the denizens of St. George’s think when they’re awakened by the clatter of barrels tumbling through the town’s alleys in the middle of the night. But they don’t get in the plotters’ way. Before dawn breaks over Bermuda, locally made cedar skiffs deliver the gunpowder to the American ships.

Coming to America

Early on the morning of August 16, the plot is discovered and a customs ship is sent to chase down the Lady Catherine and the Packet. But it’s too late. The cargo is delivered to Charleston and Philadelphia, providing the patriots with much-needed firepower in their fight against the Red Coats. The rest, as they say, is history.