The Bermuda Gunpowder Plot

“Well, we’re not NOT stealing gunpowder.”

~Colonel Henry Tucker

bermuda stamp

Bermuda is a small island nation some 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina  primarily known for the fact that planes and boats historically like to disappear around it.  But, it also has impacted history with America more than just being responsible for the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (that was a Bermuda Triangle thing, right?).  Bermuda was colonized with the British around the same time we were, and while they’re still technically a British Overseas Territory, they have a shared history with America, and have even been known to help us out on occasion.

One such occasion was the Bermuda Gunpowder Plot of 1775, where America’s young revolution was aided by some Bermudians who decided to shout, “Fuck you, dad” to all of the United Kingdom.

The Bermuda Gunpowder Plot

gunpowder man

Bermuda has been linked with America throughout its history—in 1610, the island was first inhabited by the 150 British colonists who were marooned there for ten months after their ship was wrecked by a storm on the way to the Jamestown colony.  Among those early temporary Bermuda residents was John Rolfe, who would go on to be known to history as the guy who creepily married a teenaged Pocahontas.  Those who survived their time on Bermuda built two small ships and sailed to Jamestown from Bermuda, but the island had a permanent settlement established two years later.

In the ensuing 150 years, Bermuda had become pretty dependent on their colonial neighbors to the West.  Bermuda is small enough that they can’t really develop sustainable agriculture, so shipping became its primary industry responsible for driving their economy as well as, you know, feeding their people.  Considering that the American colonies were their closest major trading partner, Bermuda was rightfully a bit concerned in 1775 when America told King George to fuck right off, shortly followed by the Continental Congress voting to ban all trade with British colonies still loyal to England.  That didn’t sit well with Colonel Henry Tucker, who loved Bermuda, America, and feeding his family, so he shipped off to Philadelphia to do something about it.

henry tucker

Seen here, not giving much of a shit about what England thinks.

Colonel Henry Tucker was born in 1713 as a part of a fairly prestigious Bermudian family who had been on the island ever since their ancestor was the second Governor of the island, who arrived in 1616.  He would go on to take a high place in Bermudian society, serving as the President of the Governor’s Council and marrying the wife of the island’s Chief Justice.  He had positioned himself as one of the more powerful merchants on the island by the time the Revolutionary War began, and though Bermuda stayed a part of the British Empire, Tucker’s sympathies were clearly with the rebels.  So, he set about in an attempt to receive an exemption from America’s embargo completely willing to help the rebels if it would help Bermuda, even if that would require angering England.

When in Philadelphia, Tucker met with Robert Morris and Ben Franklin.  After miraculously managing to avoid contracting an STD from Franklin, they talked in earnest trading to bring necessary food to Bermuda.  Tucker offered salt, which was Bermuda’s chief export, to which Franklin replied, “Hey, so you know how you guys have 100 or so barrels of British gunpowder on your island that’s barely being guarded?  How about you give us that gunpowder, and we’ll hook you up for good.”  When presented with the borderline treacherous suggestion to steal gunpowder to specifically help in a rebellion against their own ruling nation, Tucker said, “Oh hell yeah, let’s let that shit ride.”

barrel

Or roll.  Whatever.

The plan was simple.  On the night of August 15th, 1775, two American sloops, the Lady Catherine and Packet set anchor outside of Tobacco Bay, about a kilometer north of the town of St. George.  Tucker and a mix of fellow Bermudians and American sailors slipped into the St. George magazine finding only one unarmed sentry guard, who they took care of with ease (no, they didn’t kill him or anything, just tied him up, most likely).  Then, they preceded to take 112 barrels of powder and roll it down the streets until they reached the bay.  The powder was loaded onto small skiffs and brought to the American ships, all before daylight.  When the plot was discovered the following morning, customs ships were sent to chase down the two American sloops, but with their head start they were able to successfully drop off the cargo to Charleston and Philadelphia, providing vital gunpowder for the resource-starved Continental Army.

In the grand scheme of thing, it was a relatively inconsequential event.  The powder was actually extremely crucial at the start of the war, where gunpowder shortages were a serious road block to America’s success in battles, but the acquisition of Bermuda gunpowder was part of a larger plan to acquire 500 tons of powder in 1775.  So while the Gunpowder Plot of 1775 will never go down in lore as a war-ending event, it still is a great American and Bermudian event that saw our island nation supporting our efforts from independence by pissing off the very rulers who we were trying to overthrow.  And Bermuda to this day stands by their decision—they even celebrated the 240th anniversary of the plot last year, in an event attended by the Sons, Daughters and Children of the American Revolution.  So while the history books might not mention it, we at America Fun Fact of the Day are here to say, thank you, Bermuda, for beating up an unarmed guard and stealing a bunch of gunpowder from British for us that one time.  That was damn decent of you.

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