Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Bermuda Gunpowder Plot

Today is the 239th anniversary of a little known American Revolutionary War event -- the Bermuda Gunpowder Plot. The Continental Congress had voted early in the war to ban all trade with British colonies loyal to Great Britain. Yet Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris colluded with Colonel Henry Tucker of Bermuda to deliver much needed gunpowder to the Americans. Colonel Tucker was one of the most prominent merchants on the island and his son president of the royal Governor's Council and son-in-law of the governor.  Two of his other sons, St. George Tucker and Thomas Tudor Tucker later became famous in the newly formed United States. Philip Hamilton, author of The Making and Unmaking of a Revolutionary Family: The Tuckers of Virginia, wrote that the Colonel's "ambition was to advance the political status of his growing clan."

Colonel Henry Tucker (1713-1787); image
courtesy of member RCVinson

The CIA website describes the plot as follows:

"In July 1775, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris worked out a plan in collaboration with Colonel Henry Tucker, the head of a distinguished Bermuda family, to obtain the store of gunpowder in the Royal Arsenal at Bermuda. To give Bermuda much-needed foodstuffs in exchange for the powder, the Continental Congress resoled on 15 July 1775 to permit the exchange of food for guns and gunpowder brought by any vessel to an American port.

On the night of 14 August 1775, two Patriot ships kept a rendezvous with Colonel Tucker's men off the coast of Bermuda, and sent a raiding party ashore. An American sailor was lowered into the arsenal through an opening in the roof, and the doors opened from the inside. The barrels of gunpowder were rolled to waiting Bermudian whaleboats and transported to the American ships. Twelve days later half of the powder was delivered to Philadelphia and half to American forces at Charleston."

Bermuda eventually sided with Great Britain during the Revolutionary War and the Continental Congress cut of all trade, leaving the island severely short of food. Many ship owners turned to privateering and wreaked havoc on American shipping during the remainder of the war.

Tucker House in Bermuda, built in the 1750s. The house is now a museum;
photo courtesy of the museum's website

My sister-in-law is very distantly related to this Tucker dynasty.

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