The Magazine, Williamsburg
The spark that ignited the Revolution in Virginia was struck where the colony stored its gunpowder, the Magazine in the middle of Williamsburg. This arsenal is the site of the Gunpowder incident of April 1775, an event which led the Southern Colonies into the War for American Independence.
The Magazine safeguarded shot, powder, flints, tents, tools, swords, pikes, canteens, cooking utensils, and as many as 3,000 Brown Bess flintlocks - equipment needed for defense against Indians, slave revolts, local riots, and pirate raids.
Journalist Benson Lossing passed through Williamsburg in 1848 and wrote: "While leaning against the ancient wall of the old Magazine, and in the shadow of its roof, contemplating the events which cluster that locality with glorious associations, I almost lost cognizance of the present, and beheld in reverie the whole pageantry of the past march in review."
Today the Magazine houses a collection of both original and reproduction muskets and cannons. Seasonal activities include musket firing demonstrations. Visitors are invited to participate in drills conducted by a militia sergeant. Also see leatherworkers or artificers (artisan soldiers), who support the cause of liberty by applying their skills in leather, wood, fabric and metal.
A ticket is required to enter the Magazine and Guardhouse area.
the williamsburg magazine was built by governor alexander spotswood in 1715. the magazine stored arms and amunition to protect the town from indian attack, slave revolts, and pirate raids. during the french and indian war a perimeter wall was built around the magazine. during the civil war the williamsburg magazine served as a confederate arsenal.
Another of the original buildings here is the old Magazine, or armory. This is where the soldiers kept their weapons and ammunition. Notice that it's surrounded by a wooden barricade, to restrict entry.
Special events are held here, including some in the evening. Check the website or go to the Visitors Center for details.
The Magazine houses hundreds (maybe thousands) of colonial-era muskets and pistols. There are no guided tours (just walk inside). Some of the weapons are recreations, while a large amount are originals.
This arsenal is the site of the Gunpowder incident of April 1775, an event which led the Southern Colonies into the War for American Independence. The Magazine houses a collection of both original and reproduction muskets and cannon. Seasonal activities include musket firing demonstrations. Visitors are invited to participate in drills conducted by a militia sergeant. A replica of a 1750 Newsham Fire Engine is on display at the adjacent Guardhouse.
The Magazine and Guardhouse served as the arsenal for the Virginia colony.
The Magazine is an original building and is octagonal in shape. Inside are authentic firearms and other military equipment. It was erected in 1715. The Magazine took on added importance during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) where huge amounts of gunpowder was needed.
Since storage at the Magazine exceeded sixty thousand pounds, the residents of the city wanted and needed further protection so a high wall was built around the Magazine and a Guardhouse was constructed near it.
Programs at the Guardhouse occur on a scheduled basis. The exhibits show the British and American military forces in Virginia from the French and Indian War to the War for American Independence.
Oh, yes, a replica of a 1750 Newsham patent fire engine is housed in a lean-to on the west wall of the Guardhouse. Would you believe that it takes sometimes 18 men to ooperate the fire engine. They take it to the streets of the town during warm weather months.
The spark that ignited the Revolution in Virginia was struck where the colony stored its gunpowder, the Magazine in the middle of Williamsburg.
The night of April 20, 1775, Lieutenant Henry Collins stole toward the capital with a squad of royal marines from the H.M.S. Magdalen anchored in Burwell's Bay on the James River. Their orders, straight from Governor Dunmore, were to empty the arsenal and disable the muskets stored there.
"Tho' it was intended to have been done privately," Dunmore wrote a few days later, "Mr. Collins and his party were observed, and notice was immediately given to the Inhabitants of this Place: Drums were then sent through the City." It was early the morning of April 21 by then. The marines fled in the dark with 15 half-barrels of powder for the H.M.S. Fowey anchored in the York.
Most of Williamsburg's population gathered on Market Square, and some talked of doing Dunmore harm. Peyton Randolph, Robert Carter Nicholas, and Mayor John Dixon averted violence by persuading the crowd to send a delegation to the governor to demand an explanation. Dunmore said he had intelligence of "an intended insurrection of slaves" and only wanted to keep the powder out of its reach. Unless he viewed the angry patriots as slaves, he was lying.
Patrick Henry's oratory had helped the governor down this road. At St. John's Church in Richmond on March 23, Henry had risen during the Second Virginia Convention to argue for the organization of a volunteer company of cavalry or infantry in every county. His speech ended: "Give me liberty, or give me death."
It was here that gunpowder was stored and marines from HMS Magdalen which was anchored at James River, stole the gunpowder in 1775, which set off the revolution in Virginia. They took it to HMS Fowey which was anchored in York. Lord Dunmore the British Governor tried to cover up for it, but Dunmore eventually fled to the Fowey and British rule ended in Virginia. It was decided that a stronger building was needed and in 1715 a brick octagonal building was built, but this wasnt used as much when Richmond became the capital. Part of the building collapsed and in 1888 a woman called Cynthia Tucker Coleman formed a group called the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and they bought the magazine. (Her son was a George Coleman and the bridge that crosses the York River from Torktown to Gloucester is named after him, he was a state transportation official and I think also a mayor- see my Yorktown page).
Colonial Williamsburg restored the building in 1934.