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John Rowe diary 11, 1-4 September 1774, pages 1901-1902

John Rowe diary 11, 1-4 September 1774, pages 1901-1902


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    • Main description

    [ This description is from the project: Coming of the American Revolution ]

    This excerpt from John Rowe's diary describes colonists' reaction to General Thomas Gage's removal of provincial gunpowder stores to Castle William. The act resulted in a public demonstration in Cambridge the following day in which colonists expressed their frustration with the Intolerable Acts.

    A Powder Alarm

    Long vulnerable to attack from Indians and the French, Massachusetts and its towns have stockpiled munitions over the decades. During the summer months of 1774, colonists feel the full force of Parliament's punitive measures and the dismay of being ruled by a governor who is also General of His Majesty's Troops in America. Surreptitiously, colonists begin to withdraw their towns' gunpowder from a central storage facility, the Provincial Powder House at Charlestown. On 1 September, acting on information from loyalist William Brattle, Gage proceeds swiftly and quietly to remove the remaining provincial stores to the safety of Castle William. Throughout the countryside, alarmed colonists swarm toward Charlestown. The next day thousands gather in Cambridge, eager to exact revenge and give further notice that they will not tolerate the Intolerable Acts.

    Questions to Consider

    1. This event becomes known as the "powder alarm." Do you think this is an appropriate term? Why or why not?

    2. Why do you think William Brattle provides information to General Gage concerning the patriots' activities?

    3. On 2 September, John Rowe notes that William Brattle has issued a "flimsey Recantation." What is a recantation? Why does Rowe call Brattle's recantation "flimsey"?

    Further Exploration

    4. Imagine that you are among the crowd gathered on Cambridge Common. Write a letter to your friend in Charleston, South Carolina, describing the gathering. Who is present at the gathering? Is the crowd happy? angry? calm? What are the people around you saying to one another?