The Reason For Alarm

Just War, Rebellion, and the American Revolution: John Keown and Modern Critiques on Whether the War of Independence was Just.

Part 20: The Reason for Alarm (1774-1775) – The Powder Alarm (1774), The Portsmouth Alarm (1774), and The Salem Confrontation (1775)

By Leonard O. Goenaga

In the shadow of the Congress’ protests and petitions, the British increased their military presence across the Colonies. With the repeal of the Massachusetts government in the Massachusetts Government Act, General Thomas Gage was appointed as the colony’s military governor. General Gage sought to disarm local militias, which result in the Powder Alarm of September 1774. Upon successfully sending troops to seize the colonial arsenal in Sommerville Massachusetts, rumors spread throughout the colonies of the coming of war. Agitated militiamen sought to thwart the seizure of local colonial armories that would leave them defenseless against the redcoats, and proceeded with measures to prevent such incidents. Colonies organized a third of their militias as ever-ready minutemen, 1 and a system of express riders embodied by Paul Revere were established to quickly broadcast any future attempts. 2

Another alarm came in early December of 1774 in Portsmouth New Hampshire. The British military voted to prevent the export of gunpowder, and sought to capture additional armory supplies throughout the colonies. Upon receiving intelligence that the military would capture the storages at Fort William and Mary, Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth to notify local colonists. They emptied the fort of supplies, and the British troops eventually arrived on December 17, 1774 to find the locations already sacked. 3

A third alarm worth noting occurred in late February of 1775 in Salem Massachusetts. About 240 British soldiers of the 64th regiment were led by Colonel Alexander Leslie to capture the armory supplies at Salem. However, a small crowd thwarted their attempts by raising a drawbridge and preventing their passage, all the while diverting the sought after weapons to safety. The soldiers eventually passed over a lowered drawbridge only to find the weapons missing. The locals then proceeded to shadow them upon their exit, making good use of much taunting and mocking. 4


1 Massachusetts Provincial Congress, The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, 642-644.

2 Allen French, The Siege of Boston (New York: McMillan, 1911) 170.

3 David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994) 52-57.

4 Ronald N. Tagney, A County in Revolution: Essex County at the Dawning of Independence (Manchester: The Cricket Press, 1976) 140-142.

Self-Educated American Research Writer, Leonard O. Goenaga
, is a Baptist Associate Pastor (assigned to the Youth) at Glory of God Christian Fellowship, Raleigh, North Carolina; a Mentor (Computer Lab/Technology) at the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club; a husband (to Katrina); and rugby coach. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (with a specific concentration in Political Theory, Social Contract, and Constitutionalism), a second B.A. in Religious Studies (with a concentration in World Religions and Early Christianity), a Master of Divinity in Christian Ethics, and an A.A. in Entrepreneurship. He has begun Ph.D with a concentration likely centered on an analysis of Locke’s Social Contract, H.L.A. Hart’s Legal System, American Constitutionalism, and Baptist Ecclesiology of Covenant. Visit his website at