Yesterday I quoted a British naval history on the unauthorized removal of gunpowder from the government magazine on Bermuda. I found a detailed account of that theft in the first volume of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution (a kind gift a few years back from Bart Reynolds). On 17 Aug 1775, Gov. George James Bruere reported to the Earl of Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the colonies:
I had less suspicion than before, that such a daring and violent Attempt would be made on the Powder Magazine, which in the dead of night of the 14th of August was broke into on Top, just to let a man down, and the Doors most Audaciously and daringly forced open, at the great risk of their being blown up; they could not force the Powder Room Door, without getting into the inside on TopThe Bermuda legislature offered reward of £100 to anyone who gave evidence to convict someone of this theft. Bruere offered a personal reward of £30 and a pardon to any informer, or £10 “to be paid to any Negro, or Negroes, to inform against any other Negro or Negroes.” There’s no indication that anyone tried to claim either reward.
They Stole and Carried off about one Hundred Barrels of Gun powder, and as they left about ten or twelve Barrels, it may be Supposed that those Barrels left, would not bare remooving. It must have taken a Considerable number of People; and we may Suppose some Negroes, to assist as well as White Persons of consequence. . . .
The next morning the 15th Instant, (of August) one Sloop Called the Lady Catharine, belonging by Her Register to Virginia, George Ord Master, bound to Philadelphia, was seen under Sail, but the Custom House Boat could not over take Her.
And likewise a Schooner Called the Charles Town and Savannah Packet, belonging to South Carolina, from South Carolina Cleared out at Bermuda the 11th of August with 2,000 Sawed Stones for Barbados John Turner Master. And was seen under Sail the same day, at such a Distance off, that the Custom House Boat could not over take either of the Vessels.
It may be supposed that neither of the vessels came near the Shore, to take in the Powder, if they did carry it away, but it is rather to be imagined that it must have been Carried out by Several Boats, as both these Vessels, Sailed from a Harbour at the West End, twenty Miles off, of the Magazine.
At the same time this was going on, Gen. George Washington and Gov. Nicholas Cooke of Rhode Island were in correspondence about sending a ship to Bermuda to obtain that very powder. On 8 August Cooke wrote, “If the Powder supposed to be at Bermuda be private Property it must be immediately paid for. If not I imagine it will be settled with our own Disputes”—i.e., by stealth and force justified by politics. By the time a ship left Newport for the island, however, that gunpowder was on its way north.
And what of the anxious governor’s sons in Boston, whom I also mentioned yesterday? By the 2nd of September Bruere had heard a rumor that “both my Sons, very promising Youths, are Said to be Killed, and I know nothing to the Contrary.” Indeed, the governor’s eldest promising youth, John Bruere, had been killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill; he seems to have been a military retiree serving as a volunteer officer with the 14th Regiment.
The next oldest promising youth was merely wounded at Bunker Hill. George Bruere (1744-1786), a lieutenant in the grenadier company of the 18th, survived to marry fourteen-year-old Martha Louisa Fatio in 1777 and serve as Bermuda’s lieutenant governor in 1780-81, after his father had died.