N.H. had its own Gunpowder Days

A circa 1775 powder keg.
A circa 1775 powder keg.

THIS LETTER is in response to “Happy Salem Gunpowder Day!” by Peter Charles Hoffer (Ideas, Feb. 16). It’s true, as Hoffer writes, that American colonists in Salem, Mass., stood up to a British army on Feb. 26, 1775, to prevent the seizure of the colonial militia’s gunpowder, but it wasn’t the first time that colonists had taken action against a British force over this precious substance.

On Dec. 14, 1774 and again on Dec. 15, men from Portsmouth, N.H. and surrounding towns attacked a small British force at Fort William and Mary (now Fort Constitution) in Newcastle, N.H.

Cannons and musket shots couldn’t keep out the colonists as they stormed the walls of the fort and engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. The British were subdued. No one was killed, the colonists cleaned out the powder house, took about 100 barrels of gunpowder, and hauled down the British flag.


The next night they returned and took 16 cannons, military supplies, and muskets, all to be used in the coming war. If any town should celebrate “Gunpowder Day” it should be Newcastle, N.H. Salem has enough to celebrate.

Sheila Roberge

Exeter, N.H.