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February 08 , 2009

Historic Powder Houses of New England

Arsenals of American Independence


In the turbulent history of colonial New England, more than two hundred powder houses were built to store gunpowder, guns and armaments. Even the spark from a metal shoe nail could ignite their contents, so they often sat in remote sections of town. These volatile storehouses played a vital role in earning and preserving American independence. It was, after all, to a powder house in Concord, Massachusetts, that the British army marched in April 1775 to seize colonists’ gunpowder. The British were thwarted, and the colonists’ defense of the powder house ignited the Revolutionary War. Add to this the duels, murders, public hangings and tragic explosions that checkered the history of these structures, and the reader will discover a fascinating and forgotten aspect of our New England heritage. Using meticulous research, Matthew Thomas narrates the colorful histories of New England’s powder houses as he resurrects their historical significance in early American history.

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