The spark that ignited the Revolutionary War in 1775 had a long fuse that British General Thomas Gage unintentionally lit when he first seized colonial gunpowder and artillery in 1774.
In the predawn darkness of September 1, 1774, some 260 handpicked men disembarked from longboats on the rocky beach of Ten Hills Farm. The Redcoats marched in column to their objective: the powder magazine, formerly a windmill, on Quarry Hill in Middlesex County, present-day Somerville, Massachusetts. When the red column reached the stone-siloed structure, the county sheriff, David Phips, handed Lieutenant Colonel George Maddison the keys to the black wrought-iron gate of the magazine. Quickly, the soldiers seized the 250 fifty-pound half barrels of powder and gingerly transported them out of the structure and back to the boats. As the bulk of the party removed the powder, Maddison split part of his force to seize two of the province’s field pieces.