Gunpowder Raid by Black Boys of Cabarrus

A marker in Concord honoring the Cabarrus Black Boys. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.On May 9, 1771, nine young men from what would become Cabarrus County raided a British convoy carrying gunpowder to General Hugh Waddell’s militia. The attack happened on Phifer’s Hill just north of Concord.

The men disguised themselves as American Indians before they blew up two wagons worth of gunpowder. They already had darkened their skin as part of their disguises, and the explosion of the powder coated them with additional soot, blackening their faces and earning them the moniker of the “Black Boys of Cabarrus.”

At the time of the raid, royal Governor William Tryon and his troops attempted to suppress the Regulator uprising near Hillsborough, and Waddell was in route to assist Tryon. The powder the Black Boys blew up had been intended to be used on Regulators, so their efforts likely saved future revolutionaries’ lives.

The Regulators viewed the Black Boys as heroes, but Governor Tryon most assuredly did not. He pardoned some of the Regulators after the failed uprising, but not the Black Boys, instead labeling them as criminals and fugitives.

The Black Boys hid out in Georgia until the Mecklenburg Resolves in 1775, after which they joined other colonists in fighting the British.

Visit: Alamance Battleground in Burlington tells the story of the War of Regulation and the Regulator movement.

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