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Working at the Armoury


Many different kinds of supplies were needed to outfit an army in the eighteenth century, including weapons, ammunition, gunpowder, uniforms, tents, food, and much more. During the Revolutionary War, the colonists could no longer import these items from Britain, and had to obtain the supplies they needed for the army locally. In some larger towns in the colonies, including Williamsburg, the tradesmen who made military supplies worked together in a complex called an armoury. James Anderson was a blacksmith in Williamsburg who ran an armoury there from 1778 to 1780, when the capitol of Virginia moved to Richmond and Anderson moved his business as well. Mr. Anderson employed a variety of skilled workmen—soldiers, skilled Frenchmen working under contract, enslaved men, prisoners of war, apprentices, and tradesmen. Blacksmithing focused on repairing weapons and making bayonets, ramrods, and musket balls. The tinsmiths created camp items such as cups, plates, and kettles, essentials for soldiers' daily lives.

Students will discover what work was done at the armoury, who did the work, and why the facility was so vital during the American Revolution. This lesson could be used during the study of the American Revolution, colonial trades, or as a stand-alone. It works best with third through fifth grades.


In this lesson, students:

  • List the materiel needed to fight a war in the eighteenth century.
  • Identify objects made at the armoury and explore their significance to the military during the Revolutionary War.
  • Explain the purpose of an armoury.



  1. Tell students to picture the time of the Revolutionary War (to assist students, you may wish to show photos from this Colonial Williamsburg slideshow: Ask students, “In the eighteenth century, what would you need to fight a war?” Possible answers include weapons (guns, cannons, bayonets, swords), food, uniforms, horses, saddles and shoes for the horses, etc.
  2. Explain that the armoury was where much of this was made. In spring of 2012, Colonial Williamsburg opened their newly reconstructed James Anderson Armoury. Share the information from the Introduction with students. You may wish to use the Primary Source of the Month image as a visual aid.
  3. Put students into groups of four and hand out the armoury board game, instructions, dice, and game pieces.
  4. Ask students to play through the game once, then answer the discussion questions as a group.
  5. Ask groups to share their answers with the class.

Lesson Extensions

This lesson was written by Lynne Zalesak, Houston, TX, and Kelly Pearce, Albuquerque, NM.