In late 1854, British military forces needed gunpowder. English and French armies fought their Russian opponents to a stalemate during the summer and fall on the Crimean Peninsula, forcing the Czar's troops into defenses around the fortified city of Sevastopol.
As the Crimean War (1853-56) settled into a siege of Sevastopol, Allied armies required huge amounts of ordnance to bombard the city and keep the Russians at bay. The English government quickly realized that they needed to find a source for gunpowder to supplement their own factories, which were already working at maximum capacity.
British military agents contracted with Grinnell, Minturn and Company of New York, a prominent trans-Atlantic shipping firm, to find and purchase gunpowder for the Allied armies. Grinnell, Minturn and Company successfully negotiated contracts for cannon and musket powder with two of the United States' most prominent manufacturers: the Hazard Powder Company of Hazardville, Connecticut, and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company of Wilmington, Delaware.
The shipper secured more than enough gunpowder from all these companies to supply the Allied armies' needs. Following the cessation of hostilities in 1856, the English powder market was flooded with surplus American powder obtained by Grinnell, Minturn and Company.
Image: Battle of Balaclava, Relief of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville, 1854.