From Bailey’s Field Artillery and Firepower:
The quality of European powder continued to improve throughout the eighteenth century, but there were occasional lapses. British powder proved excellent during the Seven Years’ War but was of dire quality during the American War of Independence, as a result of “sharp practice” by contractors, a matter that was corrected by Congreve.
Concern at the poor performance of powder in battle led to an investigation. William Congreve the Elder was sent to inspect the powder store at Plymouth in 1779 and found only four serviceable barrels of powder in the port. Tests on a variety of British naval powder in the West Indies indicated that 90 percent was useless. The standards of cannon manufacture also caused alarm. Thomas Blomefield was appointed head of the Proof Department at Woolwich in 1780. He condemned 496 guns at proof, half the national production. Congreve was successful in reforming the powder industry, and Blomefield became the gun designer to the Board of Ordnance, designing the guns with which Britain fought and won the Napoleonic War….
One shudders at the thought of what might have happened had the British discovered these deficiencies only on the eve of war with Napoleon.
And, yes, I know we were fighting the British in 1812 too. The British seemed genuinely angry that the Americans were hindering their efforts to keep Napoleon from conquering the world. I think they may have had a point.
Not that I’m very keen on impressment.
His Majesty; “No. Better to clone the troops you need, if there is enough time.”