The Fiery Side of New York’s Revolutionary War, a lecture by Dr. Benjamin Carp

  • Deyo Hall 6 Broadhead Ave New Paltz, NY, 12561 United States

A sixth of New York City burned in the early morning hours of September 21, 1776, six days after the British army had occupied the city. While Loyalists and British military men were certain that American rebels had torched the city on their way out, the rebels insisted that the fire had been an accident. General Nathanael Greene had previously argued that destroying the city was strategically essential, but the Continental Congress was reluctant to risk the new nation’s reputation, and ordered General George Washington to leave the city intact. 

Since the war, American historians have accepted these denials (and Patriot propaganda) and avoided attributing the fire to Patriot spies or civilian sympathizers. Yet there is substantial evidence that American Patriots really did do their best to destroy New York’s largest city. The “Great Fire of New York City,” a relatively unknown incident, set the tone for a series of fiery raids that raged up and down the Hudson River corridor over the coming years. What most people know of New York’s Revolutionary War are the major battles, encampments, traitors, and spies—but the Revolution was also a civil war with devastating impact on the civilians of New York.

Members, seniors, and military $5. Non-members $8. Students free with ID. Become a New Friend member for $15 for complimentary entry.

Dr. Benjamin L. Carp is an Associate Professor of early American history at Tufts University, and will be taking up the Daniel M. Lyons Professorship in American History at Brooklyn College in the fall. He is the author of Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America, which won the Society of the Cincinnati Cox Book Prize in 2013; and Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution. He is co-editor, with Richard D. Brown, of Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, 1760–1791: Documents and Essays, 3rd edition. He has a B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, and he previously taught at the University of Edinburgh.