The new book The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution (Yale Univ. Press, 2023) by Benjamin L. Carp takes a look at who set the mysterious fire that burned down much of the city of New York shortly after the British took the city during the Revolutionary War.
The city of New York, a strategic center of the Revolutionary War, was one of the most important places in North America in 1776. That summer, an unruly rebel army under George Washington repeatedly threatened to burn the city rather than let the British take it. Shortly after the Crown’s forces took New York, much of it mysteriously burned to the ground.
This is the first book to fully explore the Great Fire of 1776 and why its origins remained a mystery even after the British investigated it in 1776 and 1783. Uncovering stories of espionage, terror, and radicalism, Benjamin L. Carp paints a vivid picture of the chaos, passions, and unresolved tragedies that define a historical moment we usually associate with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Benjamin L. Carp is professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America and Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution. He lives in New York City.
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