The book The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution (Yale University Press, 2023) by Benjamin Carp explores the Great Fire of 1776 and why its origins remained a mystery even after the British investigated it in 1776 and 1783.
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.
On September 21st, 1776, five days after the British occupied New York, a devastating fire burned down about a fifth of the city. This mystery brings together a startling cast of characters from around the Atlantic World: soldiers and officers, but also Loyalists, women, and people of African and Indigenous descent.
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 (Yale Univ. Press, 2011) and Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009). He lives in New York City.
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