The Great New York Fire of 1776

The Great New York Fire of 1776

Benjamin Carp explores a lost story of the American Revolution


On Thursday, February 16th, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will host Benjamin L. Carp, noted historian of the American Revolution, for an evening lecture on one of the great mysteries of our early nation.

Carp’s presentation will draw heavily from his years of research and from his forthcoming book The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution (Yale UP). In The Great New York Fire, Carp reconstructs the political climate of eighteenth-century North America and highlights the significance of New York City as a strategic center in the American War of Independence. He returns to the summer of 1776, when the rebel army under George Washington repeatedly threatened to burn New York City to the ground rather than see it fall under British control. Under these circumstances and days into the British occupation of the city, a tremendous fire swept across Manhattan, destroying a fifth of its buildings and creating the conditions for riot and plunder. Was this devastating fire the result of an accident at a tavern? Or was it started under direct orders from the revolutionary commander? Carp’s important retelling of this seminal but largely forgotten event features some of the American Revolution’s most important figures, including Nathan Hale, an early patriot with special importance for Long Island, and another lesser-known spy who deserves equal adulation.

Advanced Praise: “Benjamin Carp’s impressive new study represents a pathbreaking investigation of the role of fire in the American Revolution. Full of twists and turns, this beautifully crafted book will definitely fascinate and inform… Highly recommended!” – James Kirby Martin, author of Insurrection

The lecture will take place at 7:00pm in the Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. Tickets are available online at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s website.

Benjamin L. Carp is the Daniel M. Lyons Chair of American History at Brooklyn College and affiliated faculty in the history program at the Graduate Center of the City University of the New York (CUNY). He specializes in the history of the American Revolution and the eighteenth century, particularly in the seaport cities of eastern North America. He has written about firefighting, gunpowder explosions, fear, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo of 1807-1809.

In addition to books and academic articles, Carp has written for BBC History, Colonial Williamsburg, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He received a B.A. in history from Yale University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia.