Wednesday, 25 November 2020


Horrifically on this day in 1864, a group of southern operatives that infiltrated union territory by way of Canada, calling themselves the Confederate Army of Manhattan, with a plan to burn down New York City, by simultaneously starting fires in nineteen prominent hotels in all boroughs, a theatre and P.T. Barnum’s American Museum (presently Wall Street). The arsonists hoped that the number and distribution of the fires would overwhelm emergency services and chose the date for its symbolic significance, it being remembered as Evacuation Day when British troops had left the city in 1783 and General George Washington advanced with the Continental Army to reclaim Manhattan (with some legendary license and myth-making of course), having surrendered it to British forces in November 1776. Fortunately, over-confident with their plan and underestimating New York, all the fires failed to spread or were summarily contained and the operatives fled, all but one escaping prosecution for this dangerous and incendiary behaviour.