In October 1777, during the American Revolutionary War, Kingston was targeted for retaliation by the British following the Continental Army's first major victory at the Battle of Saratoga. Infuriated, soldiers from British--captured New York City, sailed up the Hudson River to take retaliation against the biggest colonial target in the area – Kingston, the new capital ofNew York State. Landing at Kingston Point, the red coats marched along the Rondout Creek and up to the Stockade area (UptownKingston area), burning houses along the way.A small naval skirmish also took place along the Rondout Creek.

In advance of the arrival of the British, some brave colonists, including Deputy County Clerk Christopher Tappen, were able to save key documents and ledgers of the county and new state capital. Although most of the city's men, along with their weapons, were away fighting the British elsewhere, some brave locals fought the British. Most of the city, however, was abandoned ahead of the Redcoats approach, knowing their limited chances against the invading army. After only a few hours of work, the British burned down over 300 buildings and left Kingston in ruins. However, the resilient and brave Kingston residents returned, and in a sign of their determination and resilience, they quickly rebuilt the city.

Watch the story of the history of the Burning of Kingston Presented by Hank Yost of the Ulster First Militia >>

What Led Up To The Burning

During the American Revolution, the small town of Kingston, New York, twice appears as a key location in numerous historical accounts; once as the meeting point for New York politicians, and once as the focal point of British retaliation. The first meeting resulted in Kingston's role as the birthplace of the State of New York. One month later, in retaliation for aiding the patriots, the British burned Kingston to the ground.

The British viewed New York City and the Hudson River Valley as key strategic locations. After evacuating the patriot stronghold of Boston in March of 1776, the British concentrated on New York as a base of operations. In July of 1776, shortly after the signing of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, a huge British fleet of nearly 500 ships and 35,000 men--the largest single armed force in America until the Civil War--appeared off New York.

Watch the story of the early Dutch colonial history of Kingston >>

Under the command of General William Howe, the vastly larger British forces began pushing back the smaller and less-organized American Army under the command of George Washington almost immediately. By August, Washington had withdrawn from Long Island, pulling back to Manhattan. In September of that same year, Washington and his generals, convinced of the weakness of their position in New York City, debated whether they should burn the city upon retreat, or simply leave it to the British. Under instructions from the Continental Congress to not torch the city, Washington withdrew into New Jersey, where he successfully harassed the British and their mercenary soldiers. Washington's withdrawal from Manhattan, however, had other, non-military consequences. Continue Reading

Watch the story of the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1777 in Kingston >>