Condition Redcoat: This year’s Burning adds some new wrinkles

No, the Redcoats and Rebels you may see running around this weekend don’t mean you slipped and fell into the hot tub time machine. It’s only the Burning of Kingston.

The 2011 installment of the every-other-year event will include re-enactments, encampments, a regatta, demonstrations at the Senate House and guided tours, performances, lecture series and a grand Colonial Ball at Kingston City Hall.

British troops raise their flag at the Senate House during 2009''s Burning. (Photo by Dan Barton)


The backstory: In October 1777, the British were annoyed. Their grand strategy to cut New York in half and quash the revolution had just been thwarted at the Battle of Saratoga. On the way back to their Manhattan base, they wanted payback. So, Redcoats under the command of Maj. Gen. John Vaughan stopped off at Kingston, then the capital of the new New York State, and burned much of it to the ground. Whether it made the Brits feel any better, though, is lost to history.

According to historians, word that the British were coming spread so quickly that nearly every man, woman and child in town was able to safely flee to the surrounding communities of Hurley and Stone Ridge. The British, arriving to a village containing little more than the sound of crickets chirping, then marched straight to the Stockade district, setting fire to nearly every structure along their path, with the exception of Wall Street’s Van Steenburgh house. Records were lost, homes were destroyed and the destructive fires blazed for days as residents helplessly watched from their refuges’ rooftops.

The “re-enactments” — the weekend’s events take some, umm, liberties with history for dramatic effect — begin 7 p.m. Friday at 7 p.m. with a Committee of Safety meeting at the Hoffman House on North Front Street, in which public interaction is encouraged.  The British will land and a battle with patriot troops will begin the next morning at 10 a.m. at Kingston Point at the bottom of Delaware Avenue. Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., the camp will be open, leading up to a 7 p.m. Grand Colonial Ball at the Kingston City Hall with guests in period costuming.