KINGSTON – Sunny skies and a light autumn breeze kept wigs cool, as marauding Redcoats marched through Kingston this weekend, and razed the small colonial settlement to the ground. Local militia fought bravely to defend their isolated little village, before retreating southward through the forest to the safety of Marbletown.
That’s the way it goes these days, when hundreds of historical re-enactors converge upon this Hudson Valley city to mark the anniversary of the Burning of Kingston, which happened October 16, 1777 during the Revolutionary War for American Independence.
… and redcoats
“It was part of what happened in the wider campaign where General
Burgoyne ended up surrendering at Saratoga and this force of British that
came up in boats were supposed to take a little pressure of him but it
was too late and he was surrendering anyway, so since we fired on the
fleet, they decided to come and burn the nest of rebels that was in Kingston,
the first capital of New York,” said Hank Yost, who organized the
In the original version, Kingstonians had advance warning and fled their newly founded state capital without casualties – losing the battle, but living another day to eventually win the war.
The theatrical show played out every few years today on the streets of modern Kingston is based on a true story, but widely embellished with plenty of booming gunpowder, musket and cannon.
Dressed in a Yankee costume, Yost spent Saturday morning mustering militia volunteers in Forsyth Park, before transporting his ragtag army downtown to meet the British with a charter bus. The Redcoats, for their part, were expected to arrive at Rotary Park by trolley.
The event originated in 1997 and has repeated every several years, on-and-off, through various city administrations. Current Mayor Steven Noble was apprehended by British forces and his flag was taken down. As a consolation, a gala ball took place later that evening inside the common council chambers at City Hall.
Yost said he feels natural in his goofy woolen long johns. “It’s quite comfortable, and entirely authentic. If I walked out of a time machine, probably nobody would notice I was different than anyone else,” he said, “except for the cell phone. “As long as it doesn’t ring – they’ll never see it down it that pouch.”