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The Man Who Tried To Burn New York

by Nat Brandt

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In a desperate attempt to bring the North to the bargaining table and end what was to the South a losing war, Confederate spies in Canada launch a plot to burn New York City on the day after Thanksgiving in 1864. A group of rebel officers, escapees from Union prison camps who had fled to neutral Canada for safety, reach the city by train and, in disguise, take rooms in various hotels in downtown New York. They fail but only because, unknowingly, they use a chemical mixture that requires oxygen.

Smoke from the incipient fires they set is quickly discovered and the fires put out. In the dramatic search for the conspirators that follows, only one of them is caught, Robert Cobb Kennedy, a captain from Louisiana. He is tried, convicted and hanged... the last rebel executed by the North before the end of the war.

The Man Who Tried to Burn New York won the Douglas Southall Freeman History Award in 1987.



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