Undeniable Truths <br> As I see it: British “Sherman” Visits New York


British “Sherman” Visits New York

The British invasion of New York during the American Revolution was a foretaste of the treatment Northern General W.T. Sherman and others would use against their fellow Americans some 88 years later. In both cases, the brutality was used against Americans seeking political liberty and independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute

British “Sherman” Visits New York:

“New York suffered even more severely. In April, 1775, the British warship Asia fired some random shots into the town; two weeks afterward at least one-third of the citizens had fled with their household goods; and when General Charles Lee arrived with the vanguard of the American Army in 1776, he met scores of refugees hastening north.

The city heard nothing but the rumbling of carts over the pavements, the shouts of men, and the sounds of flight. New York was nearly deserted, most of the housed empty and locked. By and by the British moved in; despite orders, the soldiers broke into the houses of the rich, and as one reporter wrote: “Oh, the houses in New York, if you could but see the insides of them, occupied by the dirtiest people on the continent. If the owners ever get possession again, I am sure they must be years in cleaning them.”

In that year a fire broke out that destroyed one-quarter of the city – the estimate is 500 houses – and could not be controlled because there were no fire brigades; and in 1778 another fire destroyed 64 house and [250,000 pounds] of property. Trinity Church burned, so did others; most of the remaining churches, the college and the public buildings were occupied by cavalry horses or served as hospitals or as prisons.

British soldiers broke into the New York City Hall, where the books and apparatus of King’s College (Columbia) had been stored, and plundered it; the president, Myles Cooper, had fled in May, 1775, before the Sons of Liberty. [During]…the siege of Boston [Harvard’s buildings] were commandeered for military purposes…in New York, besides the loss of the college library, the collections of the Corporation Library, the New York Society Library, and the Union Library were scattered.”

(O Strange New World, American Culture, The Formative Years, Howard Mumford Jones, Viking Press, 1952, pp. 320-321)


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