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The Redcoats are coming!
by Ann Hutton
October 15, 2009 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you happen to look outside your window this weekend and see a swarm of Colonial-era Brits taking the streets, don't panic: Gordon Brown and company are not here to reclaim us for Her Majesty. It's the biennial reenactment of the 1777 attack on Kingston, an event that left much of the town in ashes and most of the people in temporary exodus. More than 300 homes and barns were torched in the invasion led by British major general John Vaughn to eradicate an enclave that he considered "a nursery for almost every villain in the country." Kingston was then the capital of New York, and this successful British campaign forced the state government to move further north, where it would eventually settle at Albany.

October 16 is the 232nd anniversary of the actual British attack on the city. A signature event produced every two years by the First Ulster Militia in cooperation with the City of Kingston, the Burning of Kingston reenactment draws participants and spectators in an ever-growing dramatic scenario. In 2007 the emphasis on the nautical aspects of the attack was further developed; and to commemorate the Quadricentennial Celebration of 1609 this year, the entire event will center on the parks and streets along the waterfront of the Hudson River.

A full weekend of action is planned for the enjoyment and education of spectators and reenactors, beginning with the Friday, October 16 evening Committee of Safety Meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Hoffman House Tavern on North Front Street, where the news of the arrival of the British fleet is announced to a mustering of the militia and a panic by the citizenry.

On Saturday morning, October 17, the battle will ensue at Kingston Point Beach, where Naval Forces begin their bombardment, and cannonade will precede a British attack on American Militia forces. The British will begin their push inland at 11 a.m. A small British force will march through the Historic Stockade District and secure the grounds of the Senate House, but the usual Saturday afternoon battle in the streets uptown has been replaced with major tactical operations in the fields and woods behind the encampment in view of the Hudson River. During the afternoon, the encampments of both sides will be open to the public for tours, demonstrations of 18th-century camp life and military and naval demonstrations.

At 2:30 p.m. American militia and troops will stage a surprise attack on the British encampment, and the battle will proceed around and through the park. The camp closes to the public at 5 p.m.; however, the evening is celebrated in camp by the victorious invaders with libation, food, song and dance as they share the spoils of war looted from the Bogardus Tavern, earlier burned to the ground (defenders are welcome to join the festivities - but reenactors only, please). On the top floor of the restored City Hall at 420 Broadway, there will be a public family hour with free lessons in English Country Dance available to all at 7:30 p.m. And at 9 p.m. a Grand Ball opens with a procession in honor of the victorious General Vaughn and his lady. Admission is free, and the public is encouraged to attend both these celebrations. Costumes are completely optional, and children are welcome, too.

The action continues on Sunday, October 18 with a reading of the Articles of War in the Sailors' Encampment at 9 a.m. At noon, British troops continue to battle Militia defenders on the beach and nearby fields, and begin the attack on the waterfront of the Rondout Creek, where British naval forces will pursue and fire upon the rebel gunboat Lady Washington as her crew fires in defense until forced to abandon her. The battle ends with the defeat and rout of American forces.

In between battles there will be courts martial and punishments, sailing competitions, naval maneuver demonstrations and more encampment tours. At 3:30 p.m. reenactors and public spectators can enjoy an outdoor lunch in T. R. Gallo Park along Dock Street, and talk about the entire extravaganza!

The recreated First Ulster Militia was reorganized in 1996 by Ben Carlos, who was president and commander until 2007. Its goal was to educate the public about our Colonial and Revolutionary War heritage, to support and promote local historical sites and to work to maintain historical accuracy. This year the Burning of Kingston and the First Ulster County Militia have lost an ardent supporter in the death of City clerk Kathy Janeczek, and they dedicate this year's event in honor of her. For further information about the Burning of Kingston call (800) 331-1518, (845) 331-7517 or see www.firstulster.org.

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