Tom's Reviews > The Man Who Tried to Burn New York

The Man Who Tried to Burn New York by Nat Brandt
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's review
Sep 09, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction, history
Read in September, 2011

This story is the fascinating tale of how several Confederate officers, many of whom were escaped prisoners of war, hatched a plot of asymmetrical warfare. The plan was to set ablaze dozens of hotels in New York City in a hope the fires would spread and destroy the whole city. According to the rebels, this terrorist plot was in retaliation for Sheridan's work in the Shenandoah Valley and what William Tecumseh Sherman was doing in the Carolinas. Due to various factors, they failed, but only one of the perpetrators was tried, found guilty, and hanged.

Some of the most interesting aspects of the book were understanding the culture of New York City at the time. The city was actually fairly friendly to Confederates prior to the fires. There were many Peace Democrat and Copperhead newspapers publishing in the city, some which relayed messages in personal adds to Confederate agents. The volunteer fire department companies also were quite fascinating in how their disorganization and machismo oftentimes interfered with their ability to be competent firemen.

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