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Burning of Kingston, NY

October 14 - October 15


The Burning of Kingston is a weekend-long celebration of American history, bravery, sacrifice and resilience. On a Fall October day in 1777, British troops set fire to the newly established capital of the State of New York – Kingston. Since most of the local militia were fighting battles elsewhere (such as at the Battle of Saratoga), the vulnerable city burned down with over 300 buildings lost in just hours. Since many of the buildings were made of stone, we can still see examples of them standing today. The event was a dramatic moment in the American Revolutionary War that hardened the determination of colonists to gain their independence, and for local citizens to rebuild Kingston stronger than ever. The Burning of Kingston is a biennial event. For more information about the 2017 Burning of Kingston including directions, historic maps, weekend discount information and how you can volunteer, visit the website at www.BurningOfKingston.com



5:30pm “The Story of the Burning of Kingston” At the Vanderlyn Gallery of the Senate House Museum Presentation and lecture on the events leading up to the Burning of Kingston, life as a local Kingston colonist at the time, and the events that occurred that day and its aftermath. Presentation by Hank Yost of the First Ulster Militia, with introductions by Geoff Miller, Ulster County Historian.

6:30 Procession of Lights Following the presentation at the Senate House, participants will walk with lights (provided) from the Senate House across the historic Stockade neighborhood to the Persen House for the first Burning of Kingston re-enactment – the Committee of Safety.

7:00pm Colonial Kingston “Committee of Safety” meeting at the historic Persen House Museum located at the “four corners” of the Stockade District. Highlights: town residents hear news of Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga, express fears of British invasion and then learn that a British fleet lies in the Hudson River off Kingston Point.

7:45pm Candlelight tales in the Old Dutch Church cemetery – come hear the true story of the Burning of Kingston as the long-dead rise up to provide first-hand accounts of that dreadful ordeal.


10am – 4pm Visit the Old Dutch Church Sanctuary and Museum organ music throughout the day

11:00am British invasion reenactment begins with “landing” at Kingston Point Park (NOTE: not Kingston Point Beach), greeted by small resistance force of Colonists. (Parking available at park)

2:30pm British Troops begin march from Forsyth Park up N. Front Street, head for Senate House.

2:45pm At Senate House, American colonists flee Senate House with key possessions including ledgers, records of county and new state capital.

2:50pm British Troops arrive at Senate House, take down colonists flag and replace it with British flag, ‘dispatch’ colonial resisters, and prepare march through Stockade District.

3:00pm British troops will advance along Main Street in the Stockade District, opposed by remnants of the local militia, some street reenactments along the way. Red coats will march down Main Street to Green Street and then Crown Street and arrive at the historic 4 corners of Kingston for final street battle scene.

4:00pm Following the afternoon’s fighting, Kingston’s Mayor will be put on trial for treason outside the Persen House. The trial will be held in the park. Witnesses will be called and a decision rendered. The outcome is in doubt.

6:30pm – 8:00pm Tours of reenactors camps with impromptu lectures on the Revolution / Rebellion in Forsyth Park. [See below for additional description of camp life]

7:00pm The Grand Ball will be held Saturday evening in the Common Council Chambers at Kingston City Hall. Instruction in 18th century dance, with live music, will commence at 7pm with the Ball itself beginning a little later in the evening. Both reenactors and the community are invited, and since instruction is provided, one does not have to be familiar with the dance styles to participate. 18th century dress is encouraged but not required, and there will be refreshments available. The entire event is free of charge. [Bus shuttle will begin running from Forsyth Park to City Hall starting at 6:15pm and run continuously for the evening. Last shuttle from City Hall leaves at 11:30pm]


9:00am At Forsyth Park, reenactor camps open to the public with Assembly, safety inspections, company drills, and demonstrations. [See below for additional description]

12:30pm The ‘Battle of Upper Forsyth Park’ – a tactical demonstration showing American and British troops


For those planning on attending the Burning of Kingston 2017 on October 13, 14 and 15 and those who might yet plan on attending, here is a bit of an update.  The full schedule of this year’s “Burning” is available on our website, (burningofkingston.com), by clicking on “schedule” at the top of the page.

There is now quite a bit going on Friday evening, October 13, with an invitation-only reception for the NYS historian and the NYS archivist (a former member of the 3rd Tryon Co. Militia) at the Senate House museum followed by a presentation on the historical account of the 1777 burning of Kingston, for the public. Following the presentation there will be a short “march” to the site of the historic Persen House where the “committee of safety meeting” will be held, along with the public’s participation. Most reenactors will likely be arriving during Friday’s afternoon and evening at the “camp” at Forsythe Park, adjacent to the historic Stockade District.

Camp will open at noon on Friday the 13th (a good rather than bad omen, I hope) with entry at the Lucas Ave. gate.  For those coming by way of the NYS Thruway, Kingston is exit 19. From the “roundabout” at exit 19, take the Washington Avenue exit, which comes up pretty quickly, and proceed along Washington Ave. to the 4th stoplight at Lucas Ave. Turn right and proceed up the hill (about 1/2 mile) to the Forsythe Park/Lucas ave gate. There will be a registration tent just inside.

The British camp will set up at the far end of the field and the American camp at the near end.  There should be port-a-potties at the far end and new (composting) restrooms at the near end.  Water will be available by the Nature Center fence, firewood in a central location and some straw will be available. There will be a per-man-at-arms powder allotment at the end of the event on Sunday.

We will have an officer’s call at 9 am on Saturday morning to clarify what’s going on as much as these meetings ever do. As usual, there is a “landing battle” at Kingston Point Park on the Hudson River in the morning and reenactors will be transported to and from the site by bus. The “street battle” is planned for Saturday afternoon, through the streets in the Stockade area, culminating with Americam troops being attacked and driven from the Persen House by Crown Forces. Since it is close by, we march from camp to the site. There is a Grand Ball at City Hall on Saturday evening with live music and dance instruction for everyone, including the public. Buses will run from uptown to the Ball and back. We hope everyone will stay through Sunday morning, as camp activities are scheduled for visiting kids and an open ended skrimish in the woods above the park for reenactors. everything closes down early in the afternoon so those with long drives can get on the road.

The Burning of Kingston has become very much a city-wide event with participation by many of the museums, restaurants and businesses.  We hope we can make it as exciting as possible with a good reenactor turnout.  Please email me with a confirmation and any questions you may have.

As always,
Hank Yost
Sgt., 1st Ulster Co. Militia
Burning of Kingston Planning Committee

[See below for additional de Additional Kingston Event Information for October 13-15, 2017

MATTHEWIS PERSEN HOUSE MUSEUM AND CULTURAL HERITAGE CENTER Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack is proud to present a series of activities taking place at the historic Matthewis Persen House Museum and Cultural Heritage Center commemorating the 240th anniversary of the Burning of Kingston.

The Matthewis Persen House is one of Ulster County’s oldest, most significant buildings. Named after its longest residing owner, Matthewis Persen (1739-1819), the house is located within Kingston’s Stockade National Historic District. Its earliest portions date from c. 1661 and it is one of four landmark buildings on each corner of John and Crown Streets. This is the only known intersection in the United States with pre-revolutionary stone houses on all four corners. The Persen House has been the home of doctors, tailors, innkeepers, druggists, grocers, and Ulster County government. It was burned at least twice, saw war and revolution, and survived to tell its tale. To walk through this remarkable building is to walk through Ulster County’s rich local history.

Gysbert’s Inventory: A Reflection of 1665 Dutch Life in Wiltwyck The legacy of the Dutch settlers of Wiltwyck lives on at the Matthewis Persen House. The house sits on Kingston’s historic “four corners” and was originally owned by Gysbert Van Imbroch. An inventory listing Gysbert’s possessions at the time of his death in 1665 is brought to life through illustrations of clothing, kitchen items, and other articles used in 17th century daily life. The inventory also depicts items Gysbert used in his profession as a barber-surgeon as well as his book collection, one of the largest book collections in the New World. Step back in time with Gysbert’s Inventory.

Underground Tales: Artifacts from the Persen House In 2001, Joseph E. Diamond Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology at SUNY New Paltz, led an archaeological excavation at the Matthewis Persen House. Focusing on the first phase of the house built without a cellar, Dr. Diamond and his team uncovered many of the hidden treasures that slipped through the cracks of the Persen House floor and that were found beneath the bluestone sidewalks. Explore some of the over 20,000 artifacts discovered during the excavation in the new exhibit, Underground Tales: Artifacts from the Persen House.

Colonial Game Day Throughout the weekend, visitors to the house are invited to try their hand at many entertaining and historic games including Game of Graces, Jacob’s Ladder, Hoop Rolling and Whirligigs, just to name a few. Step behind our “Colonial Kids” portraits to see what you might have looked like in colonial dress. Bring your family and see how different or perhaps similar games and toys were in the 18th century as compared to those of today! Each game offers a unique history and skill set, whether it is pure entertainment, like Jacob’s ladder or a test of dexterity like Game of Graces. Fun for children of all ages!

Loyalty Papers Visit the Persen House to complete your Loyalty Papers and formally pledge your allegiance to the Patriots, the Loyalists, or both! During the re-enactment the British just might ask you “To whom is your allegiance?” Will you be ready to answer? Will you say the King? Will you support the Revolution? Make sure you’re at the Persen House at 3:00pm on Saturday, October 14th during the re-enactment of the 1777 Burning of Kingston as there will be a MAJOR battle at and around the House between the British and the local militia. Also, make certain to have your Loyalty Papers to avoid capture!

Scavenger Hunt Developed for children of all ages! Come to the house and see how many of the items in the Scavenger Hunt you can find. Do you think you can find the Sun Face? How about the late 19th century wallpaper from France? Or the burn marks from the 1777 Burning of Kingston? Put on your detective hat and search the house for these interesting items. Where: Matthewis Persen House Museum and Cultural Heritage Center 74 John Street at the Intersection of John and Crown Streets Kingston, New York 12401 When: Saturday, October 14, 2017 10:00 to 4:00pm Sunday, October 15, 2017 10:00 to 2:00pm Admission is free and all are welcome!

For more information, please contact Nina Postupack, Ulster County Clerk, at (845) 340-3040 18th Century Autumn Festival at the Senate House Saturday Oct. 17th 11am – 3pm Visit Senate House State Historic Site on Saturday October 17, 2015 from 11am-3pm to try your hand at performing 18th century autumn activities. Hands-on activities are fun for the whole family and include dipping candles, making cornhusk dolls and dried apple wreaths and pressing apples into cider. There will be demonstrations of hearthside cooking and meat smoking.

The Palisades Park Conservancy is also sponsoring a demonstration of blacksmithing. The 3rd Ulster Militia will be on site, demonstrating 18th century camp life and fleeing in desperation as the British Army advances on Uptown Kingston as part of the citywide commemoration of the Burning of Kingston. Light-hearted entertainment will be provided by Stephen Gratto who engages audience members with stilt walking, balancing acts and juggling. The event is free and everyone is invited to attend. Guided tours of Senate House will be provided at the rate of $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors, ages 12 and under are free. Senate House is located in Historic Uptown Kingston at 296 Fair Street

DESCRIPTION OF BRITISH AND AMERICAN CAMPS IN FORSYTH PARK, UPTOWN KINGSTON Camps for both British and American troops will be established in Forsyth Park, with Redcoats at the northern end and Continentals to the south. A large military camp in the 18th century was a very organized affair, with “camp streets” between tents, and specific locations for artillery, cavalry, the camp kitchens, water and latrines. There were even military handbooks printed explaining how camp was to be set up. Individual regiments typically were encamped together, although for certain campaigns, light infantry companies were detached from their regiments and encamped together to facilitate their use as advanced and flanking troops as well as skirmishers. The individual soldier was usually sheltered in a wedge tent, which resembled a triangle set on its base. While these tents were not large, six soldiers were assigned to each along with all their equipment, making space tight. These six soldiers comprised a “mess” and rations were distributed to the group. Meals were prepared by each soldier in the “mess” on a rotating basis, or by a soldier’s wife. One wife per six soldiers was allowed to accompany the army to serve as nurses and laundresses. Officers were housed in much larger and more spacious “marquee” tents, which allowed for more equipage including camp beds, tables and chairs. The camps in Forsythe Park are much smaller, but still show evidence of camp streets and the housing together of individual regiments.

Sunday October 18th Forsyth Park Skirmish (Battle) Description Sunday’s military skirmish will occur in the wooded area on the hill above the camps. In re-enactor language, this will be an “open tactical” with no planned moves or outcome. This allows re-enactors a chance to apply their 18th century military skills in an effort to ambush, outflank, charge and repel their adversaries. The area is part of the Park’s nature preserve and has plenty of trees, brush, rock outcroppings, fallen timber and rock walls to maneuver in.


October 14
October 15
Event Category:


Kingston New York
Kingston, NY United States + Google Map
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