Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell

KINGSTON–Explosions and gunfire rocked Uptown Kingston on Saturday afternoon as British forces swept through the colonial city with fire in their eyes.

It was part of the weekend-long Burning of Kingston, a biennial re-enactment of the historic event that happened in October of 1777.

The British regarded Kingston as a “hotbed of perfidy” and “sedulous disloyalty” to King George for hosting the Revolutionary state government.

Led by Major General John Vaughan, British troops moved in on Oct. 16 and torched every building, reducing the settlement to ashes.

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of actors from all over the Northeast and beyond took their roles seriously as they interacted with their audiences lined up and down the Stockade District.

Spectators followed on foot the dramatization that included military drumming, face-to-face musket battles and deafening cannon blasts.

The fierce battle between the Redcoats and rebels was slightly jazzed up.

In reality, most members of the local militia had been fighting battles elsewhere when the troops invaded Kingston. Those who were there had fled to nearby Hurley, knowing they had little chance to defeat the army.

The free weekend commemoration marked the 20th anniversary of the re-enactment, a favorite of families, tourists and historians.

Redcoats Invade, Torch, Destroy Kingston

A street battle in Uptown Kingston as part of the biennial Burning of Kingston on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Paula Mitchell.

It included military encampments at Forsyth Park, exhibits, a candlelight tour at the Old Dutch Church Cemetery on Friday and a colonial costume ball at Kingston City Hall on Saturday night.

Accord resident Robert Varela, a re-enactor in the Fifth New York Regiment said the Burning of Kingston is one of his favorite events because of the location.

“It happens right in my own backyard,” he said. “Growing up in Kingston and participating in it is just incredible.”

“Kingston has such a history. Just about every building was burned. They were made of stone and because they were, they were easy to rebuild again.”

Varela’s passion for recreating Revolutionary history is due to his ancestry. He said his first- and second-generation grandfathers both fought with the Ulster Militia, while his second-generation grandfather was with the Third New York Regiment.

“So to me, coming out here to the Burning of Kingston has so much (meaning) because I know my ancestors were doing the same thing as me–trying to battle the British as much as they could.”

The Burning of Kingston continues into Sunday with militia and Redcoat camps at Forsyth Park. They are open to the public from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Company drills and demonstrations will take place throughout the morning.

In addition, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a tactical demonstration showing how American and British troops battled in 1777.

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