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Letter from Governour Tryon to Lord George Germain: New-York set on fire by incendiaries; many circumstances lead to conjecture that Mr. Washington was privy to this villainous act



New-York, September 24, 1776.

MY LORD: At the same time that I have the happiness to acquaint your Lordship that on the 15th instant, General Howe, with the forces under his command, by admirable skill, spirit, and conduct, made himself master of the City of New-York, and one-half of the Island, it grieves me to inform you that on the 21st, about two in the morning, the western part of the town was set on fire by a number of incendiaries, and which raged with such violence as destroyed, it is thought, one-fourth part of the city, before the flames could be extinguished. Many of the incendiaries are now in confinement, and two or three were killed as they were detected in their hellish design. Many circumstances lead to conjecture that Mr˙ Washington was privy to this villainous act, as he sent all the bells of the churches out of town, under pretence of casting them into cannon; whereas, it is much more probable to prevent the alarm being given by ringing of the bells before the fire


should get ahead beyond the reach of engines and buckets; besides, some officers of his army were found concealed in the city, supposed for this devilish purpose. The town was thought to be saved more by a sudden change in the wind (which blew strong) and pulling down intermediate houses, than by water. It is afflicting to view the wretched and miserable inhabitants who have lost their all, and numbers of reputable shop-keepers that are reduced to beggary, and many in want for their families of the necessaries of life. The fire broke out in sundry places nearly at the same time, but was first discovered at Whitehall stairs, and has burnt the whole body of the buildings that lies between George street and Broad street, as high up as the City Hall, and. all the buildings on the north of Fort George, lying between the North River and Great George street, as far up as King' s College, excepting a few houses and St˙ Paul' s Church; and almost all the houses on the church estate, with Trinity Church, are totally consumed. It really seems the conflagration was directed against the interest of the church. The ship-docks, warehouses, and the commercial part of the city is as yet safe, and every measure pursued by General Robertson, commanding officer in New-York, assisted by myself, to establish such regulations and police as may ensure its future security. I was at Flatbush, at Mr˙ Axtell' s, four miles from the city, for the recovery of my health and strength, when this dreadful event befell this devoted city.

As this country is in the present period too much convulsed for the civil Government to act with any good effect, it is the opinion of both his Majesty' s Commissioners for restoring peace to the Colonies, that I should postpone any executive acts of Government, until the Province is more liberated from the control of the Rebels. I therefore have kept the executive powers of civil Government dormant, leaving every thing to the direction of the military; never ceasing, however, to throw every information I can procure to the General and Admiral, as it may concern them, and to exhort and recommend to the inhabitants the proper line for their duty and interest.

General Oliver De Lancey, under General Howe' s orders, is endeavouring to raise a brigade of fifteen hundred men for the defence of Long-Island, and Major Rogers a corps of Provincials for the war generally.

The two New-York companies, under the Captains Campbell and Grant, have acquitted themselves in action so honourably as to obtain the General' s thanks, transmitted to them in publick orders.

I am, with all possible respect, my Lord, your Lordship' s most obedient and most humble servant,


To Lord George Germain.