THE MAN WHO TRIED TO BURN NEW YORK by Nat Brandt

THE MAN WHO TRIED TO BURN NEW YORK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A documentary history of a little noted Confederate plot (the Northwest Conspiracy) to burn down some of New York's finest hotels in an effort to create havoc for long enough to take over the city government to help put its great financial possibilities to work for the Southern cause. Brandt, a former editor of American Heritage Magazine and Publishers Weekly, started out researching for a 1964 magazine article. His book tells the story of Robert Cobb Kennedy, the leader of the conspirators, against the background of pre-war Louisiana, West Point, and the Civil War as a whole. Kennedy, a West Point drop-out and an escapee from a Union prison, had gotten involved in the scheme from a Confederate base in Canada. From here, he led a group of men to New York, where they picked up 144 vials of phosphorus. These were to be emptied onto the beds of several hotel rooms each by the men who were pre-booked there in pseudonymous names, starting at 8:00 P.M. on the night of November 25, 1864. The fires caused a ruckus in Lower Manhattan, but the plot itself fizzled out, causing the men to run for their lives back to Canada. Eventually, Kennedy was captured and became the last Confederate soldier executed in the Civil War, only 15 days before Lee's surrender. The book is both nostalgic for Civil War buffs and timely in its hint of relevance in our terrorist age. Brandt does a thorough job of research.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 1583483462
Publisher: Syracuse Univ. Press