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Offline Asid

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Evacuation Day 25th November
« on: November 25, 2015, 04:59:12 PM »

Revolutionary War re-enactors celebrate Evacuation Day in lower Manhattan.

 Today is a holiday, too. Evacuation Day, once far more popular than Thanksgiving in New York, celebrated with parades, speeches and fireworks, commemorates Nov. 25, 1783, and the troops who reclaimed the city that day from the British Empire.

New York was the last piece of the original 13 colonies surrendered by the British, who had held it since shortly after the Declaration of Independence in 1776, leaving only when the Treaty of Paris was finally signed.

That occupation had not been kind to the city. Gen. Henry Clinton, the city’s commandant for four years, wanted “to gain the hearts and subdue the minds of America,” but his aide-de-camp, Lord Francis Rawdon, wrote of giving “free liberty to the soldiers to ravage at will” so that “these infatuated wretches” would understand “what a calamity war is.”

Rawdon’s view prevailed. British officers let their troops rape, murder and steal, while entertaining themselves with banquets, balls and “drunken orgies.” Food and firewood were hoarded for the troops; fires destroyed much of the city’s housing stock, leaving thousands in tent cities with no effective sanitation and setting off epidemics of cholera.

Worst of all were conditions in the rotting British prison ships, where thousands of American prisoners-of-war were kept. Some 11,500 died in all — more than the sum of all Americans killed on the battlefield throughout the Revolution.

Survivors were described as “mere walking skeletons . . . overrun with lice from head to foot.” (Today, those who died there are remembered with a monument in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park.)

Few hearts or minds were won over. But peace almost accomplished for the British what six years of fighting had not. Encamped up in Newburgh, it had taken all of Washington’s authority to keep his disgruntled, unpaid officers from marching on Congress to demand their money.



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