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by Peter Moskos

September 27, 2009

Terrorist Plot to Destroy New York City

Some desperate [terrorists] decided to [destroy American cities]. The idea was to ... team up with disaffected [locals] to wreak havoc. For New York City the plans were particularly grandiose. [Terrorists] would infiltrate the country from Canada, make their way to the metropolis, and set off fires around town.
[Terrorists] would revenge the [destruction of their land] by ravaging [America], beginning with gay, rich, and carefree New York City. They would start by incinerating the opulent symbols of the city’s wealth, its glittering hotels. With luck, and a good wind, they might burn New York to the ground.

On the night of November 25, the conspirators set their fires in thirteen major hotels, chiefly along Broadway, including the Astor House, the Metropolitan, and the St. Nicholas... For good measure, the [terrorists] kindled would-be conflagrations in Barnum’s Museum, Niblo’s Theater, the Winter Garden, and assorted Hudson River docks, lumberyards, stores, and factories, before making good their escape to Canada.

As blazes broke out all along Broadway, terrified crowds poured in the street. Police wagons and fire engines fought their way through dense crowds of people screaming, “Find the rebels! Hang them from a lamppost! Burn them at the stake!”
As you can tell, I’ve selectively changed a few words from this passage. The “terrorists” were not crazy Muslims but Confederates agents. This wasn't last week but 1864. Despite extensive property damage, the fires were extinguished and the city didn’t burn down.

A year later, just one conspirator, Robert Kennedy, was caught, tried as a spy, and hanged. The other conspirators escaped justice. I had never heard of this plot to destroy New York. It goes to show that modern-day terrorism is not just some new-fangled Islamic invention.

The passage is from pages 902 and 903 of Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace’s excellent (and pre-2001) Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. This book is shocking long (I don't think I've ever been on page 900 of a book before) and amazingly good.

1 comment:

ChristMotForbud said...

Not long (relatively) after what you report, nearly 89 years ago to the day from now, there was another terrorist attack in New York.

An ancient "car bomb" (horse and buggy) was exploded on Wall Street:
(Photos in article too.)
40 people died, 300 others injured.

To me, at least, all this does smack of philosophies, "values," and "root causes." Although I readily admit that "root causes" can be like pin the tail on the donkey. Greed is one such easily identified "root cause" although in my efforts I don't call it one as such.

In my uncovering of root causes, greed is but one component of a larger "root cause."

Terrorism probably goes back as far as people picking up rocks to bang them over others. But, to me at least, it sure is obvious that people's philosophies guide them in to predictable actions. But I also 100% agree that one can't just take the label(s) people apply to themselves and use that as an acid test as to how they will act.

Each religion/philosophy has variations within it, as well as people who mingle with them solely to blend in and not because they are adherents.