A fire broke out in New York on September 21, 1776. The "Great Fire of New York," as it was later called, burned down nearly 1/3 of the city. It appeared that the fire started in several different places, so New York City residents immediately suspected arson.
British soldiers and Loyalists accused the American Revolutionaries of starting the fire to kill British soldiers and destroy British property. British General William Howe accused Patriots, and Governor William Tryon believed General George Washington had orchestrated the fire.
Patriots disagreed with this assessment and denied starting the blaze. They, in fact, placed the blame on the British. The Patriots claimed that the British wanted an excuse to plunder the possessions of New York City residents; the fire gave them the excuse they needed to do so.