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Washington Burned


WASHINGTON BURNED. During the War of 1812, the capture and burning of Washington, D.C., authorized by Admiral Alexander Cochrane and executed by British forces under the command of Major General Robert Ross and Rear Admiral George Cockburn, was meant to demoralize the government and to punish Americans for their depredations in Canada.

On 24 August, seasoned British regulars quickly routed the raw, poorly organized, and badly led militia opposing them at Bladensburg, Maryland, near Washington. That evening, without encountering further opposition, the invaders took possession of Washington. News of the British approach had thrown the city into chaos, and many of the city's inhabitants had fled.

That night a detachment of British troops, headed by Ross and Cockburn, began their work of destruction by burning the Capitol, the White House, and the Treasury. Temporarily interrupted by a great thunderstorm, they renewed their incendiary activities the following morning and by noon had reduced to ruins the buildings housing the departments of state and war; some private dwellings; two ropewalks; a tavern; several printing establishments, including the office of the National Intelligencer; and such naval structures and supplies as the Americans had not themselves destroyed.


Coles, Henry L. The War of 1812. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Pitch, Anthony. The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1998.

Ray W.Irwin/a. r.

See alsoArchitecture ; Capitals ; Capitol at Washington ; Ghent, Treaty of ; Niagara Campaigns ; Thames, Battle of the ; Treasury, Department of the ; War of 1812 ; Washington, D.C. ; White House .

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