The Burning of the American Capital
|On August 22, 1814, about 4,500 British troops were in southern Maryland, only sixteen miles from Washington. They landed from ships that avoided the well-defended Potomac by sailing up the Patuxent River instead. To avenge the American raid on its Canadian capital, the British army and navy had come to pay a return call on the capital of the United States. Once the British captured Washington, enemy troops set about destroying the public buildings. Fires in the Capitol began to be set just after nine in the evening. The Supreme Court was heavily damaged but its Doric columns stood—weakened but straight. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, troops continued their trouble making. Around 11 o’clock in the evening, the President’s House was burned. The torch was put to the War and Treasury departments the next morning. Two row houses built by George Washington were deliberately set on fire. Three and a half weeks after British troops
left, Congress returned to witness firsthand the extent of damage.