The burning of the White House, as seen by the Irish and British

October 24, 2013

Americans may have forgotten the War of 1812, one joke goes, but the British never knew it was fought in the first place.

HANDOUT IMAGE: ROSTREVOR, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 18, 2013: Francis de Courcy Hamilton, a descendant of Ross, inspects a painting of General Ross displayed during the Ross conference in Rostrevor. (Photo by Noel Moan / Mac Public Relations) ONE TIME USE ONLY, NO SALES
Francis de Courcy Hamilton, a descendant of General Robert Ross, inspects a painting of Ross displayed during the Ross conference in Rostrevor. (Photo by Noel Moan / Mac Public Relations)

Here’s our story on the burning of the White House and the Capitol by British General Robert Ross in 1814, as seen from the British and Irish perspective during a conference last weekend in Northern Ireland.

Organizers in Rostrevor had to overcome far more than the war’s obscurity to stage the conference and resurrect Ross’s memory.

Bitter religious divides and decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles had left Ross a forgotten figure in his own home town and the monument to his memory overgrown by brush and marred by graffiti.

Organizers of the conference took pains to make clear they were not celebrating Ross’s capture of Washington, but rather bringing a often forgotten story back to life.

Three weeks after capturing Washington, Ross was killed during the British attack on Baltimore, a stunning reversal would inspire the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

 

Steve Vogel is a reporter for the national staff of The Washington Post who covers the federal government and frequently writes about the military and veterans.
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