Tours, open houses and family events celebrate the War of 1812

We just celebrated the 150th anniversary of Washington's only Civil War battle, and now we're approaching the 200th anniversary of an even more important and disastrous local event: The burning of Washington by British troops during the War of 1812.

Congressional Cemetery
War of 1812 heroes General Jacob Brown, General Alexander Macomb, Jr., and Commodore John Rodgers are buried at Congressional Cemetery. Their graves will be featured on a special War of 1812 tour. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

The Battle of Bladensburg and the subsequent destruction of the White House and the Capitol will be commemorated during the weekend of August 22-24, with the unveiling of a memorial in Bladensburg, a reenactment of the battle on the banks of the Anacostia, 5K races and live music. But the cities of Washington, Alexandria, Bladensburg and Annapolis are getting a head start on the festivities this weekend, with open houses, tours and family friendly events dubbed "Muster the Militias."

Walking tours

Congressional Cemetery is the resting place of a number of people who served during the War of 1812, including Commodore John Rodgers, who commanded ships at sea and troops on land during the Battle of Baltimore; U.S. Attorney General William Pinkney, who was wounded while leading a company at Bladensburg; and Choctaw general Push-Ma-Ta-Ha, who fought with Andrew Jackson. On Saturday, the cemetery will offer free hour-long tours of graves related to the conflict, beginning at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Dumbarton House, where Dolley Madison went after evacuating the White House, will be open for tours, and the museum sponsors a special walking tour of War of 1812 sites in Georgetown. The tour, which takes two hours, leaves from Dumbarton House's garden (27th and Q streets NW) at 10 a.m., and costs $15.

The War of 1812 Walking Tour in Annapolis covers sites on Naval Academy grounds, the Maryland State House, and buildings throughout the historic downtown. It takes two hours, and leaves from the Annapolis Visitors Center on West Street, near Church Circle. The tour costs $18 for adults, and $12 for children ages 3 to 11. Because it covers the academy grounds, everyone 18 and older must have a photo ID.

After burning Washington, British troops occupied Alexandria for several days. Free tours, offered every half hour from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, visit important sites. Tours leave from Old Town's Market Square and are led by local Boy Scouts.

Free museums

Some of D.C.'s War of 1812-related buildings will be open with no admission charge and special themed exhibit tours, including the Decatur House (10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday) , Dumbarton House (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) and the Octagon Museum (noon-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).

In Alexandria, Gadsby's Tavern, the Carlyle House, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and the Lyceum will be open for free on Saturday. Gadsby's Tavern will have 19th-century dancing, while the Lyceum shows off a new exhibit developed by the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

Historic sites open for free admission and guided tours in P.G. County include the Darnall's Chance House Museum in Upper Marlboro and the Riversdale House Museum in Riverdale Park.

With the kids

Valerie Tripp has written numerous books for the American Girl series, including the stories of Felicity, Kit and Molly. She is speaking at a special Children's Tea at Dumbarton House on Sunday afternoon, featuring tea, lemonade and cookies. After Tripp speaks, children can meet her, get books and dolls signed, and make a 19th-century craft. Advance tickets are $10 for both children and adults.

Sunday is family day at Gadsby's Tavern, with tours led by junior docents (in grades 4 through 7) 1 to 4 p.m., followed by boat-building activities. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children aged 5 to 12.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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