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.
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."
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.
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.
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.