Jessica, the mule, seemed to be the only one in the parade without a cause and maybe wished she were back under a shade tree rather than walking along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the Treasury in heavy, hot noontime traffic.

It was called "Conflagration Day" by the Citizens Committee to Save Rhodes Tavern.

The tavern, on the corner of 15th and F streets and the oldest commercial building to remain between the Capitol and the White House, is being threatened by the wrecking ball to make way for a mall-hotel complex.

It was on this August day 164 years ago that Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn led his British troops up Pennsylvania Avenue on the back of a mule and laid claim to the city while setting fire to the president's house, the Capitol and the Treasury.

To watch his handiwork, Cockburn sat by a window in Rhodes Tavern to eat roast chicken prepared by Mrs. Suter the innkeeper, blew out the candles and said he preferred to eat by the light of the burning buildings.

Robert Gair, looking splendid, dressed as the admiral in his 1814 period costume, authentic right down to the watch fob, was anxious to start his parade as he waited for Jessica to be delivered.

If D.C. police Sgt. B. N. Price had been around in 1814 things might have been different as he confronted the sword-carrying Gair and demanded to see his parade permit.

Things calmed down when the mule arrived. Gair went to Steve Brown, dressed as Gen. Ross and ordered, 'General, would you form the troops," and Brown yelled, "Company assemble."

Gair mounted the mule as four pipers from the Denny Dunipace Pipe Band fell in line and began to play "Scotland, the Brave."

Jessica, for perhaps the first time in her life exposed to the thin wail of pipes, turned her head all the way back to stare in wonder, but seemed to get with it when they swung into "Amazing Grace."

The police car moved out slowly with Jessica following.

Next came the general, who was out of step with his one red-coated soldier carrying a British flag lent by the embassy.

Several "tavern wenches," also in period costume, followed. Two of them were about to get their first peek at Rhodes Tavern.

Bringing up the rear were about two dozen supporters of the cause, carrying signs saying "Save Rhodes Tavern."

At the tavern, Gair dismounted, walked to the door, went inside and hung the British flag from an upper window, shouting, "God Save the King and Rhodes Tavern."

The group went to the roof garden of the Washington Hotel and ate the same meal as Cockburn and his gang.

Jessica, patient as ever, took a last look at the pipers and Gair and then seemed eager to be led off to her trailer to wonder all the way back to her grazing grounds.