The Washington Post

War of 1812: Taking the city of Washington

A PBS documentary that aired Monday night, “The War of 1812,” has history buffs seeking out clues to the 199-year-old conflict.

In the documentary, we learn that the primary countries involved in the war have very different interpretations of it: The Canadians remember it fondly; the British hardly; and the United States only for the bombs bursting in air.

Spurred on by the interest in the war, and as a decided amateur in the historical field, I turned to the vast archives of the Library of Congress to ferret out more information. I came across this wood engraving titled, “The taking of the city of Washington in America.”


(Library of Congress)

The caption reads: “The City of Washington Capital of the United States of America was taken by the British forces under Major Gen. Ross on Aug. 24th 1814 when we burnt and destroyed their Dock Yard with a Frigate and a Sloop of War, Rope Walk, Arsenal, Senate House, President’s Palace, War Office, Treasury and the Great Bridge. With the Flotilla the public property destroyed amounted to thirty Millions of Dollars.ar Office, Treasury and the Great Bridge.”

It’s a bit more sedate around these here parts nowadays.

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