The Washington Post

Congressional Cemetery race commemorates the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington

(Library of Congress/Thinkstock/Express Illustration)

The Brits burned Washington on Aug. 24, 1814. The one good thing about that: The 200th anniversary falls on a Sunday, perfect timing for Congressional Cemetery to hold its Flee the British 5K. Race participants will be led by noted portrait-rescuer Dolley Madison (in a golf cart) with redcoats in hot pursuit — or, at least, somewhere behind the runners. “I promised them they’d just have to ramble,” says cemetery program director Lauren Maloy. Stick around after the 8 a.m. race for a free tour, which will note the connection between the Southeast D.C. landmark and some key War of 1812 figures.

Dolley Madison
President James Madison’s wife, best known for spiriting away that George Washington portrait and other treasures from the White House in 1814, died penniless. Her body ended up in Congressional Cemetery’s public vault — meant for short stays of a day or two — for more than two years until a proper burial could be arranged.

Thomas Tingey
To prevent the British from capturing the Navy Yard, this captain ordered that the Americans torch the place themselves. Buried near him in Congressional Cemetery — in an unmarked grave — is Mordecai Booth, the guy who actually carried out the order. (Some say Tingey’s ghost still hangs out at the Navy Yard today.)

William Thornton
Not far from Tingey and Booth lie the remains of this multitalented doctor. He won the contest to design the exterior of the U.S. Capitol, and went on to design the Octagon House in Foggy Bottom. Arguably Thornton’s greatest contribution to America, though, came in 1814 when he persuaded the Brits not to burn down the Patent Office, saving irreplaceable models inside.

Stephen Pleasonton
Most people have never heard of this government clerk, buried near the family vaults. When Pleasonton learned the British were coming, he stuffed the Declaration of Independence and other key documents into bags, and fled toward Georgetown. When he decided that wasn’t safe enough, he rode on horseback through the night to bring them to Leesburg, Va.

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Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.



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Diana D'Abruzzo · August 21, 2014