Two centuries before White House Down and its disturbing images of a burning presidential mansion and exploding Capitol dome, the White House and Capitol actually were burned, along with virtually every federal building in Washington.

The destruction of federal Washington after its capture by the British on Aug. 24, 1814 was no Hollywood fantasy, but historic reality.

In a piece for Outlook June 30, I took aim at five myths about the burning of Washington.

As a wannabe Secret Service agent, John Cale (Channing Tatum) leaps into action to protect the president in “White House Down.” (Reiner Bajo)


Among them are the ones that the White House got its name after it was painted white to cover scorch marks, that a storm saved Washington from further destruction by dousing flames, and that the repulse of the British at Baltimore three weeks later proves that Baltimoreans are tougher than Washingtonians.

Take a look and add your comments here.