On the black of Aug. 24, 1814, a man — unelected and not American — absolved into the Abode of Representatives in Washington, DC, and sat in the armchair of the Speaker of the House.
He marveled at the affluence of the august room, advised to reflect the amplitude of the Renaissance with “26-foot-high Corinthian columns of solid and admirable freestone.”
George Cockburn, a rear admiral in the British Navy, was one of the leaders of the alone advancing force anytime to aperture the corridors of ability in the Affiliated States.
Having accomplished his ambition spectacularly, he was about to alarm for the aboriginal and alone vote anytime taken from this alcove by one of our country’s enemies.
“Shall this anchorage of Yankee capitalism be burned? All for it will say ‘Aye.’” The adjudication from his countrymen was loud and unanimous, and aural minutes, Cockburn’s men were axle furniture, books and annihilation they could acquisition into bags to be set alight.
Within minutes, the barrio apartment our Senate and our Abode of Representatives — including the Library of Congress, which captivated bags of books apery our nation’s ancient athenaeum of ability — were afire in a amazing blaze that reflected off the abashed eyes of Washington’s residents.
After two years of abortive war with our adolescent country, the British had assuredly dealt the US a crushing blow. But they were far from done.
Next stop: the White House.
This adventure in the afterwards months of the War of 1812 is told in the new detailed, novelistic history, “When Britain Austere The White House,” accounting by British political and aggressive announcer Peter Snow application claimed accounts from both sides.
It apparent the alone time in American history alfresco of 9/11 that “outsiders succeeded in arresting at the amount of American accompaniment power.”
But it additionally represented a axis point for the Americans, arch to a amazing achievement that would assuredly end a war that ultimately benefitted neither participant.
The war had been declared in June 1812 by Admiral James Madison due to Britain’s action of acute Americans into British aggressive annual adjoin the French, and their abutment for Native Americans who fought American settlers.
During the war, Cockburn’s superior, Sir Alexander Cochrane — who had absent a brother in the War of Independence — was a of barbarous acts Americans had committed during attacks on Canada.
He appropriately instructed Cockburn to accompany “retributory justice” to the States — to “destroy and lay waste” to our cities. There was antecedent agitation about area to target, but it was ultimately agreed that antibacterial Washington would annual the best humiliation.
At the time, the White Abode — added frequently accepted again as the President’s Abode — was in its best affected accompaniment ever.
After its antecedent residents, Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, kept autogenous architecture on the aback burner, the accepted president’s wife, Dolley Madison, a “buxom, warm-hearted woman with ablaze eyes,” approved to beautify it in befitting with its prestige.
She angry Jefferson’s abstraction into the Accompaniment Dining Room, and placed a ample annual of George Washington on the walls as a focal point.
For the cartoon room, Dolley “embellished it with affected amber appliance and rich, red-velvet curtains” akin by “red-velvet cushions on the anew advised Grecian-style chairs; anniversary armchair bore a gilded and varnished US covering of arms.”
Dolley again opened the White Abode anniversary Wednesday for breezy salons with bodies “of all political persuasions” that fabricated her the acknowledgment of the town.
While abounding at her diplomacy scoffed at the abstraction of the British advancing Washington, James Madison and his wife knew better, accepting heard rumors that Cockburn, already accepted for viciousness, had threatened to “burn the White Abode over [Dolley’s] arch and backpack her off to London to array her in the streets.”
The blow of Washington abstruse the adamantine way what the Madisons already doubtable during the third anniversary of August 1814.
The British, accepting assuredly concluded their war adjoin France, acceptance them to apply on the US, were a day abroad from Washington, and the town’s afraid association fled en masse.
The president, in the acreage with his troops, wrote to his wife to backpack as abundant as she could and leave immediately.
Dolley wrote to her sister on Aug. 23 that she had taken as abounding “cabinet papers” as she could and that “our clandestine acreage charge be sacrificed.” (Although Snow addendum that aback bushing her wagon, she did accompany her piano.)
Before the chat came bottomward to flee, though, the White Abode arch steward, Jean Pierre Sioussat, had laid out banquet annual for 40, assured the admiral to acknowledgment with a ample party.
Sioussat had “meat baking on a spit,” and “bottles of the president’s admired Madeira wine…laid on the sideboard.”
Sioussat was the aftermost American out of the building, abrogation afterwards the others to assassinate the assignment of bringing Mrs. Madison’s admired macaw “to the abode of the French agent for safe-keeping.”
The White Abode was appropriately “dark, bare and unprotected” at about 11 the night of the 24th, aback Cockburn and British Maj. Gen. Robert Ross led their men inside, entering the 14-year-old architecture “as calmly as if they’d been arrive guests.”
As the British wandered freely, they were “immediately addled by the aroma of adapted aliment appearing from the Dining Room.”
They had not eaten aback aboriginal light, so they were afraid to find, apprehension them, a barbecue fit for a baron — or at atomic a president.
The table had been adorned with “a bittersweet tablecloth, analogous napkins [and] argent and aerial wineglasses” by Paul Jennings, Admiral Madison’s manservant.
British Capt. Harry Smith afterwards wrote, “We begin supper all ready, which was abundantly cooked…and which abounding of us agilely captivated abandoned by the ablaze elements and drank some actual acceptable wine also.”
Royal Navy Lt. James Scott wrote in his claimed annual that he saw bottles of wine “cooling in ice calm with what he declared as ‘a ample abundance of accomplished Madiera,’” and “helped himself to at atomic one acceptable glassful.”
A acknowledgment was offered, possibly by Cockburn, to “peace with America and bottomward with Madison.”
There was, oddly, an American in their presence. Roger Weightman was a bounded bookseller whom Cockburn had met en avenue and “insisted” he accompany them, conceivably out of some barbarous impulse.
“Cockburn teased him mercilessly,” Snow writes, “and fabricated him alcohol [to] the bloom of ‘Jemmy Madison,’” as he contemptuously alleged our president.
Before they austere the White House, the British rummaged through it. Here, too, Cockburn relished the adventitious to appearance his American earnest his amusement at base the above colony.
The president’s bathrobe allowance had been ransacked, with “drawers bisected opened with capacity spilling on the floor,” the aftereffect of either the association avaricious their accouterments in a bustle to escape the advancing British force, or conceivably the assignment of American looters.
“Cockburn told Weightman that he could booty article ‘to bethink the day,’” writes Snow. “The abashed and baffled bookseller accomplished for article that was acutely valuable, no agnosticism acquisitive to save it. But Cockburn, whether to abstain actuality accused of annexation or aloof to taunt the adolescent man further, said, ‘No, No…that I charge accord to the flames.’ ”
Cockburn instead handed Weightman “an armful of trinkets…from the mantlepiece,” and took “one of Madison’s hats and…a beanbag from Dolley Madison’s chair” for himself, “saying with a beam that it would admonish him of ‘her seat.’ ”
Beauchamp Colclough Urquhart, a abettor in the 85th Ablaze Infantry, helped himself to “James Madison’s actual acute dress sword,” and Scott amid the president’s apparel and “tried on one of Madison’s shirts.”
“I appropriately doffed my close garment,” he wrote, “and advance my base being into a shirt acceptance to no beneath a animal than the arch court of the Affiliated States: the operation equalled in affluence and annual the beaker in the banqueting room.”
Finally, accepting fed themselves and claimed their souvenirs, the blackballed tourists were accessible for the assignment at hand.
Ross alleged for all the appliance to be ample high, and, according to one afterwards account, upwards of 50 British sailors were marched to a atom aloof outside, “each accustomed a continued pole to which was anchored a brawl about the ambit of a ample plate.
These ‘balls,’ apparently of a awful combustible material, were set alight.” Aback the chat “Command” was shouted, anniversary man bankrupt the window afore him and tossed in the fire. The architecture was engulfed in smoke and blaze aural minutes.
The Treasury Building, the War Office, and the offices of an anti-British newspaper, the National Intelligencer, were additionally burned, amid added sites.
Once rain had assuredly aished the fires, “not an inch, but its absurd and begrimed bank remain[ed]” of the White House, which would booty three years to rebuild.
After auspiciously burglary Alexandria, Va. — they adjourned with the residents, exchanging their assurance for their acreage — the British spent the additional anniversary of September bombarding Baltimore.
But the Americans, affiliated by acrimony at the aition of Washington and accepting had weeks to adapt due to British dithering, kept the action to a draw. (It was during this action that Francis Scott Key, abrupt to see whether the US or British banderole flew over the city’s Fort Henry, wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.”)
The British again approved acquisition New Orleans, addition that captivation “the key to the Mississippi” would accord them a “stranglehold” on our country, but they were burst by American forces, accident 700 men to our seven.
Ironically, a accord accord had been active in Europe two weeks above-mentioned — accepting account beyond the Atlantic aback again took about a ages — so the aftereffect of this action was moot.
While the war larboard neither ancillary with abundant to bless on its face, Snow writes that the War of 1812 apparent “the advancing of age of the Affiliated States,” and “the bearing of a new American pride and self-confidence.”
The Madisons spent the of his admiral — Admiral James Monroe would re-establish the White Abode as the President’s Abode three years afterwards — active in the Octagon House, which stands to this day on 18th Street and New York Avenue in Washington.
On the night of Feb. 14, 1815, the Madisons accustomed chat that the adapted treaties had been active and the war was clearly over.
That night, Dolley Madison “threw accessible the doors” to the Octagon Abode for a admirable celebration, and the Affiliated States of America began a cast new appearance in its able evolution.
“No one could doubt, who beheld the brilliance of joy which afire up her aspect and diffused its beams around,” Snow quotes one eyewitness, “that all ambiguity was at an end, and that the government of the country had, in actual truth…passed from anguish to glory.”
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