Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Burning of Washington DC 200 -- August 24, 2014

Angered by the Americans burning provincial capital York, Ontario in 1813, the British captured Washington, DC in August, 1814.  On the night of 24-August-1812, they burned the White House and the Capitol. 

From Centennial History of the City of Washington, D. C., 1892, edited by Harvey W. Crew.

There was a 6.something earthquake in Napa this morning.  It woke me up at 03:21am in Pacifica. 

In the evening of August 24, 1814, "the British army, commanded jointly by General Ross and Admiral Cockburn, reached Capitol Hill, flushed and excited by their victory at Bladensburg. As General Ross rode toward the Capitol, his horse was killed by a shot fired from a house in the vicinity. The shot was apparently aimed at the British general, and it so enraged the troops that, after setting fire to the house containing the sharpshooter, they marched quickly to the Capitol, and fired several volleys into its windows. A regiment then marched into the hall of the House of Representatives, the drums and fifes playing 'The British Grenadiers,' and the soldiers were formed around the Speaker's chair. Admiral Cockburn was escorted to the post of honor, and, seating himself, derisively called the excited assemblage to order. 'Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned? All for it say, Aye!' he shouted. There was a tumultuous cry of affirmation, and then the order was given to burn the building. The pitch-pine boards were torn from the passageway between the wings; the books and papers of the Library of Congress were pulled from their shelves and scattered over the floor; valuable paintings in a room adjoining the Senate chamber were cut from their frames, and the torch applied to the combustible mass. Presently clouds of smoke and columns of fire ascended from the Capitol, and it seemed doomed to destruction. The soldiers discharged army rockets through the roof of each wing, and when the fire was burning furiously, left the building and marched up Pennsylvania Avenue to fire the other public edifices. The wooden passageway and the roofs and exterior of the wings were burned, but the walls were saved, as the flames were extinguished in time by a severe rain, which set in within half an hour after the fire had begun, and continued all the evening."

After the British invasion, Congress held its first session in Blodgett's Hotel, which occupied the site of the present post office building. Afterward, while the Capitol was being rebuilt, Congress assembled in a building erected for the purpose by the patriotic citizens of Washington, near the eastern grounds of the Capitol. Here it held its session for several years. The building has always been known as the "Old Capitol Building." At the time of the burning of the Capitol, Mr. Latrobe was in Pittsburgh, engaged in the construction of a steamboat for Robert Fulton; but he was immediately recalled to Washington to superintend the reconstruction of the Capitol, which, after a thorough examination, he reported as capable of easy restoration, the foundations and walls remaining for the most part unimpaired. To him is due the credit of the old hall of the House of Representatives, now the national statuary hall; the old Senate chamber, now the hall of the Supreme Court; the Law Library, and the old lobbies. He remained in charge until 1817, when he resigned and was succeeded by Mr. Charles Bulfinch, who was entrusted with the further prosecution of the work with the understanding that the Capitol should be completed according to the designs of Mr. Latrobe.

No comments: