Burning of Washington
© HistoryMaps

Burning of Washington

War of 1812

Burning of Washington
Burning of White House, 1814 ©HistoryMaps
1814 Aug 25

Burning of Washington

Washington, D.C.

The Burning of Washington was a British invasion of Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, during the Chesapeake campaign of the War of 1812. It was the only time since the American Revolutionary War that a foreign power has captured and occupied the capital of the United States. Following the defeat of an American force at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, a British army led by Major-General Robert Ross marched on Washington City. That night, his forces set fire to multiple government and military buildings, including the Presidential Mansion and the United States Capitol.[46]


The attack was in part a retaliation for prior American actions in British-held Upper Canada, in which U.S. forces had burned and looted York the previous year and had then burnt large portions of Port Dover.[47] Less than four days after the attack began, a heavy thunderstorm—possibly a hurricane—and a tornado extinguished the fires and caused further destruction. The British occupation of Washington lasted for roughly 26 hours.[48]


President James Madison, along with his administration and several military officials, evacuated and were able to find refuge for the night in Brookeville, a small town in Montgomery County, Maryland; President Madison spent the night in the house of Caleb Bentley, a Quaker who lived and worked in Brookeville. Bentley's house, known today as the Madison House, still exists. Following the storm, the British returned to their ships, many of which required repairs due to the storm.

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