When Britain Burned the White House
A 200th anniversary tribute chronicles the burning of a fledgling America's capital through the anthem-inspiring Battle of Fort McHenry, documenting the near-escape of the First Family while sharing eyewitness perspectives by forefront figures on both sides of the conflict.
In August 1814, the United States army was defeated just outside Washington, D.C., by the world’s greatest military power. President James Madison and his wife had just enough time to flee the White House before the British invaders entered. British troops stopped to feast on the meal still sitting on the Madisons’ dining-room table before setting the White House on fire. The extent of the destruction was massive; finished in wood rather than marble, everything inside the mansion was combustible. Only the outer stone walls would withstand the fire.
The tide of the War of 1812 would quickly turn, however. Less than a month later, American troops would stand victorious at the Battle of Fort McHenry. Poet Francis Scott Key, struck by the sight of the American flag waving over Fort McHenry, jotted down the beginnings of a poem that would be set to music and become the U.S. national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
In his compelling narrative style, Peter Snow recounts the fast-changing fortunes of that summer’s extraordinary confrontations. Drawing from a wealth of material, including eyewitness accounts, Snow describes the colorful personalities on both sides of those spectacular events: including the beleaguered President James Madison and First Lady Dolley, American heroes such as Joshua Barney and Sam Smith, and flawed military leaders like Army Chief William Winder and War Secretary John Armstrong. On the British side, Snow re-creates the fiery Admiral George Cockburn, the cautious but immensely popular Major General Robert Ross, and sharp-eyed diarists James Scott and George Gleig.
When Britain Burned the White House highlights this unparalleled moment in British and American history, the courageous, successful defense of Fort McHenry and the American triumph that would follow, and America’s and Britain’s decision to never again fight each other.
Chronicles the burning of Washington, DC at the hands of the British during the War of 1812, documenting the escape of the first family and the Battle of Fort McHenry.
the 1814 invasion of Washington
The great little Madison : 17 August
Into the Patuxent : 18-19 August
A black floating mass of smoke : 20-22 August
Not till I see Mr. Madison safe : 23 August
Be it so, we will proceed : 24 August, morning
Bladensburg : a fine scamper : 24 August, afternoon
Barney's last stand : 24 August, afternoon
Save that painting! : 24 August, evening
The barbarous purpose : 24 August, evening
The dreadful majesty of the flames : 24 August, night
Damn you! You shan't stay in my house : 25 August
Into the Potomac : 26-27 August
A tempest of dissatisfaction : 28-29 August
Do not attack Baltimore! : End of August
Is my wife alive and well? : End of august
The star-shaped fort and its banner : 1-11 September
Many heads will be broken tonight : 12 September
The Battle of North Point : 12 September
The rockets' red glare : 13 September
You go on at your peril : 13 September
Unparalleled in history
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