Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Burning of Washington is the name given to the burning of Washington, D.C., by British forces in 1814, during the War of 1812. Strict discipline and the British commander's orders to burn only public buildings are credited with preserving most residences, and as a result the facilities of the U.S. government, including the White House, were largely destroyed. The attack was in retaliation for the U.S. invasion of York, Upper Canada (now Toronto, Ontario, Canada), at the Battle of York in 1813, in which U.S. forces looted and burned the city, including the Parliament Buildings of Upper Canada.
Only the exterior walls remained, and they had to be torn down and mostly reconstructed due to weakening from the fire and subsequent exposure to the elements, except for portions of the south wall. A legend emerged that during the rebuilding of the structure white paint was applied to mask the burn damage it had suffered, giving the building its namesake hue. This is unfounded as the building had been painted white since its construction in 1798. Of the numerous spoils taken from the White House when it was ransacked by British troops, only two have been recovered — a painting of George Washington, rescued by then-first lady Dolley Madison, and a jewelry box returned to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 by a Canadian man who said his grandfather had taken it from Washington. Most of the spoils were lost when a convoy of British ships led by HMS Fantome sank en route to Halifax off Prospect during a storm on the night of November 24, 1814.
The thick sandstone walls of the White House survived, although scarred with smoke and scorch marks. Reconstruction of the Capitol did not begin until 1815, and it was completed in 1864. Of Britain's four objectives in its retaliatory invasion of the United States—Lake Champlain, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.—this was the only successful attack. The British had successfully diverted the attention of Washington away from the war and prevented further American incursions into Canada, and had landed a humiliating blow to the Americans. The attack was not as demoralizing as Cockburn intended, but it did contribute to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent next year.
Posted by bushganizer258 at 8:03 AM