Skip to comments.D.C.’s darkest day, a war that no one remembers
Posted on 08/24/2014 8:55:41 AM PDT by Pharmboy
On Aug. 24, 1814, the British started a fire and ultimately kindled a capitals future.
The day began like so many days in Washington, with a painfully long meeting marked by confusion, misinformation and indecision.
The British were coming. They were on the march in the general direction of Washington. The precise target of the invaders remained unclear, but their intentions were surely malign.
James Madison, the fourth president of these young United States, had raced to a private home near the Navy Yard for an emergency war council with top generals and members of his Cabinet. The secretary of war, John Armstrong conspicuously late for the meeting had argued in recent days that the British would not possibly attack Washington, because it was too unimportant, with just 8,000 inhabitants and a few grandiose government buildings scattered at a great distance from one another.
They certainly will not come here. What the devil will they do here? No! No! Baltimore is the place, sir. That is of so much more consequence, Armstrong had declared.
The British had landed five days earlier near the head of navigable waters on the Patuxent River, southeast of Washington. There were about 4,500 of them hardened fighters fresh from the Napoleonic wars.
The American forces called out to meet the invaders and defend the capital numbered about 5,500, but most were local militia farmers and tradesmen with minimal training.
snip...the Enemy was most definitely headed straight for Bladensburg, a town just six miles northeast of the Capitol. This provoked a convulsion of activity. Generals prepared to dash to the field of battle. Madison decided he should go, too. Someone handed him two pistols that he strapped around his waist.
The gunslinging 5-foot-4-inch president galloped on the pike toward Bladensburg.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
I posted this because it has some great stuff in it and the 1812 dust up has been called the Second American Revolution.
And finally, just the word picture of 5'4" President Madison strapping two flintlock pistols on and riding off to meet the enemy was too good not to share.
Really DC’s darkest day was Jan 20, 2009.
Did Sec. Hagel have a grandfather named Armstrong?
You make a good point.
Not surprised that the Washington Post fails to tell their readers about the act of God that drove the invaders from the city.
weren’t people shorter in those days generally?
I am proudly sharing a website my teen son (homeschooled) created as his end of term 10th grade American history project. He had to choose en event that changed the history of America and he chose the Battle of Ft McHenry and the writing of the SSB. We both learned a lot about the War of 1812. He was especially fascinated with how the Brits ate the President’s dinner before they burned the White House
Now THAT’S funny.
It is interesting that another severe storm struck Baltimore during the British siege of Ft McHenry
Yes they were...perhaps 3-4 inches shorter on average. General Washington, at 6’ 2.5” towered above all.
I thought “the Dawn’s Early Light” by Walter Lord was pretty good at telling what a close call young America had.
PBS recently ran an overview of the War of 1812, calling it “America’s first invasion”. It was an interesting program and told me a few things I hadn’t known. I DVR’d it and intend to watch it again.
5'4" and 100 lbs.! But Dolly stayed at the WH saving documents and Geo. Washington's portrait. She was the last to leave.
Not all of them. Washington was over 6' tall. Madison was the shortest President, but also the brainiest.
Enjoyable reading! Thanks for posting it.
Jefferson was also about 6’2” and I have read that his father was very large and powerful.
Read a comtemporary British Revolution era writer commenting on the over-mountain men in the southern colonies and how many were six footers. I reckon they ate a high protein/meat diet.
I scanned the article and saw no mention of the hurricane. I think that even Wikipedia includes the hurricane.
hunters over grazers
Yes, Ulysses S. Grant was only 5’8”.
Storms blew in. The fiercest, on the afternoon of the 25th, has been described as a tornado or hurricane, and it might have been a derecho, for it ripped off the roofs of houses and helped squelch the fires in the city.
It is mentioned. Since the wind was so great, they speculate that it was a derecho.
Really DCs darkest day was Jan 20, 2009.
Indeed..darker than Oprah’s ass.
LOL, just read the same comment at the source. Wasn’t signed in to “like” it, so...
Speaking of the Brits and the burning of the White House, here is something interesting:
Back in 1998, while in the USAF, I was with a group of senior UK military officers, all flag rank (Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, and British Army—the Brit Army guy was in the same unit that burned the White House).
We were on an after-hours White House West Wing tour given by a friend of mine—one of Bore Gores military assistants.
We were walking down one of the hallways when my friend received a radio call via his ear-piece. He stopped, acknowledged the call and then quickly ushered all of us into the nearest room, a closet. We found ourselves jammed inside the closet among folding tables and a bunch of chairs.
We were in the dark (literally), and asked what the heck was going on. We were shushed and told to be quiet. Wow. Maybe a terrorist attack, an attack on the White House. . .what?
We soon heard a bunch of footsteps outside the closet, some muffled voices and the voices and footfalls faded away.
My friend received an all clear call and were we allowed to depart the closet.
What just happened, we all asked. . .rightfully concerned that we were.
My friend replied that it was The Beast (Hillary).
She was walking from one part of the West Wing to another and she NEVER wants to see ANYONE when she is going from one office to another. So, when the Beast goes on the move the Secret Service calls everyone and clears the route.
So, that is why seven flag officers from our closest ally were jammed in a closet. . .because The Beast didn’t want to see anyone.
The Beast, The Queen Hillary. . .all warm and fuzzy that she is. . .and some people wonder why she simply cant get rid of the arrogant, pompous, arrogant, mean, bitter, and did I say arrogant, ice-queen image.
Should always remember to read all the posts b4 replying. THANKS!
I can totally believe it and I can see Michele doing it too, if she had any imagination
Things were also pretty dark in D.C. after Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968.
I watched from the Virginia side of the Potomac as D.C. neighborhoods burned & stores were looted. A pall of smoke hung over the city.
Did I mention that Washington D.C. was & is majority black? The Federal District there has become a virtual fortress since the late sixties’.
Escape from New York becomes Escape from DC. . .same type of lawlessness and brutality.
The eye-opener for me of what went down in The Battle of New Orleans was the fairly recent book, “Patriotic Fire” by Winston Groom. Andrew Jackson sent the remains of the Commander of the British Forces back to England, pickled, in a barrel. That dude had come here, fresh from flamboyant victories over Napoleon, to pay back the upstart uncouth “americans” for their pesky “revolution”. The book would lead one to believe that Andrew Jackson single-handedly, finally and emphatically made the American Revolution stick.
Www.history.navy.mill /library/online/burning washington. Has a number of contemporary reports by various British and American officers on the battle.
The British claim 8to9 thousand US troops in opposition which I don’t believe.
The details of the Navy Yard losses are real interesting. The wood for a 74; the new sloop Argus and the almost finished frigate Columbia were burned along with smaller vessels; two hundred cannons and a tremendous amount of other supplies.
One of the officers writes of his home being looted by other city residents-——kinda like what would happen now.
ever seen this?
kind of interesting
My bad,......... So much for my “scanning” abilities.
After reading and thinking of the times that Washington was “miraculously” not shot during the war, I am overwhelmed with a love for that time when America was blessed by God and deep mourning that we are witnessing His judgment.
Thanks so much for posting—a great addition to this thread.
Was there some request or protocol or something for Pakenham’s body to be returned to England? Or was sending him back in a pickling barrel a sign of contempt? If so, I find that to be revolting behavior and it would certainly knock my opinion of Jackson down several pegs.
Indeed. Sorry, I missed it. But still, I think it has been downgraded to a storm of high winds as opposed to the so-called “Hurricane of Providence”. It sent the Redcoats running for dear life.
How dare you insult Herself The Flying Buttress!
If Laura Bush were walking down that WH hallway, she would have stopped, shook hands with our distinguished British guests, and welcomed them to America.
Michelle Obama, can’t say one way or another.
In the tv series revolution it appeared that putting an officers body in a barrel with pickling fluid was how officer’ s bodies were returned to England. Regular soldiers bodies were buried in America.
In the late summer of 1780, General Charles Cornwallis, the British southern commander, gained a strong upper hand following the battle of Camden, which left the patriots in tatters. As Cornwallis marched towards the Waxhaws, a yearlong battle of attrition began. After a small engagement near Waxhaw, Jackson and his remaining brother, Robert, hid in the house of their relative, Thomas Crawford. British dragoons discovered the twothus beginning a nearly fatal chapter of Jackson's life. Upon discovering the two Jackson boys, the British detachment began to destroy the house, tearing apart furniture and breaking windows.
The prisoners cowered in the living room until the British commander ordered Andrew to clean the mud from the soldiers' boots. Jackson refused, replying, "Sir, I am a prisoner of war and claim to be treated as such." In an angry response, the soldier raised his sword and swung at the boy's head. Jackson managed to deflect part of the blow with his left hand, but he received a serious gash on his hand and another on his headtwo scars of British ire that Jackson would bear for the rest of his life. When Robert also refused to clean the boots, he was sent staggering across the room by a blow from the officer's sword.
Jackson was 13 years old in 1780. Read more about his RevWar history at the link above.
The very sovereignty of the U.S. was at stake. We were attacked by a foe which had been defeated on battlefields located in our country just thirty or so years earlier.
Despite the destruction of our property by these invaders, they were driven off and our sovereignty was preserved.
Much as in the Revolutionary War, the Americans understood what was so eloquently stated by General Patton in more recent times; "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
That seemed to be SOP for a commander killed in battle. The Brits did that to their own Lorn nelson, if memory serves. The ordinary soldiers and sailors were left to rot, or were buried at sea.
A badge of honor, I think. The Brits did that with their own Lord Nelson. (just conjecture here) I imagine that sending the commander back "pickled" was a way of making sure that he had not deserted and to settle all insurance claims. The ordinary blokes were left to lay where they died, or were buried at sea. After Lord Nelson was returned to England in a barrel he received a full state funeral.
I don’t mean to besmirch the character of Old Hickory any more than has been done down through the years, but from my bad memory of just that one book, I believe it was his own idea. And further, the man’s wife was actually onboard the ship. I think she had come along to enjoy the slapping down of the pesky and uncouth Americans. Keep in mind that Old Hickory bore the scar on his face from a British officers saber, going back to his youth. When the Brits showed up in their ships, Jackson said, “they will not sleep one night on American soil!”
In the very good book "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose, about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it was recorded by Lewis that the men ate about seven or eight pounds of meat per day (if it was available). They did perform very hard labor, poling the boats. I cannot see how a person could possibly eat that much.
Far more destruction than the British ever dreamed of doing.