Washington Burns

The invading British burned the public buildings of Washington 202 years ago today.

On August 24, 1814, as the War of 1812 raged on, invading British troops marched into Washington and set fire to the U.S. Capitol, the President’s Mansion, and other local landmarks. The ensuring fire reduced all but one of the capital city’s major public buildings to smoking rubble, and only a torrential rainstorm saved the Capitol from complete destruction. The blaze particularly devastated the Capitol’s Senate wing, the oldest part of the building, which was honeycombed with vulnerable wooden floors and housed the valuable but combustible collection of books and manuscripts of the Library of Congress, then located in the Capitol building. Heat from the intense fire reduced the Senate chamber’s marble columns to lime, leaving the room, in one description, “a most magnificent ruin.”

Source: U.S. Senate Art & History

After 26 hours in Washington, the British moved toward Baltimore, where they met with resistance and the Star-spangled banner still waved.