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By Peter Snow

In August 1814, the us military was once defeated simply outdoors Washington, D.C., via the world's maximum army energy. President James Madison and his spouse had simply enough time to escape the White residence prior to the British invaders entered. British troops stopped to dinner party at the meal nonetheless sitting at the Madisons' dining-room desk earlier than environment the White condo on fireplace. the level of the destruction used to be sizeable; comprehensive in wooden instead of marble, every thing contained in the mansion was once flamable. simply the outer stone partitions could stand up to the fire.

The tide of the battle of 1812 could quick flip, even though. below a month later, American troops may stand successful on the conflict of fortress McHenry. Poet Francis Scott Key, struck via the sight of the yankee flag waving over castle McHenry, jotted down the beginnings of a poem that might be set to track and develop into the U.S. nationwide anthem, "The celebrity Spangled Banner."

In his compelling narrative variety, Peter Snow recounts the fast-changing fortunes of that summer's striking confrontations. Drawing from a wealth of fabric, together with eyewitness debts, Snow describes the colourful personalities on either side of these astounding occasions: together with the beleaguered President James Madison and primary girl Dolley, American heroes comparable to Joshua Barney and Sam Smith, and improper army leaders like military leader William Winder and battle Secretary John Armstrong. at the British aspect, Snow re-creates the fiery Admiral George Cockburn, the wary yet immensely well known significant normal Robert Ross, and sharp-eyed diarists James Scott and George Gleig.

When Britain Burned the White House highlights this remarkable second in British and American historical past, the brave, profitable protection of castle McHenry and the yankee triumph that may stick to, and America's and Britain's determination to by no means back struggle every one other.

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All this enemy job in Alexandria and the spectre of one other assault on Washington from this alarming new enemy strength prompted consternation within the capital. Anna Maria Thornton, who had stayed within the urban along with her redoubtable husband, wrote in her diary that there has been ‘a common alarm within the urban because it is predicted the fleet will arise, and the sailors be set free to plunder and destroy’. Margaret Bayard Smith got here again along with her relations at the Sunday afternoon, 28 August. She used to be completely satisfied to discover their residence precisely as they’d left it. however the information that the British have been supporting themselves to ships and provides in Alexandria used to be deeply unsettling. ‘What may be our destiny, i do know no longer. The voters who remained are actually relocating out, and all look extra alarmed than before…’ Smith, who was once additionally slightly a poet and novelist, sometimes we could her feelings hold her away: ‘Oh that I, a feeble girl, might do anything! … Rome used to be decreased nonetheless decrease by means of the Goths of outdated than we are … might a Roman spirit animate our people…’ She had not anything yet contempt for John Armstrong, the struggle Secretary: ‘Universal execration follows Armstrong, who it really is believed by no means wanted to safeguard town, and that i was once guaranteed that had he undergone town the day after the engagement, he may were torn to items. ’ She acknowledged town used to be beset with rumours: ‘we recognize now not what to think and scarcely what to pray. we're decided even if now not back to surrender the home, yet to run all hazards right here, as we discover the enemy no longer so ferocious as we expected…’ President Madison, who had lower back within the wish that the worst of the challenge was once over, was once having moment options. at the Saturday morning he’d written to Dolley suggesting she should still go back. studies the subsequent morning that castle Washington had fallen made Madison swap his brain. ‘Should the citadel were taken,’ he wrote to her at the Sunday, ‘the British ships can be capable of throw the town back into alarm … it is going to be right for you to stay on your current quarters. ’ convinced that this could retain her secure and sound good clear of Washington, Madison then set approximately attempting to regain a few type of grip on his completely disorganised management. It wasn’t simply in disarray; it used to be deeply discredited and resented. most folk have been now blaming him and his cupboard for the humiliation of Bladensburg and the burning of Washington. The Federalist competition, lots of whom had adversarial the battle from the beginning, heaped contempt on Madison and his executive. Maryland Senator Robert Henry Goldsborough acknowledged that Washington ‘once very beautiful … is the dreadful monument of an unlucky and ill-timed conflict, and the unerring facts of a vulnerable, incompetent and disgraced administration’. Newspapers, by no means at a loss for vibrant language, poured out a torrent of invective opposed to the country’s leaders. The best competition newspaper, the Federal Republican, accused Madison’s entire cupboard of being ‘completely panic struck’. The Portsmouth Oracle known as it ‘an imbecile administration’.

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