The burning of
the War of 1812
America's victory over the British during the Revolutionary War created a new republic and also
created the need for a permanent capital.
Although "conceived" in 1790, Washington was not born (meaning the presence of buildings and
residents) until 1800. And because George Washington "Was first in war, first in peace, and first
in the hearts of his countrymen" the city was named in his honor and located on the Potomac
River very near his estate at Mount Vernon. The quote is from the funeral oration for Washington
presented by General Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee.
In 1812, partially as an attempt to regain their lost colonies, the British invaded America for the
second time. The war was waged throughout the country and during August 1814 the invaders
captured the capital and immediately began to set the city ablaze.
For the sole purpose of humiliating young America, the U.S Capitol, the White House, the Navy
Yard (founded by President Thomas Jefferson and the first such federal facility in the country),
and many other public buildings were shamelessly and utterly destroyed. The citizens of the city
—and of the nation—were devastated by the large-scale and wanton destruction.
During the days and weeks following the ravaging of the city there were many spirited
conversations among congressmen regarding Washington's safety and its future as the country's
There were many members of congress who felt that Washington was in a very vulnerable
location, only 35 miles (40 kilometers) from the Chesapeake Bay. Consequently, some serious
proposals were made to relocate the nation's capital to somewhere in Ohio or some other place in
the Midwest where it would not be accessible to an amphibious attack.
However, as time progressed, the government resolved to remain on the banks of the Potomac
and like the Phoenix bird of Egyptian mythology, the capital city rose from its ashes to soar again.
Thus, as "terrorists," the British Army failed miserably in its mission to rob America of its