tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 3, 2014 12:46am-3:01am EDT
might be up on what we could call the northern border and essentially that did not happen. they did harm the economy significantly but they were not really successful in bringing american troops from the northern border. >> this will be the last response. >> yeah, our historian counterparts up in canada believed that what happened here in the chesapeake was just a sideshow and that the main action happened up )=[eñ canada which is certainly a point of view and they were fighting for their survival to the canadians it was the great patriotic;( ñ . and for the most part, they're correct that in 1813 it was just raids around the chesapeake bay with the intent of trying to get armstrongqhke to move troops to for the defense of the capitol. but i would argue that when ross landed with his 4,000 troops and disobeyed orders and went ahead and attacked washington, and you capture the capitol of a foreign
country, that that's more than just a raid, that it's a significant moment in international history and so i severely disagree with my canadian counterparts that what happened here was a very important moment in both british and american history. >> i've even had canadians say they got the white house. >> let's do this. so that's the last question and want to give everyone 30 seconds to close up and -- >> geez. >> so sum up the war of 1812 in 30 seconds and i don't want the audience to forget they will be around, there will be book signings. you don't want to miss that opportunity. doctor, please start us off. >> 30 seconds. i did an analysis of raids, skirmishes and battles of war of the 1812. province of ontario and state of maryland tied on the numbers and virginia came in third. i find that very interesting.
so the chesapeake theater had more raids, skirmishes and battles than any other theater during the war of 1812 to canada needs to start thinking about that. and i'd like to just end on a little bit of a positive note. the war according to the treaty 8x gent, you can say, is not won by either side. so what's the big deal? why are we celebrating it? i would try to summarize it very quickly that historians refer to the era after 1812 as the era of good feeling. people had a new, profound sense of patriotism and confidence in the country they did not have before. this country could have gone downhill but after the war the country came uphill and think about the icons of history and the spar spangled banner, the flag, the anthem. don't give up the ship. old hickory. et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. >> thank you. >> the british can really draw
from the war and most of them thought was futile and boring and just some ridiculous sideshow is that we inspired the american national anthem. just very briefly, after talking about books, we have books we can sign for you, sell to give you here or we got a little tent down the road and discuss and give you a book and so on and so forth and writing the book in ten seconds, i knew nothing -- i did know we burned the white house five years ago until i was writing a smith that diverted, on his way home after the appeal of the french in the peninsula. on the way home and told to go to america. off he goes to america, i said to my publisher, this guy wept to america. he said, that's interesting. he went and beat theb8ñ america in the battle of bladensburg. what, said the editor. yes. and then had dinner on the table at white house and burnt the place down. my publisher said, write the
book at once. >> steve, please. >> really briefly. looking at the legacy of the day, we have to remember that after the burning of the white house and the capitol, this is very precarious moment in american history. we sometimes think everything was fore daned to turn out the way it did and we were really on the brink at moment and when francis scott key three weeks later up in baltimore writing about whether he's seeing the flag flying over fort mchenry, he is not just wondering about the flag. he is wondering more about baltimore, whether baltimore will survive and beyond that whether the republic will survive. that verse he writes, the first verse ends with a question mark for a reason, this was a real turning point, i think in american history. >> thank you, steve. mr. george? >> yeah. well, from my point of view, i gave a talk a couple of years ago at the george washington house, the indian queen tavern, and one of the points that i
made was that this was the only time that the capitol of the united states has be3; attacke before 9/11. so it, again, it is a very significant moment in history and i think it provides a real lesson on military preparedness. the governments of jefferson and madison were reluctant to have a big standing army and relied on the militia and you can see directly here what happened at bladensburg that the militia for the most part ran except for the u.s. marines and the navy flotilla and this shows you why you need a standing army and i would say that this is what now makes the united states probably the primary military nation in the world because of the strength -- >> i think that's a good point
we'll have more on the war of 1812 and the burning of washington wednesday afternoon at a symposium hosted by the white house historical association and the u.s. capitol historical society. live coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. here are some highlights for this coming weekend. friday, live at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span, nebraska supreme court will hear oral argument on the keystone excel pipeline. saturday 6:30 p.m., former fcc commissioners. with campaign 2014 gearing up, watch the latest debates on c-span. sunday at noon, debates between democratic senator kay hagen and republican opponent tom till lis and from the california governor's race, incouple bent brown and nominee cashcari. friday night at 8:00, c-span2,
john yoo shares his opinion of international law and the behavior of powerful nations. saturday on book tv's after words, mike gonzalez and how he gains for the hispanic vote at va eastern and then your phone calls with the former chair of the u.s. commission on civil rights, mary francis berry. friday night 8:00 eastern on c-span3, authors and historians talk about the burning of washington during the war of 1812. saturday on real america, the building of the hoover dam and sunday night at 8:00, the anniversary of the president gerald ford's pardon of richard nixon. find our television schedule at c-span.org. call us at 202-626-3400. send us a tweet. or you can e-mail us. join the c-span conversation, like us on facebook. follow us on twitter.rñh8÷ historian anthony pitch is
the author of "the burning of washington" about the events of august 24th, 1814 when british troops burned the white house, the capitol and other government buildings during the war of 1812. he recently spoke at an event hosted by the smith sown i don't know associates. this is an hour and 15 minutes. >> good evening. we are coming up on the 200th anniversary of the burning of washington, the actual day is sunday, august 24th. will be the 200th anniversary. and when we were talking about how we would mark, waen'ted to commemorate this anniversary a glorious moment in our we thought who best to speak to us about it, the unanimous decision for anthony pitch. for those members for a long time, he's certainly no stranger to you. he's been giving lectures and tours about the lincoln assassination based on his book
"they shot papa dead." restaurant tasting tours in adam morgan and lectures and tours on this topic based on "the burning of washington." and you will also notice this evening that there are c-span cameras around. v broadcasting those of you who are watching on c-span will be no stranger to anthony pitch. many of his lectures and programs have been broadcast for them before. we're lucky to have him tonight. ladies and gentlemen, mr. anthony pitch. n÷ >> thank you veepjz much for coming. just put that down. it's raining outside and so i'm very flad to see a lot of people here tonight. i want to tell you that a few years ago i escorted somebody
into the white house, and his name was major ed ross, the same name major general robert ross who burnt the white house. he was a descendant. and he wanted to see the scorch marks that i told him were there. they are under the front door and there's a big stone archway where you can see massive scorch marks from the fires set by the british in 1814. and#@ñ the pastry chef who has offices close by couldn't stop giggling. he thought here's a man who's come to finish the job. i like to write stories that are epic, true and sad. people ask me why don't you write something funny? i can't. i really like to write epic stories. vietnam was one and then i wrote the burningxvm[y of washington
is certainly a roler coaster of a story, the president escapes. the city is in flames. the national anthem comes out of it. and you have andrew jackson's victory at new orleans. all in the same campaign. and when my book was reviewed by account the times literary supplement" in london the reviewer said, he described what happened here as an amusing little incident. well, he was parading his ignorance because he didn't realize that the british suffered their greatest defeat in the long annuls of the valiant history of military conflict. at the hands of americans. had that happened before the peace treaty was signed, i think we might have controlled canada today. but winston churchill described this as not a war of
independence. he denied it was a war of independence. now, who am i to argue with that great man? but fortunately, he's not with us today so i can challenge him. if your ships are boarded on the high seas bay enemy and they force bring haul off sailors, then if you don't do anything, you are surrendering your sovereignty. it's an affront to the dignity and sovereignty of a nation and that's why i call it without question a war of independence. so now let me tell you what washington was like in 1814. it was a gawky village, a mere embryo of what it aspired to be. there were only 8,000 residents of 1/6 were slaves and the attorney general described it as a meager village with a few bad houses and extensive swamps.
and to british diplomat called the hole. when the same diplomat saw the president in stockings greeting foreign diplomats he wrote down to his mother, dearest ma, luckily for me i have been in turkey and write at home in this simplicity of manners. that was the best quote i '6jxg. so why would they want to target this village that had no strategic value at all? they wanted to humiliate and demoralize the americans. and if they could seize the capital during wartime it might even lead to them to the break-up of the united states. the commander of the british commander of forces in north america wanted to give the americans what he called a complete dropping. and this was in part payback for american excesses in canada. where they burned and planted some of the public and private buildings most recently in york
and now called toronto and in the villages on the niagara frontier. the countries have been at war for years because britain and france had been at war for years with each side targeting the other trade with neutral america and this meant boarding american ships and banning american ships from each other's ports under certain conditions. in addition, thousands of british troops desserted to the american merchant marine for better pay and conditions and many of them took out citizenship. in a six-year period, leading up to 1810, the british hold up about 5,000 sailors from american ships. about 1,300 of these were later found to have been born in america. so, for years, americans have tolerated this until 1811 and a new breed was elected to congress. men like henry clay of kentucky and john c. calhoun of south
carolina, both of whom had been born after the declaration of independence. so what was tollerible for the olderñh@ generation was insufferable for the new generation, the younger generation. war for them was the only answer and the man that led the crusade against war was representative john randolph of roanoke.7c" he argued, how can you take up arms against a people who share the same language, same blood, same religion, habeus kor put, representative government and he said the works of shakespeare and newton. call hun was not going to have any of this. he didn't share randolph's attachment to the former colonial power. he replied great indeed must be the reason for going to war if so much had bound us together in the past and in the summer of 1812, a bitterly divided congress, as bitter as it was in the vietnam war, declared war on
britain. and for two years, it was a distant rumble on the canadian frontier. if you lived in washington and did not read the newspaper, you might not have known it. it was a war going on. but in 1814, napoleon fell and anxious american diplomats in america warned james madison's government to free up thousands of additional troops for the war against america. but the capital remained under defended and the principle reason none other than the secretary of war, john armstrong. he was within of those up time and time again. people who believe that their judgment is best for everybody else. even when reality to the contrary stares them in the face. he was one of them. he was a former minister to france, a major general and it was said of him that nature and habits forbid him to speak well of any man.
he was that kind of person. cock sure. stubborn. self assured. and when a fleet of british warships came up the chesapeake bay in summer of 1814, a frantic head of the d.c." militia, maj general john van mess went to see the secretary of war. he said they would not come without such a fleet without meaning to strike but they won't come here. what will they do? baltimore is the place. and so, you see, this is a lesson to be learned from the war of 1812. the attack on washington. if you put intelligence in the hands of one man or a small cod ri of people, you are asking for trouble because it doesn't have the analysis that a greater inspection would have by a
greater number of people. that is the lesson to be learned. i don't think it's been learned but that is the greatest lesson. armstrong was the most reviled man in the country afterwards. and he quit his job when the people tore off their ep lets and they refused to serve under him. he was dismissed with graffiti on the ruined capitol. describing him as a coward and he was the wrong person in the right job at the wrong place. and so, that was armstrong. now, he dismissed the major general in those words. he wasn't the kind of person who could see that they were going to attack baltimore. washington. even though their own president speculated that6"fñ they would attack baltimore, philadelphia or washington. so, the british sailed up the river and disembarked about 5,000 troops at benedict on the
19th of august, 1814. the path to the capitol was clear. the capitol itself was like tethered prey and as a british began the 50-mile march inland, fear in washington turned to terror and terror gave way to pandemonium. it was a hottest summer on memory. not rained in three weeks. dry and dusty roads were clogged meager possessions spilling over the sides of the carts and wagons. transport was more precious than jewelry and other washingtonians spread to the woods preferring pair doxically the security of the wild to the insecurity of their own homes. that's setting what it was like. and so, i dislike books that give a dry recitation of facts. that's not how it happened.
these were real people with our emotions, reacting to different circumstances. and this is what i tried to portray. what happened to the people involved. rather than a dry list of statistics. many of the government agencies remain staffed because most of the clerks were over 45 and therefore exempt from call-up into militia. but in the basement of the house of representatives, nearly all the offices were empty because most of the clerks were young ób people. only j.t. frost, a newcomer, remained at his desk. he was over 45 so in this moment of unparalleled crisis, a man of scant experience and weak authority is now burdened with the need to make rapid decisions of national importance. he was sorely in need of the guarding hand of patrick mcgruder, the clerk of the house, but he was ill for months and he'd finally taken his
doctor's advice to leave town at this very moment to try and help restore his health of mineral spas. that's how history operates around one man. and so, nobody was around to adviad advise poor frost on how or when to save the papers of the house from enemy vandals. i used this word vandals with care. it's denigrating the british but there is no other word that would fit what they did later. and so, there was a colleague of his called samuel burch. he tried hard to reason with the superiors and to remain at the desk but he, too, marched out of the city to meet the enemy. he was stood down three days before the british hoisted the union jack on capitol hill and when he went looking for transport the following day it was too late. most of the carts and wagons had
been grabbed by the military and the remainder were piled high with the goods of civilians in flight. ?ç to scour the countryside with transport. they came back in 1814 with one cart and four oxen. taken from the man who lived 6 miles out of town. loaded it up, turned the oxen around, drove nine miles into did countryside and depositived them in safety. and only to join the exodus as the british arrived at sunset, august 24th, 1814. frost frustrated beyond measure. papers of the house and even the vast contents of the library of congress if only they had been able to seize more transport. now, the library of congress in those days faced the western edge of the wall of the mall.
western edge of the capitol. overlooking the mall. and it was a large room, about 86 feet long with timbered ceilings so it went up like a tinderbox. all 3,000 books were destroyed. ironically, many of them were printed in britain and some of them were on british parliamentary procedure. you know about thomas jefferson offering and it was accepted his private library as a nucleus of a new library of congress 6, 487 and he said it will take about two weeks for the wagons to arrive in washington. they're so great. they had a fire in the middle of the 19th century but you can see what remains of them in curved bookcases at the library of congress and it's incredible. this man, this renaissance man, every subject you can think of is there. archaeology.
history. art. farming. it's all there in different languages. that was thomas jefferson. amazing. well, two days before the british arrived, the commandant ordered the navy clerk to get a hold of transport to take 124 barrels of gun powder out of the navy yard into the safety of virginia. booth settled up across into georgetown and saw a wagon outside a store. he rode up and told the two apparent owners he was impounding it for the department of navy. this is wartime. and so some citizens who might normally have buckled to bureaucratic pressure bustled chasing off government officials with abuse and profanities. this is exactly what happened to booth. in a vivid chronicle written two weeks after the departure of the british, he described what happened next. and it's got my fingerprints all over it at the national archives.
i dismounted and followed them into the store. where they made use of such language as was degrading to gentlemen. he didn't have any backup power. he didn't get the wagon. but booth was one of the last to free the city before the british arrived. and before he did so, he decided to check at the white house to see if anybody was there and to get reliable information. when he rode up, he saw an american colonel on horseback near the front door. the colonel dismounted, walked over to the locked front door of the white house, pulled hard on the bell rope and banged on the name of chief john the chief of the household staff but wrote booth all was as silent as a church and only then did he realize in his words, quote, the metropolis of the country was abandoned to his horrid fate. he represented america at that
moment. and then a note arrived at the sate department scribbled by secretary of state james monroe who was then on horseback spying on the british advance east of washington. he ordered his staff to secure as best they could the precious national documents in the departmental records. one of the clerks, stephen pleasanton, remember that name, stephen with a "ph" and pleasanton. this is one of the bravest men i'll talk about tonight. he and others but pleasanton described himself as chiefly instrumental in this. very gently put the originals believe it or not of the declaration of independence, the constitution, international treaties and george washington's correspondence into bags that he
had made up into book bags that were linen. whilst this is being done, none other than the secretary of war passed by and armstrong rebuked him for being alarmist and thinking the british were on the way to washington. pleasanton was intimidated. that's amazing. imagine. he stood up to the secretary of war and said it's more prudent to try and protect the documents of the revolutionary government so he loaded them on to carts, crossed the potomac river and drove two miles-7ñ upstream of georgetown where he put them in an abandoned mill but then he immediately had second thoughts. he was now opposite fox hole's foundry, the largest manufacturer of munitions in the country and certain to be targeted by the british. a spy or turncoat could leave an enemy to the nearby hiding place. so he went further into virginia. got some wagons, came back and loaded them up.
and he drove 35 miles west to leesburg, virginia. put them in an empty house. locked the door. and gave the key to the collector of internal revenue and then he checked into a hotel. that night, the residence of leesburg went into the streets and they could see the fiery glow over the burning city of washington. pleasanton was not amongst them. he was too tired and fast asleep. now, i know this happened because 39 years later, excuse me. i have a slight sinus problem. 39 years later, pleasanton thought that he was going to be -- he was going to lose his job because he3 department kno anybody and the incoming administration and in those days you had to know people. so, he wrote a letter to his eminent friend james buchanan
who became president just before lincoln and he outlined everything he had done, that memorable 24th of august, 1814, and he said, i could have been rewarded by thousands of pound sterling by the british if i'd given them the documents and i didn't. and the letter is in the papers in the library of congress. now, i was always upset by the condition of president's grave. i had been to congressional cemetery many times, about a mile behind the u.s. capitol. and it was at an angle and you couldn't read his name too well so i held a fund raising walk to restore the tombstone. and we walked from the capitol to the white house. as we passed the national archives, i was telling stories all the time from the war of 1812 and i said, if it were not for stephen pleasanton you probably would not be able to see those documents in the
national archives today. and of course, i raised the money and we got an expert and restored the tombstone. up right now and the man got the credit so long overdue. now, i want to tell you about a woman who was equally as brave safety of her own life. her name is dolly madison. she is without a doubt the most beloved first lady ever to live in the white house. jackie kennedy was admired but dolly was beloved and people said that when she wore her jewelry it was outshown by her personality. she was a marvelous woman. look how she risked her life or captivity to save a painting. none of us would do that. ikx-ez certainly wouldn't. but she did. and it's not surprising that people paid courtesy calls on
her until her death on lafayette square, new year's day in particular. courtesy calls from the president onwards down. what shelkqwe does was this. gilbert stewart's full length portrait of george washington hung in the west hall of the large dining room. it had been acquired by the federal government in 1800 for the white house at a cost of $800. and at that moment, two new yorkers, friends of herls, came in to the white house and they asked if they could do anything to help. this is jacob barker and according to a historian who interviewed them later, she said fall into the hands of the british. when she saw that her slave paul jennings was taking too long to unscrew the giant frame from the wall, she told him to break the
canvas. and fortunately at that moment, french john came in. it becomes murky. did]"aéñ french john tell jennio stop and with dolly's approval took out the knife and cut the fabric from its frame? 95 inches long, 59 3/4 inches wide. or, did dolly tell the slave to break it from the wood and take it out? we don't know for sure. but the conservators didn't find any cut marks on the canvas. and so, we're not quite sure. ÷ whatever happened, they gave it to barker one of the new yorkers who started to roll it up. until he was stopped by the frenchman. they put a flat in the wagon and drove through georgetown into the countryside and left wit a farmer they lodged with overnight and a few weeks
latter, they returned it to dolly. now, today, it hangs in the east room of the white house. when the president is giving a press conference there in the east room or he's awarding medals of honor, et cetera, you will see it behind his shoulders. and when my book came out, it was invited to lunch at the white house. they took me to rooms off limits. we passed through the map room, so-called because there's a map of europe over the mantlepiece and it3m=njuj the swastika symbols which plot the nazis advance in world war ii. there's a little medicine chest nearby about so big. and it's got holes for viles of medicine and you can pull out the drawers. in 1939, a canadian wrote to president roosevelt and his name was archibald canes.
and he said, my grandfather was a paymaster aboard the british warship "devastation" which came up the potomac river at that time and laid siege to alexandria and oversaw the raiding of the warehouses of agricultural produce. but i checked it up. thomas canes was the húqóepayma of the "devastation" but none of the crew set foot in washington. so either heñexchange d booty with another briton or archibald canes the canadian is mistaken as is the white house. well, we then went to see the portrait of george washington. they took away the rope that keeps you about 20 feet away and then for the first of countless times i saw the artist's amazing mistake. in the painting george washington is standing up facing
you. there is a table next to his right leg, under the table are some books and the title painted on one of the books)cb-qp"s "la and constitution of the united states" sates. can i believe it? gill birth stewart made a spelling mistake. extraordinary. well, when the british arrived on capitol hill, they confronte÷ by the twinm senate in the north, the south and covered wooden walkway. as they entered, theyw3fqz expe to find signs of republican simplicity. but instead, they found evidence of splendor. now, i go to town in this book on what the building was like because it wasn't a normal building. it was like those great cathedrals in medieval europe built with a lot of money and
the finest artisans. they want to glorify something capitol. it represented the hopes and aspirations of the young republic. and when it was restored, it would represent resilience and unity. now, of course, it's a beacon of democracy. but they saw this now created a colas sal. he was an architect, latrobe. there were no sculptors of note in america so latrobe looked to the land of don tell lo, davinci and finding two worthy tuscans, he hired them. they began to sculpt the columns and he exasperated latrobe with the slow pace and finishing the first one, latrobe exalted,
called him an artist of first-race excellence and the other, began modeling a bald eagle until he was stopped by latrobe for fear it didn't resemble the bird of prey and latrobe didn't want any criticism, least of all from congressmen from the western states who knew what the bird looked like. he wrote a letter to the philadelphia artist peel asking for a drawing of the head and claws of a bald eagle. when the stagecoach arrived with mail from philadelphia, latrobe was in for a surprise. he opened the package to find the perfect head and neck of a baldjw eagle. and a dra&c♪ and a coverleter followed saying shoot the bird of prey to look at the arrangement of the feathers. he set to with an obsessive passion. it was a sick man. wouldn't live a year beyond the departure of the british.
he pulled all the creative energy into this. if you have ever created anything, quilting, gardening, a book, anything, you know what i'm talking about. and when he had finished, latrobe marvelled. he called it the finest eagle in the history of sculpture. he said the wingspan of 12 feet and was hoisted high above the speaker's chair in the awesome hall of the house of representatives. but now sadly it would be destroyed. along with all the other works junior officers in the british army saying we don't mind destroying ordinances and ammunition and weapons and everything like that. but why artwork? well, they followed orders. and the british bonfires with furniture, they hacked at the window and door frames and spread the wood with the rockets. the flames were so great that
night that i have correspondence that you could see it in baltimore. you could even see it in the ships logs of british warships on the river 50 miles east. that's extraordinary. and so, that's what they did in the u.s. capitol. now, 100 soldiers and sailors, this's all, the rest of them remained on capitol hill at the headquarters. 100 soldiers and sailors in 2 orderly columns tramped down the broad, quiet of pennsylvania on their way to burn the white house. on either side of them were double rows of stately poplar trees planted by thomas jefferson. when one of the men started to talk, an officer shouted, silence. i'll shoot the first man who speaks. slaves scurried ahead warning the remaining residents to flee the city because the british had just -- were on the way to burn
the white house. excuse me while i just have a sip. when they got to the southeast corner of pennsylvania avenue and 15th street where the white house visitor center stands today in the department of commerce building, they ringed what was then a long low brick building, run as a boardinghouse by a widow. major general robert ross commanding the land forcesccx entered under the low door and began to tease the woman saying, madame, we have come to supper with you. he tried to steer them across the road but ross wouldn't have it. he said that he preferred the view of the government buildings from her boardinghouse and the frightened woman went into the back house to slaughter chickens for unwelcomed guests to return around midnight after burning the white house. the day begun with a seven-hour forced march from upper marlboro
through woods and dense thickets and brush to bladensburg and fought an hour-long battle and the heat so intense that 18 of their men dropped dead from heat exhaustion. then they marched 6 miles southwest to the capitol. burned the capitol and tramped almost a mile down pennsylvania avenue to where they were now. they were famished and thirsty but when they entered the white house, they found a table laid before 40 because dolly expecting the captains of the military leaders for dinner. admiral george coburn was the driving force behind the assault on washington. his superior major general robert ross had second thoughts and wanted to return and coburn forced him by the influence of his arguments to proceed. he said we have militia men ahead of us. that's nothing.
we have come so far. we have to continue. coburn had been recognized by none other than admiral who ratio national. coburn had been a sailor from the preteen years and nelson acknowledged coburn's ability and courage and zeal. and he was thought of so highly by the british admiralty that he was chosen to take the great napoleon into exile on the island and i got a hold of the diary and he said, this man napoleon sometimes wants to play the sovereign. i won't allow it. h[j the fiber of the man who grabbed an american, who was innocent, he grabbed him and took him into the white house as a british burned it. america. the man he selected was roger choo whiteman. he was a book seller recently
married and he would become a long-time mayor of the city of washington. a free wheeling mood. he taunted and mocked the madisons in the coarse lingo of a common sailor and tweaked the honor of whiteman. with mischievous relish. he said to whiteman, take a souvenir and whiteman looked for something that was valuable. and he said, oh no, that's being delivered to the flames. take something of useless value. monetary value. he took something that had no value at all and then copen said i'll take a souvenir for myself and selected a cushion and a bra which is a hat probably belonging to the president and the british drank, poured wine from dekanters into cut glass. they told us that the health of the prince regent and success of his majesty's land and naval forces and drank to peace with
america and down with madison. and when one of the men found the ceremonial hat belonging to the tip of his bayonet and he said, if they could not capture the little president, madison was only 5'4", they would parade his hat in england. that night they burned the white house and the treasury and the next morning, the state department and the rope walks and the last because of the content of rope and tar sent columns of choking black smoke over the city. the ruins were telling commentary on a scale of the city's b1@ñdegradation. now, that's the scene as they left the capitol. and now these flames, there's -- they came wednesday night. and on thursday, at 2:00 p.m., there was a two-hour storm that may have been a hurricane. it was so fierce itqj1 lifted
heavyweight cannons and things like feathers and dropped them at random. and it spread eagled horses and britons. they were terrified. locals had never seen anything like it. but it's mythological to say that storm extinguished the flames. i have correspondence from a number of sources that says the flames burned for several days after the storm. so now, you have this terrible sight but that's not the end of america's humiliation because washingtonians in this moment of catastrophe that did most of the looting, believe it or not. many waited for the streets to be empty, the houses to -- the military out of sight. now they were free to steal and run. no one was around to protect private property or enforce law and order.
poor jennings had been told by dolly's brother-in-law to go to 40th street to get his carriage. and from that vantage point that he his slave would later recollect a rabble taking advantage of the confusion ran the president's house. that's what they called the white house then and would steal lots of silver and whatever else they could run off with. souvenir hunting and isolated cases of robbery for which the thieves paid dearly at the hands of their own. time and again enemy commanders reassuring the remaining residents that the property would be safe so long as they didn't take up arms against the occupying forces. and these were not promises. they even accompanied a company to patrol pennsylvania avenue to protect personal property. they would perform with two
soggyehp trenches but even tho the men were wet, damp, tired and hungry, they were itching for payback for what had happened in washington. the general in charge of the british, major general robert ross, rode far ahead of the bulk of his troops and at breakfast he rashly predicted, tonight i'll sup in baltimore or hell. he never made it to baltimore. we don't know whether he made it to heaven over hell but a sniper's bullet tore through of his right arm and lodged in his chest and his body was taken in a cart over a bumpy road to the ships but by the time he got there demoralizing everybody along the route, he was dead. so they took his corpse aboard hms royal oak and in hogs head of2::m rum where he would swish sway in the dark spirit until his internment at halifax, nova
scotia. his successor colonel arthur overcome an inferior force of mostly militia men. meanwhile, british warships pounded fort mchenry between 1,400 and 1,800 shells each weighing over 200 pounds. if they could bludgeon the fortress into submission, baltimore was theirs and philadelphia was probably next. but even though there was no cover, and a pounding went on for a day and a night, nobody ran. nobody flinched. that's the extraordinary heroism of fort mchenry. now, the british had planned a combined naval and land attack in the dead of night. the naval force would create a faint passed fort mchenry drawing defenders away from the heavily2jñ fortified eastern hi so that the british infantry
would then be able to charge through and capture the city. commander sent a message to his land commander that he would not be able to help. he said his force could not penetrate the mouth of the where americans scuttled 24 ships behind which they waited with gun boats. and so, the land commander was devastated. into his diary he later groaned, in a moment all my hopes were blasted. if i took the place i should have been a greatest man in england. but if i failed, my military character was gone forever. the stakes were terribly high. incredibly high. there was a lady called phoebe morris in philadelphia which was next on the list probably. and she wrote to her father who
was the american minister to spain and she said, papa, we may have to swear allegiance to the british crown in three months. that's how high the stakes were. now, there was a hostage on board called francis scott key. he was a hostage this gaeway. when the british withdrew from 2jgkuáát)á$&m hours or 26 hours somewhere around there. their way back to the ships. they need not have feared but that was their fear and so they stayed very quickly. they left quickly. and they actually burned logs on capitol hill to make it appear that they were still there. and so, this is what they did to deceive the americans. now, some of them were captured, some stragglers. but one of them escaped and brought some british troops
back. they, in turn, captured a friend of francis scott key's. his name is dr. william beans and they took him away on board key got president madison's permission to board the british ships and plead for his friend's release. but when he boarded the ship, the british commander said, oh no, both of you now know our target. you know the strength of our forces. you know our morale. once we have captured baltimore, we'll release you. that was how francis scott key came to witness what happened next. at sunset, he had seen this gigantic flag flying over fort mchenry. what so proudly we held at the twilight's last gleaming. 24 feet by 42 feet and raised there over the fort by the fort's commander major george arm stead. and he was in active of
defiance. he was saying if you want baltimore, you first have to lower this flag. that's how key got to see what was happening and he paced the deck of his ship in the darkness hoping the explosions would continue because if there was silence, it might mean the fort capitulated but in the darkness before dawn there was a lull in the firing. and key didn't know whether it's a signaled submission by did fort or whether the british imposed a cease-fire. gradually the morning mist began to clear, oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light, and once more, and madeo stars and stripes still flying above the fort. never before had he looked with such reverence upon the symbol of his country. never before had the flag have such a sheen to the glory. in his ecstasy, there is no other word. in his ecstasy, he took a letter
out of his pocket and on the thoughts, anything that tumbled through his mind while the intense moment lasted. three days later, the british withdrew, they couldn't take it. they take it as a rebuke from the probably survivors. minor revisions, his poem was now publish and set to the tune of the popular song in those days. now, five days later, congress met in the undamaged office in washington at in the northwest and put the chairs and desks right up to the fireplace and the window sills, but they could not accommodate anybody, but there was one advantage. they didn't have to shout like they had to do in the previous
assembly where the acoustics were so bad, and they debated new york's motion that to move to capital from philadelphia elsewhere to save the cost of rebuilding the ruled city. imagine. the northerners;cíáed it at least 100 miles north closer to the canadian war front and to satisfy the creditors. the southerners dug in their heels. they said no. the original language establishing washington as the nation's capital described it as the permanent seat of government. to do anything else would be to frank the dignity of george washington who, himself, selected the site. it was approved, but when it was put into legislative form, it debate in which one of the congressmen from north carolina warned once you've set the seat
of government on wheels, there is no saying where it will stop. on christmas eve 1814 in belgium, the commissions from both countries met to sign the treaty of peace and am anymorety that would end this war. they went to bed that night having prayed this would be the last great war between the two great english speaking countries, but he -- it took a long time for word to cross the atlantic in those days, too late for armies squaring off at new orleans. andrewoe] jackson had assembled rag tag army of frontiersmen, roughians, pirates, and militiamen to put them behind
modern mud facing the mighty british army forge through centuries of warfare and later that year would include the down fall, and the british were impatient. they were led by the brother of nor by none other than the man who defeat eed napolean, the grt duke of wellington, and they should have waited until they took the flank across the mississippi river, but instead, they charged the front of the assault on the flat field. they had no cover and were c.r by the other frm the sharp shooters of tennessee. surprisingly, the american artillery was accurate, and as the day wore on, it was uniform british dead, battlefield sticky
with blood and heavy with corpses, and when it was all over, there were more than 2,000 british casualties. there were six american dead and seven american wounded. britain had never suffered such vñ military history. i think i did not speculate in the book but will now, i think had that battle been fought well in advance of the peace treaty, we might be running canada today. and so from that moment, you america regained pride and dignity and the second war of independence is really, truly over, and so is my speech.
i finished earlier than i thought, far earlier, and that means much more time for questions. please, i beg of you, limit them to the extent of my talk because my expertise is with washington and about and new orleans. the rest, it's a long war. i really am not at liberty to speak with any authority on the so may we have some questions? yes, the lady. would you mind, rebecca, because i'm -- my hearing aid has gone off. would you mind repeating that
question? >> the battle, why did the u.s. troops withdraw their ammunition from the top of the hill there? >> that's a very good question. i'll tell you something, there was a poem written after the battle that was fought at lunch time on the same day that the british arrived at sunset in washington, and the british rolled all over the americans. the poem made fun of the americansrh!4 running, it was denigrating those who fought to spare the americans. it's not fair. most of the people who ran and broke ranks were militiamen, not so well tr9 like regulars of
which thegú2citish army was the finest, seasoned in the peninsula wars with napolean. the americans who were trained, 114 marines, they fought as well as they got. they fought so gallantly, so gallantly, they took 10% casualties, 114 of them, and engaged in hand-to-hand combat when they ran out of ammunition, when they ran out of ammunition, so it's not fair to sayt4q they were terrified at the beginning of the british who just had been trained so well that they crushed a narrow bridge, and then they would go forward in lines, and if that line fell, the next line would proceed, and the americans and later in baltimore too, they were so impressed with this,
werekñ believe it.with this, that's how they had. trained. so it was inevitable that the british would succeed. in fact, before the battle began, the secretary of war and the general commanding american forces have pointed out the roots of the escape for the americans. you see, they knew it was going to be a walkover. it was. the british were so anxious to engage the battle, to engage the enemy that they rushed forward without thefjhñ approval of the british commander. he said, oh, if we only had this man -- forgot his name now -- he would teach these people who are so anxious to crossover and engage the enemy, teach them the y they were horrified to see this, and it was too late, the british were storming through, so it's
very, very unfair to blame the americans. those who fought, fought as we would expect. that's why there is a myth going around that the home at the marine barracks is saved. i didn't find anydálv to suppore theory that the british were so enn enamored, but that's a lasting myth in the modern age. i don't know whether that's tru& or not. >> thank you for the
presentation, andy. do you have details on the burning of the washington naval yard? >> of the naval yard? yes. the question was can i givec#ox background to the burning of the naval yard. this is a terrible story. none of us would want to go through what they went through that night. he had been told by the secretary of the navy that if the british succeeded and seemed to be within the boundaries of washington, he was to take preemptive action and burn the shipping, the ordnance supplies and everything else at the navy yard. this was a terrible decision to make, but they didn't want this to fall in the hands of the enemy, so he waited until the last minute. he sent his scouts out, and they came back with the news that, yes, the british had succeeded, and they were pouring into
washington. now they had a decision that horrified them. they laid gun powder into the building, the ordnance, into the shipping, and they set it alight. like pyrotechnics, and people there couldn't believe what they were doing, but they had to carry out orders, and this came from the top secretary of the navy, preemptive action, and that's what they did, and they watched these, built with the finest labor and taken so long to build the ships, and one or two saved, but there was a burning -- one was called mary hunter on pennsylvania avenue in her home,oq(ap and she was left her husband and children who went to safety, and he was going to come back and take -- and she
was amazed at the flames over the navy yard. felt like she was in the middle of it all, and she wrote a letter to her sister, the letter survived, the sister was in princetop, and she said, nobody awful sight that the eyes had to see and that our ears had to hear, and she was talking about the navy yard and the enemy on capital hill with the rockets and flying, and it must have been a terrible moment. >> thank you so much for the talk, fascinating. you eluded to the talk with the taking of al exandriaalexandria detachment of the british fleet with amazing treacherous sailing up the river and somehow managed to get away. can you comment on that, if you
would? >> what happened at alexandria? >> that's a good question. this follows up on the medicine chest. the british hoped the movement would succeed if they had the wh forces coming upgsx+ fro benedict, from the east, and a and would rival washington, and that would be it, but the naval force coming up the river was not there before and did not realize there were the cattle bottoms were large clusters where the holes were caught on the cattle buttons, and so to release the shipping trapped there, they had to lighten the ships so they would float away. that took time. a lot of the ships got caught,
and they came up the river, and they were -- the white house, then in place on the shores, three miles from the fort -- what was it called again? fort washington, that's right. it was commanded by captain dyson, a young man, and he held a conference with his people, and they said, i think we'd better surrender. we better leave the fort. so with the utter shock being fired, they retreated from the fort, left it to the british. the british couldn't believe the good luck. they just couldn't understand
this. they thought it was a trick, but they destroyed the fort. naturally, and at a moment when the flag should have been flying, it was in the darkness as the judge advocate general later said in the court marshal. dyson was convicted, kicked out of the military, and they didn't want anybody of that caliber. he said, what's the point of flying a flag if we're going to be overtaken anyway? it was the worst kind of commander that you wanted to turn out, and they took the fort and nothing between them in al exandrea and virginia. they sailed upstream, and they laid siege to alexandria. nour, just about everybody, alexandria had been called up and gone to other places.
they were too young or too old and could not defend the city so an allegation went to see and he spoke to them as if they were underlings. he demeaned them. he told them that they would be attacked and ransacked if they took action against the forces, but he told them that they were going to raid the warehouses of agricultural produce. he demanded su eed sunken ameri ships be raised by the americans. they said they could not do this. they did raid the warehouses. they did terrible damage, terrible damage thezsqo americ
brought people from baltimore, notably commodore john rogers, to harass the british as they descended away from alexandria, and they did a good job, but they literally ran out of r> were n, and they castigated in the press for this folly. that is, the people, the critics of the americans, and theyîb to away this vast agricultural produce from alexandria. one of two people did go -- americans -- they went on horse back into alexandria, captured a british sailor and had to release him. yanked him up by the collar and put him on a horse, but that was early action. they were too terrified, and dolly madison was terrified of this. she was horrified.
she said they should have blown up the city rather than to it. in a situation like that, you don't fly the white flag. you defend the place. you do not give it away. the british sailed away apart from the harassment, they got away, none of the ships are sunk. yes, sir?6aú!ñ( >> did the british try to pursue president madison after he left
the city? >> no. they did make that markingbm ÷ remark that they would capture the little president, this 5'4" man that would parade his hat in england if they couldn't capture him. they didn't pursue him. he escaped across the river in virginia agreeing to meet his wife at a tavern near great falls, and he was 63 years old, retiring man, brilliant, but he was described as like a school master just finished whipping his schoolboys, and now he was crying over the fact. he was very different from the outgoing wife. they did not pursue him at all. theyzq÷ did not know where -- at
of americans did not know where he was either, but stayed in a state on route 23 south probably at a tavern in app inn recommended by thomas jefferson, and then he went up to wiley's tavern, met his wife, dolly, and he crossed over into the courthouse, now call rockville, and they expected to find the =z american's army there, but they went to baltimore to defend it. that was friday night. he rode over east to brook fooel, a quaker village, out of the path of the advancing british. they could not capture him there, @e2gñ there are interestg scenes, the cattle -- the
american calvary and infantry lit their fires by the mill, and brookville residence, young and old, pressed faces against the window panes trying to get a glance of the president who was in the village, and he stayed at the home of caleb and henrietta, and that building still stands where he stayed. by his presence, supreme executive authority resided in brookville at that moment because washington was in captivity. that's why the residents of brookville described their village the capital of america for one day. they never caught his wife, dolly, who was also roaming around unknown to a lot of americans. they did come back.
the british arrived on sunset on wednesday. they were treated on thursday night. madison came back saturday morning after he was told the brit ir had left, and it took brookville to washington, about 25 miles, and then he didn't leave any written commentary of what he felt like. that really distressed me. i wanted to know what the president thought. i mean, descriptions of shame and embarrassment, went on and on, but not from madison. he kept his peace. dolly came back on sunday, the day after, and she was disguised in the clothing of another person. she lost eight of her body guards who decided to get drunk rather than to defend her, and
she arrived with one body guard and had to acknowledge her identity to a guard at the river, which she didn't want to do, but she had to to begf to cross. she was described by people who saw her that day and the next totally broken in spirit. this woman%rfs who was normaly rebel and 0bñwell-liked was now distraught and introverted, but she was firy, and she said, if only she had weapons to use, she would have used them at that stage against them. the british really, they had done what cobens12ñ decided. because he said ifvpb0 you can strike at the heart of the enemy, which is the capital city, you will destroy the morale. that's exactly what he want to
to rebuild the white house and capital after had burned? >> yes. the white house, because it didn't have any major additions, took three years. they invited hogen, who won the metal for designing it to redesign, and the troupe invited to redesign the capital which took five years. now, the capital was, at that time, many people think it was destroyed. it's not true. the flames set by the british, they came back towards the british, and the vaulted ceilings which were pioneered as an architectural feature, they acted as fire breaks so that the vaulted ceilings protected a lot of the capital and a lot of it
was saved. if you want to see the parts saved, go in, and go near the old supreme court where the senate used to meet. that was destroyed, but you'll see columns there that are beautifully topped with cornxh!b capitals design, carved by giovani andre. you'll see husks of corn pulled back so that the corn shows. the corn cob capitals, and those were in the building. you'll see after the old supreme court, you'll see the places that survived, and there's a room now occupied by the house majority leader which is doubled
as a room at that time as a committee on the district of president when he went to the u.s. capital, and the admiral coburn wanted a souvenir so he went into this aoffice, which still stands, and he found a boring book, a coffee table sized book on the table that belonged to madison, and it was written there in gold type, president's copy. it was an expenditures of the u.s. government for 1810. a very boring book, but he wrote on the inside cover, probably at the later date, taken by admiral coburn on the destruction of the capital during the occupation of washington, august 24th, 1814, and given to him by his brother, the book disappeared and resurfaced in philadelphia in
1940, and a dealer authenticated the writing and gave the book to the library of congress. when brian lamb interviewed me onbook tv, it was in the main reading room of the library of congress, and he said to me before we aired, would you like any props, and i said, please, bring that book down from the rare book division, and he brought it down, and gave me white gloves to handle it, and he was tremling because this is visible proof of the past, tangible evidence of its happenings, and if you didn't react with a heightened sen station, you needed a heart= n transplant. so you know, it's a marvelous -- just so much -- i didn't think there would be so much extent at the time when i decided to write y
that if you dig deep, really deep, and you go for the original documents, not other people's books -- i really dislike doing that, go for the original documents, affidavits, reports back to the british, things like that. i found in the national archives, you'll find so much that makes us a living testimony of what happened at the time. it was not a forgotten war as it's call today. it was a war that should be remembered by everybody. i give a speech in fort mchenry, well, i did before my stroke two years ago, but every year the writing the national anthem, every year i'd go to fort mchenry on how and why he wrote the national anthem. at the end, they said, thank you, i didn't realize the story.
i couldn't believe it because this5vcib is one of the fundame believve beli beliefs of the country. that's the words of the national anthem, and they didn't know the story. i think it's a thrilling moment. when i go to fort mchenry, i feel this every time, and when you hear the anthem next and now know the story, you'll listen to it with a different kind of,tñ feeling because it's not archaic words, but something that resinates down the centuries and is very meaningful. thank you very much. we'll have more on the war of 1812,qzñ and burning of
washington wednesday afternoon at a symposium hosted by the white house historical historical society. live coverage begins at 1:00 >> with live coverage, we compliment coverage showing you the most relevant congressional hearings and on weekends, c-span3 is home to american history tv with programs that tell the nation's story including six series, the civil war's 150th anniversary visiting battlefields and key events, american artifacts, touring historic sites and museums to see what artifacts reveal on america's past. history book shelf, the presidency, looking at the policies and legacies of the commander in chiefs, lectures in history, and the new series,
real america, featuring government and educational films from the 1930s through the 70s. created by cable tv industry and funded by your cable provider. like us on facebook and follow us on1+:ox twitter. 200 years ago on august 24th, 1814, british forces burned the capitol building, president's house, and most federal buildings. next, author of "through the perilous fight" uses the boat to take us on a river tour of the burning of washington. this program is about 90 minutes. >> i've had a boat on the potamic, oh, about 30 years. it's a great way to see the city. it looks really like a different city as seen from the water.
lots of people think of the potamic as an obstacle to cross on the way to d.c., like a commuter obstacle, but it's the reason that the city is where it is, and it's one of the most remarkable urban rivers in the country, i think. well, we're in the middle'=f the river off port washington, maryland, about eight or nine miles south of washington. more than anything, this -- the waterways really define the attack on washington and the ultimate attack on baltimore. this british were really making good use of the waterways, chez peak bay, the rivers, and by
1813, the bay had pretty much turned into a british lake, royal navy squadron under the " georn showed up and quickly established domain over the water here. george, a very effective officer, served under nelson in the war, sent here to set things up, had a dull sense of humor, ruthless without being vicious, and he pretty quickly determines if the americans are not capable of providing much in the way of a real defense. and from the start, he sees washington as being vulnerable. quickly, as he spreads terror up
and down the bay, he becomes not only the most feared man in america, but possibly the most hated. he's compared to satan among others and does notp do much t dissuade opinion and takes a number of anybody who shows any sort of resistance can expect to be taken away in chains up to hallifax. the bay really provided access to the richest and most important land in america at this time. certainly, in addition to being the home of the capital, washington, d.c., some of the most important cities like obaml and norfolk were on the water and within easy access of the british, so by establishing control of the bay, the british were able to put a lot of pressure on the united states.
it's important to remember that this war was primarily until this point had been fought along the canadian frontier. the united states was trying to take over some of the territory of the colonies that belonged to great britain in british north america, today ontario and quebec. they were not6o÷ñ having a grea deal of success with that, and in order to relieve the pressure on the frontier area, the british had sent coburn and his squadron here in 1813 with the idea of causing some trouble, and this is exaccoburn t does. in fact, there's a british historian who's in the united states at the time that the war breaks out, and he later says until george coburn shows up, people are only known by hearsay there was a war going on.
that changes really quickly once coburn arrives. he goes on, i think, what's best described as a reign of terror up and down the bay. burning a number of towns. plantations. you know, any sort of place where he runs into any resistance whatsoever under coburn's rules, that was good enough for burning the place, and so the town at the top of the bay in maryland was burned. half the town's houses were burned down. the town of hampton in virginia ñ burned. some of the inhabitants killed by army troops$ú including fre prisoners with the british, and the effect of all this terror is to really paralyze both the militia units which are supposed to be protecting this area and
the american government. you know, coburn, nobody was sure where he would strike next, and the british also made very good use of the real weakness in american society, and that was our reliance on slavery. a number of plan titations up a down the shoreline of the bay and rivers feeding into it, and the british encouraged american slaves to come over to the other side to escape british promising their freedom and opportunity if they wished to fight against their former masters, and a lot of them do. they come, you know, down to the waterways in makeshift rafts and make their way out to the british fleet. coburp sets up a basetè of operations on the island in the middle of the bay, the deep water harbor, and this is a perfect place for running the x
expedition operation. the a number of coming over to the british side are trained there as marines and they form a regimen of colonial marines, and they turned out to be effective fighters and provide british with intelligence. they knew the waterways and the back roads, in many cases, better than their masters did, and the british made excellent use of the information and pretty much coming up the spreading terror wherever they go. news, of course, comes back to washington. there's enormous fear that washington or other cities like baltimore could be targets. the
british can't make it that far. the rivers, including the potam potamic, had shuls in them making it hard for british ships laiden with heavy guns to make it as far as washington. i think there was sort of too much complacency in some ways about what the dangers were in the highest seat of government. john armstrong is absolutely washington would be a target for british, and the rest of the cabinet was skeptical the british had the wherewithal to make their way to washington. now, from the start, coburn thought washington could be taken, and when he comes back in
1814 after wirning in bermuda, he decides to push harder. he sends messages to london that more force be sent over writing that if he was given just a small number of army troops sent over, he could have within his possession the capital of the united states in short order. he gets his wish and key development is that they advocates, and great britain, l for more than 20 years are freed up to send more force over here% and agree toá%1ñ send several thousandsw$5 troops over to jo
forces here with the royal navy and other troops are sent up to canada to bolster the british position up there. coburn uses the time waiting for the troops to arrive to further scout the rivers here. he is checking out the depths of the rivers and trying to figure out how to navigate them and decides it is possible to send ships up the potamic. in august of 1814, some 4,000 troops arrived in the bay under robert ross. ross was one of wellington's most abled lieutenants in the wars bought over in spain,
q"jfrance, and wellington personally chose ross to head the expedition to america. now, 4,000 troops by the scope of things going on in europe was tiny. you'd have armies of over a hundred thousand fighting in the continent in europe in recent years, so 4,000 troops did not sound like much to some of the royal navy commanders here, but c on per sues with the attack on make use of several waterways under attack on washington. if the british force sailed up the potamic, everybody would know that washington was the ultimate target. coburn decides or=0bxç recommen that the vd(ñ be split up, that
one squadron sail up the river and threaten the capital and city of alexandria. the main force is going to go up the river into southern fh+3÷ maryland, and the advantage of the river was that it would intention because a move up the river means many things. it might mean an attack on washington, but it could mean an overland attack on baltimore or attack on annapolis, or it could mean the british were simply chasing after commodore joshua barny, the american commander of the shallow draft barges suited for navigating shallow waters of the bay and rivers feeding into it. barney by the summer of 1814 hañ
been trapped in the river. he was further up river(0ú thane british, and the british could use barney's presence in the river to more or less shield the movement towards the capital, and that's exactly what coburn recommends and what the british cochrin agree to do. on august 19th, 1814, the army lands in benedict, which is about half way up the river from the bay towards washington. meantime, you have the other squadron underneath captain james gordon sailing up the potamic and still other sthhips
sailing up the bay to threaten baltimore. there's a three-pronged operation. the main attack is accompanied by the 4,000 troop, and admiral coburn and the royal marines, and after landing at benedict, they move by land and by water, royal marines andl further up the river and succeeded in trapping joshua and his army. they escape with his men. but the net result of this is that the commanders back in washington were utterly paralyzed as to what they should be doing. they had a squad coming up the potamic, a force they were not sure how large, in the river with forces that had been
landed. there is a lot of hope they just after barney and after destroying that, they would reboard ships and move back into the bay. ÷ in doing anything setting up fences around washington and in terms of mustering much of the force. it's been getting little support from the secretary of war, john armstrong, who even at this late date with british troops on the ground, moving in the direction of the capital, still maintains that washington is under no threat whatsoever, and he thinks it's much more likely that the british are after barney or go up to baltimore, which, at that time, was a biggest city than washington. baltimore, 40,000 people, third
largest city in the united states, and one of the really important ports in the country whereas washington at this time lp!9 a washington at this time village, you know, 8,0003(=u pe in the city, of course, it's home to the federal government with the white house and the capital, but it didn't seem like much of a target to armstrong, so the result is that the british are able to play on the american indecision and moveóx closer to washington. they move up?v to upper marlbor about 15 to 20 miles from the city. the instructions, don't say anything about trying toah]g ce the capital of the united states. )jz and not to do anything that's
going to risk this force. which ultimately is intended for an attack on new orleans. ross is persuaded that the american defenses are very light, that the militia, fearful of having a slave uprising or slave escape have been reluctant there's little defenses on the way to washington, and ross isr persuaded largely by the fact that he's met little resistance moving from benedict up to upper marlboro. little contact at all with american forces, no defenses set up on the way, no ambushes, many positions where the americans could slow down the british advance. he was astonish that nothing of the sort had been done, and this encourages him. he's almost suspicious he's
being lured into an ambush because of the lack of american÷ resistan resistance. the general is moving forces back and forth, moves from washington into maryland at a point where he can position himself íop+ez the attacking force and the "1qcapital, and ls his nerve, marches back to washington. his force gradually keeps getting larger. it had only been about 2100 when the british landed at benedict, and within four or five days, enough forces had been gathered that they now outnumber thedda' british force. but through a series of fakes and just playing up on the american indecision, ross comets to move towards the capital and city and moves more north
towards the village. this is what is known as the ancostia river, and then it was the eastern branch of the yrw potamic, a tributary of the potamic, which plays a key part =b used to be a deep river when it was founded in 1749. this wasbh$ a deep water port w ships around the globe to take away tobacco that was grown in the country around here, but by 1812, silt filled in a lot of the eastern branch, so it was no longer any kind of a major port, but still a port by virtue of all the roads that crossed this.
and the river up there was shallow and fordable whereas the eastern branch down river fromú here is a major river still that you need to have a bridge pretty much to be able to cross it, certainly with the british crossing it without a bridge in this first bridge that we see right in front of us was the location of the what was them known as the europe branch bridge. it was not that far from the washington navy yard, and in order to get into washington from more direct approach, the british would have to cross the river at this bridge, and the american commanders had set up r
bridge ready to blow it when the british approached. ross opted tontwç;vq÷ cross the couple miles up river from where we are now. and august 24th at noon after%se sends forces across the river, first ones cross on the bridge which the americans neglected to blow in the chaos and confusion of the moment, and led by colonel william thornton, one of the brigade commanders, they hit the maryland militia head on, quickly were able to envelope the americans, get around them, and force the militia to retreat pretty quickly. the militia retreated to a
second line of defense, and the british kept oncoming. they also had concrete rockets, a relatively new weapon at the time. coburn used them with quite a bit of effectiveness in the campaign, but most of the american militia troops had not seen them before, and these rockets were notoriously difficult to aim, but they were really weapons of terror because they were almost like human sky rockets that would flair up in the sky and come down and cause a blaze and quite a bit of damage where they hit, but because they were so difficult to aim, you know, they were difficult -- they were not a very reliable weapon for the british, but they were good at frightening the american troops, and the british were able to use them with great effectiveness for that reason. they started firing these, many of them were going over the
heads of the militia troops, but that was enough to cause some of running. in fact, president madison has ridden up from washington. his headquarters was down here near the navy yard where the general winder had convened on the morning of august 24th. madison and most of the cabinet had come there as well, and madison had ridden by horse there to mostly to observe and make sure his secretary of war, john armstrong, would give general winder the support he needed. ma madison almost runs into fighting lines. the1 bv british arrive as madis
gets there, and he rides across the bridge before being told by a scout who was up front that mr. madison, the british, and the attorney general, richard rush, turn around and they head back to american lines where they observe the battle. once the fight starts out, madison is initially encouraged by the first resistance of the american militia is showing, and the british, when they start firing rockets, fire one that goes over the head of madison and the rest of his cabinet officers. it was sailed high harmlessly, but madison at this point+ k becomes the first american president to come under fire on a battlefield. madison moved back0fñ at that t to a somewhat safer distance. in the meantime, the american lines are starting to collapse as the british start crossing
the river and force some are using the bridge, others wade across the water, and pretty soon, they have enough of a force that the second line of militia is collapsing. one of the problems they encutter here was command interference. they had james monroe, secretary of state, he had come to scout out the lines. he had basically been serving as a scout for several days for madison, secretary of state, he was pretty much throwingt'(9m hf into the danger's way, but he directs some of the militia troops to move further back from the front line, and this leads other, and monroe did not really do the american troops much of a favor by attempts to reorganize
them. you have two lines now of militia, and they have general designated any kind of rally point. winder already had a lot of experience at retreating now, just as the british had advanced on washington. he ordered the troops back a number of time, but he really botches this retreat. as the militia follow back, a lot of them start heading north towards baltimore. and, really, none of them are line of defense, which is born by joshua barney and his navy men, and the district militia, which raced up from washingtontr6ñ during the course of the morning in the terrible heat.
in fact, the maryland militia commanders were not inform of the third line. no one told them joshua barney and the district militia form behind them. they are retreating in the chaotic fashion, and winder is losing his nerve and ends up ordering a general retreat, and this even as the british are starting to approach the third line of the defense, which is made up of barney and the district of and the district of militia, and the british at blatensburg have to move up the hill to attack this line. and varney is on the district/maryland line, and he had big guns that he had brought with him, and also had some of the u.s. marine corps here from the marine barracks here from washington to the support the
flotilla men. and so the british as they are trying to move into the space of the guns, they take a quite significant casualties, and the front line troops from the 59th one-quarter casual citi-- casuas and very significant q!mbloodsh and it appeared to varney and the rest of the militia men that they were on the verge of turning the tide here. and winder with the militia retreat has ordered the general retreat. varney does not get this word, and he and his men keep on fighting, and then he sees that the district militia have pulled back orders from wind er. ross, manages to get high ground over varney and the flotilla n men, and some of the british sharp shooters are able to take down a number of the flotilla
men and including some of the gun crews, and varney, himself, he is hit in the hip and severely wounded, and he tries to disguise the wound from the british, but and from his own men, because he does not want sfaith. but, very quickly, varney is also running out of ammunition, and all of the crews that were bringing his crews, the civilian crews, they had joined in the general retreat, and varney was running out of ammunition, and it was clear that he was close to it at this point, and so he then orders his men tow+d@ñ suro and retreat. he orders themk1"to leave him o the battlefield. one of his officers stays with him, and most of the flotilla men are able to escape back towards washington. varney is left on the battlefield, and pretty soon he is found by some of the british soldiers who run and get admiral
coburn. varney over the course of the previous several months had been really the one american officer who had really offered strong resistance to the british and coburn and ross were really impressed with with him, and ross comes up as well. they agreed to pardon varney on the spot, meaning that he wouldn't be officially held in british custody, but he was out of the war at this point until he could be traded for another prisoner. the americans are now in full retreat back towards washington. the british own the field at bladensburg, and this is sometimes called the bladensburú battle, because of the way that the americans retreated so myfsm
quickly, it is also a discredit to the brave fighting that happened here from the varney flotilla and those who took the heavy casualties and at one point thought they could turn the tide÷-[a of the battle. certainly the british fought bravely uphill a against the guns in that typef of heat. but these guys were known as wellingtons and visibles for a reason. they had fought the british forces, and the forces here were not a match for them ultimately. the british are left with an open road into washington. madison is retreating back to the city. ahead of the troops, and he sends word back the washington to dolly thatodc the british ar coming. n now, this bridge has been rigged to blow by the americans. and the british don't waste much
bladensburg road to the district of columbia. it is not quite dark, but evening time and as the british enter the district of columbia, the orders are given to blow the bridge. it is ironic, because the british are already on this side of the river. they are already in washington, but for whatever reason, the americans decide to blow this bridge anyway. it was a wooden bridge. it is really a fairly substantial bridge that, you know, too a fair amount of explosives to take down. the wood, when itá blew up, it went sky high into the air, and tremendous black cloud of smoke.
winder had wanted to make sure that it blew up, and it certainly did. at the navy yard, commodore stingy who is in charge of the navy yard sees the bridge blowing, and starts to make preparations for burning the washington navy yard. ross and coburn had been left with an open pass into washington. so, as they are moving down bladensburg road entering the city, they come to a halt, not very far from the capital. there is a home, the belmont home that is known today as two blocks or so from the capital.
and then, the evidence to me is pretty clear that ross and eco burn had already agreed that washington, washington's federal buildings should be burned. and in the reports that they sent back to london afterwards, they described this as the object of the exe pe dission. coburn's hope in all of this had been that by capturing the capital, they would so4!(tsr&iae the government of james madison or jimmy as he calls him that they could force the government to collapse, force the united states to make peace on british terms, and possibly even causing the dissolution of the american union. and ross had come to see it that way as well. war. he want ted to get back to his
wife who was sending him letters describing, you know, indicating that she was on the vergeaf-÷ o nervous breakdown, because she had not expecteded her husband after fight iing with wellingto in the peninsula and now to have to go fight another war in america. ross believes that capturing washington is the stroke that ends the war. so,er and so as they are approaching the capital, they do the drums are rolled, and the men are sent forward to see if there is anyone to negotiate with. ross and coburn are very near the capital at the school
shots from inside of the house actually strike his horse and hit several soldiers causing some casualtiecasualties, and r quickly orders that the house be surrounded, and they have already escaped and the best evidence is that these are some is of varney's flotilla men who didn't want to surrender, and they had taken some shots at the britishment system of the british officers would later claim that the way that the british came under fire in this manner is what prompted them to burn the capital and the white house, but i -- and the indication indications are that this decision had been made, and this is what is very quickly happens. as the british are making preparations, they see a big lights on the horizon and not very far away, and that is from the washington navy yard.
and it looks like the washington navy yard is going up in flames. before the battle of bladensburg, the secretary of the navy, william jones had come up to madison that morning and asked for permission to burn8nce navy yard, if the british were to capture washington. the washington navy yard was the oldest military installation in the country, and a key facility, in addition to holding vast amounts of naval goods, there was a frigate that was under construction here as well as a schooler and other ships being repaired, allowing this material to fall into the british hands would have been a di ssaster in
now, thomas tin ji wgy was the british born commandant of the british navy yard. and he had received his instructions from jones to not let it fall in british hands. as theaú9 british are coming i branch bridge blows up, and he starts to make preparations to blow up the washington navy y d yard. some of the residents in the area that lived around the navy yard and implored them not the burn it. the big wind was that the big fear was the navy yard and surrounding it would go up in flames as well. so tingy agrees to at least wait for more scouting are reports
until he knows what the british are up to. tingy's, on of the navy clerks at the navy yard mordchai booth agrees to go -\áing, and (ph; @% accompanied by captain creighton, one of the senior officers at the navy yard and they ride through town and they encounter and find the british on capitol hill, and they come can under fire from british centuries near the capitol and they ride back with the orders from tingy to blow it. the navy yard is stocked with timber and powder and tar, and ti
tingy has materials laid out, and they start to put torches to the lines of powder. very quickly, much of the navy yard is upp in flames, including it makes a tremendous con flag ration that is of course very visible to thed ) british on capitol hill, but also from many miles around. there would be later complaint s that the americans shouldn't have burn ed the navy yard, and why did they do that to cause all of the destruction to the valuable military installation, but it is clear that the british would have done it if the they would have captured supplies that would have been &bd and so it is still an active
so the british see the navy yard in flames, and if they had any compunctions about burning the capitol before that, they certainly did at this point. some of the british troops lined up in front of the capitol which at that point wasn't the capitol that we see today. the dome did not yet exist. you had basically two separate buildings, the house chamber and the sena>!c.hamber which had been built. also housing the supreme court and the library of congress. so, quite a bit of importance for the youngx&á nation in tho two buildings that were r:ç gangway. a the british fired a volley of shots into the building
basically to make sure that there were no troops lying in ambush, and then broke through into the building and coburn came in personally and started to rummaging through and found one of madison's congressional books there, which he had taken as a souvenir, and lot of to british were impressed with the grandeur of the building, and the house chamber in particular had been built essentially to last through the history of the republic, and it was really p b probably the most impressive room in america at this time, the or nate sculpturkul -- orncs and the british went to work piling desks into the middle of the cham can ber and other flammable material, and all of the other books from the library of congressjw made quite good tinder for lighting the fires.
they put gun powder paste around the windows, and also fired some rockets from inside of the building up through, into the ceiling, and roof of the building. it took a while, but before too ññ and they started on the south side and then moved up to the north and then pretty soon both chambers were completely engulfed in flames. there was fire just whipping up in the spiral above, above the buildings that madison could see as he's riding off into virginia, this%2 of the american democracy going up in flames. tingy, and some of his party were rolling awe of the navy yard and out here on the water where we are now.
the site of the navy yard and the capitol in flames filled them with awe and despair, and it is a sight that anybody who saw would never forget.bhy we're on the potomac river approaching÷@j( georgetown. right near the watergate and the kennedy center. not that far from the white house. on the afternoon of august 24th, as the battle of bladensburg is a
note sent by james madison as he depart iing the battlefield that things are going very badly at bladensburg, and the ma liil has collapsed and that washington is in grave danger, and he recommends that she, she dolly had been making preparation a and number of the belongings had been packed up into wagons and carriages, but at the same time she had insisted on not conveying a seps of panic, and she had ordered that dinner be sent for the president and any officers and other visitors who might be coming back to the white house later in the day, and so that the servants were setting up the dining room for a large dinner,
and in the meantime, there is panic out in the streets as word of what is going nonbladensburg spreads, and the streets are starting to filßfñ up with refugees trying to get out of town, and dolly madison makes some last preparations at the white house,na(,ñ and once she the message from president madison. among the things that she spots at the last minute is the portrait of george washington. gi gilbert stewart portrait that life-sized, and it had taken on an iconic status in the united states. and president washington ha had been dead for about 15 years at this point, and already visitors would often come to look at at this portrait of the first president. and dolly madison grasped at the
thought to have the portrait to land in british hands would be adding insult to injury, and so she instructs some of the servants, including the madison's house slave, paul jennings, and the gardener tom mcgraw to get down the portrait down awe off of the wall. that is difficult. and dolly madison gets the credit for saving the picture, but she actually leaves at this point, and being urged by citizens and others who were saying that she is in great danger and needed to leave immediately. so she takes the silver@qwc ande of the other pd>ómruju)u$ her and gets in the carriage to drive up to georgetown to leave jennings and some of the other servants to get the portrait down, which they finally manage to do with the help of a hatchet. now, the portrait would then bex