In 1814, America had been at war with Great Britain for two years. The War of 1812 had begun largely because of British interference with American trade. During 1814, American army and navy forces won several battles that eventually brought peace between the two countries. But the most dramatic event of the war occurred in 1814 with the British attack on America’s capital city, Washington.
In August, 1814, a British force landed in Maryland, scattered the weak American forces there, and on August 24, marched into Washington. President James Madison and other government officials fled the city. Before she left, First Lady Dollley Madison rescued the portrait of George Washington that hung in the White House.
British General Robert Ross ordered Washington’s public buildings to be burned. The British piled furniture up in the White House’s drawing room and set it afire; the inside of the mansion was gutted. The Treasury and War Department buildings were burned next. When the British set fire to the Capitol, it’s interior was destroyed and its roof collapsed. Repairs to Washington took years. Not until 1819 was Congress able to meet again in the the Capito..
The only government building in Washington not burned in 1814 was the patent office; it’s precious drawings and models were sparred.