The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814

Overview


With all the immediacy of an eyewitness account, Anthony Pitch tells the dramatic story of the British invasion of Washington in the summer of 1814, an episode many call a defining moment in the coming-of-age of the United States. The British torched the Capitol, the White House, and many other public buildings, setting off an inferno that illuminated the countryside for miles and sending President James Madison scurrying out of town while his wife Dolley rescued a life-sized portrait of George Washington from ...
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The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814

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Overview


With all the immediacy of an eyewitness account, Anthony Pitch tells the dramatic story of the British invasion of Washington in the summer of 1814, an episode many call a defining moment in the coming-of-age of the United States. The British torched the Capitol, the White House, and many other public buildings, setting off an inferno that illuminated the countryside for miles and sending President James Madison scurrying out of town while his wife Dolley rescued a life-sized portrait of George Washington from the flames. The author's gripping narrative--hailed by a White House curator, a Senate historian, and the chairman of the National Geographic Society, among others--is filled with vivid details of the attack. Not confining his story to Washington, Pitch also describes the brave, resourceful defense of nearby Fort McHenry and tells how Francis Scott Key, a British hostage on a ship near the Baltimore harbor during the fort's bombardment, wrote a poem that became the national anthem.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Americans have grown so accustomed to being citizens of a superpower that our collective memory of the burning of Washington during the War of 1812 has been submerged. Pitch, with a solid reputation as a tour leader and local D.C. historian, offers an archivally based, definitive account of the British raid into Chesapeake Bay in 1814, and the successful march on Washington that was a function of American ineffectiveness as much as British competence. After two decades of war with France, British forces had grown adept at "descents": small-scale incursions into hostile territory with the objective of inflicting damage and creating despondency. The decision to burn public buildings and destroy public property was as much political as military, aimed at sending the message that nowhere was there safety from the long arm of the British crown. The British withdrew once the capital lay in ruins, sailing on to the more economically promising targets of Alexandria and Baltimore. The latter city's successful resistance demonstrated that the British were not invincible. Even militia, given competent commanders and sufficient numbers, could blunt the edge of a raiding force unable to replace its own losses. At least as significant, according to Pitch, was the decision not to relocate the capital even temporarily, but to continue governing from the ruins, which conveyed the message that, like its predecessor, this second war of independence would be fought to a finish. In a Britain weary of conflict, that was a powerful incentive to initiate negotiations that within four months produced the Treaty of Ghent and confirmed America's identity as a nation. 14 illustrations. History Book Club selection. (July)
Library Journal
To this day, stones that bear the burn marks of the fire set by the British in the War of 1812 can be seen on the White House, but little thought is given to their context. Pitch attempts to bring alive that time of humiliation and triumph for the young republic, a time too much eclipsed by the American Revolution and the Civil War. A naturalized American born in England, Pitch is perhaps more importantly a guide who provides popular walking tours of historic neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. He knows both the past and present of his adopted city and has a feel for the people of the era covered here, which he displays through numerous entertaining anecdotes and quotations. This book fills a gap by enlightening many Americans about an important time in their history and is of special interest to Washingtonians. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Katherine E. Gillen, Luke AFB Lib., Avondale, AZ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557504258
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Series: Bluejacket Books Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,324,418
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xi
1 War 1
2 Target Washington 17
3 A Village for a Capital 24
4 Invasion 30
5 Pandemonium 39
6 The Juggernaut Rolls On 51
7 The Battle of Bladensburg 71
8 The Capital Abandoned 86
9 Washington in Flames 99
10 A Lightning Occupation 130
11 A Flag Furled in Darkness 153
12 Refuge among Pacifists 161
13 Alexandria Surrenders 170
14 Baltimore Defiant 180
15 The Battle of North Point 189
16 Bombs over Baltimore 205
17 The Birth of an Anthem 218
Epilogue 223
Notes 237
Selected Bibliography 273
Index 285
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 29, 2012

    Action Packed and Highly recommended

    This book is exceptionally well written and well sourced. The War of 1812 has been called a "forgotten war." From the very beginning, Pitch makes clear the divisions between those who were pro-war and those who were against it, and the violence Americans were capable of inflicting on their fellow countrymen is shocking. It is simply the best book I've read about the war, and I have read many. Readers will not be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2002

    Interesting revisit

    This is an excellent study into the social and political aspects of the incident. Details the actions of the people of Washington and each, and it would seem every, dish that was broken. The battles are cover only mildly to bring you to the 'burning' and afterwards to bring conclusion. A wonderful book for the interested reader, but not so much for military battle analysis. Honestly, I found Walter Lord's book to be worth a second read.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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