The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814

The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814

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by Anthony S. Pitch
     
 

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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… See more details below

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:
03/28/2000
Series:
Bluejacket Books Series
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
722,655
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.99(h) x 0.93(d)

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