Eyewitness Account: Burning of Washington

Eyewitness Account: Burning of Washington

It was August 24 of 1814. I was just doing my regular, daily routine when I suddenly I saw the British troops marching towards our city. They were all dressed in their ugly red uniforms and were marching in 2 straight lines. I trailed my eyes to the front of their group and wondered who was leading this attack. I squinted my eyes and recognized that it was General Major Robert Ross. Their army group looked like it had about 4000 veterans with them. I didn’t really worry about them because James Madison had said that he sent some militia to deal with them.

Madison was so confident that we would win the battle that he had his wife, Dolley, prepare a dinner for 40 people to celebrate. But right after Dolley had set up the whole table, the news of the defeat had arrived and Dolley immediately bundled all the belongings she could onto a cart and fled to the Potomac River. Not long after that, I probably spaced out because I lost track of the British troops, the British burst into the presidential mansion. They were probably surprised, but delighted, that there was a whole table set out with food and wine. Before they set fire to the mansion, they dined with Madison’s best wine in glass decanters. After dinner, Major General Robert Ross had his troops set fire to the mansion.

I didn’t know all of this was happening until I heard people screaming. Right then I looked to where the presidential mansion was and saw smoke in the sky. But what was even worse, I saw huge red flames coming from other buildings. I had to save myself by running directly to the river. On my way, I saw Dolley Madison carrying a giant portrait of our past president George Washington and other valuable things. I wanted to help her, but I was kind of in a rush to save my life. All of this was just a blur to me because I was so confused. I thought Madison had everything under control. Then again, our militia was a very small amount compared to the British troops.

Since the British troops...

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