America had been at war with the British Empire since , but the action so far had consisted of a series of indeterminate skirmishes along the Great Lakes region.
With the defeat of Napoleon, the Empire turned its full attention to its former colony sending its battle-hardened troops to squash the up-start Americans. Washington had little strategic value - the thriving port of Baltimore was much more important.
However, as capital of the nation, the British hoped that its burning would have a psychological impact on the will of the Americans to continue the conflict. As the British army of approximately 4, approached, the majority of Washington residents fled the city. On August 24th American defenders, with President James Madison in attendance, were quickly routed by the invaders in a battle at Bladensburg a few miles from the city.
- On this day, the British set fire to Washington, D.C. - National Constitution Center?
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But they certainly will not come here! What the devil will they do here?
Baltimore is the place, Sir. This attitude shows why the British were able to practically waltz into Washington D. Once the British troops had arrived in the Capitol they found it mostly abandoned.
Almost all public buildings such as the White House and Capitol Building were burned down that night, but surprisingly the British took great care in preserving private property, even going so far as to punish several soldiers for assaulting people in their homes 3.