Center for Women's History

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West Smithfield, Published by G. Thompson, The Taking of the City of Washington in America, 1814. Wood engraving. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C., 96510111.

Resource 8: Washington Burns

During the War of 1812, the British marched into Washington as the sun set on August 24, 1814. After setting fire to the Capitol building, they proceeded to the White House and torched it as well. Taking the British perspective of the seizure of Washington, this engraving shows the city in defeat and flames. At the conclusion of the war that December, Washington was in ruins. Should the government relocate to a different city? Would abandoning Washington send the wrong message about American strength and determination? Should the city be rebuilt?

Creative: Tronvig Group