When Washington Burned
The British Invasion of the Capital and a Nation's Rise from the Ashes
Robert P. Watson
Georgetown University Press
ISBN 13: 9781647123505
Available August 01, 2023
Perhaps no single day in US history was as threatening to the survival of the nation as August 24, 1814, when British forces captured Washington. This unique moment might have significantly altered the nation's path forward, but the event and the reasons why it happened are little remembered by most Americans. When Washington Burned narrates the British campaign and American missteps that led to the fall of the capital city, but also tells the redeeming stories of the courageous young clerks and the bold first lady who risked their lives to save priceless documents from the flames, including the Constitution.
Praise for When Washington Burned
"A lively and very readable account of the most important episode in the War of 1812 -- the British burning of Washington, D.C. Watson's narrative of this momentous and embarrassing event is one of the fullest and most colorful that we have had."
- Gordon Wood, Alvin O. Way Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Brown University, Pulitzer Prize winner, author of Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution
"Robert Watson has revealed the little-known roles played by a largely anonymous army of government clerks who rescued key documents and historical treasures from going up in flames. Watson clearly demonstrates how, like the mythical Phoenix, Washington, DC too arose from the ashes -- a closer-run thing than many have supposed. A must-read for all students of the War of 1812."
- Charles P. Neimeyer, Professor, Naval War College
"An exceptionally vivid account of the siege on our nation's capital during the War of 1812. The oft-forgotten heroics, vulnerabilities, and at times, flawed decision-making that occurred during that fateful time are brought to life. Watson explains how the nation reaffirmed its national purpose, rebuilt the capital, and reconstructed the American identity."
- Richard M. Yon, Associate Professor of Political Science, US Military Academy at West Point, Director of Terrorism Studies, Combatting Terrorism Center