At 9:45 p.m. on August 24, 1814, the British set fire to the White House and, within an hour, the Capitol had been gutted.
How could this happen?
The war was not widely supported and the defense of Washington had been placed in the hands of two inept and ill-appointed leaders-Secretary of War Armstrong and Brigadier General Winder-whose "thimble headed stupidity" meant that the arriving British troops met little resistance. There were heroes in the mix: the U.S. First Lady, Dolley Madison, stayed until the last moment and, with the help of her servants, managed to save important books, a portrait of George Washington, and a copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Ironically, the burning of the White House had a galvanizing effect on the divided views of the young country. "Overnight, the nation united in its determination to pursue this unpopular war with new vigor, to take its revenge on a power which had shamed an independent people by burning its capital."
President Madison had, at last, the support he needed.
Award winning author and newspaperman, Andrew Tully, has added flesh to the bones of this true story of an often over-looked and confusing period of U.S. history.
Well-researched and historically accurate, When They Burned the White House is a fascinating read for U.S. history buffs eager for more information about the War of 1812 and all readers interested in historical drama.
Illustrated throughout by celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser.
"Well toldattractivelively"Allen Drury, author of Advise and Content and A Shade of Difference
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