1814 - Capture of Washington


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1814 Capture of Washington 311

to the party sent to Greenleaf's point. Some powder, concealed in a well, accidentally took fire, killing 12, and wounding 30, officers and men. The extensive rope-walks, at some distance from the city, were destroyed by the British ; and so was an immense quantity of small arms and heavy ordnance, as well as the great bridge across the Potomac ; a very prudent military measure, especially as the Americans had themselves destroyed the two bridges crossing the eastern branch. A party, under Captain Wainwright, destroyed the few stores and buildings in the navy-yard, which had escaped the flames of the preceding night. As the British were in haste to be gone, and as the vessels, even if they could have been floated in safety down the Potomac, were not wanted, it was very considerate in the American government to order the destruction of the frigate, of 1600 tons, which was nearly ready to be launched, and of the fine sloop of war, Argus, ready for sea ; and whose 20 carronades, 32-pounders, and two long 18-pounders, would have assisted so powerfully in defending the entrance to the city by the lower bridge.

According to the official estimate of the public property destroyed, the value has been much overrated. It appears not to have exceeded 1,624,280 dollars, or 365,4631. sterling. With respect to private property, we have only to quote passages from American prints, to show how that was treated. One newspaper says: " The British officers pay inviolable respect to private property, and no peaceable citizen is molested. " A writer from. Baltimore, under the date of August 27th, says: " The enemy, I learn, treated the inhabitants of Washington well. " That the British officers did all they could to secure the inhabitants from injury, both in their persons and properties, may also be gathered from the acknowledgment from Mr. Thompson, another American writer, that " the plunder of individual property was prohibited, and soldiers, transgressing the order, were severely punished."

On the 25th, at 8 p.m., the British left Washington, by the way of Bladensburg. Here such of the wounded as could ride. or be transported in carriages, were provided with 30 or 40 horses, 12 carts and waggons, one coach, and several gigs. With these, preceded by a drove of 60 or 70 cattle, the troops moved leisurely along. On the 29th, in the evening, they reached Benedict, 50 miles from Washington, without a single musket having been fired; and, on the following day, re-embarked in the vessels of the fleet. No complaints, that we can discover, have been made against the British, during their retreat across the country ; although, as an American writer has been pleased to say, " General Ross scarcely kept up his order, sufficiently to identify the body of his army."

Of the many expeditions up the bays and rivers of the United States during the late war, none equalled in brilliancy of

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