June 22, 1807 Impressed

British envoys delivered proclamations reaffirming the practice of impressment, amounting to the kidnapping of sailors and forcing their labor aboard British ships. In total, the Royal Navy impressed over 9,000 sailors claiming to be American citizens, becoming the driving force behind the United States going to war with England, in 1812.

The Napoleonic Wars took place between 1799 and 1815, pitting a series of seven international coalitions against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grande Armée.  The former American colonies benefited from the European conflict, remaining on the sidelines and doing business with both sides.  Within a ten-year period, the fledgling United States had become one of the world’s largest neutral shippers.

In 1807, two third-rate French warships were penned up in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, blockaded by a number of English warships outside of the harbor.

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The American frigate, USS Chesapeake

London born Jenkin Ratford was an English sailor who deserted the British Navy and defected to the neutral United States.  This story might have ended better for him had he not run his mouth, but that wasn’t this guy.  Ratford couldn’t resist taunting British officers, boasting of his escape to the “land of liberty”

The USS Chesapeake was preparing for a Mediterranean cruise with Ratford aboard, when she emerged from Norfolk, Virginia.  Her decks were laden with supplies and stores of every kind, and her guns unwisely stored.  Chesapeake was nowhere near combat ready when she was approached by the HMS Leopard on June 22.

The Chesapeake’s commander, Commodore James Barron, was unconcerned when the Leopard, under the command of Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys, asked permission to board.  Lieutenant John Meade of Her Majesty’s Navy presented Barron with a search warrant.  Barron declined to submit, and the officer returned to the Leopard.

Chesapeake_LeopardHumphreys then used a hailing trumpet and ordered the American ship to comply, to which Barron responded “I don’t hear what you say”. Humphreys fired two rounds across Chesapeake’s bow, followed immediately by four broadsides.

Chesapeake fired a single shot before striking colors and surrendering.  Humphreys refused the surrender and boarded, taking Ratford and three American born sailors with them when they left.

There was little resistance, yet the “Chesapeake-Leopard Affair” had left three American crewmembers dead, and 18 wounded.

American public opinion was outraged over the humiliation, as the four men were transported to Halifax for trial.   Federalists and Democratic-Republicans were united as never before.  President Thomas Jefferson remarked “Never since the Battle of Lexington have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present, and even that did not produce such unanimity.”

The English court found all four guilty of desertion and hanged Ratford by the fore yardarm of his former vessel, HMS Halifax.  The three Americans, David Martin, John Strachan, and William Ware, were sentenced to 500 lashes.

With the puny American navy deployed to the Mediterranean to check the Barbary pirates, President Jefferson’s options were limited to economic retaliation.  The Embargo Act of 1807 intended to extract concessions from France and Great Britain, instead had the effect of imposing crippling setbacks on some industries, while others railed against government interference in the private economy.  Many came to the conclusion that the only solution, lay in violence.

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Political cartoon depicting merchants harassed cursing the “Ograbme”—“embargo” spelled backwards.

British envoys delivered proclamations reaffirming the practice of impressment,  amounting to the kidnapping of sailors and forcing their labor aboard British ships.  In total, the Royal Navy impressed over 9,000 sailors claiming to be American citizens, becoming the driving force behind the United States going to war with England, in 1812.

Despite being wounded, Barron was blamed for the “Chesapeake-Leopard Affair”.  A court-martial suspended him from service for five years, without pay.   Commodore Stephen Decatur was one of the presiding officers at the court-martial. In 1820, Barron challenged Decatur to a duel, killing his fellow Commodore over comments concerning the 1807 incident.

Undergoing a refit in Boston Harbor in 1813, USS Chesapeake was challenged to single combat by Captain Philip Broke, commanding the British frigate HMS Shannon.

Chesapeake_MillUnited States Naval Captain James Lawrence was eager to comply, confident in the wake of a number of American victories in single-ship actions.

It was a Big mistake.

All of Boston turned out that June day, to watch the fight.  Cheers went out across the docks and from scores of private vessels across Boston Harbor, as Chesapeake slipped her moorings and glided out of the harbor.

Boston authorities reserved dock space in expectation of a guest.  The arrival of a captured British frigate, so it was thought, was a foregone conclusion. Rooftops, hills and trees from Lynn to Malden and Cohasset to Scituate were crowded with spectators, come to watch the show.

The tale of the Battle of Boston Harbor must be a story for another day.  Suffice it to say that USS Chesapeake ended her career as the British frigate HMS Chesapeake, before being sold for scrap, in 1819.  Two-hundred years later, the ship’s timbers live on.  Part of the Chesapeake Mill in the historic village of Wickham, in Hampshire, England.

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December 24, 1814 Shanghai’d

In the 1860s and 70s, one “ferocious old harridan” called “Miss Piggott” operated a saloon and boarding house, in San Francisco. She’d maneuver unsuspecting guests over a trap door before serving them her “Miss Piggott Special” a potion consisting of equal parts brandy, whiskey and gin laced with laudanum or opium. One knock on the head with her “bung starter”, a wooden mallet used to open whiskey kegs, and she’d pull the lever and down they would fall, to the mattress waiting below.

In modern times, governments have employed various strategies to meet the personnel needs of national armed services. Recruiting methods range from voluntary to compulsory service, and even a lottery or other form of draft, in times of national emergency.

During the age of sail, vast numbers of skilled and unskilled seamen alike, were required to meet the needs of naval vessels at sea. Governments resorted to more straightforward methods of meeting manpower requirements, namely, kidnapping.

Such involuntary service or “impressment”, was first made legal during Elizabethan times, but the practice dates back to the 13th century.

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“Press gangs” would patrol waterfronts looking for vagrants, raiding taverns and even pouncing on unsuspecting victims in their beds. Prints from the time show armed gangs barging into weddings and hauling the groom away, much to the dismay of the bride.
Such “pressing” more often took place at sea, where armed gangs would board merchant ships and take what they needed, sometimes leaving victims without sufficient hands to take them safely back to port.

Such methods were essential to the strength of the British Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic wars. American merchant vessels were often targets. The British Navy impressed over 15,000 American sailors alone, between 1793 and 1812.

impressThe American public was outraged and there were calls for war in 1807, when HMS Leopard overtook the USS Chesapeake, kidnapping three American-born sailors and one British deserter, leaving another three dead and 18 wounded.

This time, American retaliation took the form of an embargo. Five years later, continued impressment of American seamen would be a major cause of the war of 1812, the conflict formally ending this day in 1814.

Crimping 1Outside of the British Royal Navy, the practice of kidnapping people to serve as shipboard labor was known as “crimping”. Low wages combined with the gold rushes of the 19th century left the waterfront painfully short of manpower, skilled and unskilled, alike. “Boarding Masters” had the job of putting together ship’s crews, and were paid for each recruit. There was strong incentive to produce as many able bodies, as possible. Unwilling men were “shanghaied” by means of trickery, intimidation or violence, most often rendered unconscious and delivered to waiting ships, for a fee.

Crimps made $9,500 or more per year in the 1890s, equivalent to over a quarter-million, today. The practice flourished in British port cities like London and Liverpool, and in the west coast cities of San Francisco, Portland, Astoria and Seattle. You certainly didn’t want to be caught out alone and drunk, in east coast port cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or Baltimore.

James Kelly kept several bars and a boarding house, in San Francisco. Better-known as “Shanghai” Kelly, the man provided a steady stream of the unwilling to labor aboard the undermanned ships of the San Francisco waterfront.

He once shanghai’d 100 guys, in a single evening.

In the early 1870s, Kelly rented the paddleboat Goliath, and widely publicized a free booze cruise to celebrate his birthday. Bartenders drugged unwitting revelers with opium-laced whiskey, and then offloaded them to waiting ships. Shanghai Kelly’s biggest concern was returning after such a public event, with an empty boat. His luck held, when another paddle wheel steamer, the Yankee Blade, struck a rock and began to sink. Goliath rescued everyone on board, and continued the party. Nobody back at the waterfront, noticed a thing.

Crimping 3, Bunko Kelley
James “Bunko” Kelley

Joseph “Bunko” Kelley was another infamous crimp, also working out of the San Francisco waterfront. The “King of Crimps”, Kelley once set a record, rounding up 50 guys in three hours. The Bunko name stuck, when Kelley delivered one crewman for $50, who turned out to be a cigar store Indian. In 1893, Kelley delivered 22 guys who’d mistakenly consumed embalming fluid, from a local mortuary. He sold all of them for $52 apiece though most of them were dead, a fact to which the ship’s captain only became wise, after returning to sea.

The “Shanghai tunnels” of Portland run through the Old Town/Chinatown section to the main business district, connecting the basements of hotels and taverns to the waterfront at the Willamette River. The tunnels themselves are real enough, though their history is shrouded in mystery. Originally constructed to move goods from the Willamette waterfront to basement storage areas, the number of unconscious bodies hustled down the dark chambers of the Portland Underground”, remains unknown. There are those who will tell you, the practice continued into the WW2 period.

State and federal legislatures passed measures to curb the practice after the Civil War, but crimping didn’t go away, easily. In their heyday, the owners of sailor’s boarding houses had endless supplies of manpower, fanning out across polling places to “vote early and often”.

crimping 2San Francisco political bosses William T. Higgins, (R) and Chris “Blind Boss” Buckley (D) were both notable crimps, and well positioned to look after their political interests. Notorious crimps such as Joseph “Frenchy” Franklin and George Lewis were elected to the California state legislature. There was no better spot, from which to ensure that no legislation would interfere with such a lucrative trade.

A brief list of infamous crimps includes Andy “Shanghai Canuck” Maloney of Vancouver, Anna Gomes of San Francisco, and New Bedford’s own “Shanghai Joe” and Tom Codd the “Shanghai Prince”. William “Billy” Gohl, the “Ghoul of Grays Harbor” of Aberdeen Washington, was also a serial killer.

In the 1860s and 70s, one “ferocious old harridan” called “Miss Piggott” operated a saloon and boarding house, in San Francisco. She’d maneuver unsuspecting guests over a trap door before serving them her “Miss Piggott Special” a potion consisting of equal parts brandy, whiskey and gin laced with laudanum or opium. One knock on the head with her “bung starter”, a wooden mallet used to open whiskey kegs, and she’d pull the lever and down they would fall, to the mattress waiting below.

Crimping 5Imagine the hangover the next morning, to wake up and find you’re now at sea, bound for somewhere in the far east. Regulars knew about the trap door and avoided it at all costs, knowing that anyone going over there, was “fair game”.

Widespread adoption of steam power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did as much to curb shanghaiing as did any legislative effort. Without acres of canvas to furl and unfurl, the need for unskilled labor was greatly diminished. The “Seaman’s Act of 1915”, sometimes called the “magna carta of sailor’s rights,” ended the practice for good.

You might want to do yourself a favor, though, and look out for that trap door.

October 21, 1797 Old Ironsides

Freshly restored and re-fitted, Old Ironsides took her first sail in three years only yesterday.  220 years since her own launch, and to honor the 242nd birthday, of the United States Navy.

When the United States won its independence from Britain in 1783, the young nation soon learned that freedom was not without disadvantages. One being that America had lost its protector at sea.

British and French vessels harassed American merchant shipping, often kidnapping American sailors and forcing them to serve in their own navies.

barbary-warBarbary pirates were a problem for Mediterranean shipping, and throughout parts of the Atlantic. Predominantly North African Muslims with the occasional outcast European, the Barbary pirates operated with the blessing of the Ottoman Empire, the Barbary Coast states of Algiers, Tunis & Tripoli, and the independent Sultanate of Morocco. The Barbary Corsairs had long since stripped the shorelines of Spain and Italy in search of loot and Christian slaves.

Many villages wouldn’t be re-inhabited until the 19th century.  Between the 16th and the 18th centuries, thousands of ships were captured and held for ransom.  Somewhere between 800,000 and 1.25 million Europeans disappeared into the Arab slave markets of North Africa and the Middle East.

Barbary pirates began to harass American shipping as early as 1785.  They captured 11 American vessels in 1793 alone, holding the ships and crew for ransom.

Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794, appropriating funds to build a fleet of 6 three-masted, heavy frigates for the United States Navy. The act included a clause halting construction, in the event of a peace treaty with Algiers.   No such treaty was ever concluded.

Launched this day in 1797 and named by George Washington himself, USS Constitution was one of these six. Her hull was made of the wood from 2,000 Georgia live oak trees, and built in the Edmund Hartt shipyard of Boston, Massachusetts.

USS_Constitution_underwayConstitution’s first duties involved the “quasi-war” with France, but this was not the France which helped us win our independence. France had been swallowed up in a revolution of its own by this time.  Leftists calling themselves “Jacobins” had long since sent their Bourbon King and his Queen Consort to the guillotine. Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette and Hero of the American Revolution, languished in an Austrian prison.

The French Monarchy would one day be restored, but not before a Corsican Corporal rose to the rank of Emperor to meet his Waterloo, fighting (and winning) more battles than Julius Caesar, Frederick the Great, Alexander the Great, and Hannibal, combined.  But I digress.

The Barbary pirates were paid “tribute” during this time to keep them quiet, but that ended in 1800.  Yusuf Karamanli, Pasha of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 from the incoming Jefferson administration. Jefferson refused, and Constitution joined in the Barbary Wars in 1803, a conflict memorialized in a line from the Marine Corps Hymn “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.”

USS_Constitution_underway, turningTwo months after the War of 1812 broke out in June, Constitution faced off with the 38 gun HMS Guerriere, about 400 miles off the coast of Halifax. Watching Guerriere’s shots bounce off Constitution’s 21” thick oak hull, an American sailor exclaimed “Huzzah! her sides are made of iron!” Guerriere was reduced to an unsalvageable hulk in twenty minutes, and the nickname “Old Ironsides” was born.

The month before, Constitution had put to sea intending to join a five ship squadron off the coast of New Jersey. Spotting five sails and thinking that they had found their squadron on July 17, Constitution was disabused of that notion when lookouts reported the next morning that they were 5 British warships, and they were giving chase.

That soon to be famous “iron” hull would have been useless in a five to one fight. A common naval tactic of the day was to close to short range and fire at the masts and rigging of opposing vessels, disabling the ship’s “power plant”. A disabled vessel could then be boarded and a bloody fight would ensue with cutlass and pistol. Those 5 British captains would have considered Constitution to be a great prize; the ship faced a race for survival and the stakes were life and death.

Conditions were near dead calm and all six vessels were wetting sail, trying to get the most out of light winds. In a process called “kedging“, Constitution’s boats were rowed out ahead of the ship, dropping small “kedge anchors”. Sailors would then haul the great ship up the anchor chain, hand over hand, repeating the process over and over. The British ships soon imitated the tactic.  What followed was a slow motion race lasting 57 hours in the July heat.

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Constitution’s crew dumped everything they could find overboard to lessen the weight, including 2,300 gallons of drinking water. Cannon fire was exchanged several times, though the shots fell short of their mark. Constitution pulled far enough ahead of the British ships that they abandoned the pursuit on July 19.

Old Ironsides, Drydock
Old Ironsides, in Drydock

USS Constitution is still in service today, the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. She went into dry dock for major overhaul in October 2014 and re-floated on July 23 this year.  Freshly restored and re-fitted, Old Ironsides took her first sail in three years only yesterday.  220 years since her own launch, and honoring the 242nd birthday, of the United States Navy.

 

 September 10, 1813 Battle of Put-in-Bay

“Dear General, We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop. Yours with great respect and esteem, O.H. Perry”

When war broke out between the United States and the British Empire in June, 1812, neither side was prepared. Most of the British war machine was busy with a “Little Corporal”, whose “Waterloo” was still two years away.  America had disbanded the National Bank and had no means of paying for war, while private northeastern bankers were reluctant to provide financing.

Support for the War of 1812 was bitterly divided, between the Democratic-Republicans of President James Madison, and the Federalist strongholds of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Of the six New England states, New Hampshire alone complied with President Madison’s requests for state militia.

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William Charles certoon, satirizing Thomas Pickering and the radical secessionist movement discussed at the Hartford Convention. H/T Smithsonian Magazine, for the image

It may have been the most unpopular war in United States’ history.  Much of New England threatened to secede, their position bolstered by the sack of Washington in August, 1814.

New England may have actually seceded following the Hartford Convention of 1814, had not the Federalist position been made risible, by future President Andrew Jackson’s overwhelming victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

Hartford Convention delegates ended with a formal report, resolutions from which would resurface decades later in a doctrine now known as nullification.

Opposition to America’s first declared war was vehement, and often bloody.  Four days after it began, the office of the Baltimore Federal Republican newspaper was burned to the ground by an angry mob, infuriated by the anti-war editorials of Alexander Contee Hanson.

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Tip of the hat to historiograffiti, for this image

Hanson reopened his paper a month later, shielded by Revolutionary War veterans James Lingan and “Lighthorse Harry Lee”, father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee. The armed protection did him little good. Another mob formed within hours, this time torturing and severely beating Hanson, Lignan and Lee, and leaving them for dead.

James Lignan died of his injuries. Hanson recovered and went on to serve in the House of Representatives. Lee survived the beating, though he remained partially blind from hot wax poured into his eyes by the mob.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake claimed 200 years later, that, “Our city has a long history of peaceful demonstrations.”  With all due respect to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore has been known as “Mobtown”, for at least that long.

The war of 1812 was fought in a series of land and sea battles along three fronts: The Atlantic Ocean & East Coast, the Southern States, and the Great Lakes & Canadian Frontier.

The British Navy had virtually unchallenged control of the Great Lakes in 1812, with several warships already on station. The only American warship on Lake Erie was the brig USS Adams, pinned down in Detroit and not yet fitted for service.

War of 1812

Detroit fell almost immediately, remaining in British hands for over a year. The Adams was captured along with the town, and renamed “HMS Detroit”.

Meanwhile, Americans captured an English brig, the Caledonia, and acquired three civilian vessels, the schooners Somers and Ohio and the sloop-rigged Trippe. They converted all four into warships, and Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry had them towed by oxen up the Niagara River, an operation which took six days. Once in Lake Erie, they sailed down the coast to Presque Isle, on the Pennsylvania coast.

Chesapeake Bay and Pittsburgh foundries produced guns and fittings, while two more warships were ordered built at Presque Isle. Meanwhile, Perry drafted 50 experienced sailors from USS Constitution, which was then undergoing refit in Boston Harbor.

Presque Isle, Pennsylvania
Presque Isle, Pennsylvania

The American squadron was almost complete by mid-July, but there was a problem. The sand bar at the mouth of Presque Isle Bay is only 5′ deep. This sand bar kept the British blockade at bay, with a little help from 2,000 Pennsylvania militia and several shore batteries. Once ready though, American ships had to contend with the same obstacle.

British Commander Robert Heriot Barclay was forced to lift his blockade on July 29, due to a supply shortage and bad weather. Perry immediately began the exhausting process of moving his vessels across the sandbar. Guns had to be removed, the larger boats raised between “camels”:  barges lashed together and emptied of ballast to lift the ships high in the water. When Barclay returned four days later, he found the Americans had nearly completed the task.

What followed, was one of history’s great head fakes. Naval warfare in the age of sail was typically conducted by two parallel lines of ships, pounding one another with cannon until one side could no longer take the punishment. Perry’s largest brigs were unready when the British fleet returned, yet the American gunboats formed into line of battle so quickly and with such confidence, that Barclay withdrew to await completion of HMS Detroit.

Put-In-BayPerry’s fleet established anchorage at Put-in-Bay on the Ohio coast. It was there that Barclay’s fleet came for them on September 10.

Battle lines converged outside the harbor shortly after 11:00am. Perry’s flagship USS Lawrence took a savage beating, the longer guns of HMS Detroit having 20 minutes to do their work before Lawrence could effectively reply.

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Battle of Lake Erie by William Henry Powell, painted 1865, shows Oliver Hazard Perry transferring from Lawrence to Niagara

HMS Queen Charlotte added her gunfire to that of Detroit. Soon the American flagship was a wreck, with 80% casualties. Perry transferred his flag and rowed to the USS Niagara half a mile away, the brig being almost unscathed in the action, up this point.

Damaged masts and rigging on the British side resulted in collision between Detroit and Queen Charlotte. They were still snarled up as Niagara broke through the British line, pounding them with broadsides from 18 32-pounder carronades and two 12-pounder long guns. Smaller English ships attempted to flee, but were quickly overtaken.

U.S. Brig Niagara
Brig USS Niagara, 2013

That afternoon American and English vessels, the latter now prizes of war, were anchored with hasty repairs already underway. Oliver Hazard Perry took an old envelope and scrawled his now famous message to future President William Henry Harrison. “Dear General, We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop. Yours with great respect and esteem, O.H. Perry“.

Niagara remains in service to this day, a Coast Guard sail trainer and outdoor exhibit for the Erie Maritime Museum.  One of the last surviving ships, from the War of 1812.

August 24, 1814 Washington is Burning

The only bright spot for the American side that day, came when Commodore Joshua Barney lead 520 seamen in a downhill charge, against a vastly superior British force. Barney took a bullet to the thigh and was captured by the British, who paroled him on the spot. Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn was impressed with the American sailor’s show of courage, saying “They have given us the only fighting we have had.”

In the early years of the nineteenth century, Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grande Armée kept his Britannic Majesty’s armed forces pretty well occupied.  In the former American colonies, the first two years of the War of 1812 were little more than a series of skirmishes.

washingtonsack1The Corsican’s defeat at Waterloo and subsequent exile to Elba freed up some of the most elite, battle hardened troops in the world.

On the morning of August 24, 1814, 4,370 of them were moving up the Chesapeake, toward Baltimore.

They were met by an inexperienced and poorly equipped militia force of some 6,000 American forces at Bladensburg, Maryland, whose comprehensive defeat and humiliating rout went into the history books as the “Bladensburg Races”.  President James Madison and most of the federal government were present at the battle, and nearly captured. American militia members fled through the streets of Washington, while every politician from President Madison down to Freshman Members of Congress skedaddled across the countrysides of Maryland and Virginia.

The only bright spot for the American side that day, occurred when Commodore Joshua Barney lead 520 seamen in a downhill charge against vastly superior British forces. Barney took a bullet to the thigh and was captured by the British.  Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn was so impressed with the American sailor’s show of courage that he paroled the man on the spot, saying “They have given us the only fighting we have had.”

The British sent an advance guard of soldiers to Capitol Hill under flag of truce, intending to discuss terms of surrender. The column was attacked by the occupants of a single house at the corner of Maryland & Constitution Ave., the only resistance the redcoats would see in the city. The house was burned, and the British raised the Union Jack over Washington DC.  Then they commenced to burn every government building they could find.

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The Senate and House of Representatives buildings were the first to burn, along with the Library of Congress and Supreme Court, which at that time were located inside.  The Treasury building was next, though British hopes were disappointed to find there was no money inside.

First Lady Dolley Madison barely had time to gather up some precious objects, ordering White House staff to remove the portrait of George Washington before the “President’s House”, as the White House was then called, was overrun. The table was set for President Madison and a party of 40 at the time, the wine still cooling on a sideboard when the British set the White House of it’s day, on fire.  All night they added fuel to the flames, just to keep it going.

British burn the White House

Portraits of King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte Sophia were discovered in one public building, and taken down before that building too, was burned.  The two portraits made their way halfway across the Atlantic to Bermuda, where they hang in the Parliament building, to this day.

The Washington Navy Yard was torched the following day, along with departments of State, War and Navy.  Admiral Cockburn entered the building of the National Intelligencer newspaper intending to burn that down, too, but several women persuaded him not to.  Instead, Cockburn ordered his troops to tear the building down brick by brick.  He ordered all the “C” typeset destroyed, too, “so that the rascals can have no further means of abusing my name.”

The largest loss of life in the whole episode occurred on the afternoon of the 25th, whenWashington burning General Ross sent two hundred men to secure a fort on Greenleaf’s Point. The fort had already been destroyed by American forces, but 150 barrels of gunpowder remained. The powder ignited while the British were trying to drop it into a well, killing at least a dozen and injuring many others.

A heavy thunderstorm came up that same day, putting out many of the fires and spawning a small tornado that damaged British ships causing them to withdraw. Thomas Jefferson later sold his personal library of more than 6,000 volumes to the government, restocking the Library of Congress with his own personal collection.

The episode has been called “The greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms”…”The most humiliating episode in American history.”  It was the only time before or since, that an enemy force has occupied our nation’s capital.