Sunday, August 24, 2014

200 years ago: August 24, 1814

On August 24, 1814, after soundly defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg Maryland, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross (pursuing American militia who actually fled in panic through the streets of Washington D.C.) occupied the capital city and set fire to many public buildings. The facilities of the U.S. government, including the White House and U.S. Capitol, were largely destroyed, and there was absolutely no effective American resistance. The British commander gave orders to burn only public buildings and the strict discipline among the British troops ensured that his orders were followed; as a result, the city's private buildings were preserved.

The War of 1812 was a humiliating defeat for the Americans; and that humiliation was felt for years ... but with the passage of time, Americans have claimed the war as a victory.  It wasn't, although it wasn't truly a British victory either, since American aspirations of forcing the British off the continent had already been destroyed ... but for Canadians, it was a huge success; affirming Canadian solidity and sovereignty.  

The real losers, of course, were the American Indians of the upper Mississippi and the Ohio territory; that's another story.