• Robin Renwick


On 24 August 1814, Rear-Admiral Sir George Cockburn sat down to dinner at the White House. He was an uninvited guest. The table had been laid for President Madison. At around 3 p.m. that afternoon, with the streets of the capital choked with soldiers and refugees, Dolley Madison had fled the White House, having at the last moment found a wagon to carry off the silver, her favourite velvet curtains, papers, books, a clock and, cut from its frame, the full-length portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. Left behind were most of her clothes and other belongings. President Madison and his companions, fleeing in a ferry across the Potomac and from the Virginia shore, saw ‘columns of flame and smoke ascending throughout the night … from the Capitol, the President’s house and other public edifices, as the whole were on fire … If at intervals the dismal sight was lost to our view, we got it again from some hilltop or eminence where we paused to look at it.’1


Presidential Election British Government Peace Treaty American Negotiator Boston Harbour 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Richard Rush, cited in J.S. Williams, History of the Invasion and Capture of Washington (1857) pp. 274–5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J.W. Taylor, 8 October 1814, quoted in R. Ketcham, James Madison (University of Virginia Press, 1990) p. 579.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Monroe to Jefferson, 11 January 1807, in S.M. Hamilton (ed.), The Writings of James Monroe, Vol. V (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1898) pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Henry Adams, History of the United States, Vol. IV (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1889) p. 182.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Henry Adams (ed.), The Writings of Albert Gallatin J.B. Lippincott, (1879) Vol. I, pp. 602–7.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Kenneth Boume, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America (Longman, 1967) p. 219.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Henry Adams: Democracy: An American Novel (Henry Holt & Co., 1880) pp. 30–31.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Susan Mary Alsop, Lady Sackville (Doubleday, 1978) pp. 72–5.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    H.C. Allen, Great Britain and the United States (St Martin’s Press, 1995) p. 536.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Edmund Morris, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Ballantine, 1979) p. 477.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sir Robin Renwick 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin Renwick

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