On August 27, 1814, Alexandrians could see smoke rising from the Federal City (Washington). It had been burned by the now-departed British army. Why? Two years earlier, on June 18, 1812, the Americans had declared war on Great Britain for seizing American ships and forcing Americans to serve Britain. Thus the War of 1812 began. For two years, however, Alexandrians had been spared. The British had blockaded the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. They had plundered farms and communities around the Bay. Now the Royal Navy was sailing up the Potomac toward Alexandria. Only Fort Washington, six miles downriver, stood between the town and the enemy. When the British took the fort on August 28, terrified Alexandrians were at their mercy. Hear the Alexandrians’ stories as you relive those harrowing days of late August 1814.
Look across the river to the white house on the hill where the DeButt family lived.