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August 24, 1814:  British Occupying Washington D.C. Meet With A Deadly D.C. Storm!



  The War of 1814 involved the US fighting against Canadians and British, both in Canada and the USA.  It was an odd sort of war, and I personally feel that two major lessons were taught by God during this war.  I believe that, before it all was over, God showed the British that He really did have plans for the USA to be a nation.  And He also showed a bunch of important and land greedy US war hawks from that time period that He had no intentions of letting Canada become part of the USA.  There were a lot of bumbling military efforts mixed in among the more hard fought ones, and in the end of it all there was not so very much difference made to the maps.  That's just an amateur synopsis, but in some ways it's true.  And Andrew Jackson made a name for himself during this war that would eventually help carry him to the Presidency.  That should probably be mentioned.   

  America at one point was able to capture the city that would become Toronto, but was then called York, which was the Capitol of 'Upper Canada' at that time, and they burned and damaged a great deal of it.  That sat hard with both the Canadians and the British.  So, there was certainly a feeling among those two forces that the US was deserving of a good humiliation if it could be arranged.  The opportunity presented itself after the British were able to put the far away threat of the Napoleanic wars to rest when they acheived victory there.  They were soon afterwards able to send large groups of experienced war veterans - men who had served under Wellington - from Europe across the sea to America to assist in that conflict, and those were tough soldiers, recently victorious, confident and capable.  They were pretty formidable!

  A British war fleet carrying a great number of these tough troops made it across the Atlantic in August of 1814 and headed into Chesapeake Bay apparently intent on attacking Baltimore (and that was part of their plan) but a good sized segment of 4000 plus broke off and marched quickly toward Washington D.C. once they landed.  They had only about 50 miles to cover, roughly a three day march.  This news reached Washington D.C. and caused great concern. 

  About 7,000 American troops were mustered to meet this threat, but they were beaten badly and forced in hasty retreat from the field.  The President, James Madison, along with many other important Washington notables were gathered at a safe distance watching the battle and hoping it went well.  When they saw the humiliating American defeat they dispatched news to Washington telling everyone there that they had better evacuate, and that advice was followed.  The President's wife, Dolly Madison, had prepared a great feast, assuming victory, at the White House (then called the President's Residence) and when the news of the defeat and recommended evacuation came she began a mad rush to gather such things as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and according to some traditions a full length portrait of George Washington that today graces a White House wall.  Others say that different people were responsible for saving most of that, and that Dolly's role was expanded by the media.  But by the time she and the servants fled they were among the very last to leave town, just ahead of the approaching British.

  The often civilized and polite British, their force under the command of Major General Robert Ross and Rear Admiral George Cockburn,  pulled up outside of town and sent in a delegation under a white flag of truce to offer terms of surrrender.  Unfortunately everyone with any authority to accept such terms had bravely fled, and only a few land owners, residents, and more common type people remained.  Some of these were brave but discourteous and fired upon the British peace delegation, killing one British man and also the Admiral's horse.  This soured the British completely on the idea of a peaceful occupation, and they attacked the scarcely defended town, a town usually occupied by about 8,000 people, with great anger.

  The shooters fled and there was basically no further resistance.  The British quickly found the Presidential Residence and First Lady Dolly Madison's freshly abandoned feast, the table fully set and the food richly prepared, and so the famished soldiers applauded their good luck and thoroughly enjoyed the provisions, complete with chilled bottles of wine, though lacking serving staff, of course.  The Major General is said to have offered up a toast to 'Jimmy', referring to President James Madison. 

  Then they set about, this being August 24th, upon the task of performing the proper burning of the city of Washington D.C.  They set fire to the White House, the Capitol Building, and in fact all of the government buildings that existed at that time except (for reasons that I do not know) the US Patents Office.  Some sources say the US Post office was also spared.  Soon the sky was so brightly lit that the glow could be seen from far away Baltimore, about 50 miles away.  The British were obtaining a very satisfying revenge for what had been done at Toronto (York), Canada.

  The next day there was more burning, some at the nearby Naval Shipyard where accidentally exploding powder killed about 40 British, and by the end of the morning flames from all of those previously torched Federal Buildings were threatening to spread and set fire to a large portion of the city.  But then, as it became afternoon on the 25th of August, the weather changed.....with a vengeance. 

  The clouds moved in and the sky began to darken, the winds picked up, then grew powerful, and then turned into a screaming maelstrom.  It had been very, very hot in recent days....over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  There was probably a great deal of energy in the storm, which some identify as a full hurricane.  It soon became so very severe that it was actually shocking to the British.  In the middle of it all at least one tornado and maybe more ripped through the town (a great rarity in Washington D.C.'s recorded history) and soon the noise was an unbelievably loud howl, the winds were tearing roofs off of houses, sucking feather beds out of windows, blowing down buildings, and tearing directly through the area of town where the British had decided to house their troops. 

  Men were so terrified by this storm that some lay face down in the mud as flat as they could make themselves and just hoped they would somehow be passed over.  An officer who had decided to remain mounted on his horse was seen hurled flat to the ground, along with his horse.  The almost unbelievable sight of cannons being lifted off the ground and hurled about was witnessed and recorded.  The air was full of flying deadly debris, and in fact several British were recorded killed, suggesting who knows how many wounded. 

  Immediately following the worst of the wind came a torrential down pour that lasted several hours and which put out all of the remaining fires that burned throughout the city.  Had that not occurred, there is no telling how much of the city of Washington D.C. would have been burnt to ashes.  Of course the winds of this terrific and highly unusual storm did much harm to the city as well as to the British.  

  When it was all over the shaken up British troops, more having been killed by the weather than the military taking of the city, were mustered up onto the high ground of Capitol Hill.  They had essentially lost their taste for residing in the American capitol and made plans to return to their ships almost immediately, marching out and leaving the much damaged city unoccupied and unguarded.  As they left the Major General addressed a nearby female resident of the city who was standing nearby watching them leave.  He asked if they were much accustomed to such horrible storms here in their city.  She answered that no, she believed that God had interposed the weather to drive out their enemies.  He corrected her, saying that to the contrary, God had sent the storm to assist them in destroying the city!  

  According to how you look at it, either of them might have been right.  But, the storm had inarguably not opposed the escape of the Americans from Washington D.C., and it had also done much wind damage yet had put out the destroying fires, and it had put the British into the mood to leave Washington without sticking around to destroy or burn anything more.  On the whole, it seems to have been to more advantage for the Americans.  But whatever the case, it was a highly unusual storm at a highly momentous and pivotal time and place in history.  A deadly tornado in Washington D.C.!  Has there ever been another tornado there since then that was actually deadly?    

  Once the British had departed the President and other Washington residents soon returned, took stock, and began the quite extensive work of trying to rebuild.  President Madison impressed a great many people by riding throughout the city encouraging and comforting people.  The claim has been made that so great was his concern that he went nearly four full days, mostly on horseback, almost entirely without sleep, between the evacuation and the taking stock of his burnt capitol city.  This earned him a great deal of appreciation from his fellow citizens.   A few irreplaceable treasures had been saved by the worthy First Lady and various others, but much had also been lost.  Never the less, the city would, as we know, go on to enjoy some prominence.      

  Upon arriving at their ships a few days later the British found that the same storm had done great damage there as well, and that two of their ships had lost anchor and been blown forcefully against the shore.  They embarked and sailed, and a couple of weeks later Baltimore was attacked, and a witness named Francis Scott Key wrote 'the Star Spangled Banner' which became the nation's National Anthem in time.

  And that is basically the story of the British burning of Washington in the War of 1814, and of the great storm that attended it.  What did it exactly mean?  God only knows!  But it is God who holds the weather in His hand.



  I personally believe that knowing how many great deeds of God have actually occurred through out history will lead some people to be saved giving their life to Christ.  If you agree, then please, take the time to be a 'missionary', to love your neighbor enough to care about their soul.  Please mention and recommend visiting the Deeds of God website on any social media sites that you belong to.  It's surprising how much impact such a simple thing as that might have.  And tell a favorite account to your friends or family, and tell them where you read it.  To know God is to stand in awe of Him, but too few people know Him today.  Accounts like these are yet another way to come to know Jesus and the Holy Father, and the Spirit of Truth that helps us understand.  Thank you.  Dan Curry






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