Independent Investigation #2 – The War of 1812

What are the Causes, Consequences, and Perspectives of the Burning of the White House?

From the imaginary private diary of a British Redcoat

August 19th, 1814

Our ships have arrived in Chesapeake Bay to begin our attack on Washington. Including me, 4,000 British soldiers are to reach the city and take it with force. Now that the war against France and Napoleon is over, our beautiful Britain can send reinforcements such as myself to our colonies of Upper and Lower Canada to help with the War of 1812. Our first act will be to take the fairly undefended city of Washington. This will mark a change in the war for British victory. I am confident that the local militia of barely-trained American ‘soldiers’ will not be much trouble to defeat. Plans are already set to burn down many of their public buildings, including their wretched ‘Presidential Mansion’, home of the man who declared war, President James Madison. I also wish to burn their ‘Library of Congress’, ‘US Treasury’, and other such buildings. However, we will be merciful, and will avoid burning or destroying the residential area. We will take revenge for the burning and capture of our city York, Upper Canada, by the rebellious Americans in June, 1812. They will rue the day they crossed Britain! Once we cross the land and reach the city in five days, the Americans will pay.

From the imaginary private diary of an American militia

August 22nd, 1814

Our dear President James Madison has left to Maryland to meet with his generals, although I believe that he has done what 90% of our small population of Americans in Washington have already done; flee. Word has arrived that British Redcoats are planning to attack. They are close; the arrival is expected to be in two days. President James Madison’s wife, the honourable Dolley Madison, has stayed behind on the instructions of her husband. She is prepared to flee at anytime, but she waits until the either the British arrive or her husband and his generals return. She is leaving behind her personal belongings in exchange for important political papers and the life-sized portrait of our honourable first president, President George Washington. I will continue to fight for my country, but I must privately confess; I am scared of battle. I, like many of the local militia, have trained with the army, but we are not nearly as experienced or skilled as the Redcoats. But despite that, we will not let those bastards leave with their life’s or the keys to our beloved city. I will fight until my dying breath, no matter my fear. I feel that some of my comrades, however, will not do the same.

From the imaginary private diary of a British Redcoat

August 24th, 1814

We have arrived at the city! There are many public buildings we can loot and burn, but our commanders are planning to raise a flag of truce. It is true, I do not wish to see more bloodshed after the many wars that have plagued our beloved country of Britain. Now that the Napoleon War is over, we do not need to attack and enforce American ships and sailors into our Royal fleet. As such, the Americans will surely start to loose political interest in the war. Our colonies of Upper and Lower Canada are well protected, and the Americans know they cannot win. With the defensive side of the war ending, Britain will have also no more use for fighting. I foresee a peace treaty in the near future, perhaps in the next year. As for now, the truce flag will be raised and a peaceful surrender of the American militia seems highly probable.

From the imaginary private diary of an American militia

August 24th, 1814

The British Redcoats have arrived. The lovely Dolley Madison has fled the Presidential Mansion with the portrait of President George Washington and all important papers. A flag of truce has been raised by the British, but we will not allow those Redcoats who hold the blood of our fellow Americans on their hands to take control of our city. Experience in battle does not matter; we will fight until the bitter end for our beautiful America.

From the imaginary private diary of a British Redcoat

August 24th, 1814

The foolish local American militia ignored our flag of truce and attempted to fight is despite our gap in training. Defeating them was easy, and we will continue with our plan of looting and burning the city and public buildings as punishment for this action and their actions against York. The ‘Library of Congress’, ‘US Treasury’, ‘Capitol’, and the Presidential Mansion are just some of the buildings we will raze to the ground. They will pay for their insolence!

August 24th, 1814

The Presidential Mansion is in flames. Before we set it ablaze, we enjoyed a delicious dinner using food from it’s kitchens and silver and dishes from it’s cabinets. We also looted everything we could carry. Now it is burning, and this British victory will go down in history! The Americans are on their own now. This is the start of the British reinforcements for our Canadian colonies, and the beginning of the end of the War of 1812. There is no more need for fighting. Once the Americans surrender, the war will be over. For now, Washington is in our hands.

From the imaginary private diary of a British Redcoat

August 25th, 1814

A surprise thunderstorm and tornado has hit Washington, destroying many buildings and killing British and American people alike. We are forced to retreat to our ships for supplies. The current American President, James Madison, is returning from Maryland with his generals in three days, and we must leave to help Upper and Lower Canada. Only 26 hours have passed since we took Washington, and we are already forced to leave it back in the hands of the Americans. Fate, why have thee sent a shower of storms against us! Perhaps it is for the better; our colonies need our help. Britain will win this war. 

Historical Aftereffect:

  • The Presidential Mansion was rebuilt, repainted, and renamed: it is now known as the White House.
  • President James Madison and his wife returned to Washington, but they did not life in the White House again.
  • The reinforcements from Britain and the end of the Napoleon war took the need to fight the War of 1812 away from both sides (Americans and British/Canadians), leading to a peace treaty in 1815 and the end of the War of 1812.

*There are more notes, but the blog doesn’t want to upload them. They will be added once the problem is sorted out if possible.



  1. Michelle,
    An engaging and creative response that shows a wonderful ability to consider more than one perspective in the War of 1812. I especially enjoyed how the narrative switches back and forth between the British and the Americans throughout, revealing insight into their thoughts and opinions of the events at hand. What sources did you use to create this lively narrative? Remember to include a list of the works you consulted / researched to complete this piece. Keep challenging yourself to use your narrative skill to demonstrate your learning — well done!

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