Taking of Washington and sacking of the White House 1814

On 23 August 1814 a British Force including the 44th East Essex Regiment approached the American Capitol of Washington where it met an American force comprised of soldiers and sailors that was much larger than the British force.

When they were about 16 miles from Washington an American force of about 1200 men attacked but were quickly beaten back and retired.

The following day the British force approached the village of Bladensburg which was on the banks of the River Potomac about 5 miles from Washington  when it met an American force that had established defensive positions on high ground with artillery cover which blocked the route to the Capital. The American army led by General Winder comprised about 8,500 men with 350 cavalry drawn from soldiers in Baltimore and Pennsylvania.

The 44th attacked to the left flank. Major General Ross describes the action in his official  report " The 44th and 4th pressed the attack with such effect as to cause them to abandon their guns. His first line giving way was driven on to the second, which yielding to the irresistible attack of the bayonet, and the well directed discharge of rockets, got into confusion and fled leaving the British masters of the field".

The British Army continued to march and without further attack reached and entered  Washington at about 8pm.

Major General Ross ordered that important building be destroyed after which the British Army would leave and continue their campaign.

The below buildings were set fore to or damaged beyond use ;- Capital building including the Senate House and House of Representatives , The Arsenal, Doc Yard, Treasury, War Office, Rope Walk and bridge over the Potomac, a frigate and a sloop of war and the Presidential Palace.

As ordered the force left Washington the next morning allowing its reoccupation by the Americans.

The casualty bill to the 44th was 14 killed and 35 wounded.

In his report Maj Gen Ross gave specific praise to the 44th East Essex for their distinguished conduct and a result of this the Regiment were awarded the right to include Bladensburg on its colours and become another important part in their story.

Legend has it that the attack was so sudden that Major General Ross and his staff dines in the Presidential Palace and ate the meal that had been prepared for US President Madison.

The Presidential Palace was rebuilt and then painted white, hence force being known as the White House.