On August 14, 1814, a fleet of British warships departed from the naval base at Bermuda. Its original site was the city of Baltimore, which was then the third largest city in the United States. Baltimore was also the home port of armed American ships which raided British shipping. The British referred to Baltimore as a "nest of pirates."
One British commander, Rear Admiral George Cockburn also had another target in mind, the city of Washington.
Canadians also wanted revenge for actions committed by the United States armies in 1813. After the Battle of York in April, American soldiers torched the Parliament and other government buildings of Upper Canada. In December, they burned the town of Newark to the ground. Sir George Prevost, Commander in Chief of the British forces in Canada, petitioned the British government for help. When the British invasion force landed at Benedict, Maryland on August 20, they were less than 50 miles from Washington. As the enemy approached the town over the next three days, all the people of the town left, even President James Madison.
Those people who stayed behind managed to save important Capitol documents, including Congressional and Senate papers, the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The First Lady told the White House staff to save the famous portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. Dolly Madison was one of the last people to leave Washington before the British arrived.
At 8 o’clock on August 24, Major General Robert Ross, with 4000 soldiers entered the undefended town of Washington D.C. to retaliate for burning the Parliament in York (now Toronto). They entered the Capitol building and staged a mock legislation and vote to burn it down.
At 10:30 the troops move to the White House. When they got there, they found a table set for about 40 people. They sat and feasted on the food. They even toasted to “Jimmy’s health.” They also went