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four killed, and one hundred and eighty-five wounded and missing
On the other hand, the citizen militia escaped, pretty much unhurt, with their valuable lives; and without forming again to impede the progress of the enemy, or to defend the Capitol and public buildings, disappeared entirely from the District, leaving their wives and families to the mercy of the victors.
The third British brigade was led into the city by General Ross, and marshaled in front of the Capitol. In approaching the Capitol the horse of General Ross was shot under him by one of Barney's sailors, who had ensconced himself in a house for that purpose. The inmates of the house were immediately put to the sword and the house set in flames. A volley was fired into the windows of the Capitol, when the soldiers entered and prepared its destruction. Admiral Cockburn mounted the Speaker's chair, and put the question, “Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned ? All for it will say aye !” After reversing the question, he pronounced the motion carried unanimously, and ordered combustibles to be applied to the furniture. In a room adjoining the Senate chamber portraits of Louis the Sixteenth and Marie Antoinette, King and Queen of France, were cut out of the frames and burned or stolen. The building was fired in several places and soon wrapped in flames.
The Secretary of the Navy had previously given orders to Commodore Tingey to destroy the shipping and stores at the Navy Yard, in the event of a defeat at Bladensburgh, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.
At four o'clock the Secretary of War dispatched a messenger to Tingey, informing him that no'further pro
tection could be expected,--upon which that officer prepared to fire the vessels and buildings. Earnest appeals were made by the citizens, and even the ladies, to save the yard from destruction, but without avail. At twenty minutes past eight o'clock the match was applied to the train, and the work of the enemy was performed by our own hands.
The sloop-of-war Argus with ten guns mounted, five barges fully armed, two gun-boats, the frigate Columbia on the stocks, and a large quantity of naval stores, were consigned to the flames. The schooner Lynx, and the Arsenal, by some oversight, escaped the sacrifice.
The scene is thus described by Lieutenant Gleig, as it appeared to the British on entering the city :
While the third brigade was thus employed, the rest of the army, having recalled its stragglers and removed the wounded into Bladensburgh, began its march towards Washington. Though the battle was ended by four o'clock, the sun had set before the different regiments were in a condition to move, consequently this short journey was performed in the dark. The work of destruction had also begun in the city before they quitted their ground, and the blazing of houses, ships, and stores—the report of exploding magazines and the crash of falling roofs—informed them as they proceeded of what was going forward. You can conceive nothing finer than the sight which met them as they drew near to the town. The sky was brilliantly illumined by the different conflagrations, and a dark-red light was thrown upon the road, sufficient to permit each man to view distinctly his comrade's face. Except the burning of St. Sebastian's, I do not recollect to have witnessed at any period of my life a scene more striking or more sublime. Having advanced as far as the plain where the reserve had previously paused, the first and second brigades halted, and, forming into close column, passed the night in bivouac.
After firing the Capitol, the British commanders took their silent march to the other end of Pennsylvania avenue, and having taken possession of the lodging-house of Mrs. Suter, opposite the Treasury Department, they ordered supper. Meanwhile they set fire to the Treasury building and the President's Mansion. The President had retired from the city with his Cabinet, on horseback, immediately after the close of the battle at Bladensburgh, -crossing the Potomac at the Little Falls, re-crossing at the Great Falls, and returning after the evacuation by
It is stated by Gleig that the table was found spread at the President's House, and covers laid for forty guests, in view of a welcome of the victorious defenders of the city. The wine was cooling on the sideboard, the plates warming at the grate, and meats on the spits in the kitchen, ready for a sumptuous repast. However, no repast was enjoyed by the hostile troops, as Ross and Cockburn returned to the house of Mrs. Suter, and, after extinguishing the lights, ate their supper by the blaze of the burning buildings.
Later in the evening General Ross rejoined the main army at their encampment on Capitol Hill, when they were exposed to the inclemency of a severe thunder storm which occurred in the night. Admiral Cockburn, with a few of his dissolute companions, spent the night in a brothel, rivaling the elements in rendering the night hideous with their disgusting orgies. During the night the sentries were attacked, in a fit of rashness, by a grandnephew of General Washington-John Lewis, a young sailor. He was shot down in the street, where he was found dead in the morning. The Long Bridge across the
Potomac was fired simultaneously, at both ends, by the British and Americans, under the false apprehension of an attack from the opposite shore. In its destruction some military stores were burned upon the Virginia side.
On the morning of the 25th the two commanders renewed their work of demolition by burning the building occupied by the War and Navy Departments. Cockburn, mounted upon a switch-tailed mare, and followed by her foal, paraded the streets, enjoying the effect of his ludicrous appearance and the terror of the women and children. The Post and Patent Office was, with reluctance, spared by the enemy, upon the appeal of Dr. Thornton, to save private property stored in the building.
Cockburn took personal revenge upon the editors of the National Intelligencer, for some remarks published concerning him, by destroying the presses in the office and throwing the type out of the windows,--the Admiral enjoining upon them to “be sure that all the C's were destroyed, that the rascals could have no further means of abusing his name," and declaring that “ he would punish Madison's man, Joe, as he had his master, Jim.” That venerable sheet, in its usual conservative spirit, a few days afterwards attributed the acts of plunder entirely to lawless citizens. This article was the basis of the statement, in a London journal, that "the only acts of robbery and destruction of private property were admitted to have been perpetrated by our own countrymen !” Besides the destruction of private property already mentioned, the houses of General Washington and Mr. Frost, and the hotel of Daniel Carroll, were burned on Capitol Hill.
The destroyers then proceeded to the Navy Yard to complete the ruin in which they had been too promptly
anticipated. Not content with burning the public works and stores, they also set fire to the private rope-walks of Tench, Ringgold, Heath & Co., and John Chalmers, and shamefully mutilated the beautiful monument rected by the officers of the navy to the gallant heroes who fell, at Tripoli, in a war to secure British as well as American rights, and to punish pirates, the enemies of mankind.
After setting fire to the rope-walks on Greenleaf's Point, the torch was thrown into a dry well, in which the Americans had previously cast a large quantity of pow. der, arms, and military stores. The consequence was a tremendous explosion, which brought death and destruction upon all around. Nearly one hundred of the barbarous invaders were killed and wounded, and their mutilated remains scattered in
every direction. In addition to the general.consternation produced by this casualty, a frightful tornado swept over the city, which threw down buildings and dealt destruction to everything in its path. The blackness of the sky, the howling of the tempest, the cataract of rain, the gleaming of the lightning, the roar of thunder, and the crash of falling buildings, conspired to render the scene terrific beyond description, striking terror to the hearts of friend and foe. Trees were torn up by the roots, and roofs of houses whirled in the air like sheets of paper. Scores of the enemy, as well as inhabitants, were buried amid the ruins of fallen buildings, and the elements seemed to unite in completing the work of the despoilers. The British now taking a needless alarm for their own safety, falsely apprehending an attack, withdrew stealthily from the city, as the evening closed in, and took up their march for the point of embarkation.