On January 6, 2021, The United States Capitol is under siege During several tense hours as supporters of President Donald Trump attempted to disrupt a joint session of Congress which was convening to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The Capitol was isolated as security forces, including the Capitol Police and the FBI strike team, cleaned buildings and restored order. . By the time the facility and surrounding environment were secured, four people had lost their lives and dozens were injured.
It has been more than 200 years since the last raid on the Capitol, which occurred during the War of 1812. At the height of the conflict, British troops fought along the Patuxent River, finally heading for Washington, where they burned several government buildings, including the Capitol. To help contextualize this embarrassing and unprecedented event, here’s a look back at what happened the last time America’s democratic seat was besieged.
In the early 1800’s, conflict began between America and Great Britain. Britain adopted several naval policies that severely restricted trade by the fledgling United States. This includes disrupting ships at sea and even forcing American sailors to serve in the British Navy. Britain also assisted Native American tribes in their resistance to American expansion westward.
When James Madison was elected president in 1808, he instructed Congress to begin preparing for another war with Britain. Congress would vote to declare war on Britain on June 18, 1812, and fighting began in July when American forces invaded Canada, then a British colony. The troops will be pushed back, but fighting will continue for more than two more years.
On August 24, 1814, British troops led by Major General Robert Ross marched to Washington City (now Washington DC) after defeating American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg, one of the worst defeat in American military history. Attempting to detain them was a hasty and ill-trained group of 6,000 and 9,000 American militiamen and several hundred experienced regular soldiers under the command of Brigadier General William Winder.
The American troops, though outnumbered, were easily defeated due to several tactical errors, coupled with British sniper skills and British usage. Kongreve rocketthe crude, early form of the rocket propelled grenade. Apart from the damage they inflicted, it was only the sight and sound of a loud rocket that scared the Americans back. Casualties on both sides were relatively light during the fighting, but American troops fled in chaos, leaving Washington nearly unprotected.
With a clear line to Washington ahead of them, Rear Admiral George Cockburn ordered nearly 4,000 British red suits and Royal Marines to line up in the American capital.
As British troops approached Washington, Ross used his drummer to play parley, the drummer intended to signal a request for American leaders to discuss terms of surrender and / or a ceasefire. When none of the American commanders responded to the offer, Ross and Cockburn marched on Washington with no intention of destroying the city. However, after that the snipers opened fire British officials, the decision was later made to burn the building, but only to the American government, to send a clear signal that Britain’s complaint was with the US authorities, not the American public.
In all, British mine sweepers burned 10 government buildings including the Department of War, Treasury, Executive Building and Capitol. The Executive Mansion, now known as the White House, was painted white in 1817 to hide the scorched marks left by the flames. The Capitol was still under construction at the time, but British troops found enough furniture and documents and brought in enough gunpowder to immediately burn the inside of the building. The entire Library of Congress – at that consists of 3,000 books – Created for the rapidly burning flames that spread to the Senate Chamber.
While much of the Capitol is built of refractory materials, such as iron, marble and sandstone, the flames inside did burn hot enough to melt skylights, destroy statues, and severely damage much of the architecture. Some of the fires were so fast and violent that the British were forced to withdraw from the flames, leaving several areas of the facility.
On August 25, 1814, a thunderstorm poured down heavy rain over Washington, extinguishing the flames caused by the invasion of British troops the day before. Several elements of the original sandstone architecture survived the fires, and can still be seen in the Capitol today.
When the rain stops, hundreds of thousands of dollars The amount of damage done to the US Capitol, according to Superintendent of the Public Buildings of the City of Washington, Thomas Munroe.
On December 24, 1814, representatives of the two warring parties signed the Ghent Agreement, named after the town in what was then United Netherlands (now part of Belgium), where the ceremony took place. The deal effectively restores the pre-war status quo and sees a return to territory the two countries had occupied during the fighting.
News of the treaty was well known to US troops under the command of future President Andrew Jackson before they won the Battle of New Orleans on February 12, 1815. Nor did the US government formally ratify the treaty until February of that year.
Reconstruction of the Capitol then began in late 1815, with the help of military engineers, and would continue until 1826. The Capitol would then be expanded with a new wing in 1850, while its recognizable dome was added in 1855 during another expansion. In 1958, another major expansion was added to East Portico.
The siege of the US Capitol in 2021 by supporters of President Trump may not have damaged the building close to the level of the Burning of Washington in 1814, but the fact that masses of protesters were able to storm the Capitol and violate Congress office will no doubt be remembered for centuries to come and. has had a lasting effect on how security is handled in our nation’s capital city for some time.
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