Anniversary of Capitol Burning

Capitol after it was burned

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Capitol building before it was burned

Click photo to view large slide show.

Plaque marking Library of Congress

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It’s the 200th anniversary of the British burning the Capitol in War of 1812

August 24 marks the 200th anniversary of the burning of the U.S. Capitol during the War of 1812.

Around 8 p.m. on that evening in 1814, British troops marched into Washington, D.C. and set fire to much of the city, in retaliation for the Americans' burning of the Canadian capital at York on April 27, 1813.

The British torched several major rooms in the building, which then housed the Library of Congress, the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. The British used the Library of Congress' collection of over 3,000 books as fuel, which would lead to Thomas Jefferson selling his personal library to Congress to replace the books that were lost.

The Capitol was still being built at the time and consisted of only the north and south wings connected by a wooden walkway. Damage was severe but the building was not completely destroyed thanks to it being built with fire-proof materials, such as sheet iron, marble, sandstone, zinc, and copper.

The Capitol Visitor Center is offering special tours in honor of the anniversary. Plus, videos about the burning are available from historian Bill Allen.


Burning capitol during the Warof 1812
Jefferson's Library
Special Activities at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
The British Burn the Capitol, August 24, 1814