To what extent did the Burning of Washington change the outcome of the War on 1812? Independent Investigation #2
A. Historical Significance
Outline the focus of your inquiry and provide background knowledge. Why is this an important and significant question to ask about the past? Provide evidence from primary to secondary.
The main focus of this inquiry is to acknowledge the struggle between the Americans and the British and how sometimes, you must go to great lengths to get your point across. This is an important question to ask because it was a turning point for the Canadian and British armies. The idea of rebelling against America influenced many citizens to fight for their country. The Burning of Washington showed that Canada was indeed a strong nation.
On August 24, 1814, General Robert Ross, led an entire army of British soldiers into Washington D.C. Prior to this attack, Ross stormed American militiamen at the Battle of Bladensburg in Maryland where President James Madison took command at one point, just before fleeing back to Washington D.C. Later that day Ross had finally arrived in the capital, heading straight for The President’s House. Madison had received word of the invasion and quickly departed out of state.
General Ross and 40 of his officers had dinner in The President’s House, feasting like kings while soldiers took over the entire capital. Once the British were in complete control, troops began setting everything on fire. The arsonists had targeted everything but focused on federal buildings and private homes. Once Ross was finished dining, they destroyed and ruined the interior of The President’s House, just before dousing it in flames.
On August 26 only two days after the fires, Ross ordered a withdrawal from the destroyed city. The next morning, President Madison and his wife returned to a smoking and charred Washington and promised to rebuild the city. The James Hoban, the architect of The President’s House, completed reconstruction of the executive mansion in 1817. The President’s house was then renamed to The White House. America decided to repaint the mansion white in order to hide the flame marks and ultimately, hide the loss to the British.
2. Cause and Consequence
Why did your researched events happen the way they did and what were the consequences?
The main reason behind The Burning of Washington was for a rebellious cause. Earlier in the war, American troops had invaded the city of York in Ontario, Canada, in June 1812. During the time of the war against America for the second time, England was still at war with Napoleon Bonaparte, making their main focus towards the French. After the victory in April 1814, England sent
British troops down to Canada, strengthening the Canadian Forces. England had also suggested and commanded for this attack to happen. In July 1814, Sir George Prevost, the General of the Canadas (Canadian forces), had sent a letter to British Admiral Cochrane, instructing,
“… in consequence of the late disgraceful conduct of the American troops in the wanton destruction of private property on the north shores of Lake Erie, in order that if the war with the United States continues you may, should you judge it advisable, assist in inflicting that measure of retaliation which shall deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages”
Later that month, Cochrane ordered British Admiral Cockburn to “deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages… You
are hereby required and directed to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts as you may find assailable”. Cochrane instructed, “You will spare merely the lives of the unarmed inhabitants of the United States.”
In consequence of the Burning of Washington, both America and England lost plethora amounts of troops. This act of rebellion actually led to the end of the War of 1812. Near the end of August 1814, Britain and America started peace negotiations. After a four-month process of talks and demands, The Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1812.
4. Ethical Judgement
Is what happened right and fair by the values and standards of the time? How about from our current values and standards? Explain.
During the time, Not many rules and regulations were put in place for acts of rebellion. The world was completely different to what is it now so this question is very difficult to answer. In today’s society anything that happened that long ago, would never be acceptable. It’s that simple.
200 years ago, if someone poked you, you would poke them back. What I mean by this is that instead of talking or reconciling, the only answer was retaliation and war. Considering what Sir Prevost had ordered, it is obvious that at the time they did not care how much blood they spilled. Another piece of evidence is the fact that they had still burnt down Washington although it had been two years since the burning in York. This just shows that in the 1800s, Revenge is the answer.
B. Social Studies Inquiry Processes:
What conclusions can you reach about your question, based on the research you conducted?
Based on the research I conducted, I concluded that Britain and the “Canadians” were stronger than the American’s thought. Their alliance together ensured they would be victorious when the war came to an end. Also, although Britain had every right to rebel against America, in today’s society this would have never been acceptable. To answer my question, The Burning of Washington completely changed the outcome of the War of 1812 as after this event both America and Britain created a treaty to stop further feuds.