"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" - George R. Gleig, The campaigns of the British army at Washington and New Orleans
The War of 1812 was fought between British and United States forces from June 1812 to February 1815; its battlefields were primarily the border between the United States and Canada and the Atlantic Ocean.
Following the successful defeat of Napoleon in the spring of 1814, the British launched a campaign of attack on the Chesapeake region in the summer of 1814, determined to end the war. The campaing, which targeted Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, is today remembered for the battle in the Baltimore harbour which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. However, the British offensive also had a significant impact on the United States' young capital, Washington City.
On August 24, 1814, British and United States military forces met on the field at Bladensburg, Maryland. The British forces won the battle and advanced to Washington, left largely undefended, where they set fire to public buildings. Although the British did not remain in Washington as an occupying force, the capture of the capitol city was a traumatic event both for its residents and for the nation.