War of 1812
Invasion of Washington City
Following the defeat of American militia forces by British regulars at Bladensburg, Maryland on the afternoon of August 24, 1814, a small British force, consisting mainly of officers, marched into the capital city of the United States and set fire to many of its public buildings, including the Capitol, President's House (today's White House), and Treasury.
Retreat Through Fairfax County
Before the enemy entered the city, President James Madison, his wife, Dolley, and then Secretary of State James Monroe escaped into the Virginia countryside, each taking separate routes. The following day Monroe crossed the Potomac into Maryland to join the American army under the command of General William Winder. That evening both of the Madisons were at Wiley's Tavern, just east of Difficult Run, located on the road running from Alexandria to Leesburg. Dolley remained that night at Wiley's, but the president left the tavern around midnight in anticipation of crossing the river at Conn's Ferry and joining the American forces at Montgomery Courthouse (Rockville).
Horrific Storm Delays Madison's Crossing
After reaching the ferry site, President Madison found the river too dangerous to cross due to an earlier violent thunderstorm in which a tornado
swept through the City of Washington. The next afternoon, on August 26, he crossed the Potomac via Conn's Ferry and finished his day in Brookville, Maryland. Madison was informed on August 27 that it was safe to return to the nation's capital. Along with Monroe and Attorney General Richard Rush, the president arrived back in the still smoldering city around 5:00 p.m. His home, the President's House, was totally destroyed. The outside walls stood like empty shells. General Robert Young crossed the river with his Alexandria brigade that same afternoon, and the baggage and artillery were transported across the following day.