A Measure of Retaliation

The United States Capitol following the burning of Washington City on 24 August 1814, during the War of 1812, watercolour (restored) by George Munger (1781-1825), Library of Congress.
The United States Capitol following the burning of Washington City on 24 August 1814, during the War of 1812, watercolour (restored) by George Munger (1781-1825), Library of Congress.

…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.

Sir George Prévost, Governor General of The Canadas in a letter to Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, 2 June 1814.

I am most decidedly of opinion that the readiest way to attain this object is to bring home to the supporters of the Government which authorizes this unnatural system of warfare a full share of its dreadful calamities and to this end, I have issued to the commanding officer of H.M. blockading squadron an order, accompanied by a secret memorandum…

ORDER FOR RETALIATION
No. 1
By the Honorable Alexander Cochrane, K.B. &c, &c, &c.

Whereas… it appears that the American troops in Upper Canada have committed the most wanton and unjustifiable outrages on the unoffending inhabitants by burning their mills and houses, and by a general devastation of private property…

You are hereby required and directed to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts as you may find assailable. You will hold strictly in view the conduct of the American army towards His Majesty’s unoffending Canadian subjects and you will spare merely the lives of the unarmed inhabitants of the United States.

Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane to John Wilson Croker, the Secretary to the Admiralty, 14 June 1814.

Two hundred years ago today, on 24 August 1814, after defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington City and set fire to many public buildings, including the Executive Mansion and the Capitol, as well as other facilities of the United States government. The attack was in part a retaliation to American actions in the Raid on Port Dover.

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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