Union Jack o’er the Capitol: A Burning of Washington Walking Tour

Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome guest historian Zach Whitlow. Zach’s biography is at the bottom of this post. 

August marks the 202nd anniversary of the Burning of Washington. On the heels of their astounding victory at Bladensburg, a British incursionary force under Major General Robert Ross and Rear Admiral George Cockburn occupied the American capital for about 24 hours on August 24th & 25th, 1814. Besides a small ambush at the Sewall House on Capitol Hill, in which two corporals and General Ross’ horse was killed, the British encountered no resistance in the city whatsoever. The Union Jack was triumphantly raised: Washington had fallen. Soon it would burn.

The burned out shell of the White House following the British occupation of Washington. (The President's House, by George Munger, 1814-1815)
The burned out shell of the White House following the British occupation of Washington. (The President’s House, by George Munger, 1814-1815)

What followed were events that literally burned themselves into the American psyche. To remember this bleak moment in history, rangers from the National Mall & Memorial Parks are leading a series of walking tours in the month of August. Beginning at the newly designated Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument (the site of the ambush), visitors walk a total of 2.5 miles and retrace the British advance down Pennsylvania Avenue. Through the program, the rangers will sift through the modern paved environment and tell the stories of long gone places, such as the newspaper offices of the National Intelligencer and Barbara Suter’s tavern.  The tour will also feature some of the surviving remnants of that time, such as the Octagon Museum.

The walking tour begins at Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument (144 Constitution Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002) every Saturday in August at 3:00 pm. There will also be programs on Wednesday, August 24th and Thursday, August 25th at 3:00 pm. Please bring comfortable shoes and plenty of drinking water.


*Zach Whitlow has an M.A. in Museum Studies from the George Washington University, a B.A. in History from California State University, Long Beach, and three A.A. degrees from Fullerton College. A lifelong historian, he currently works for the National Park Service at the National Mall & Memorial Parks in Washington, DC and the Office of Historic Alexandria in Alexandria, VA. Prior to this, Zach worked at the National Archives, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. He currently lives in Alexandria, VA with his girlfriend Teresa and their two cats, Max and Lizzie.


“Remember the Ladies”



March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the many contributions women have contributed in our country. At George Washington Birthplace National Monument, our social media policy for the month has been to highlight important women to the history of the National Park Service and/or to George Washington’s life.

By writing the history text and developing what images to use for these posts, I thought I would take this example and expand it to include two other women that played integral parts in the American Revolutionary movement.

Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. Continue reading ““Remember the Ladies””