Friday, October 12, 2018

Washington Burns in 1814 but Arsonists Thwarted in Later Years: Tale No. 16

British Burn Washington, DC in 1814 during War of 1812
(Image: From Book by Paul M. Rapin de Thoyras via Wikipedia Commons)
By David Rusk


Revised December 6, 2021
First published by Black and Red United, October 12, 2018

Preface: This is the sixteenth in a series of Tales from Buzzard Point that explores the rich traditions and myths surrounding the legendary DC United soccer team and its fabled history at Buzzard Point. The Tales from Buzzard Point are historical fiction and parody. 

Most DC United fans are familiar with the British invasion of 1812. In the Battle of Bladensburg, the British routed American defenders twice their number. The unopposed redcoats then seized Washington City. They looted and burned the Capitol (which also contained the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court), the President’s House (White House), and other public buildings. August 1814 is imbedded in memory as “The Burning of Washington.”

But do you know what happened when the arson-minded invaders took on Buzzard Point?

Major General Robert Ross had dispatched 200 men to seize the Washington Arsenal (now Fort McNair) located on Buzzard Point. The following quote is from historian Wilhelmus Bryan.

To the Washington Arsenal were brought as a distributing center for guns from the Government manufactories at Harpers Ferry and Springfield and cannon from the Foxall foundry, near Georgetown, as well as armament that had seen service. Men were employed to mend and clean guns and to provide fittings and carriages for the cannon.”
In addition to assembling cannons and other ordnance, the arsenal also manufactured ammunition.

While naval officers blew up the nearby Washington Navy Yard to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, the evacuation of the Washington Arsenal was less organized. Panicked officials moved some of its cannon and muskets to Alexandria and upriver to Georgetown for safekeeping, but much was left behind for the British to seize when they arrived at the seemingly abandoned facility on August 25. The British soldiers proceeded to systematically destroy the buildings and munitions, spiking cannon barrels and throwing them into the Potomac.

Suddenly, a massive explosion shook all of Washington, blowing a 40-foot crater in the middle of the arsenal. Thirty of the invaders were killed and 47 grievously wounded – a far worse setback for the British than any of the losses they suffered fighting the city’s defenders. Burning buildings were flattened and roofs were torn off others. Huge clods of soil were flung high in the air.

The British army abandoned the city the next day.

Historical apologists claim that the marauding soldiers discovered “about 130 barrels of gunpowder stored in a magazine and apparently made the ill-advised decision to throw the barrels one-by-one down a well. Did they think the dampness of the well would neutralize the powder? It didn’t.”

But we who wear the black and red colors of DC United know the truth. Buzzard Point is sacred ground. Its spirit rises up to repel any invaders. The instrument used varies significantly including among others a sudden squall capsizing a ship called the Columbus or a diabolic apparition during the Civil War.

But Buzzard Point, and those who call it home, will always prevail whether invaders are bent on mere conquest or on pillaging and arson.

So Dallas, be afraid. You cannot hide behind FC Dallas, a fake British identity created in 2004. We know your true identity. You are the Dallas Burn.

*****

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