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Washington D.C. Genealogy Trails
Rebuilding D.C. after the War of 1812
Furnished by John Sharp


War of 1812

           The War of 1812 was fought between the United States of America and British Britain.
The war lasted from 1812 to 1815, although a peace treaty was signed in 1814.

           The United States declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812 for a combination of reasons focused on violation of America's neutral rights, especially the impressment (conscription) of American sailors into the Royal Navy, British restraints on neutral trade, and alleged British military support for American Indians who were hostile to the United States.

 


Capture and Burning of Washington by the British, in 1814.
from Wikipedia per Prints and Photographs Division of the :Library of Congress.
Drawing, "Capture and Burning of Washington by the British, in 1814." 1876 publication.

 

           On August 24, Secretary of War Armstrong insisted that the British would attack Baltimore rather than Washington, even when the British army was obviously on its way to the capital. The inexperienced American militia which had congregated at Bladensburg, Maryland, to protect the capital, were routed in the Battle of Bladensburg, opening the route to Washington. While Dolley Madison saved valuables from the Presidential Mansion, President James Madison was forced to flee to Virginia.
           The British commanders ate the supper which had been prepared for the president before they burned the Presidential Mansion; American morale was reduced to an all-time low.
           Later that same evening, a furious storm swept into Washington D.C., sending one or more tornadoes into the city that caused more damage but finally extinguished the fires with torrential rains. The naval yards were set afire at the direction of U.S. officials to prevent the capture of naval ships and supplies. The British left Washington D.C. as soon as the storm subsided. Having destroyed Washington's public buildings, including the President's Mansion and the Treasury,

 


USS Constitution vs Guerriere
from Wikipedia

USS Constitution, commanded by Captain Isaac Hull, sailed from Chesapeake Bay on July 12. On July 17, a British squadron gave chase. Constitution evaded her pursuers after two days. After briefly calling at Boston to replenish water, on August 19 Constitution engaged the British frigate HMS Guerriere. After a thirty five-minute battle, Guerriere had been dismasted and captured and was later burned. Hull returned to Boston with news of this significant victory

After the War of 1812

           Much destruction was caused by the British invasion of Maryland and District of Columbia especially that of August 1814 where the White House (then referred to as the "President house" or "President's mansion" )and the Capitol buildings had been set ablaze. Mechanics, Horse and Cart Drivers and Laborers were in short supply and the federal government had to advertise in the District of Colombia and out of the region for help. Horse and Cart drivers were the teamsters of their day. Typically Horse and Cart Drivers were expected to bring their own horse and cart and their employers would depending on the circumstances paid the drivers wages and allowance for food and fodder for their horses.

           Private houses had been damaged too so the shortage of laborers meant that sailors looking for better conditions and higher wages had greater opportunities as did American workers everywhere, but this laborer shortage actually caused problems for the U.S.Navy in trying to man its own ships for a few years.

           The items shown below are to give some idea of the economic problems facing the federal government in 1815. The big difficulty was the destruction of public buildings White House and Congress buildindg which the government needed to repair if the the US Capitol was to function.

 


 
Daily National Intelligencer
March 30, 1815 
COMMISIONERS OFFICE, 
	City of Washington 
		March 24th 1815
LABOURERS AND CARTS WANTED

A number of Labourers and Carts are 
Immediately wanted at the public buildings - 
Good wages and constant employ will be given.
Applications to be made to Thomas Howard, who
is appointed an agent of the board, to superintend
the labourers at the Capitol , or to Nicholas Callan 
who is appointed for the like purpose, at the 
President's house and Executive offices.  
	March 24-
 

Thomas Howard (1779-1832) Clerk of the Washington Navy Yard had worked as head of the Laborers at Washington Navy Yard and was familiar with supervision and management of large groups of unskilled workers.
For more on Thomas Howard, Clerk of the Yard see : Thomas Howard

 


 
Daily National Intelligencer
May 23, 1815 p.4

SEVENTY DOLLARS REWARD

Ranaway from the U States Ship Alert,
lying at the Navy Yard in this City, the 
following hands, viz. -
WILLIAM THOMPSON is an American 
born, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high, light 
complexion, dark hair and eyes, thin visage -
deserted April 23, 1815. 
JOHN HAMSON is an Englishman born, 
about 5 feet  5 or 6 inches high, light comple-
xion, sandy hair, light eyes, thickset, 
but not very full in the face - deserted April 25, 1815 
WILLIAM LEONARD is an American about 5 feet 
7 or 8 inches high, slender made, of thin visage and 
light complexion, with blue eyes - deserted May 2d 
JAMES QUINN is an Irishman, about 5 feet 5 or 6 
inches high, light complexion red hair, blue eyes,
some freckled in the face, with considerable of
his country's dialect - deserted May 2d.
THOMAS LOGAL is an American, about 
5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, well made, full in 
the face much given to talking, dark blue eyes,
brown hair- deserted May 6d.
JOHN ROBERTS is an Irishman, about 
5 feet 5 or 6 inches, thick set, light complexion,
with light blue eyes, and brown hair, has considerable
of his country's dialect.   
	The above reward will be paid for apprehending
 the whole and delivering them at the Navy yard, or 
securing them in Gaol and advising me thereof by letter;
 or Ten Dollars for each of them. All reasonable charges 
and traveling expenses &c shall be paid to those who bring
 them back to the Yard.
			N. HARADEN 
May 18 -  
 

USS Alert Started out as British vessel and was captured by the USS Essex during the war of 1812. Many of these men who deserted may have been on the prize crew that brought the Alert back to American forces. Many sailors deserted after the war of 1812 because of the better economic opportunities as laborers in the Nations Capitol see above advertisement.

Nathanial Haraden was Sailing Master at Washington Navy Yard for many years.

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