November 16 1814: Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer

Presidential Proclamation

The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public humiliation and fasting and of prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace, I have deemed it proper by this proclamation to recommend that Thursday, the 12th of January next, be set apart as a day on which all may have an opportunity of voluntarily offering at the same time in their respective religious assemblies their humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance and amendment. They will be invited by the same solemn occasion to call to mind the distinguished favors conferred on the American people in the general health which has been enjoyed, in the abundant fruits of the season, in the progress of the arts instrumental to their comfort, their prosperity, and their security, and in the victories which have so powerfully contributed to the defense and protection of our country, a devout thankfulness for all which ought to be mingled with their supplications to the Beneficent Parent of the Human Race that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses against Him; to support and animate them in the discharge of their respective duties; to continue to them the precious advantages flowing from political institutions so auspicious to their safety against dangers from abroad, to their tranquility at home, and to their liberties, civil and religious; and that He would in a special manner preside over the nation in its public councils and constituted authorities, giving wisdom to its measures and success to its arms in maintaining its rights and in overcoming all hostile designs and attempts against it; and, finally, that by inspiring the enemy with dispositions favorable to a just and reasonable peace its blessings may be speedily and happily restored.

Given at the city of Washington, the 16th day of November, 1814, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-eighth.


October 16 1814: Catherine Lyon at Chippewa

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October 10 1814: Andrew Jackson Aroused

October 9 1814: Discussing Response to British

9th. V. From which time until our meeting at two in the afternoon I was engaged in copying the note yesterday received from the British Plenipotentiaries. At the meeting we had some desultory conversation on the subject of the answer to be given to the British note. We came to no determination, but agreed to meet at eleven to-morrow morning. Mr. Bayard suggested the propriety of asking for a conference before we should answer the note. He thought we could not break off on the refusal to accept the article proposed, but that we might demand, before we accepted it, their whole project of a treaty. Yet if they should eventually refuse to give their project until we should formally have admitted their article, he was still not for breaking off. Mr. Clay was for rejecting any proposition to disarm upon the Lakes, if we admitted the present article; because he considered that the two articles together would deliver the whole western country up to the mercy of the Indians. The inconvenience and danger of admitting any preliminary article thus dictated was distinctly perceived by us, but none of us were prepared to break off upon it.

—  John Quincy Adams, at Ghent, writes in his diary for October 9 1814.

August 24 1814: Washington is Burning!

The historian Alan Taylor provides a masterful description of the Battle of Bladensburg and the subsequent capturing and burning of Washington (The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832):

On August 24 the Britons faced their first resistance at Bladensburg, just east of Washington. To block their advance Brigadier General William H. Winder, posted his troops on the high ground along the western bank of the Anacostia River. A professional politician but an amateur soldier, Winder’s only previous military experience involved getting captured in Canada, but he was the nephew of Maryland’s Federalist governor, which Madison hoped might assure a little more cooperation from the state militia. Although Winder had superior numbers, 7,000 men versus the 4,500 Britons, the American force consisted primarily of raw militia who had never seen combat. Only Barney’s 400 armed seamen could be relied on to fight. By contrast, the well-trained Britons had been hardened by years of victories under Lord Wellington in Spain. Continue reading