Adventures in the War of 1812 – Almost capturing President James Madison, Secretary of War and other members of Federal Government, the 21st marched unobstructed into the capital of the U.S.A, eating the Presidential banquet and burning down the famous White House.
Washington D.C was assumed by the U.S Secretary of War and his comrades to be strategically unimportant to the British during the War of 1812. Baltimore, to the north of Washington D.C, offered more opportunities to loot and disruption to commerce.
However the British decided that they would attack both Baltimore and Washington D.C. The 21st Foot formed part of the British force under Major General Robert Ross. Despite heavy losses suffered both from conflict and the heat the British defeated the American Militia, scattering them homewards to check their families’ safety.
From Bladensburg Ross directed his attention to the nearby capitol and his men ransacked the city. The 21st and the other regiments were instructed to burn the public buildings including the White House, the Capitol Building, destroying the 3000 volumes held in the National Library of Congress and other facilities such as the Navy Yards. This was part of the retaliation for the American burning of York (Toronto) in Canada in 1813.