Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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August 24th
Dolley Madison Saves the National Pride
On August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops marched on Washington, D.C. Outside the city waited a ragtag American army along with President James Madison and his advisors, who had raced to the battlefield to witness the capital’s defense. The crack British forces quickly overran the American lines.

Panic reigned in Washington as fleeing soldiers and statesmen began straggling through the city’s streets. Many public records, including the Declaration of Independence, had already been packed into linen bags and carted off to Virginia, where they were piled in an empty house. Now the roads leading out of town began to fill with wagons carrying families and their valuables. In nearby Georgetown and Alexandria, citizens made plans to surrender at the first sight of a British officer.

First Lady Dolley Madison calmly directed last-minute details at the White House. A large portrait of George Washington hung in the dining room. It would be a disgrace if it fell into British hands. Dolley ordered two servants to bring it along, but the huge frame was screwed so tightly to the wall that no one could get it down. Minutes ticked by as they tugged and tugged, to no avail. The First Lady refused to leave without the portrait. At last someone produced a penknife and carefully cut the canvas from the frame. With the precious painting in hand, Dolley and her comrades headed toward Virginia.

Later that evening, the British entered a dark and empty Washington. The Capitol building and White House went up in flames, and the night sky glowed red as the city burned. It was the only time our nation’s capital has fallen into enemy hands. The determined Americans would rebuild. In the meantime Dolley Madison had saved a piece of the national pride.

American History Parade
British troops invade Washington, D.C., setting fire to the U.S. Capitol and White House.

Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly nonstop across the United States, traveling from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, in 19 hours.

Three days after Hawaii becomes the fiftieth state, Hiram L. Fong is sworn in as the first Chinese-American U.S. senator, and Daniel K. Inouye is sworn in as the first Japanese-American U.S. House member.

Hurricane Andrew smashes into southern Florida, causing record damage.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

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