Escape Across the Potomac
Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
— National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior —
As war with Britain wore on, some U.S. military leaders believed the nation's capital, with its inland location and military defenses, was safe. So Washingtonians were cruelly surprised when the British invaded on August 24, 1814. As the enemy burned some of the public buildings, people gathered what they could carry and fled. Many crossed the Potomac River to Virginia on the Long Bridge, a wooden drawbridge on the site of today's 14th Street Bridge.
Bridge on Fire
The next day, the British captured this end of Long Bridge while the Americans held the Virginia side. After a fierce thunderstorm crippled the drawbridge mechanism, each army set its end of the bridge on fire, reducing the Potomac crossings to either the Georgetown ferry or Chain Bridge, five miles upstream.
"The streets were...crowded with soldiers and senators, men, women, and children, horses, carriages, and carts...all hastening toward a wooden bridge which crosses the Potomac. The confusion...was terrible, and the crowd upon the bridge was such as to endanger its giving way."
Lt. George Robert Gleig, British soldier.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War of 1812. In addition, it is included in the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail series list. A significant historical date for this entry is August 24, 1814.
Location. 38° 53.229′ N, 77° 1.928′ W. Marker is in Southwest Federal Center in Washington, District of Columbia. Marker is on 14th Street Southwest south of Independence Avenue Southwest, on the right when traveling south. Marker is just north of the Holocaust Museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 201 14th Street Southwest, Washington DC 20227, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Yates Building (within shouting distance of this marker); The General Dwight David Eisenhower Plaza (within shouting distance of this marker); James Wilson (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Wilson Memorial Arch (about 300 feet away); Smokey Bear Blue Spruce (about 400 feet away); Raoul Wallenberg Place (about 400 feet away); Jean Hillery and Thomas Quadros (about 500 feet away); Steven Thomas Stefani IV (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest Federal Center.
More about this marker.
A British engraving dated October 14, 1814, shows the destruction of Long Bridge (letter H) among other key events.
A historical illustrator later imagined the British watching the Capitol burn.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 6, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 25, 2016, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 344 times since then and 21 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on August 25, 2016, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. 2, 3. submitted on September 7, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 4. submitted on November 27, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.