In 1814, British troops invaded and burned Washington; the White House still bears scorch and soot marks on its foundation stones. Until the British tried to obliterate it, many Americans remained violently opposed to the idea of Washington as the nation's capital. It was only after the British lesson in "hard war," designed to terrorize Americans, that the city became a locus of unity and national pride.
The dramatic story of how Washington, D.C., rose from a wilderness is a vital chapter in American history, filled with intrigue and outsized characters—from Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the eccentric, passionate, difficult architect who fell in love with his adopted country, to George Washington, who struggled to balance L'Enfant's enthusiasm for his brilliant design with the strident opposition of fiscal conservatives such as Thomas Jefferson. Their conflicts mirror the struggles of a fledgling nation to form a kind of government the world had not yet known, prefiguring similar battles fought in Congress today.
Utterly absorbing and scrupulously researched, Washington Burning offers a fresh perspective on the birth of not just a city but a nation.