Capture of Washington

Creator: James Madison

Context: This 1814 letter focuses on Madison's attempt to organize a military defense for Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. The effort was unsuccessful, and the British succeeded in occupying the city and burning several buildings including the White House.

Audience: This memo was written in President Madison's diary. He did not intend for this letter to be read while he was alive, so the audience could be either his descendants or future scholars.

Purpose: To explain the events that led to the occupation of Washington and perhaps to place blame elsewhere.

Historical Significance: This document provides inside information on the thoughts of the President and his cabinet during one of the greatest military and political crises of the nation's early years.