Monday, August 4, 2014

Bicentennial of the Burning of the Library of Congress

Illustration from Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Dec. 1872) showing British burning books from the Library of Congress in 1814
Cover of 1814 letter describing the burning of Washington
Notation on cover
This month marks the 200th anniversary of the burning of the U.S. Capitol including the Library of Congress by the British during the War of 1812. On August 24, 1814 the British captured the City of Washington and burned the Capitol, the White House, and other public buildings. The entire collection of the Library of Congress which was located in the Capitol was destroyed. It totaled just over 3,000 volumes. The destruction of the collection of the Library of Congress led to the purchase of the library of Thomas Jefferson for $23,950 to replace it. One of my most prized postal artifacts is a cover for a letter (see above and at left) describing the "particulars of burning of Washington by Bristish ..." which was mailed by Samuel Taggert, a member of the House of Representatives, on Oct. 20, 1814. I only have the cover not the actual letter. I wrote a previous post about the role (more accurately the lack of a role) by Librarian of Congress Patrick Magruder during the attack on Washington. The Library of Congress website has more about Magruder. 

1 comment:

Elisa said...

Of interest, "Chesapeake Legends & Lore from the War of 1812" by Ralph Eshelman and Scott Sheads debunks myths surrounding the burnings by British and American troops in Washington. The book is published by History Press.