War Of 1812: The Last Time The Capitol Was Stormed In A Coup

By Jacob Shelton

The British burning Washington. (Paul M. Rapin de Thoyras/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite its catchy title, the War of 1812, when Americans watched as their capitol was stormed for the first time, is one of America's least-discussed moments in history. Covering ground as far south as Florida and as far west as the Mississippi, the British armed America's indigenous people in the fight against the United States, boxing in American forces from all sides and finally burning Washington, D.C. on August 24, 1814, after briefly occupying the capitol. The eerie similarities between the storming of the capitol in 1814 and the more recent incident on January 6, 2020 is just one of the parallels between this 19th-century battle and the modern era.

The War Of 1812

At the beginning of the 19th century, the newly christened United Kingdom was pretty much done with the U.S. At the time, they were embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars and had placed a blockade around France, stopping all trade with the country. If you were, let's say, an upstart country who happened to be allied with France and wanted to trade furs with them, you were out of luck. To make matters worse, the Royal Navy forcibly enlisted seamen into the naval blockade regardless of which port they were coming from, turning Americans into unwilling British soldiers for a brief period of time. Back home, that felt like not only a slap in the face but an overstepping of boundaries set up in the American Constitution. It was the last straw for a country tired of being shut out of global politics.

But that's just the easiest way to look at this sequel to the Revolutionary War. At the same time, indigenous Americans were fighting the western expansion of American colonists, and in 1811, the British began providing them with aid and weapons, specifically Shawnee chief Tecumesh. Federalists pressured President James Madison to prove Americans weren't pushovers, so despite the bitter fighting in the House and the Senate, Madison signed a declaration of war against Britain on June 18, 1812.