The War of 1812 is commonly known as a forgotten war. It may have given us our National Anthem, but beyond that, it’s pretty much been skimmed over. But being raised in Maryland, the War of 1812 surrounds us almost to a degree of suffocation. Washington, D.C. and Baltimore bore the brunt of the battle in 1814, and even drove President Madison and his babe of a wife, Dolley, from the White House. Hey, speaking of the Madisons…
If you ever wondered where our shortest president scurried off to while his home was being turned to ashes by British soldiers, wonder no more. The escaped to a small, quaint town a little over 20 miles outside Washington, D.C.
Before Dolley famously saved the a portrait of George Washington, her husband was observing the soldiers advance on Washington. As the city started to burn, President Madison fled south to Virginia before turning around and hightailing it back to the Old Line State (that’s Maryland) and finally reached Brookeville late in the evening on August 26, 1814. (Don’t worry y’all, Dolley was safe first in Georgetown and then escaped into Virginia.) Rumor has it that Madison lugged a safe that carried the entire U.S. Treasury during the entire journey.
Madison reached the home of Caleb Bentley, whose wife Henrietta Thomas was a close friend of his wife Dolley.
Here, President Madison stayed up all night, dictating orders to his officers while American soldiers kept watch outside. The next morning, President Madison learned that the British had moved on to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, and so he thanked his hosts for the lodging and returned to the smoldering Washington and his lovely wife. Today, the Bentley home is now known as the Madison House. The home was purchased and restored in 2007. (You can read more about it here)
Today, Brookeville remains a small, quiet town of less than 200 residents. But for those that pass through it, it holds a very important piece of history.
Do you have any areas of historical significance in your hometown?