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Washington awoke to a humid, cloudy day as an occupied city on August 25. Cockburn and Captain John Wainwright of Cockburn's flagship, the HMS Tonnant, went to the Navy Yard to supervise the ignition of several structures that had survived American attempts to burn them the day before. British troops set fire to the three ropewalks of Tench Ringgold, Renner and Heath and John Chalmers: although this was private property, the British wanted to deny the U.S. Navy any use of the hemp, tar and long strands of cordage within.

The British then moved on to the Georgian-style brick Treasury Department building at the President House's southeastern corner. Once they were satisfied that the structure contained no money or valuables, the Treasury was kindled and burned. The raiders headed to the east side of Seventeenth Street just above F Street and burned the brick State and War Department building. Only the frantic pleas of Superintendent of Patents William Thornton spared the Patent Office at Blodgett's Hotel on Eighth and E Streets, NW. The office of the National Intelligencer at 9th and E Streets, NW was not as fortunate. Cockburn, resentful at what he claimed were proprietor Joseph Gales's printed falsehoods, allowed his men to plunder and burn the offices while breaking printing presses and flinging type to the winds.

A British attempt to wipe out the arsenal at Greenleaf's Point, southwest of the ruined Capitol, turned into a ghastly disaster when a lighted match was carelessly pitched into a dried-up well that the departing Americans had booby-trapped with gunpowder. A massive explosion ensued, and more than 30 soldiers died. Early in the afternoon an immense, ferocious thunderstorm pounded Washington, stifling some of the still-burning fires and accelerating British plans to withdraw toward Bladensburg.

The Treasury Department building as it may have appeared in 1804 (first published in 1872).

Department of the Treasury

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