Usually when I’m looking for something to blog about (if I’m not feeling in a particularly opinionated mood) I go to such sources as Chambers Book of Days (great for obscure saints and oddities) or History UK, from which I learned that yesterday was the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth (the defeat of Richard III and the beginning of the Tudors) and today is the anniversary of the London blitz in World War II.

But this day in 1812 was the day most of the inhabitants of Washington DC fled the city. Why? The British were coming and tomorrow marks the anniversary of one of the most humiliating defeats in American history, the Battle of Bladensburg. Earlier that year America declared war on Britain, following Britain’s efforts to restrict trade with the French. Other grievances included the Brits’ high-handed press-ganging of Americans into the navy and British support for native Americans against American settlers. In August of 1812 the British landed at Baltimore and marched south toward Washington.

Dolley Madison, the first lady, was one of the panicked residents who fled the city, but she had the foresight to take with her several of the valuables from the White House, including the portrait above of George Washington.

And sure enough, the British did march on Washington after the battle the next day, meeting with very little resistance. After dining at the White House on the presidential silver and glassware, they set fire to it and to the rest of the city.

So my question to you is this: I hope you’ll never have to grab your possessions and flee your home, but if you did, what would you take with you?

How to instruct your servants on moving valuable possessions and stop them running from the enemy–just one of the informative topics covered in the Riskies newsletter. Subscribe at with NEWSLETTER in the subject line.