The race for the White House is burning . . . but did you know the White House literally burned – on August 24, 1814. I write about this night in my novel “Crockett’s Coin”
Below is an excerpt from “Crockett’s Coin.” And you can visit the Mikejordanbooks.com Photo Gallery for more images of that fateful night.
Excerpt from Chapter 16 : Fire in the Night
By Mike Jordan
Madison sighed deeply. He tapped his finger on his chest. “I’m responsible for this – this war, this night. I’m afraid, Bohannan, our country is about ready to run its course. It can’t get much worse.” Madison raised his bloodshot eyes to Red. “I can’t help but wonder, Bohannan, in one-hundred or two-hundred years, what kind of people will be standing here, right here in this spot. Will they be Americans? What will they be talking about?”
Red cleared his throat. “Well, if I may say, Mister President, they most certainly will be Americans. And maybe they will be talkin’ about that amazin’ Bill of Rights that you . . . you sir . . . penned with your own hand.”
Madison wasn’t buying it. “Or . . . will the United States . . . the Bill of Rights . . . just be a footnote in the history books, long forgotten as an idea that didn’t work. On a night like tonight, I’m not sure.” He spoke slowly, downtrodden. “I’m not sure of anything anymore.”
Red pondered the President’s words as the five dark figures slashed through the night trails, following the sound of huge explosions and fire in the night toward Washington City. He vowed that, upon his return to Falling Water, he and Lewis would reconcile with Elijah. End the stupid feud. And get the family back together again. Red caught a glimpse of the city over one ridge, but Mr. Jefferson pressed closer. The five picked their way up an old game trail along a creek to the top of a hill, the sound of the crackling fire and booms in the night seeming to be just over the hill. Above, the entire sky was filled with fire light, smoke and sparks. The smell of gunpowder was thick. Tiny flakes of soot were falling like flurries of gray-black snow.
Jefferson pulled up his horse and tied it to a tree. “We’ll go on foot from here,” he said, and Madison and the soldier, then Red and Henderson, dismounted. “It’s just a hundred feet or so to the top. The Potomac will be just below us.”
Red, gun cocked, followed behind, making sure no one had followed them. When they reached the top, none of them could believe the sight.
Henderson, awestruck, blurted out “Pa!”
“My God, my God,” Madison cried out.
“I’ll be headin’ down the hill a piece, check it out, make sure no one’s around,” Jefferson said, disappearing into the night.
Every section of the city of Washington was ablaze. Columns of smoke and flame reached high into the sky and reflected off the Potomac. Lines of British troops, torches in hand, could be seen between the major buildings, and Madison squinted to make out what had burned.
“The President’s Mansion’s afire,” he said softly.
“Sir, looks like they’ve spared the Post Office, maybe the Patent Office,” the soldier said, obviously trying to find something positive. “The Navel Yard is ablaze.”
Red and Henderson stood silently. Madison meandered away from them, to a place alone behind a scraggly tree.
Suddenly, he fell to his knees.