Dolley Madison “Master Chefing” While White House Down 1814!

Dolley Madison “Master Chefing” While White House Down 1814!


In 1812 Canada wasn’t a country yet, but it was still part of the British Colonies. We, in fact, did not become a nation until 1867. So where Donald Trump got his facts about us Canucks “burning down the house” in Washington during 1814 I will never know.

The wife of then President James Madison, Dorothea “Dolley” Dandridge Payne Todd Madison, set high Washington entertaining standards during her reign. Dolley was initially a hostess for President Thomas Jefferson, who was a widower, and then as first lady during the presidency of her husband from 1809 to 1817. As the leader of the Washington social scene she presided over the country’s first inaugural ball and never forgot a name or a person’s face, nor any of the British that night in 1814.

She was a spunky woman who was known for her charm and grace, and Dolley not only served a wondrous meal that fateful evening, but also saved the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington from the White House fire. What’s more, in the expectation that the US army would beat the British, the American President and his wife had ordered a tremendous celebratory meal prepared for 40 guests.

Close up plate if crispy fish croquettes garnished with chives.

Madison might have been president, but he was no great war leader. He chose two hopeless misfits to manage the country’s defence. His War Secretary, John Armstrong, arrogantly refused to take any serious measures to meet the British invasion. Now that was a “Dolly Madison Zingers” box of wrong!

When the British invaders in their blood-stained uniforms burst into the White House, they found the table elegantly laid for dinner, meat roasting on spits and the President’s best wine on the sideboard.

The menu for Dolley’s guests that night included: hors d’oeuvres of  Fish Croquettes, and Stuffed Mushrooms. Then there was fresh roasted meat of “ox or heifer” with a Crab Sauce Demi-glaze, White fish and Black Bass, Potato Ragout and a Vegetable Medley served with bread made from Canadian flour. Yes, Canadian flour. The evening’s dessert was to be a surprise. I bet they had no idea that a “flambe of sorts” was to be on the menu.

The British were said to be delighted and tucked into the meal as soon as they charged into the White House. One young officer said of the President’s Madeira wine: ‘Never was nectar more grateful to the palates of the gods’. Afterwards he scampered up to the President’s bedroom and swapped his sweaty tunic for a freshly-ironed presidential shirt.

Meanwhile back in the dining room, one of his comrades bundled up the White House silver cutlery in a tablecloth. The British commander then calmly told his men to pile the chairs on to the tables and torch the place!

Before the night was done the British had also burned both houses of Congress, the War Office, the State Department and the Treasury. It is the only time in  U.S. history that outsiders have raided the capital and the war with America went on for only four more months with no real gains for either side– but the meal consumed by the British that night at the White House was talked about for months.

The fire caused by the British in 1814 was not the only fire that damaged the White House. In 1929 in the attic of the Executive Office wing had extensive fire damage, requiring President Hoover to vacate the office while repairs were made.

Thank you– that is all. As they say in South Park– go ahead– Blame Canada! 

Anyways I heard it was Russia! LOL


AJ CalhounHistorical note re: the 1812 invasion: The tiny town of Brookeville, MD, has the distinction of having served as the nation’s capital for at least a night when everybody got the hell out of dodge and the fire department failed to respond in DC. (there wasn’t one yet). Brookeville is also notable for being located at a dangerous dogleg in Rte. 97 heading toward Sunshine, MD, so if one is sightseeing and fails to negotiate the turn and survives, there is a little bit to see (and of course antiques, antiques!). The British had no idea where Brookeville was, and if they had they would have run into Mr. Brooke’s house anyway. The Brookes and the Lees intermarried later, before the next uproar. They built a country club, too. So there’s that.

With files from my newspaper archive and daily mail click here
Shayne Moore I guess since it was in part a retaliation for the recent American destruction of Port Dover in Upper Canada, he thought they did it. But it was actually the British! Never before in American history has there been a president who needed so much help in American history! God save the rest of us!

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. Linda, I know Canadians like to bash Trump. As a dual Canadian/USA Citizen I am bombarded by relatives with the anti-Trump vitriol constantly. However, in this case, Trump was not historically inaccurate. According to Natural Resources Canada the following is cited in reference to the name Canada”

    “…maps in 1547 designated everything north of the St. Lawrence River as Canada. [Jacques] Cartier also called the St. Lawrence River the “rivière du Canada,” a name used until the early 1600s.”

    While it is certainly true that the official designation of ‘Canada’, rather than Upper Canada and Lower Canada, did not take place until 1867, the region occupied by the British during 1812, he is correct that ‘Canada’ was the country/region/dominion/colony whose soldiers burned down the White House. To this day, many Canadians celebrate the fact, including reenactments [ ]

    In fact, the Canadian Government added questions to the Citizenship Questionnaire regarding the war of 1812 and conclude with the statement, “The war ended in 1814. America was not able to conquer Canada. Both sides gave back every territory they had taken. The present-day Canada-United States border is partly an outcome of the War of 1812. This war helped to make Canada independent of the United States.”

    It is true that Trump exaggerates frequently and mangles many facts, but this is not one of them.

    Michael Doyle
    Phoenix AZ


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s