The year was 1814 and the Napoleonic Wars were coming to an end. Despite losing important campaigns in Russia and Germany in previous years, Napoleon rejected peace terms as set by the Allied Power, still believing he could prevail. For a time, Napoleon’s forces were able to repel his enemies, but by March 31st, Paris was occupied by Allied Forces and in April he abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba.
The end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe was bad news for the Americans. As the War of 1812 continued, 14,000 British troops were freed up now to fight against the United States.
In August, British troops were able to occupy Washington, D.C., where they burned government buildings, including the Capitol and the presidential mansion. The mansion, later painted white to hide the scorch marks, is now called the White House. This torching of Washington was a retaliatory measure because the Americans had done the same in York (Toronto) in Canada.
The British had blockaded much of the Atlantic coastline and in 1814 that blockade was extended to New England, and in September Baltimore was under siege. The successful defense of that city inspired Frances Scott Key, who watched the battle from the British ship where he was being held, to write the Star-Spangled Banner.
On Christmas Eve, the Treaty of Ghent ends the war, but the combatants don’t learn of the peace agreement until February. By then, United States forces, aided by the French privateer Jean Lafitte, had defeated the British forces in the Battle of New Orleans.