Fresh off a victory in Bladensburg, Maryland in 1814, the British army marched to Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. Under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cockburn (lol) and Major General Robert Ross, the army torched the young nation's capital city, targeting the Capitol, the White House, and all other public buildings in the vicinity.
This building remembers this event in a mural by painter Allyn Cox. Initially hired to finish the Brumidi frieze in the rotunda, Cox ended up producing several murals and portraits that decorate the Capitol telling the history of the building itself. Located in the eastern north-south corridor of the House wing and completed in 1974, "British burn the Capitol, 1814" is the third in a series of eight historical murals.
In the painting, soldiers march through the middle ground as four troops set fire to a brick corner of the building. In the background, another structure is already up in flames; the fire filling the sky with smoke and ash is reminiscent of J.M.W. Turner's paintings of Parliament set ablaze. While the figures are a bit stiff, it's an impressive scene of chaos and destruction in our nation's capital.
For 200 years, the building had not seen a breach of the same level—until last Wednesday, when, instead of red coats, a sea of red caps flooded the halls of Congress at the word of a sitting president. I keep reflecting on Cox's piece while we continue to deal with the fallout from January 6. How will we remember this brazen display of white supremacy and nationalism carried out by our neighbors?
Will MAGA hats and Trump banners decorate the vaulted ceilings of Congress's halls, etched into marble, the result of a grand commission? Or will this event, the culmination of years of disinformation and negligence, get watered down in its retelling, a blip in the waning days of the tyrant? If I had a say, I'd elect for this photo by Reuters' Leah Millis to go right near the entrance of the Capitol building.
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. Photo by @LeahMillis pic.twitter.com/jYtjgQzaGJ
— corinne_perkins (@corinne_perkins) January 6, 2021