Washington Burning: How a Frenchman's Vision for Our Nation's Capital Survived Congress, the Founding Fathers, and the Invading British Army
In 1814, British troops invaded Washington, consuming President Madison's hastily abandoned dinner before setting his home and the rest of the city ablaze. It was only after this British lesson in "hard war," designed to terrorize, that Americans finally embraced Washington as the nation's capital and a symbol of strength and unity. Here the author of Meet You in Hell tells how the capital rose from a wilderness?a dramatic story of intrigue and outsized characters, from George Washington to his eccentric, passionate, difficult architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant, so incapable of compromise in his dream of a Federal City he eventually alienated even Washington.
"[Les] Standiford is a novelist, and this background serves him well in developing the characters involved in platting, building, and burning Washington, and central to the narrative is Pierre Charles L'Enfant. To him goes the glory of the street plan, but L'Enfant's talents in design and construction were not matched by political acumen. He was fired in 1792, and his grievances attract Standiford's sympathy as well as his perception that unbending pride was the source of L'Enfant's undoing. Standiford then turns to the tangled details of constructing buildings for the president and Congress, which, in the course of fiscal and physical challenges and further firings of personnel, were ready for incineration by the British in 1814. Closing with the city's recovery from the War of 1812 and the recognition belatedly accorded to L'Enfant a century later by burial in Arlington National Cemetery, Standiford's dramatized synthesis is a solid choice."?Booklist