On August 18, 1814, British forces marched on Washington. After a brief battle on the road known as the Battle of Bladensburg, the British forces defeated the Americans who withdraw in disarray, thus opening the road to Washington. The British burned the White House and the Capitol, but a strong rainstorm saved the rest of Washington. The British, under orders not to hold any territory, withdrew.
On August 18 a large force of British soldier under the command of Major General Robert Ross landed at the mouth of Pawtuxet River. The British were in a position to move on Washington. Americans had very few troops available to oppose the oncoming threat. There were only 250 regulars available in the newly formed military district. The British marched north without any serious harassment from the Americas. On August 24, at the town of Blandsberg the Americans made a stand. The British were able to overwhelm the first line of defense at the bridge. In short order the British overwhelmed the second line of defense, and finally the order was given to retreat from the third line. The British lost at least 64 soldiers and the Americans lost 24 soldiers. There was now nothing standing between the British and Washington. Back in Washington, Dolly Madison secured her place in history by removing key documents from the White House as well as the famous painting of George Washington thus ensuring their safety. The British arrived in Washington and burned the major government buildings including the Presiden's House (now known as the White House), the Capital Building, the Treasury, the State Department, and the War Department. The British stayed in Washington for only one night, their goal had never been to occupy the city, merely to raid it.