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Tales from Buzzard Point - Chapter 16: Thwarted Arsonists

In 1814, the invading British burned much of Washington. But in one part of the city, D.C. burned back.

Note from entry author and Series Editor David Rusk: This is the sixteenth in a series of Tales from Buzzard Point that explores the rich history and traditions of legendary Buzzard Point — a legacy that the current D.C. United ownership may have set aside in selling naming rights for the new soccer specific stadium but is forever enshrined in the chants, songs, and hearts of Black and Red fandom.

Most B&RU readers are familiar with the British invasion of 1812. You know that after the Battle of Bladensburg where the British routed American defenders twice their number, the unopposed redcoats seized Washington City, looting and burning the Capitol (which also contained the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court), the President’s House (White House) and other public buildings. August 1814 is imbedded in memory as “The Burning of Washington.”

But do you know what happened when the arson-minded invaders took on Buzzard Point?

Major General Robert Ross had dispatched 200 men to seize the Washington Arsenal (now Fort McNair) located on Buzzard Point. According to historian Wilhelmus Bryan, “To the Washington Arsenal were brought as a distributing center guns from the Government manufactories at Harpers Ferry and Springfield and cannon from the Foxall foundry, near Georgetown, as well as armament that had seen service. Men were employed to mend and clean guns and to provide fittings and carriages for the cannon.” In addition to assembling cannons and other ordnance, the arsenal also manufactured ammunition.

While naval officers blew up the nearby Washington Navy Yard to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, the evacuation of the Washington Arsenal was less organized. Panicked officials moved some of its cannon and muskets to Alexandria and upriver to Georgetown for safekeeping, but much was left behind for the British to seize when they arrived at the seemingly abandoned facility on August 25. The British soldiers proceeded to systematically destroy the buildings and munitions, spiking cannon barrels and throwing them into the Potomac.

Suddenly, a massive explosion shook all of Washington, blowing a 40-foot crater in the middle of the arsenal. Thirty of the invaders were killed and 47 grievously wounded – a far worse setback for the British than any of the losses they suffered fighting the city’s defenders. Burning buildings were flattened and roofs torn off others. Huge clods of soil were flung high in the air.

The British army abandoned the city the next day.

Historical apologists claim that the marauding soldiers discovered “about 130 barrels of gunpowder stored in a magazine and apparently made the ill-advised decision to throw the barrels one-by-one down a well. Did they think the dampness of the well would neutralize the powder? It didn’t.”

But we who wear the Black-and-Red know the truth. Buzzard Point is sacred ground. Its spirit rises up to repel any invaders. The instrument used varies. For example, it may be the legendary Eskandarian Ritual, a sudden squall, a diabolic apparition, the most advanced science and technology, our beloved bald eagle, a Formula One racing car, or the eponymous buzzard itself.

But Buzzard Point, and those who call it home, will always prevail whether invaders are bent on mere conquest or on pillaging and arson.

So Dallas, be afraid. You cannot hide behind a fake British identity (“FC Dallas”). We know who you truly are: the Dallas Burn.

Note from Series Editor David Rusk: “Tales from Buzzard Point” includes historical fiction and should be considered a work of homage or parody.

All members of the B&RU Commentariat are invited to submit manuscripts of their own research into the history and traditions of Buzzard Point to All proposed tales must a) involve Buzzard Point, b) have some relationship to football/soccer, and c) demonstrate that Buzzard Point is hallowed ground for D.C. United and that our MLS opponents are doomed to never come away from Buzzard Point with a result.