War of 1812 Bike Tour
Visit places where the events of the five-day British occupation of Alexandria occurred in late August 1814, on this 6.6-mile tour. This route can be enjoyed on foot or bicycle. Most roadways are low volume, low speed and suitable for cycling except where noted in the cue sheet to go on paths or the sidewalk.
This bike tour was developed by the Alexandria Archaeology Museum in cooperation with the National Park Service and is part of the National Park Service’s Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.
Discover the War of 1812 on the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail — a path tracing troop movements through historic
places, inspiring landscapes, charming waterfront towns, and waterways of the
Chesapeake Bay region. Along the way, you’ll follow the story of the United
States National Anthem and the citizens, soldiers, and leaders who faced
British military might on home territory just thirty years after the American
Trail Map and Cue Sheet
Tour information, including a turn-by-turn Cue Sheet and printable or interactive maps, is available through Ride with GPS.
Highlights are described below.
1. Begin at the foot of Cameron Street on the Potomac River. Look upstream to Washington and the Capitol building and look across the river to the site of the Mount Welby plantation. From Mount Welby, the DeButts family witnessed the attack on Washington. Mary Welby DeButts wrote, “Our house was shook repeatedly by the firing upon forts & bridges [at Bladensburg], & illuminated by the fires in our Capital.”
2. On Fairfax Street, you’ll pass the Carlyle House and Gardens. A Carlyle grandson served in the War of 1812 and fought at the Battle of Bladensburg. A British officer on one of the ships that occupied Alexandria was related to the Carlyle family by marriage. You’ll also past the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, where business suffered during the war. At the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, in February 1814, Frances Scott Key spoke "for religious spirit instead of party spirit.”
3. From South Lee Street, view the harbor where British ships once anchored. Continue into Jones Point Park and look downstream to where the British fleet first appeared on its approach to Alexandria. Then walk the riverfront and enjoy an overlook from the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.
4. Stop by the old Presbyterian Cemetery off Wilkes Street, where Robert Allison, Jr. is buried. Allison, age 27, helped pursue the British as they left Alexandria and died in a conflict along the Potomac on September 5, 1814. He was described as an “affectionate son, a generous friend, and a useful member of society."
5. On the cobblestone section of Prince Street, now known as Captain's Row, prosperous sea captains and ship masters built many Federal-style (1780-1830) homes.
At the lower end of
King Street, an American naval officer assaulted a British
midshipman who was overseeing the removal of tobacco from a warehouse. The
officer had ridden into town looking for a fight and almost provoked the
British into destroying the town.
Three Star-Spangled Banner signs are located in
Alexandria. "Raise the White Flag" is installed
in Waterfront Park. "Plundered" is located in
the Torpedo Factory arcade, near the Timeline. "Fighting Back" is at the
base of Shuter's Hill, across from the Callahan Drive crosswalk.
Alexandria and the War of 1812
On August 24 and 25, the British burned nearly every public building in Washington. From downstream on the Potomac River, the people of Alexandria could see the flames. Within days, a British fleet appeared from the south to take — or destroy — the port of Alexandria.
Militia from Alexandria and the surrounding countryside had been called into action earlier that month, taking nearly all the arms and artillery with them. With no way to defend the town, its leaders made the painful choice to capitulate. The British occupied Alexandria for five days, from August 29 through September 2. They spared the town in exchange for the peaceful surrender of all naval supplies, ships, and merchandise of every description. They sailed away with a hefty load, including 16,000 barrels of flour, 1,000 hogsheads of tobacco, 150 bales of cotton, and some $5,000 worth of wine, sugar, and other items.