Safeguarding the Declaration of Independence Leesburg, Virginia

Capture and Burning of Washington
by the British, in 1814

Illustration in Our First Century
by Richard Miller Devens - Springfield, Mass.
C. A. Nichols & Co., 1876, p.247.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Leesburg, Virginia

(August - September 1814)

When British troops threatened the national capital in late August 1814, secretary of state James Monroe rode out to assess the situation. Deeming an attack imminent, Monroe sent word to secure documents in his care, among them the Declaration of Independence. A senior clerk, Stephen Pleasonton, hastily packed the materials in linen bags, loaded them onto carts, and rushed them up the Potomac River ultimately to Leesburg, Virginia. There they were entrusted to the care of the town sheriff, Reverend John Littlejohn. The Declaration returned to the capitol city a month later.

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