Homefront 1812: Friends, Family & Foe

2014 marked the 200th anniversary of the capture and burning of the City of Washington during the War of 1812. Dumbarton House played an important role in the events of that day. However, the War of 1812 was more than just a single event—it affected many people in ways they never thought imaginable, just like wars of today. These people are our friends, family & foe.

The Dumbarton House Manuscript Collection documents the stories of Anthony Morris, United States Ambassador to Spain, and Joseph Nourse, Register of the Treasury, during the war years. Anthony was in Spain and traded several letters with his daughters Rebecca and Phoebe. As a good friend of the Madisons, Phoebe would often visit the White House for days and weeks on end. Meanwhile, Rebecca lived back home in Philadelphia, carrying on life as any lady would in her early twenties, while their brother James attended school in the United Kingdom.

Joseph and Maria Nourse lived here at Dumbarton House until 1813, and then moved to Mt. Alban, near where the National Cathedral now stands. Their son, Charles, served in the Army, stationed in upstate New York. As the War came through Washington, Maria went to visit her sister in Winchester to evade the possible carnage.

Dumbarton House itself, then called Bellevue, played an important role in the War. Charles Carroll, co-founder of Rochester, NY, lived here and, like the Morris family, was a close friend of the Madisons. Charles himself went to save Dolley Madison from the White House and helped her escape to Bellevue as the British were approaching the city.

Throughout this exhibition, we aim to present what life on the home front was like during the War of 1812—the suspense, the fear and excitement, the concerns, beliefs and hopes, the highs and lows that the citizens of this country endured for two and a half years of war on their soil.

This exhibit was made possible thanks to:

The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America
The Dumbarton House Board
Friends of Dumbarton House
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Massachusetts
Christopher H. Jones Early American Antiques, Folk & Fine Art, Alexandria, VA
James Kochan Fine Art and Antiques, Frederick, MD
Barry E. Hayman
Library of Congress
Mr. & Mrs. T. C. Roth
Laura Belman
Sarah Bahleda