In August, the British assembled a fleet under the command of Admiral John Cockburn. It consisted of a squadron of British warships and transports carrying 5,400 British troops commanded by Major-General Robert Ross. On 19 August 1814, the troops landed on the American coast 40 miles (64 kilometres) from Washington, D.C.
As the British force moved inland, it encountered an American force of 6,500 militia and 400 marines led by Major-General William H. Winder. The British routed the Americans with ease at the Battle of Bladensburg (24 August 1814). Major-General Ross led his troops into Washington the same day. His troops set fire to the White House, the Capitol, and several other public buildings. The operation was in retaliation for the American burning of York in 1813.
The British force withdrew from Washington on 25 August. As a direct consequence of the British burning of Washington, James Monroe replaced General John Armstrong as the American secretary of war.