At its November 10 Veterans Day reception, the BHHC was pleased to honor Thomas Mutchler of 58th Avenue, a US Marine and World War II veteran. He fought in one of the the bloodiest battles of the Pacific campaign, the assault on the Japanese-held Island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll, which took place November 20-23, 1943. PFC Mutchler was in the first wave of the amphibious assault, which required the Marines to wade ashore under heavy enemy fire because the water in the lagoon was not high enough for their amtracs to reach the beach. Former Councilmember Darald Lofgren arranged the ceremony, and Mayor Pro Tem James Wilkinson read a Proclamation on this 70th anniversary of the battle thanking Mr. Mutchler for his service.
Guests were also treated to an entertaining talk by freelance historian and archaeologist Patrick O’Neill from Virginia. O’Neill presented original research on the “Battle of the White House,” located at today’s Fort Belvoir, which took place September 13-15, 1814 during the War of 1812.
A squadron of 7 British war ships under the command of Captain James Gordon had sailed up the Potomac River to divert attention from the 5,000 British troops that were sailing up the Patuxent River at same time to attack Washington from the east. After defeating a band of Maryland and District militia at Bladensburg on August 24, the British reached the capital that same night, and, after being fired upon, burned all the public buildings.
Meanwhile, the Potomac squadron seized a large number of naval stores at Alexandria, which had surrendered to save their city. They set out on their return voyage with 21 prizes on September 2. Upon passing Fort Washington, they came under fire from Virginia militias, which turned into a pitched battle at White House landing. US Navy Captain David Porter had amassed 2,500 men on the bluff, and for 3 days fired mostly with muskets on the British ships that were held up by adverse winds. When the winds turned, the British nonetheless sailed away with all their ships, and met up with the Patuxent squadron in the Chesapeake Bay. It was at that point, according to O’Neill, the decision was made to attack Baltimore, where the decisive battle would be fought.