Excerpts from The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, by Anthony S. Pitch, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1998.
(British officer) “We have not come here for the purpose of plunder, but to destroy all public property. If anything of the kind [theft] should take place again, such as you have just witnessed, I have to request that your citizens will assemble, seize the villains without delay, and conduct them to headquarters. Depend upon it, Sir, they will be punished.” The [British] soldier was set on his stolen horse and escorted up to Capitol Hill… On the way he tried to escape several times, but his luck had run out. After being paraded at headquarters, he was summarily shot. (p. 137)
The morning after the British left the capital, hordes of citizens swarmed over the remains of the President’s House, the Capitol, and the navy yard… Without any means of law enforcement, the city was open to looters and thieves. Like vultures, they descended on the open ruins to pick and pluck at random… Unchecked, they violated the sanctity of private homes, snatching and hoarding items of value and even of worthless sentiment. (p. 150)