Excerpts from The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, by Anthony S. Pitch, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1998.
The stream of explosives created an awesome sight. Observers clearly saw the trail of sparks from burning fuses stuffed inside the streaking shells. Men, women, and children crammed the roofs of houses to see what one spectator described as “the most awful spectacle of shot and shells and rockets shooting and bursting through the air.”
The night sky lit up with such a brilliance of bursting shells and fleeting rockets that observers gasped at its peculiar beauty. (208-9)