Mary DeButts was the wife of Irish doctor and farmer Samuel DeButts. She met him in England and immigrated with him and their first two children to the Chesapeake region in 1791. Inheriting wealth and land from their families, Dr. and Mrs. DeButts had a farm with a view of the Potomac River across from Alexandria.
In this residence, Mary DeButts was positioned to observe some of the actions of the war in the Chesapeake. In a letter to her brother Richard, she wrote about the stress that the Battle of Bladensburg caused for her: “The termination of the war has cheered the Hearts of thousands but its bitter consequences will long be severely felt. I cannot express to you the distress it has occasioned at the Battle of Bladensburg. We heard every fire (that place being not more than 5 or 6 miles from us). Our house was shook repeatedly by the firing upon forts & bridges, & illuminated by the fires in our Capital.”
Congreve rockets were fired at the house by British warships in the Potomac.
Read Mary Debutts's eyewitness account of the burning of Washington and visit her house at Oxon Hill Farm, then known as Mount Welby.