Robert Ross (British Army officer)

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This article is about the real-world major historical figure. For the comic book character, General Ross, see Thunderbolt Ross.
Robert Ross
MG Robert Ross.jpg
Born 1766
Rostrevor, County Down, Kingdom of Ireland
Died 12[1] September 1814 (aged 47–48)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1789 - 1814
Rank Major General
Battles/wars

French Revolutionary War

Napoleonic Wars

War of 1812

Robert Ross (1766 – 12 September 1814) was an Anglo-Irish British Army officer who participated in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, (1812-1815). He is most well known for the Burning of Washington, which included the destruction of the White House and The Capitol, and for his failure to invest Baltimore. He died at the Battle of North Point before the infamous Bombardment of Fort McHenry the next day.

Early life[edit]

Ross was born in Rostrevor, County Down, Kingdom of Ireland, to Major David Ross, an officer in the Seven Years' War and his mother, half-sister to the Earl of Charlemont.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, where he was a treasurer of its College Historical Society and joined the 25th Regiment of Foot as an ensign in 1789.[2]

Napoleonic Wars[edit]

Ross was present at the Battle of Alexandria, which expelled Napoleon's army from Egypt.

Ross fought as a junior officer at the battles of Krabbendam in the Netherlands in 1799 and the Battle of Alexandria in Egypt in 1801. In 1803, he was promoted to major and given command of the 20th Regiment of Foot. He next fought at the Maida in the Kingdom of Naples in 1806. He was promoted to Lieutenant–Colonel at the end of 1808 and fought in the Battle of Corunna in Spain in early 1809. In 1810, Ross was made a full Colonel as well as aide-de-camp to the King.

Peninsular War[edit]

He was sent in 1813 to serve under Arthur Wellesley in the Peninsular War and commanded his regiment at the battles of Vittoria, Roncesvalles and the Sorauren that year. He was seriously wounded in the left side of his neck at the Battle of Orthes, on 27 February 1814 and had just returned to service when given command of an expeditionary force to the United States.

War of 1812[edit]

Ross sailed to North America as a Major General to take charge of all British troops off the east coast of the United States. He personally led the British troops ashore in Benedict, Maryland, and marched through Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to the attack on the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg on 24 August 1814, causing the hastily organised militia of the American army to collapse into a rout.[3][4] Moving on from Bladensburg, Ross moved on to nearby Washington, D.C., and was fired upon, his horse was shot from under him. The public buildings, facilities and Navy Yards of the city, including the United States Capitol and the White House were burned as retaliation for the destructive American raids into Canada, most notably the Americans' Burning of York (modern Toronto) earlier in 1813. Controversy still surrounds Ross's decision to destroy public property but spare private property during the burning.[2]

Burning of Washington 1814.

Ross then was persuaded to attack Baltimore, Maryland. His troops landed at the southern tip of the "Patapsco Neck" peninsula (between the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor on the south and Back River on the north) of southeastern Baltimore County at North Point, twelve miles southeast from the city, on the morning of 12 September 1814. En route to what would be the Battle of North Point, a part of the larger Battle of Baltimore, the British encountered American skirmishers and General Ross rode forward to personally direct his troops. An American sniper shot him through the right arm into the chest. According to Baltimore tradition, two American riflemen, Daniel Wells and Henry McComas, aged 18 and 19, respectively, were credited with killing Ross. Ross died while being transported back to the fleet.

After his death, the general's body was stored in a barrel of 129 gallons (586 l) of Jamaican rum[citation needed] aboard HMS Tonnant. When she was diverted to New Orleans for the forthcoming battle (January 1815), the body was later shipped on the British ship HMS Royal Oak to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where his body was interred on 29 September 1814 in the Old Burying Ground.

Legacy[edit]

Robert Ross Monument, Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland

He is commemorated by a 99-foot granite obelisk near the shoreline of Carlingford Lough in the Ross home village of Rostrevor, County Down in Northern Ireland, as well as by a monument in St Paul's Cathedral in London, England. The inscription on the monument reads:

DEDICATED AT THE PUBLIC EXPENSE TO THE MEMORY
OF MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT ROSS
WHO HAVING UNDERTOOK AND EXECUTED AN ENTERPRISE AGAINST THE
CITY OF WASHINGTON, THE CAPITAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WHICH WAS CROWNED WITH COMPLETE SUCCESS WAS KILLED SHORTLY
AFTERWARDS WHILE DIRECTING A SUCCESSFUL ATTACK UPON A SUPERIOR FORCE NEAR THE
CITY OF BALTIMORE ON THE 12TH DAY OF SEPTEMPTER 1814

Neither General Ross nor his immediate descendants were knighted or received a title of nobility. However, his descendants were given an augmentation of honour to the Ross armorial bearings (namely, a second crest in which an arm is seen grasping the 15 stars and 15 stripes on a broken staff) and the family name was changed to the victory title "Ross-of-Bladensburg", which was granted to his widow.[5][6]

In honour of the history of Washington, D.C., there is also a portrait of Ross in the U. S. Capitol's rotunda and several illustrations in various War of 1812 historical sites in the Baltimore area, including a Monument near the site off Old North Point Road where he supposedly was shot. Additional details and exhibits have been preserved in various Baltimore historical institutions, such as the Star Spangled Banner Flag House (also known recently as the Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum) and the National Park Service site of Fort McHenry's visitor center exhibits and in the local Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society museum in Dundalk.

Traditionally the two snipers/riflemen "Wells and McComas" (of the unit of Aisquith's Sharpshooters") were buried in a local churchyard mourned by their fellow soldiers and citizens of the Town, but later in the 1850s were exhumed and reburied after elaborate processions and funerals in a monumental tomb in Ashland Square, off of Orleans Street and North Gay Street in the Jonestown/Old Town neighborhood of East Baltimore. City streets were also named for them in South Baltimore.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://maryland1812.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/%E2%80%9Cross-tree%E2%80%9D-under-which-major-general-robert-ross-died-sept-12-1814/
  2. ^ a b "Robert Ross Papers Finding Aid", Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, George Washington University.
  3. ^ Markham, Edwin (1912). The Real America in Romance Valor and Victory: The age of Vindication 1783–1824 Volume X. New York City, Chicago: William H Wise & Company. pp. 370–382. 
  4. ^ "Fort Warburton". U.S. National Park Service. 19 July 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2007. 
  5. ^ Ross Family History. Igp-web.com. Retrieved on 4 June 2011.
  6. ^ "A Complete Guide to Heraldry" by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies (published 1909), pages 113, 474, 593, 374. The book is also online and the passage on page 593 can be found here: http://www.archive.org/stream/completeguidetoh00foxdrich#page/592/mode/2up

External links[edit]