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Robert Ross (British Army officer)

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Collection: 1766 Births, 1814 Deaths, 18Th-Century Irish People, 18Th-Century Men, 19Th-Century Irish People, 19Th-Century Men, Alumni of Trinity College, Dublin, Anglo-Irish People, British Army Generals, British Army Personnel of the Napoleonic Wars, British Army Personnel of the War of 1812, British Military Personnel Killed in the War of 1812, Burials in Canada, Deaths by Firearm in Maryland, King's Own Scottish Borderers Officers, Lancashire Fusiliers Officers, People from Rostrevor
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Robert Ross (British Army officer)

Robert Ross
Born 1766
Rostrevor, County Down, 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

French Revolutionary War

Napoleonic Wars

War of 1812

Major-general Robert Ross (1766 – 12 September 1814) was an Irish officer in the British Army 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 1
  • Napoleonic Wars 2
    • Peninsular War 2.1
  • War of 1812 3
  • Legacy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Notes 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Ross was born in Rostrevor, County Down, 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

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

In 1813 Ross was sent 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 he was given command of an expeditionary force to attack the United States.

War of 1812

Ross sailed to North America as a

  • Ross's Monument in St. Paul's Cathedral, London
  • Ross's Monument in Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland and discussion of his career
  • Guide to the Robert Ross Papers, 1813-1873, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Guide to the Robert Ross Papers, 1813-1873, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Ross Family History. Retrieved on 4 June 2011.
  7. ^ "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:




See also

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.

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.

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.[6][7]


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:

Robert Ross Monument, Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland


Ross's body was preserved in a barrel of 129 gallons (586 l) of Jamaican rum aboard HMS Tonnant.[5] When the Tonnant was diverted to New Orleans for the forthcoming battle in January 1815, his body was 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.

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 advance encountered American skirmishers. General Ross rode forward to personally direct his troops. An American sharpshooter shot him through the right arm into the chest. According to Baltimore tradition, two American riflemen, Daniel Wells, 18, and Henry McComas, 19, fired at him and one of them had fired the fatal shot. Ross died while he was being transported back to the fleet.

Burning of Washington 1814.

[2] (modern Toronto) earlier in 1813, which were themselves in retaliation to British raids into the United States. Controversy surrounds Ross's decision to destroy public property but spare private property during the burning.Burning of York were burned as retaliation for destructive American raids into Canada, most notably the Americans' White House and the United States Capitol, and was fired upon; his horse was shot from under him. The public buildings, facilities and Navy Yards of the city, including the Washington, D.C. Moving on from Bladensburg, Ross moved on to nearby [4][3]

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