Many officers’ background stories were discussed in our posts. One of your favorite officers “Robert Ross” will be the topic of today’s post. Let’s read the whole post to find out who Robert Ross is, what he’s done and everything else connected to him.
Who is Robert Ross?
Irish-born British Army major general Robert Ross (1766–12 September 1814) served in both the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 in North America. In 1789, Ross enlisted in the British army.
During the Napoleonic Wars, he saw action as an officer and rose through the ranks to colonel thanks to his performance at the Battles of Maida and Corunna. His service in the Peninsular War began in 1809 and he saw action at Vittoria, Roncesvalles, Sorauren, and Orthez.
At the French Battle of Orthez on February 27, 1814, he suffered a neck wound. During that year, Ross returned to active duty and was promoted to major general with orders to lead “all British forces on the East Coast,” in North America.
His professional soldiers rapidly defeated a weakly organized American militia at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24th, 1814; that evening, he led his troops into Washington, D.C. from there. Many significant government buildings in the United States, including the White House and the Capitol, were devastated during his command of the Burning of Washington, which was both demoralizing and severely detrimental to the American war effort.
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The Courageous Military Career of Robert Ross
Ross participated in both the 1799 Battle of Krabbendam in the Netherlands and the 1801 Battle of Alexandria in Egypt as a junior lieutenant. In 1803, he was granted charge of the 20th Regiment of Foot and raised to the rank of major.
The following year, in 1806, he participated in the Battle of Maida in the Kingdom of Naples. Towards the close of 1808, he was elevated to lieutenant colonel and in early 1809, he participated in the Spanish Battle of Corunna, which was part of the Peninsular War.
Ross was promoted to full colonel and named the King’s aide-de-camp in 1810. Ross led his unit to victory at the battles of Vittoria, Roncesvalles and Sorauren in 1813 while serving under Arthur Wellesley. After returning to service after being gravely wounded in the left side of his neck at the Battle of Orthez on 27 February 1814, he was sent in charge of an expeditionary army to attack the United States.
Ross, now a major general set sail for North America with the mission of commanding all British forces stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. On 24 August 1814, he personally led the British troops ashore in Benedict, Maryland and marched through Upper Marlboro, Maryland to assault the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg.
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The Final Journey of General Robert Ross
In the morning of September 12, 1814, he landed his forces at North Point, twelve miles southeast of Baltimore City, on the southern tip of the Patapsco Neck peninsula between the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor on the south and Back River on the north.
The British advance ran across American skirmishers on the way to what would become the Battle of North Point, which was a part of the wider Battle of Baltimore. General Ross rode in front of his men to give orders. A skilled American marksman sh0t him in the chest, piercing his right arm in the process.
Legend has it that two American riflemen, aged 18-year-old Daniel Wells and 19-year-old Henry McComas, opened fire on him in Baltimore. Ross passed away during his return trip to the fleet. The author of a book about the time period concludes that Ross deserves credit for his efforts at the 24 August 1814 Battle of Bladensburg, which was ultimately more successful.
To stun the Americans and stop them from holding Bladensburg, he executed a masterful strategy of deceit, feinting one way or the other, marching and then retreating back. On board, the HMS Tonnant, Ross’s remains were preserved in a barrel of Jamaican rum.
When the Tonnant was rerouted to New Orleans for the upcoming fight in January 1815, his body had been transported to Halifax, Nova Scotia on the British ship HMS Royal Oak and buried in the Old Burying Cemetery on September 29.
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