Who is Robert Ross? The History-Making Life of a British General
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Who is Robert Ross?
Major General Robert Ross (1766–September 12, 1814), born in Ireland, fought with the British army in North America during both the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. Ross joined the British army in 1789.
He served as an officer during the Napoleonic Wars and became a colonel after distinguishing himself in the battles of Maida and Corunna. Beginning in 1809, he served in the Peninsular War and was present in the actions of Vittoria, Roncesvalles, Sorauren, and Orthez.
On February 27, 1814, he was wounded in the neck at the French Battle of Orthez. That year, Ross was called back into active service, elevated to major general, and given command of “all British troops on the East Coast” in North America.
In the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, his professional soldiers quickly beat a poorly organized American militia, and he then led his army into Washington, D.C., that night.
The demoralizing and highly harmful effect on the American war effort was caused by his leadership of the Burning of Washington, in which many important government buildings in the United States were destroyed, including the White House and the Capitol.
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Robert Ross’s Brave Military Career
As a junior lieutenant, Ross served in both the Battle of Krabbendam in the Netherlands in 1799 and the Battle of Alexandria in Egypt in 1801. He was promoted to major in 1803 when he was given command of the 20th Regiment of Foot.
In 1806, he was a member of the Kingdom of Naples’s effort in the Battle of Maida. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel at the end of 1808 and fought in the Spanish Battle of Corunna in early 1809 during the Peninsular War.
In 1810, Ross was made a full colonel and became the King’s aide-de-camp. In 1813, while serving under Arthur Wellesley, Ross led his regiment to victory in the battles of Vittoria, Roncesvalles, and Sorauren. After recovering from a severe injury to the left side of his neck at the Battle of Orthez on February 27, 1814, he was put in command of an expeditionary force tasked with attacking the United States.
Major General Ross sailed to North America to take command of the British fleet in the Atlantic. He landed British soldiers at Benedict, Maryland, on August 24, 1814, and led them through Upper Marlboro to attack American forces at Bladensburg.
The Last Journey of General Robert Ross
On the morning of September 12, 1814, he landed his troops at North Point, a peninsula that juts out into Baltimore Harbor from the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor to the south and Back River to the north. North Point is located about twelve miles southeast of Baltimore City.
On their route to the Battle of North Point, a component of the more significant Battle of Baltimore, the British advanced encountered American skirmishers. Commander-in-chief General Ross led his troops by example. An American sniper pierced his right arm and shot him in the chest.
In Baltimore, two American riflemen allegedly named Daniel Wells, 18, and Henry McComas, 19 opened fire on him. Sadly, Ross didn’t return it to the fleet before he died. The author of a novel set in the era concludes that Ross should be credited for the victorious efforts made on 24 August 1814 in the Battle of Bladensburg.
He conducted an effective tactic of trickery, going one way and then the other and then retreating to startle the Americans and prevent them from retaining Bladensburg. Ross’sbody was preserved in a barrel of Jamaican rum aboard the HMS Tonnant.
His remains were brought to Halifax, Nova Scotia, by the British ship HMS Royal Oak and interred in the Old Burying Cemetery on September 29 before the Tonnant was sent to New Orleans for the anticipated war in January 1815.
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