Robert Ross, General

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Robert Ross, General

Birthdate: (48)
Death: 1814 (48)
Baltimore, MD, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of David Ross, esq. of Rosstrevor, Major and Elizabeth F. Ross
Husband of "Eliza" Elizabeth Catherine Glasscock
Father of Robert Ross; David Ross and Elizabeth Ross
Brother of John Ross, Captain; Thomas Ross and Mary-Anne Ross

Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:

About Robert Ross, General

Tailpiece: Black Night at the White House

Another Ulsterman who occupied the White House - by means far removed from the democratic process - was Major-General Robert Ross of Rostrevor, County Down.

He commanded British troops who marched into Washington DC on the night of August 24th 1814, setting fire to what was then called the Executive Mansion, causing interior damage and blackening its Virginia freestone facade.

So distressed was President Madison's wife Dolley, who had just spent $26,000 granted by Congress decorating the place, that she is said to have insisted on having the smoke-stained exterior painted white.

It has remained white ever since, but it did not become officially known as The White House until Theodore Roosevelt had the name engraved on his stationery.

Robert Ross (1766 - September 12, 1814) was a British army officer who participated in the Napoleonic War and the War of 1812.

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.

Ross sailed to North America as a Major General to take charge of all British troops off the east coast of the United States. Ross 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 August 24, 1814, where the American army of mostly militia quickly collapsed.[1][2] Moving on from Bladensburg, Ross moved on to nearby Washington DC only to have his advance troops fired upon, killing his horse along with other numerous deaths and injuries. Ross later burned the public buildings of the city, including the United States Capitol and the White House in retaliation.

Ross then was persuaded to attack on Baltimore, Maryland. His troops landed at the southern tip of the Patapsco Neck peninsula at North Point, twelve miles from the city, on the morning of September 12, 1814. During the march, and just prior to the Battle of North Point, the troops encountered American skirmishers and 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, teenagers 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 aboard HMS Tonnant. When she was diverted to New Orleans for the forthcoming battle, the body was later shipped on the British ship HMS Royal Oak to Halifax, Nova Scotia where his body was interred on September 29, 1814 in the Old Burying Ground.

He is commemorated by a 100 ft 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, London. As an augmentation of honour his armorial bearings were given a second crest in which an arm is seen grasping the stars and stripes on a broken staff; and the family name was changed to the honourific title of Ross-of-Bladensburg.

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Robert Ross, General's Timeline

Age 22
Rosstrevor, Down, Ireland
Age 38
Rosstrevor, Down, Ireland
May 3, 1811
Age 45
Age 48
Baltimore, MD, USA