In 1814, Ross sailed to North America to take charge of all British troops off the east coast of the United States. Ross personally led the British troops ashore to the attack on the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, where the American army of mostly militia quickly collapsed. Moving on from Bladensburg, Ross moved on to nearby Washington, D.C. and later burned the public buildings of the city, including the United States Capitol and the White House.
Robert Ross in Trail of GloryEdit
Robert Ross was a British officer during the War of 1812. By a quirk of fate, Ross became a friend of Irish born Patrick Driscol, soldier and later political leader of the Confederacy of the Arkansas.
The War of 1812Edit
Ross had seen plenty of action by the time in arrived in North America in 1814. He led attack against American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814. While the British successfully routed the Americans, Ross was keenely aware that his men sustained higher casualties than the Americans did. Thus, he was far less blaise about reports that American troops had prepared to defend the Capitol Building in Washington. However, his superior, Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane had ordered that the British march on the city, and Cochrane's immediate subordinate, Rear Admiral George Cockburn (himself contemptuous of the reports about the Capitol) was determined to carry out Cochrane's wishes.
Thus, despite his misgivings, Ross ordered a march on Washington. While he wanted to flank the Capitol, he was quickly overridden by Cockburn, who just assumed that the Americans in the building would roll over.
Ross's concerns were quickly validated, as the Americans were not impressed by the British Congreve rockets and proved murderously accurate with their artillery. While Ross intended to lead from the front, his horse was shot out from beneath him. He secured another, and made it to the front just as musket fire was exchanged.
Ross was soon under the mustket fire of a platoon under Patrick Driscol's command. Only luck saved him: his horse took most of the musket balls, with Ross receiving a ball to the shoulder and to the ribs. He was also thrown clear of his horse before it fell on him when a bullet snapped the saddle girth. He knocked unconscious on the field, and quickly carried away by his adoring men.
Despite his injuries, Ross forced himself to remain concious long enough to pass command on to Colonel Arthur Brooke and insure Cockburn would not launch a second assault. Ross ordered a siege instead, and permitted Brooke to detach 300 men to Cockburn's command for the purpose of burning the American Executive Mansion. When Brooke reported that Ross's orders had been met, Ross lost conciousness.
Later, Brooke awoke Ross upon the arrival American militia men under flag of truce. The militia brought Captain Sam Houston's proposal that there be a truce to allow a collection of the wounded. Ross agreed, and had Brooke begin the collection. Ross conveyed his wish that Houston be promoted from captain to major or colonel, as Ross couldn't bear the thought that he'd been defeated by a mere captain. When the militia inadvertently told Ross that Secretary of State James Monroe was also in the Capitol, Ross assured him that he had no intention of attacking the Capitol again, even to capture Monroe.
Surrender to the AmericansEdit
When Cockburn returned from setting fire to the Executive Mansion, Ross decided to retreat from Washington, and even cancelled the proposed attack on Baltimore, realzing that the defense of the Capitol would rally the Americans. He ordered Cockburn and Colonel Brooke to lead the retreat, and publically stated he would stay behind to keep up morale. In truth, he'd decided to surrender himself to the Americans; the decision to delay the surgery on his wounds had created complications, and his surgeon could not treat them while on the retreat. While his aides expressed concern, Ross decided to take a chance that the Americans would obey the laws of war, which they did.
While in custody, Ross began a friendship with Patrick Driscol.
After Ross was exchanged to the British, he stubbornly refused to be returned to Britain for convalescence, instead insisting that he be allowed to accompany Admiral Alexander Cochrane to Louisiana in an advisory position. Cochrane ultimately agreed.
Ross was present on December 21, 1814, when Cochrane debriefed Lieutenant John Peddie as to American troop strength. Ross was dubious about civilian reports that claimed fifteen thousand men in New Orleans and another 3,000 at the English Turn, expressing his opinion that General Jackson would have something along the lines of 5,000 to 7,000 men. However, Ross pleaded for Cochrane to hold off on an attack until such time General Edward Pakenham, who had not yet arrived, could be present and have time to understand the full lay of the land. Cochrane, however, revealed that peace negoatiations at the city of Ghent were being deliberately stalled by the British in the hopes of taking New Orleans before terms could be finalized. It was hoped that, despite the unpopularity of the war in Britain, that New Orleans could become a British possession once peace was finalized. Cochrane felt he had no choice but to attack, and overruled Ross's concerns.
By January 1, 1815, Ross was in the clutches of an illness. Realizing that his own side could do nothing for him, he asked Pakenham to surrender him to the Americans, and specifically requested Patrick Driscol take custody of him. However, it was Sam Houston who attended the initial parlay, and was able to take advantage of it by observing that the British were widening the canals behind their line.
Ross was tended by Tiana Rogers in New Orleans, with some occasional help from Patrick Driscol. His fever broke on January 4. During his convalescence, Ross realized he'd come to disaprove of slavery, a position he shared with Driscol. Driscol actively hated the institution, and said as much. Still, this issue helped continue the odd bond between the two men. Ross also observed some of Driscol's preparations, but had no idea how the Americans planned to meet the British attack. On January 8, when the battle came, Ross and Tiana listened to the fighting in the distance.