The Man Who Captured Washington: Major General Robert Ross and the War of 1812

Front Cover
University of Oklahoma Press, Feb 29, 2016 - History - 312 pages

An Irish officer in the British Army, Major General Robert Ross (1766–1814) was a charismatic leader widely admired for his bravery in battle. Despite a military career that included distinguished service in Europe and North Africa, Ross is better known for his actions than his name: his 1814 campaign in the Chesapeake Bay resulted in the burning of the White House and Capitol and the unsuccessful assault on Baltimore, immortalized in “The Star Spangled Banner.” The Man Who Captured Washington is the first in-depth biography of this important but largely forgotten historical figure.

Drawing from a broad range of sources, both British and American, military historians John McCavitt and Christopher T. George provide new insight into Ross’s career prior to his famous exploits at Washington, D.C. Educated in Dublin, Ross joined the British Army in 1789, earning steady promotion as he gained combat experience. The authors portray him as an ambitious but humane commanding officer who fought bravely against Napoleon’s forces on battlefields in Holland, southern Italy, Egypt, and the Iberian Peninsula. Following the end of the war in Europe, while still recovering from a near-fatal wound, Ross was designated to lead an “enterprise” to America, and in August 1814 he led a small army to victory in the Battle of Bladensburg. From there his forces moved to the city of Washington, where they burned public buildings. In detailing this campaign, McCavitt and George clear up a number of misconceptions, including the claim that the British burned the entire city of Washington. Finally, the authors shed new light on the long-debated circumstances surrounding Ross’s death on the eve of the Battle of North Point at Baltimore.

Ross’s campaign on the shores of the Chesapeake lasted less than a month, but its military and political impact was enormous. Considered an officer and a gentleman by many on both sides of the Atlantic, the general who captured Washington would in time fade in public memory. Yet, as McCavitt and George show, Ross’s strategies and achievements during the final days of his career would shape American defense policy for decades to come.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


List of Illustrations Acknowledgments
Young Bob Ross
The Most Comfortable Warrior a Man Could Wish to Serve
Secret Orders 4 Too Late for the Chesapeake
Up Hill Down Dale
They Are Not in a Condition to Strike at Washington
To Burn or Not to Burn
Courteous Conflagrator
Feelings of Most Acute Misery
We Have Lost Our Good General

High Noon at Bladensburg
Hero of Bladensburg

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2016)

John McCavitt is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of Sir Arthur Chichester: Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1605–1616 and The Flight of the Earls.

Christopher T. George, an independent historian, is Vice President of the 1812 Consortium and founding editor of the Journal of the War of 1812. He is the author of Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay.

Bibliographic information