Major General Robert Ross And Rear Admiral George Cockburn Land At Benedict, Maryland
On August 19, 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops under the command of Major General Robert Ross and Rear Admiral George Cockburn landed at Benedict, Maryland, on the shores of the Patuxent River.
The British fleet, under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, had chased U.S. Commodore Joshua Barney's flotilla into the Patuxent River, but the true goal was the capture of the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. — only a few days march away. At the same time, Vice Admiral Cochrane ordered Captain James Gordon to sail other British warships up the Potomac River towards Washington which was defended only by Fort Warburton (later renamed Fort Washington) on the east bank of the river, twelve miles south of the nation's capital. News of this British onslaught caused panic in Washington and many of its residents fled.
Commodore Joshua Barney commanded an assortment of small, quick gunboats, galleys, and barges that for weeks prior had outmaneuvered the larger British ships in the shallow Chesapeake waters. However, after being forced up the Patuxent, Barney and his men abandoned and destroyed their flotilla, linked up with a contingent of marines, and marched to Washington. Unsure of where the British would attack, American volunteers and militiamen from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington also scrambled to the capital and its outskirts. When word reached them that the British were marching towards Bladensburg, the American forces moved there to take up defensive positions.
Although the Americans outnumbered the British at Bladensburg, they were poorly trained compared to the well-disciplined professional soldiers under the command of Major General Ross. On August 24, after thousands of American militiamen had retreated, only a small contingent of the flotilla—men and marines under Barney's command—managed a valiant but futile counterattack. The British troops then continued on to Washington.
After the conclusion of the war with Napoleon, 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. Moving on from Bladensburg, Ross captured Washington, D.C. with little resistance. Ross insisted on only destroying public property, including the destruction of the U.S. Capitol and the White House.
Ross then organized an 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; both were killed in the engagement. Ross died while being transported back to the ships.
After his death, the general's body was stored in a barrel of 129 gallons (586 l) of Jamaican rum and shipped on the British ship HMS Royal Oak to Halifax, Nova Scotia where his body was buried on September 29, 1814in the Old Burying Ground. It is thought that preparations for the Battle of New Orleans prevented his body from being shipped back to Britain.