The Man Who Captured Washington | Ross Monuments
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Ross Monuments

Ross Monuments

Above: Ross Monument, Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland.

What is known locally as the ‘Ross Monument’ (obelisk) in the general’s native village of Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland, was restored in 2008 by its current owners, Newry and Mourne District Council. With uninterrupted views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains, the monument is situated almost on the exact spot where General Robert Ross had planned to build his retirement home had he returned safely from his expedition to America in 1814. Writing of Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor the famous English nineteenth century writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote ‘were such a bay lying upon English shores, it would be a world’s wonder; or if on the Mediterranean or Baltic, English travellers would flock to it’. Little wonder that such a location inspired C.S.Lewis’ Narnia.Tourists can now enjoy this view and the monument’s importance as a local landmark has been enhanced by lighting. Aware of Ross’ importance as a figure in world history, Newry and Mourne District Council provided seed funding to assist Rostrevor based historian, Dr John McCavitt, with his research into the career of the general.

Besides playing a pivotal role when British forces inflicted a morale boosting first ever victory over Napoleon’s ‘invincibles’ at the Battle of Maida (1806), Ross later carved out a highly distinguished career during the Peninsular War in Europe. As the bicentennial of the War of 1812 approaches, it is also hoped that a deeper understanding of the nature and impact of Ross’ brief career in the USA is realised. Thus, besides the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of the public buildings in Washington, it is also recognised that the manner in which Ross met his death at Baltimore in Sept. 1814 contributed in no small measure to inspiring the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner. The ties that bind Rostrevor to this pivotal period in American history are remarkable. There is some evidence that there were plans afoot to send an American privateer to burn Rostrevor in revenge for Ross’s attack on Washington.  (See BBC Northern Ireland videoclips of ‘Washington Burner’ at

    BBC ‘Washington Burner’ Story

The inscription on the Obelisk in Rostrevor reads as follows:


Served with distinction in Holland, Egypt, Italy, Spain, and France.

Conquered in America, and fell victorious at Baltimore. Born 1766, Hilden 1799, Alexandria 1804, Maida 1806, Corunna 1809, Vittoria 1813, Ortho 1813, Pyrenees 1813, Bladensburg 1814, Baltimore 1814.

The Obelisk

The officers of a grateful army

which, under the command of the lamented


attacked and dispersed the American forces

 at Bladensburg on the 24th August, 1814,

 and on the same day victoriously entered Washington,

the capital of the United States,

inscribed upon this tablet

their admiration for his professional skill,

 and their esteem for his amiable private character.

His well-earned fame is also recorded

by the monument erected at his grave

at Halifax, Nova Scotia, by the army in that command,

by that which his mourning officers of the 20th Foot

raised in his Parish Church at Rostrevor;


 that placed in St. Paul’s Cathedral,

as the last tribute of a Nation’s praise,

by his country.

** Note that the Battle of Alexandria occurred in 1801 and the Battle of Orthes in 1814.

The National Monument to General Ross

Shortly after learning of his death in 1814, the British Parliament voted to erect a monument to General Ross in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. In this national monument, which is tabular, Britannia is represented weeping over the tomb of the departed warrior, over which an, American flag is being deposited by a figure of Valour, while Fame descends with a wreath of laurels to crown the hero’s head.

Above: The National Monument to General Ross, St Paul’s Cathedral, London 

Above: Kilbroney Parish Church (Rostrevor, County  Down, Northern Ireland) monument to General Ross – erected by the XXth Regiment

Besides what is known as the ‘Ross monument’ in Rostrevor, a separate monument was erected to his memory in Kilbroney Parish Church in the village by the officers and men of the XXth regiment whom Ross had memorably led to victory at the Battle of Maida in 1806 and to great distinction during the harrowing British retreat to Corunna during the winter of 1808 when the XXth regiment was noted for its discipline and gallantry in the rearguard. The British commander, Sir John Moore, was killed during the retreat and Moore’s monument is located not far from that of Ross in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Above: The Retreat to Corunna

The inscription on the Kilbroney Parish Church monument reads as follows: 





Who fell on the 12th of September 1814

In the attack on BALTIMORE.

This MONUMENT is erected



To perpetuate his WORTH

And remain in testimony of their



When the Ross Monument (obelisk) was built a caretaker’s cottage was also constructed, the caretaker being a veteran of the XXth Regiment

Above: The Monument Cottage, Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland, knocked down in the 1970s as part of a road widening scheme at the ‘Monument Corner’.