The Man Who Captured Washington | Welcome to The Man Who Captured Washington
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Welcome to The Man Who Captured Washington


The bicentennial of the ‘War of 1812’ is fast approaching, a conflict which witnessed the capture of Washington and the burning of the public buildings by the British, not least the ‘White House’, the U.S. Capitol (including the Supreme Court and Library of Congress) and the Washington Navy Yard. Against this background, the restoration in 2008 of a monument to General Robert Ross (the man who captured Washington) in his home village of Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland (pictured above) has been timely. Commemorations of key historical events afford opportunities to throw fresh light on what happened.

That Ross was an Irishman (of Scots Irish descent) and that his key regimental commanders at the Battle of Bladensburgwere fellow countrymen bears testimony to the so-called Irish military tradition at the time, reflected in the webpages relating to Irish/Ulster connections to the War of 1812 (which includes details of the American Irish who resisted Ross’ forces) and Irishmen in the British, French and Spanish armies. In terms of the Death and burial of Ross, Dianne Graves has been kind enough to provide a transcription from the record of an eyewitness to the funeral of the general in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Information is also provided herein about less well knownMonuments to General Ross in St Paul’s Cathedral, London and Kilbroney Parish Church, Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland. Ross’ historical legacy in relation to the city of Baltimore is treated in Ross and ‘Monumental City[Baltimore] while the link between Ross and the Star Spangled Banner details the manner in which his failed attack on Baltimore played a ‘Key’ role in inspiring the lyrics of the US National Anthem. Ross and the White Houseconsiders the popular perception that his most famous legacy of all to history has been the renaming of the ‘President’s Mansion’ or ‘President’s House'(designed by an Irishman, James Hoban) as the White House when the building was repainted after it was burnt by Ross and his forces.

Finally, Washington Witnesses details the views of three American eyewitnesses to the fateful events of August 1814, including those of Mary Clemner and a young slave boy, Michael Shiner. Most interestingly of all are the recollections of the First Lady, Dolley Madison, on the events of 24thAugust 1814 when she and her husband were forced to abandon Washington, an event which has been termed by some as ‘the Flight of the Madisons’, evoking parallels with the Flight to Varennes in French history (1791) and the earlier Flight of the Earls in Irish history (1607). Also included is the account of a British soldier, G.R.Gleig, who claims that the British had not captured Washington with the deliberate aim of burning the public buildings. In Gleig’s view the attack on General Ross  as he approached the Capitol under a flag of truce (in which his horse was shot dead from under him and several British soldiers were killed and wounded) led to the abandonment of the original plan to secure a ransom for the city in lieu of burning the public buildings.

With time it is hoped to develop this website further, not least in the area of assisting educational initiatives by including other extracts from key historical documents of the period. Listing bicentennial commemorations of events marking the two hundredth anniversary of Ross’ campaign in America in 2014 may be included. Interestingly in this regard, Dr Edward  Furgol, Curator of the National Museum of the United States Navy located at the Washington Navy Yard, is already planning to stage a symbolic re-enactment of the burning of the Washington Navy Yard.