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Major General Ross and the burning of Washington

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 30, 2014


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by W. A. Maguire

In August 1814, while the commissioners appointed by the governments of Britain and the United States of America

were meeting in Ghent to try to bring to an end the war (1756–63) which had broken out between the two countries

in 1812, a British army was landed on the east coast of the United States with orders to effect a diversion which would assist the main British effort in Canada. To the amazement of the world, the British forces in the space of ten days succeeded in capturing the American capital Washington, burning its main public buildings – including the President’s house – and getting safely away almost unscathed. The commander of that British army was Major General Robert Ross, from Rostrevor in County Down.