The mys­tery of Gen. Ross’ death at North Point

The many deaths of Gen. Robert Ross

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BLAINE TAY­LOR

There are al­most as many ver­sions of where, how, and by whose hand Bri­tish Army Maj. Gen. Robert Ross was cut down just be­fore the Bat­tle of North Point on Sept. 12, 1814 as there are dif­fer­ent il­lus­tra­tions of the event it­self, some of which I in­clude here. Ex­actly who shot him also re­mains to this day a de­bat­able mys­tery, no less.

Bri­tish Lt. Ge­orge R. Gleig re­called that the first inkling he had that some­thing might be wrong was when the gen­eral’s rider-less horse re­turned back down the road he had gone with­out him, stained with blood on the sad­dle and its hous­ings.

In a few mo­ments, the troops hur­ry­ing up the road to the sound of the sud­den gunfire found Gen. Ross by its side, cov­ered by blan­kets, and ob­vi­ously dy­ing. Gleig stated in 1826 that the gen­eral had rid­den for­ward to­ward the di­rec­tion of the fir­ing, found him­self in the very midst of the skir­mish­ing and then had been hit in the side by a round fired by an en­emy marks­man.

Mor­tally wounded, he slumped from his mount into the wait­ing arms of his aid­ede-camp. In 1868, au­tho­ril­lus­tra­tor Benson J. Loss­ing iden­ti­fied this fig­ure as the then-still-liv­ing Sir Dun­can McDougall, 79, but aged 25 in 1814.

Born at Ar­gylleshire, Scot­land, in 1789, McDougall had en­tered the Bri­tish Army in 1804, at the height of the scare of Napoleon’s in­vad­ing the Bri­tish Isles, serv­ing in sev­eral reg­i­ments.

He was also a staff of­fi­cer in the Napoleonic Wars in Por­tu­gal, Spain, France, Amer­ica, the Cape of Good Hope and the West Indies.

He con­firmed in let­ters to Loss­ing that he did, in­deed, catch the fall­ing gen­eral, and later also his suc­ces­sor at the Bat­tle of New Or­leans in 1815 when the lat­ter was killed: Maj. Gen. Sir Ed­ward Pak­en­ham, the Duke of Welling­ton’s brother-in-law and hand-picked choice to re­place the slain Ross.

Iron­i­cally, another man who was al­most picked in- stead — Sir Thomas Pic­ton — was killed by a French shell at Water­loo, shot through the crown of his tall hat.

Af­ter 1815, Sir Dun­can com­manded the 79th High- lan­ders for many years and cor­re­sponded with Loss­ing.

An Amer­i­can who sup­pos­edly wit­nessed the shoot­ing of Ross was John Piat, then 23, and a mem­ber of the Dandy 5th Reg­i­ment from Bal­ti­more, a pri­vate in the In­de­pen­dent Blues.

A French emi­gre, his name was orig­i­nally spelled Pi­att. His son Wil­liam changed it a se­cond time, to Piet, whose de­scen­dant is Stan Piet of Bel Air, a gifted pho­tog­ra­pher and a co-founder of the Glenn L. Martin State Avi­a­tion Mu­seum at Mid­dle River.

Lt. Gleig re­called years af­ter­ward that the sight of the griev­ously wounded Gen. Ross ly­ing in the dust of the road sent an au­di­ble groan back through the ranks of the trudg­ing sol­diers that day, so pop­u­lar was he not only with his of­fi­cers, but with his en­listed men as well.

Bri­tish au­thor De­nis Pack writes that Gen. Ross had been hit in the chest and arm, and Rear Adm. Cock­burn’s pa­per in the Li­brary of Congress re­veal in a let­ter to Adm. Cochrane the sor­row that he felt at the loss of a man he had of­ten prod­ded into do­ing things he re­ally didn’t want to do: “It is with the most heart­felt sor­row I have to add, that in this short and de­sul­tory skir­mish, my gal­lant and highly val­ued friend — the ma­jor gen­eral — re­ceived a mus­ket ball through his arm into his breast, that proved fa­tal to him… Our coun­try, sir, has lost one of its best and bravest sol­diers.”

In read­ing th­ese lines, this writer senses in the ad­mi­ral’s mourn­ing a touch of

How — and by whom he was killed — are still de­bated as mys­ter­ies…

PHOTO COUR­TESY DUN­DALK-PAT­AP­SCO NECK HIS­TOR­I­CAL SO­CI­ETY

“Septem­ber 12, 1814 — North Point, Gen­eral Ross fell mor­tally wounded,” by lo­cal Dun­dalk artist Charles Keller.

Maj. Gen. (later Sir) Robert Ross of Bladens­burg, painted as the Reg­i­men­tal Colonel in com­mand of the famed Bri­tish 20th Reg­i­ment, now known as The Lan­cashire Fusiliers, that fought all through­out the Penin­su­lar Wars of then Lord Welling­ton against the French in both Spain and Por­tu­gal. (Welling­ton Bar­racksw, Lan­cashire, Eng­land.)

PHOTO BY BLAINE TAY­LOR

Long­time Mary­land Mili­tia and Aisquith’s Sharp­shoot­ers re-en­ac­tor Buzz Chri­est of Dun­dalk in 1989.

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