By August of 1814 there were numerous reports of additional 8-15,000 fresh regiments on their way to America, destined as rumors spread, for the Chesapeake to join Major General Robert Ross. To command was to be Lieutenant-General Rowland Hill, the Duke of Wellington’s most trusted officer and like General Ross veteran of the Peninsula campaigns. Hill was held in high esteem by his officer corps as well as the soldiers.
At a London dinner General Hill suggested such a command would be “sufficient to chastise the Yankees, and bring the war to a speedy termination.” Hill though had not desired the appointment “though it will be politic to keep up the idea of a large force going to America.” On 10 August Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State in London informed Hill that it was not to be. However before news would arrive in America the Battle of Bladensburg would have been fought and an attack on Baltimore eminent. The Niles Weekly Register informed its readers on 24 August that Lord Hill was to have “more fresh regiments on the way.”
Baltimore, fearful for a second assault, despite the repulse of the British on 14 September made preparations for a British military reinforcement expedition that never came to be. By 17 September Admiral Cochrane was still expecting reinforcements. Writing to Lord Melville “…the ball is at our feet, – and give me but Six thousand Men – Including a Rifle and Cavalry Regt., and I will engage to master every Town South of Philadelphia and keep the Whole Coast in such a State of Alarm, as soon to bring the Most Obstinate upon their Marrow bones.” Such were the rumors of the day. Smith kept the militia at Baltimore until 15 November just in case.
Sources: The Life of Lord Hill, G.C.B. Late Commander of the Forces by Edwin Sidney (London: John Murray, 1845); Baltimore Patriot, October 15, 26, 1814.
In 1859 the Life of John H.W. Hawkins was published in Boston. While only 17 years of age Mr. John Henry Willis Hawkins served having secured a rifle and took part in the Battle of North Point. Among his comrades and aquantices were the veterans of the 1st Battalion of Maryland Riflemen of which Captain Edward Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters was one of five companies assigned who fought at the Battle of North Point. It is in this regard that we find the following two passages that have long been long associated with the death of Major General Robert Ross, RA. The likely source for these popular phases must fall upon a Dr. Samuel B. Martin, surgeon of the battalion who was a brother-in-law of the young Hawkins. It was Dr. Martin who had served at the Battle of Bladensburg and also interviewed a Mr. Gorsuch a few days after the battle at his farm where Ross had had breakfast that morning of September 12.
“I shall sup in Baltimore to-night, or in hell!”
The second phrase must be attributed to one of the Battalion members, likely Dr. Martin who was at the Battle of Bladensburg.
“Remember, boys, General Ross rides a white horse to-day!”
Source: Life of John H.W. Hawkins Compiled by his son, Rev. William G. Hawkins, A.M. (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1859.); The Sun, August 30, 1858.
In the second of two skirmishes that led to the Battle of North Point, Major General Robert Ross, having been shot by members of Captain Edward Aisquith’s First Baltimore Sharp Shooters, who were in the forward advance, was taken in route back to the British landing site. Along the North Point Road, his staff laid the General by the side of the road under a large poplar tree that over hung the roadside. It was here he breathed his last. An entry in the captain’s log of HM Ship-of-the-line Royal Oak states clearly that Ross’ remains arrived onboard that evening at 9 p.m., some eight hours after having been shot.
The tree was situated on the farm of Mr. Vincent Green, a veteran of the battle near the crossroads of North Point Road and present day Wells Avenue. In March of 1844 the venerable old tree was cut down for fear it may fall on an unsuspected traveler. It was known as the “Ross Tree.” “Such was the veneration in which it was held that many individuals secured pieces as relics.”
Sources: The Sun, March 22, 1844; September 8, 1907.