Ross was born in Ireland and commissioned into the 25th Regiment of Foot after completing college. As a junior officer during the French Revolutionary War he fought at Krabbendam and Alexandria, which earned him a promotion to Major and command of the 20th Regiment of Foot. During the Napoleonic Wars, he fought at the Battles of Maida and Corunna and was promoted to Colonel. He commanded his regiment on the Peninsula at the Battles of Vittoria, Roncesvalles, Sorauren, and Orthes, where he was wounded in the neck seriously. In 1814, shortly after recovering from his wound, Ross was ordered to the United States. Promoted to Major General and in command of all British forces on the East Coast, Ross landed at Benedict, Maryland and continued inland, defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg. Ross proceeded to Washington, where he burned the military and naval facilities, public buildings, Capitol, and the White House in retaliation for the American burning of York (Toronto), Canada. Landing his troops outside Baltimore, in what would develop into the Battle of North Point, Ross’ men encountered American skirmishers. While personally directing his men, Ross was mortally wounded by a sharpshooter, a day before the famous bombardment of Fort McHenry.