Ross, Patrick (DNB00)


ROSS, PATRICK (1740?–1804), major-general, chief engineer, Madras, was born about 1740. He was commissioned as ensign in the 4th king's own foot, and on 19 May 1758 he was made, by royal warrant, practitioner-engineer and ensign in the corps of engineers. In the autumn he accompanied the expedition under General Hobson and Captain Hughes, R.N., against the French, to the West Indies, arriving at Barbados in January 1759. He took part in the attack upon the French island of Martinique and the capture of Guadaloupe, where he remained, his own regiment, the king's own, being on service in that island. He was promoted sub-engineer and lieutenant on 17 March 1759, and lieutenant in the 4th foot on 27 Oct. 1760. He was invalided home in 1762. He became engineer-extraordinary and captain-lieutenant on 8 June 1763, and on 12 Oct. of that year ceased to be connected with the 4th foot on reduction of the establishment of that regiment. In 1765 he made detailed reports on the West Indian islands of Grenada, St. Vincent, and Dominica. He was employed at home until 1770.

On 23 March of this year the court of directors of the East India Company having decided to reorganise the engineer establishment in India upon an entirely military basis, and having fixed an establishment at Madras, Ross was selected for the appointment of chief engineer with rank as lieutenant-colonel. On 15 Sept. 1770 he arrived at Madras, where he was stationed, and, became a member of the governor's council or board. He soon saw the necessity for an arsenal, and sent in a report, with an estimate of thirty-seven thousand rupees.

On 16 Sept. 1771 an army was assembled at Trichinopoli under Colonel Joseph Smith to act against Tanjore. Ross accompanied it as chief engineer. Vallam was besieged and a breach made, but when an assault was made at daybreak on 21 Sept. the place was found to have been evacuated. On the 23rd the army encamped before Tanjore; ground was broken on the 29th, and fire opened on 2 Oct. On 7 Oct. Ross was wounded in the cheek by a musket-ball, but by the 20th was again able to direct the siege operations, which were carried out with great skill. Breaching batteries were constructed on the 20th on the crest of the glacis, and mining was commenced the same day. On the 28th news arrived from the nabob that the rájá had accepted terms, and hostilities ceased.

Towards the end of November Ross went to Vallam to report on the works necessary to put the fort in a proper state of defence. In March 1772 a force was again assembled at Trichinopoli, under Smith, with Ross as chief engineer. Ramnad was besieged in May, and captured in June.

The intestine commotion of the Maráthá state in 1773 induced Muhammad Ali to undertake operations against the rájá of Tanjore, and the British joined him. In July Smith assembled a force at Trichinopoli for the reduction of Tanjore. Ross was again in command of the engineers, and directed the siege. He reconnoitred the place on 6 Aug., broke ground on the 20th, and opened fire on the 26th. On 17 Sept. a practicable breach was reported, the assault was made, and the place captured. Smith, in his despatch, expressed his high sense of the service of Ross, and wrote that the siege-works were the best ever seen in the country. Ross was at the taking of Nagar on 21 Oct., and made a survey of the place. Tanjore was restored to the rájá by order of the court of directors in March 1775.

In 1775 Ross sent in a report, plans, and estimate for the new artillery station at St. Thomas's Mount, and in April 1776 he destroyed the fortification of Vallam by mining. Having for some years carried out the reconstruction of the defences of Fort George, Madras, Ross reported in March 1778 the satisfactory progress which had been made, and went to England on leave of absence.

At the beginning of 1781 Ross accompanied the abortive expedition, under Commodore Johnstone, R.N., against the Dutch settlements at the Cape of Good Hope. He was then sent with part of the expedition to reinforce Sir Edward Hughes [q. v.] in the East Indies, and arrived in Madras in May 1782.

On 27 Dec. Ross was ordered to proceed with the army, under Major-general Stuart, against Tipú, sultan of Maisur, ‘with such a number of engineers as he might think necessary.’ The army marched from Vallont on 25 Jan. 1783. On 9 Feb. Wandiwash was reached; Ross demolished its defences by mining by the 15th, and Karangúli was destroyed by the 19th. In April Ross was promoted colonel in the company's service, to rank, however, junior to colonels in the king's service. On the 27th of this month he was at the capture of Perumakal, and on 6 June encamped with the army near Cuddalore, occupied by the French under De Bussy. In reconnoitring the place Ross had a narrow escape, his horse-keeper and one of his escort being killed. On the 13th Ross took part in the victorious attack on the French fortified position about a mile outside Cuddalore. Stuart, who in a general order complimented the force on the attack, especially expressed his indebtedness to Ross. On the capture of the position it was fortified by Ross, and the siege of Cuddalore was commenced. In June 1783 the French fleet under Suffren arrived to co-operate in the defence of Cuddalore. On the 18th Suffren landed a strong detachment, and on the 25th the garrison made an attack upon the British entrenchments, which was effectually repulsed. Stuart in a general order conveyed his thanks to Ross, ‘to whose abilities he was so much indebted.’ News that preliminaries of peace had been agreed upon caused a cessation of hostilities, and Ross returned to Madras.

In January 1784 a proposal of Ross to establish a corps of guides for the Carnatic, to collect accurate information about the country, its roads, &c., was approved. For the next five years Ross was occupied with the ordinary peace duties of his appointment. At the end of December 1789 Tipú attacked Travancore, and Ross, in the early part of 1790, made the necessary engineer preparations for a campaign, which was carried out under Major-general Sir William Medows [q. v.] in the Coimbatore district. On 13 Nov. Ross visited Chepauk to quiet the nabob's troops there, who had become unruly. His mission was successful, and met with the approval of the council.

In the spring of 1791 Lord Cornwallis took command of the army, and besieged and took Bangalore from Tipú on 20 March. Before the end of the month Ross joined the army which pursued Tipú to Arákere, nine miles east of Seringapatam. On 15 May a victorious action was fought, in which Ross took part, and the army advanced to Canambaddi. But neither the Bombay army nor the Maráthá army having effected a junction with Cornwallis, he was unable to proceed for want both of provisions and of transport for his heavy guns. He therefore buried or destroyed the latter, and relinquished his plan of campaign. The allies appeared shortly after, and the armies having crossed the Káveri on 19 June, Ross was sent with the 22nd battalion of coast sepoys to summon Húliyardrúg, which capitulated the following day. Its defences were destroyed under Ross's direction. On the 28th and 29th Ross reconnoitred Savandrúg, but it was considered too strong to warrant the delay which would be necessary to take it. Bangalore was reached on 9 July. When Usúr was seized on the 15th, and with it the command of the Palikód pass, Ross repaired its defences. After the capture of Ráyakottai and the hill forts on the way, Ross returned to Madras to make the necessary engineer arrangements for the prosecution of the campaign, rejoining the army at the end of November. On 29 Nov. he reconnoitred the formidable fortress of Savandrúg. The siege was commenced under his direction, and on 17 Dec. fire was opened, and a practicable breach made by the 21st, when it was captured by assault. On 24 Dec. Uttaradrúg, another strong place, after it had been reconnoitred by Ross, was carried by assault.

In February 1792 the allied armies appeared before Seringapatam, and Ross, with the quartermaster-general, reconnoitred the fortified position of Tipú's camp on the north of the place. On the night of 6 Feb. an attack in three columns was made. The fighting lasted till daybreak on the 7th. Ross remained with Cornwallis in the centre of the attack, and then joined the column of Colonel Stuart, which had established itself on the island of Seringapatam, where he made his engineer park, and the place was invested. By Ross's advice the siege-works were directed against the north side, and ground was broken on the 19th, after the arrival of the Bombay army and the native allies. On the 24th Tipú asked for terms, hostilities ceased, and a treaty of peace was signed on 19 March.

Early in 1793 Ross went to England for the benefit of his health. He was made local brevet colonel in India, for service in the field, on 1 March 1794. In September 1795 Ross was back in India, and brought to notice the inadequacy of the engineer corps, with the result that in January 1796 that corps was reorganised on a larger scale. He was promoted brevet colonel in the army on 1 June 1796, and major-general on 1 Jan. 1797. He remained at Madras during the campaigns of 1798 and 1799, sending forward supplies to the engineers, and generally superintending the operations of that arm. On 28 July 1799 he forwarded to the council a survey of the position of the army before Seringapatam in the previous May, with the plan of attack and section through the breach, and a report from Lieutenant-colonel Gent, the senior engineer officer at the siege. In August he reported on the defences of Seringapatam, with plans and estimates for their improvement.

Ross returned to England in 1802, and on 1 Jan. 1803 retired from the service on a pension. Before leaving India he addressed a letter to the government, urging the requirements of the engineer and public works branch of the service, the necessity for expenditure in order to adequately maintain the defences of fortified places, and the economy which would result from judicious expenditure. He represented Horsham, Sussex, in parliament from 1802 until his death, on 24 Aug. 1804, at Harley Street, Cavendish Square, London. His wife died there on 7 Dec. of the preceding year.

[Royal Engineers' Records; War Office Records; Despatches; Vibart's Military Hist. of the Madras Engineers, London, 1881; Dodwell and Myles's Indian Army Lists; Porter's Hist. of the Corps of Royal Engineers, London, 1889; Munro's Coromandel War, 1784; Dirom's Narrative of the Campaign in India which terminated the war with Tippoo Sultan in 1792, London, 1793; Lake's Sieges of the Madras Army, 1825; Fullarton's Narrative of Operations of the Southern Army, 1788; Gent. Mag. 1804, ii. 885; Beatson's Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultan, 1800; Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, London, 1804.]

R. H. V.