Aberdeenshire-born Alexander Ross started out as an ensign, became a general and eventually an aide-de-camp to the king.
And later this year an “exceptional” pair of duelling pistols owned by Ross are expected to fetch up to £40,000 when they go under the hammer at one of London’s top auction houses.
The Indian 28-bore silver-mounted flintlock pistols with silver barrels are being sold by Bonhams at a sale of Antique Arms and Armour on 18 April at its Knightsbridge salerooms.
Bonhams’ Julian Roup said: “Lt-Col Ross had an extraordinary record of distinguished combat in theatres of war that took place on three continents – Europe, America and India. And the pistols are estimated to sell for between £30,000 and £40,000.
“Ross was given them in India in 1792 by Lt-Col Claude Martin, a Frenchman who deserted his army to join the East Indian Company, becoming Superintendent of Artillery and Arsenals to the Nawab of Oudh, and later establishing the Lucknow arsenal in 1779.”
Ross, who was born in 1742, was the youngest of five sons from Auchlossin, Aberdeenshire, and first joined the British Army as an ensign in the 50th Foot in 1760, attaining the rank of lieutenant a year later.
Mr Roup said: “His military record notes him as having served in all the actions after the beginning of the year 1760 [the year George III came to the throne], with the allied army in Germany during the Seven Years War from 1756 to 1763.”
In 1764, Ross became an officer in the 45th Foot and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1775. During the American War of Independence, he served as Captain of Grenadiers, participating in all the main battles before becoming aide-de-camp to Lord Cornwallis, one of the key commanders of the failed British campaign.
After the battle of Camden, South Carolina, in August 1780, Cornwallis sent Ross to England with dispatches, recommending him as “a very deserving officer” to the Secretary of State for the American Colonies, Lord George Germain, and worthy of his patronage.
Ross was raised to the rank of major in 1781 and returned to America in time to fight at the Siege of Yorktown – the last major battle of the War of Independence in which Cornwallis’ army was defeated by the American forces led by General George Washington and a French force led by the Comte de Rochanbeau.
Ross was one of two British officers who participated in the surrender of the town following the colonists’ decisive victory. He was then promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1783, shortly after the end of the war, and appointed deputy adjutant-general in Scotland. He was later transferred to the post of adjutant-general in India after Cornwallis was appointed governor-general and commander-in-chief there in 1786.
Mr Roup said: “He appears to have remained in this post until about 1794, during which time he was present in every action that took place, including the Third Anglo-Mysore War (1789-92) against Tipu Sultan. Cornwallis and Ross appear to have returned to England together. Ross was promoted to colonel and was appointed aide-de-camp to King George III.”
In 1802 he was appointed lieutenant-general, finally attaining the rank of general in 1812 before being appointed governor of forts George and Augustus in Scotland.
He retired from military service to Lamer Park in Hertfordshire and died in 1827. His only son, Charles, went on to marry Cornwallis’ grand-daughter and to edit Cornwallis’ correspondence, published in 1859, in which he described his father as Cornwallis’ “most intimate friend”.