Thursday 8 January 2015

"Send forward the reserves...": The Death of Edward Pakenham

The Honourable Sir Edward Pakenham GCB (aka Ned; County Westmeath, Ireland, 19th March 1778 – New Orleans, Louisiana, America, 8th January 1815)

Death of Edward Pakenham at the Battle of New Orleans by Felix Octavius Carr Darley, 1860
Death of Edward Pakenham at the Battle of New Orleans by Felix Octavius Carr Darley, 1860

Today we travel to the battlefields on America and final day of Sir Edward Pakenham, Member of Parliament, commander of the British forces and brother-in-law to none other than the Duke of Wellington. Highly respected for his military acumen during the Peninsular War, the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans was to prove the last conflict for Major General Pakenham, known to his friends and colleagues as Ned.

Ned had no interest in the North American but, when General Robert Ross was killed in Baltimore, the call came for Pakenham to take his place. A dutiful soldier regardless of his personal feelings on the matter, Ned accordingly set off for America and battled severe weather to join his forces on 25th December 1814 just outside New Orleans. He immediately took charge of the situation, establishing that the American forces they were due to face were likely to prove a considerable challenge.

He came up with a strategy that would see four distinct brigades attack the American forces from different directions, hopefully overwhelming them before they were able to fully retaliate. The plans was to be put into action on 8th January yet it would not go as intended. An advance party led by Lieutenant-Colonel William Thornton was due to seize the battery that posed the greatest risk to the English yet, when the moment came to advance, Thornton's brigade were unable to complete their portion of the planned attack. Despite this Pakenham decided to proceed as planned and led his troops into battle.

As Pakenham rallied his forces, American grapeshot tore through him causing crippling injuries yet these were not fatal and he attempted to rise to his feet and continue with the battle, even managing to mount a horse after his own was killed and ride forth. Fate was not on the Major General's side though and a second round of grapeshot smashed through Ned's spine, dealing him the fatal blow. Barely clinging to life he was carried from the Chalmette battlefield, still issuing orders to his men until the last breath left his body.

The body of Sir Edward "Ned" Pakenham was returned to the land of his birth and he was laid to rest in Killucan, whilst his heart was interred at Chalmette where he died.



Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you!