Edward Pakenham

Major General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham, GCB (19 March 1778 – 8 January 1815), was a British Army officer and politician.[1] He was the son of The Baron Longford and the brother-in-law of The Duke of Wellington, with whom he served in the Peninsular War. During the War of 1812, he was commander of British forces in North America (1814–15). On 8 January 1815, Pakenham was killed in action while leading his men at the Battle of New Orleans.[2]

Sir Edward Pakenham

Member of the Irish Parliament
for Longford Borough
In office
Preceded byThomas Pakenham
Succeeded byThomas Pakenham
Personal details
Edward Michael Pakenham

(1778-03-19)19 March 1778
Pakenham Hall, County Westmeath, Ireland
Died8 January 1815(1815-01-08) (aged 36)
St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, U.S.
Resting placeSt. Etchen's Church, Killucan
53°30′49.5″N 7°08′40.3″W
Civilian awardsKnights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/serviceBritish Army
Years of service1794–1815
RankMajor General
Battles/warsIrish Rebellion of 1798

Napoleonic Wars

War of 1812

Military awards Army Gold Cross

Early life

Pakenham was born at Pakenham Hall (present-day Tullynally Castle), County Westmeath, Ireland to The Baron Longford and the former Catherine Rowley. He was educated at The Royal School, Armagh. His family purchased his commission as a lieutenant in the 92nd Regiment of Foot when he was only sixteen.

Political career

Between 1799 and 1800, Pakenham also represented Longford Borough in the Irish House of Commons.

Military career

Pakenham served with the 23rd Light Dragoons against the French in Ireland during the 1798 Rebellion and later in Nova Scotia, Barbados, and Saint Croix. He led his men in an attack on Saint Lucia in 1803, where he was wounded. He also fought in the Danish campaign at the Battle of Copenhagen (1807) and in Martinique against the French Empire, where he received another wounding. In 1806, his sister Catherine married Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington.

Peninsular War

Pakenham, as adjutant-general, joined his well-known in-law, the Duke of Wellington, in the Peninsular War. He commanded a regiment in the Battle of Bussaco in 1810 and in 1811 fought in the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro to defend the besieged fortress of Almeida, helping to secure a British victory. In 1812 he was praised for his performance at Salamanca in which he commanded the Third Division and hammered onto the flank of the extended French line. He also received the Army Gold Cross and clasps for the battles of Martinique, Busaco, Fuentes de Oñoro, Salamanca, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse.

War of 1812

In September 1814, Pakenham, having been promoted to the rank of major general, accepted an offer to replace General Robert Ross as commander of the British North American army, after Ross was killed during the skirmishing prior to the Battle of North Point near Baltimore.

The next year during the Battle of New Orleans while rallying his troops near the enemy line, grapeshot from US artillery shattered his left knee and killed his horse. As he was helped to his feet by his senior aide-de-camp, Major Duncan MacDougall, Pakenham was wounded a second time in his right arm. After he mounted MacDougall's horse, more grapeshot ripped through his spine, fatally wounding him, and he was carried off the battlefield on a stretcher. He was laid beneath the oaks which today still bear his name.[3] He was 36. His last words were reputed to be telling MacDougall to find General John Lambert to tell him to assume command as well as "Tell him... tell Lambert to send forward the reserves."[4] The battle ended in defeat for the British.

The American commander was Brevet Major General Andrew Jackson, who would go on to become the seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837. A general ceasefire had already been declared by the Treaty of Ghent, signed on 24 December 1814, but as peace was not yet ratified in Washington as required by the treaty, the nations were still formally at war. The news of the treaty did not reach the combatants until February, several weeks after the battle.[5]

Wellington had held Pakenham in high regard and was deeply saddened by news of his death, commenting:

We have but one consolation, that he fell as he lived, in the honourable discharge of his duty and distinguished as a soldier and a man. I cannot but regret that he was ever employed on such a service or with such a colleague. The expedition to New Orleans originated with that colleague... The Americans were prepared with an army in a fortified position which still would have been carried, if the duties of others, that is of the Admiral (Sir Alexander Cochrane), had been as well performed as that of he whom we now lament.[6]


There is a statue in his memory at the South Transept of St Paul's Cathedral in London. His body was returned in a cask of rum and buried in the Pakenham family vault in Killucan in County Westmeath, Ireland.

There is a small village in Ontario, Canada, named in honour of the general's short visit there and his role in the War of 1812. The village is located on the Mississippi River which originates from Mississippi Lake and empties into the Ottawa River.

There is also a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, named after him.

In the alternative "British Version" of Johnny Horton's novelty hit "The Battle of New Orleans," Horton refers to the British being led into battle by Pakenham. As with other 'historic' details of the song, Horton haphazardly styles him as "Colonel Pakeningham" despite his actually being General Pakenham.

See also


  1. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/edward-pakenham
  2. Stoltz, Joseph F. III (2014). The Gulf Theater, 1813-1815 (PDF). The U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812. Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History. p. 38. CMH Pub 74–7.
  3. Margaret Clark (American writer), The Irish in Louisiana, Bijoux Press., 2007, page 32.
  4. Robin Reilly, The British at the Gates, G.P. Putnam's Sons pub., 1974, page 291.
  5. Remini, Robert V. (1999). The Battle of New Orleans. New York: Penguin Books. p. 193-194: "Then in mid-February dispatches arrived from Europe announcing that the commissioners in Ghent had signed a treaty of peace with their British counterparts and that the War of 1812 had ended." "the Senate of the United States unanimously (35-0) ratified the Treaty of Ghent on 16 February 1815. Now the war was officially over."
  6. Holmes, Richard (2003). Wellington: The Iron Duke Page 206, Harper and Collins

Further reading

  • Battle Kiss (2011) by O'Neil De Noux, epic war novel set around the Battle of New Orleans
  • "Edward Michael Pakenham," A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 2 (1988), p. 627
  • The Dawn's Early Light (1971), by Walter Lord
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
Thomas Pakenham
Henry Stewart
Member of Parliament
for Longford Borough

With: Thomas Pakenham
Succeeded by
Thomas Pakenham
Thomas Borrowes
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