Maj. General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham GCB, Commander of British forces in North America

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Maj. General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham GCB, Commander of British forces in North America's Geni Profile

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Edward Michael Pakenham

Birthplace: Longford Castle, Co Westmeath, Ireland
Death: January 08, 1815 (36)
New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, United States (killed in the Battle of New Orleans)
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Michael Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford and Catherine Rowley
Brother of Hon. Elizabeth Pakenham; Catherine Sarah Dorothea Wellesley; Hon. Helen Pakenham; Captain Hon. William Pakenham; Thomas Pakenham, 2nd Earl of Longford KP and 3 others

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About Maj. General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham GCB, Commander of British forces in North America

Sir Edward Michael Pakenham GCB (pro. pake-en-ham) (19 March 1778 – 8 January 1815), styled The Honourable from his birth until 1813, was an Irish British Army Officer and Politician. He was the brother-in law of the Duke of Wellington, with whom he served in the Peninsular War. Appointed as commander of British forces in North America in 1814, he was killed in action at the Battle of New Orleans.

Early life

Pakenham was born at Pakenham Hall (now known as Tullynally Castle), County Westmeath, Ireland to Edward Michael Pakenham, 2nd 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. Between 1799 and 1800, Pakenham also represented Longford Borough in the Irish House of Commons.

Early Service

Known as 'Ned' to his friends, he served with the 23rd Light Dragoons against the French in Ireland during the 1798 Rebellion and later served 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 wound. In 1806, his sister Catherine married Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington.

Peninsular War

Pakenham, as adjutant-general, joined his famous in-law, Wellesley, 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. In the following years he was appointed a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1813, fought at the Battle of Toulouse in 1814 and received the Grand Cross to the Order of the Bath in 1815. He also received the Army Gold Cross and clasps for the battles of Martinique, Busaco, Fuentes d'Oñoro, Salamanca, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse.

War of 1812

In 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 by a sniper.

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 ADC (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 died as he was carried off the battlefield at the age of 36. His last words were reputed to be telling MacDougall to find General Lambert to tell him to assume command and send forward the reserves. The battle ended in defeat for the British. The American commander was Major General Andrew Jackson, who would go onto become the President of the United States. A general ceasefire had already been declared by the Treaty of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, but news of the peace did not reach the combatants until February, several weeks after the battle.


Wellington had held Packenham 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.

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 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

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Maj. General Sir Edward Michael Pakenham GCB, Commander of British forces in North America's Timeline

March 19, 1778
Longford Castle, Co Westmeath, Ireland
January 8, 1815
Age 36
New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, United States