Fleet Admiral Alexander Cochrane

By the time he was appointed to command the newly-defined North American station in 1814, Admiral Alexander Cochrane had already distinguished himself in the service of his country. Cochrane wasted no time issuing a proclamation aimed largely at black slaves, inviting Americans to join the British forces or be relocated in Canada or the Caribbean. Some 300 former slaves eventually served with the British in the Chesapeake Bay area. Americans accused Cochrane of trying to foment a slave revolt.

When Sir George Prevost asked him to raid American coastal towns in retaliation for American depredation in Canada, Cochrane was quick to do so. After receiving some 5,000 marines and veteran soldiers from the Duke of Wellington's campaigns, Cochrane resolved to send 4,500 of them on a quick dash on Washington under Major General Robert Ross. After the burning of Washington, Cochrane next sent Ross on a similar expedition to Baltimore while he sailed his lighter ships up the Patapsco River. When Ross was killed and Cochrane's own bombardment of Fort McHenry failed, the combined forces retreated.

While awaiting a replacement for Ross, Cochrane commenced the attack against New Orleans. On December 14, his forces captured the American gunboats on Lake Borgne. The British subsequently advanced through Bayou Bienvenu to within seven miles of the city by December 23. But the British attack on General Andrew Jackson's army ultimately failed and Cochrane withdrew with the rest of the British force.