Constitution's Most

Constitution’s Most Challenging Fight

Challenging Fight

In autumn of 1814, while Admiral Cochrane’s fleet was ravaging the Chesapeake,

the British Caribbean fleet had begun to implement the other part of the plan designed to draw American troops out of the northern frontier: the invasio n of the Gulf Coast.

In addition, occupation of the Gulf Coast would provide access to the interior of the country; the mid-Gulf area, specifically New Orleans,

was lightly defended, sparsely populated, and offered significant booty to the conquering British.

It was a major port, consolidating all the goods from the interior of the country for shipment to the East coast as well as the Caribbean and Europe.

Constitution’s Most Challenging Fight To effect this stratagem, English ships and marines occupied the Spanish fort at Pensacola, Florida,

(Spain was a sometimes-ally of the English, so offered no resistance), and then used that as a base for their unsuccessful attack on Mobile.

(then still part of Florida), which had been seized from Spain by the United States in 1813. Repulsed, the British fleet sailed

back to Jamaica where a large army10,000 men strong-had assembled.

Constitution’s Most Challenging Fight Their commander was General Edward Pakenham, the Duke of Wellington’s brotherin-law and a most capable officer.

The fleet again fell under the command of Admiral Alexander Cochrane, and they sailed for the Gulf Coast in late November, arriving in the Delta area in early December.

With insufficient numbers of small boats to navigate the treacherous and shallow waters of the bayous, Cochrane decided to attack through Lake Borgne,

which is not really a lake, but rather a protected harbor open to the Gulf.

He sent Captain Nicholas Lockyer ahead with forty-five ships, boats, and barges and 1,200 men to secure the lake.

US Navy Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones 1 had been stationed there with a few small sailing vessels to watch and report, but not do battle should the British show up.

But show up they did, and just as the wind dropped off to nothing. With no means of propulsion,

Jones had little choice but to fight, which he did on 14 December.

The British, using their oars and superior numbers,

Most prevailed and accomplished their mission, but not without casualties.

The British lost more than 100 men, and Jones suffered some forty killed and wounded; he and the remainder of his men were taken prisoner.

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