Louisiana Institute of Higher Education
Leaks and Losses – Cochrane’s Grand Southern Strategy and the Intelligence Debacle that helped Britain lose the Battle of New Orleans
In August 1814 Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane RN, devised a grand strategy of diversion and disruption in the “Southern parts of the American coast” that would ease the way for the main assault on New Orleans. Mindful of the limited troops at his disposal, Cochrane initiated operations at St Mary’s and Cumberland Island, GA and Pensacola, FL designed to draw the attention of General Jackson and local militias away from Louisiana. If the plan for New Orleans was to succeed secrecy was paramount. As late as mid-November the strategy appeared to be working; Jackson remained in Pensacola looking to the east and north for the next British attack. But on November 18 Cochrane learned of a critical intelligence leak, one that resulted in Jackson’s decision to about-face and return to New Orleans with all speed. This paper examines Cochrane’s grand southern strategy in the quest to take New Orleans and how secrecy blunders at the highest level contributed to the loss of the last great battle of the War of 1812.
S. A. Cavell received her MA in History from LSU and her PhD in maritime history from the University of Exeter in the UK where she received the Exeter Research Fellowship. Her publications include Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy, and contributions to The Battle of New Orleans Reconsidered, and the U.S. Naval Academy's New Directions in Naval History. Sam has appeared in historical documentaries for National Geographic and lectured at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Texas A&M Galveston, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and Oxford University.