Pakenham, Edward Michael (DNB00)
|←Pakeman, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43
Pakenham, Edward Michael
|Pakenham, Hercules Robert→|
PAKENHAM, Sir EDWARD MICHAEL (1778–1815), major-general, second son of Edward Michael, second baron Longford, and his wife Catherine, second daughter of the Right Hon. Hercules Longford Rowley, was born at Longford Castle, co. Westmeath, 19 April 1778. His younger brother, Sir Hercules Robert Pakenham [q. v.], is noticed separately. After a perfunctory education, he became, at the age of sixteen, a lieutenant in the 92nd foot (an Irish corps afterwards drafted), 28 May 1794; was made captain a few days later, and promoted to major in the 33rd or Ulster light dragoons on 6 Dec. in the same year, before he was seventeen. On 1 June 1798 he became major in the old 23rd light dragoons (disbanded in 1802), with which he served in Ireland during the rebellion. On 17 Oct. 1799 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel 64th foot, and commanded that regiment at the reduction of the Danish and Swedish West India islands in 1801. Socially, Pakenham appears to have been a general favourite. In the officers' mess of the 64th (now the Prince of Wales's North Staffordshire regiment) are some silver cups presented by the inhabitants of Sainte-Croix, one of the captured islands, in token of the esteem in which Pakenham and his officers were held by them. He commanded the 64th at the capture of St. Lucia on 22 June 1803, when he was wounded. Returning home, he became a brevet colonel in 1805, and was appointed to a lieutenant-colonelcy in the 7th royal fusiliers, the first battalion of which he joined at Weymouth in 1806, and commanded at Copenhagen in 1807 and the reduction of Martinique in 1809, afterwards returning with the battalion to Nova Scotia. Pakenham joined Lord Wellington (who, in 1806, had married his sister Catherine) in the Peninsula after the battle of Talavera. There he was employed as an assistant adjutant-general to the fusiliers; the officers of the battalion placed his portrait in the mess, and presented him with a sword of the value of two hundred guineas. He was appointed deputy adjutant-general in the Peninsula on 7 March 1810 (Gurwood, Wellington Desp. iii. 806); commanded a brigade, consisting of the two battalions 7th fusiliers and the Cameron highlanders, in Sir Brent Spencer's division at Busaco and Fuentes d'Onoro in 1810 (Cannon, Hist. Rec. of Brit. Army, 7th Fusiliers), and received the local rank of major-general in the Peninsula in 1811. His services with the headquarters staff during that year were noted in orders (Gurwood, iv. 669). At the battle of Salamanca, 22 July 1812, described by Wellington as the best manœuvred battle in the whole war, Pakenham was in command of the third division, which broke the French centre. The two armies faced each other, and had been moving on parallel lines for three days. They saw clearly, from opposite rising grounds, what went on in either camp, as the valley between was not more than half a mile wide. Marmont's design was to interpose between Wellington and Badajos; Wellington's object was to prevent this. In their eagerness to gain their point, the French leading divisions outmarched those following, and thus formed a vacant space in the centre, which Wellington saw, and at once turned to account. ‘Now's your time, Ned,’ he said to Pakenham, who was standing near him; and the words were scarcely spoken before Pakenham gave the word to his division, and commenced the movement which won the battle (Gleig in Appleton's Encycl. of Amer. Biogr.) Wellington wrote to the Horse Guards on 7 Sept. following: ‘I put Pakenham to the third division, by General Picton's desire when he was ill; and I am very glad I did so, as I must say he made the movement which led to our success in the battle of 22 July last with a celerity and accuracy of which I doubt if there are very many capable, and without both it would not have answered its end. Pakenham may not be the brightest genius, but my partiality for him does not lead me astray when I tell you that he is one of the best we have. However, he keeps the division till General Colville [see Colville, Sir Charles] or some other shall return to it, and will thereupon go back to his Fusilier brigade’ (Gurwood, vi. 434). Pakenham commanded the division at the capture of Madrid (ib. vi. 26). He became a major-general 4 June 1812, and in April 1813 was recommended for the post of adjutant-general (ib. vi. 424). He commanded the sixth division at Sauroren (battle of the Pyrénées) (ib. vi. 640), was made K.B. 11 Sept. 1813, was appointed colonel of the 6th West India regiment the same year and was present as adjutant-general in the succeeding campaigns (ib. vii. 135, 201, 340, 430). He received the gold cross and clasps for Martinique, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onoro, Salamanca, Pyrénées, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse. On the reconstitution of the order of the Bath, he was made G.C.B. 4 Jan. 1815.
The death of General Ross (of Bladensburg) before Washington (in 1814) led to the selection of Pakenham to command the British force that had hitherto operated on the Chesapeake, which was now to be employed against New Orleans. Pakenham ought to have joined it at Jamaica, whither reinforcements were sent; but adverse winds detained him, and he did not reach his command until after a landing had been effected at New Orleans, and an action had taken place, in which each side lost more than two hundred men. He found the army in a false position on a narrow neck of land flanked on one side by the Mississippi river, and on the other by an impassable morass. He had opposed to him one of the ablest generals the United States has produced—Andrew Jackson. After a costly reconnaissance, Pakenham erected bastions of hogsheads of sugar, and mounted on them thirty guns; but on 1 Jan. 1815 these were destroyed by the American fire. In the week that followed both sides were reinforced. It is just possible that, if Pakenham had been patient enough to wait the development of his plans, he might have carried the American lines and entered New Orleans. It was his intention to attack on both sides of the river before dawn on 8 Jan. 1815, but there was delay in crossing, and he unfortunately sent up the signal rocket before his men on the west side of the river were ready. He was killed in the unsuccessful assault that followed (Gleig in Appleton's Encycl. of Amer. Biogr.) The enterprise cost the life of Pakenham's second in command, Sir Samuel Gibbs [q. v.], and over three thousand officers and men in killed or wounded.[Foster's Peerage, under ‘Longford;’ Army Lists and London Gazettes, under dates; Cannon's Hist. Records of Brit. Army, 64th Foot and 7th Royal Fusiliers; Gurwood's Wellington Despatches, vols. iii. iv. vi. and vii.; Napier's Hist. Peninsular War, revised ed.; Biography of Pakenham by the late Rev. G. R. Gleig in Appleton's Encycl. of American Biography (all other biographical notices that have appeared are incorrect in the extreme); Gleig's British Army at Washington and New Orleans.]