Royal Naval Biography/Codrington, Edward

Rear-Admiral of the Red; and Knight Commander of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer is descended from the Codringtons, of Codrington, co. Gloucester, who were of considerable importance in the time of Henry IV[1]. He was made a Lieutenant in 1793; served as such on board Earl Howe’s flag-ship, the Queen Charlotte, in the battle of June 1, 1794; and soon after that glorious event obtained the rank of Commander in the Comet fire-vessel. His commission as Post-Captain bears date April 6, 1795. He afterwards commanded in succession the Babet, of 22 guns, and Druid frigate. The former was with Lord Bridport, when that officer encountered the enemy’s fleet off l’Orient; the latter assisted at the capture of a French frigate, armed en flute, on board of which were 400 hussars proceeding to join the rebels in Ireland, Jan. 7, 1797[2].

From this period we lose sight of Captain Codrington until the summer of 1804, when he joined the Argo, of 44 guns. From that ship he removed into the Orion, a third rate, in which he had the good fortune to be present at the memorable battle off Cape Trafalgar, and for his conduct on that occasion, was honored with a gold medal, and in common with the other officers of the fleet, received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament[3].

Towards the latter end of 1808, our officer was appointed to the Blake, a new 74; and in the ensuing year we find him serving under Sir Richard J. Strachan, in the expedition to the Scheldt. On passing the batteries of Flushing, Aug. 15, the Blake had 2 men killed and 9 wounded; her commander’s gallant behaviour was duly noticed in the official despatches relative to the reduction of that place.

In 1810, Captain Codrington was employed in the defence of Cadiz; he subsequently commanded a squadron stationed on the coast of Catalonia for the purpose of co-operating with the Spanish patriots, to whose cause he rendered very great assistance, by his active zeal, and the sound judgment with which he applied the force under his orders. He was appointed to a Colonelcy of Royal Marines, Dec. 4, 1813; advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, June 4, 1814; and from that period served as Captain of the Fleet on the American station under Sir Alexander Cochrane, whom he accompanied in the expeditions up the Chesapeake[4], and against New Orleans[5]. He returned to England with the official account of the capture of Fort Boyer, which closed the war between Great Britain and the United States. The Rear-Admiral was nominated a K.C.B. Jan. 2, 1815.

Residence.– 43, Charles Street, Berkeley Square.

  1. Sir Edward’s immediate ancestor was created a Baronet in 1721. The title is at present in the possession of his elder brother, Sir Christopher Bethell Codrington, of Dodington in Gloucestershire.
  2. See p. 388.
  3. For an account of the battle of Trafalgar, see p. 202, et seq.
  4. See p. 524, et seq.
  5. The naval and military forces employed in the expedition against New Orleans, arrived off Chandeleur islands, Dec. 8, 1814; and on the 16th the first division of the army, commanded by Colonel Thornton, of the 85th regiment, took post upon the Isle aux Poix, a small swampy spot at the mouth of the Pearl river, where Sir Alexander Cochrane, Rear-Admiral Codrington, and Major-General Keane, joined them on the following day.

    The officers who had been sent to reconnoitre Bayon Catalan (or des Pechours) at the head of Lac Borgne, now returned with a favorable report of its position for disembarking the army; having, with their guide, pulled up in a canoe to the head of the Bayon, a distance of eight miles, and landed within a mile and a half of the high road to, and about six miles below New Orleans, where they crossed the road without meeting with any interruption, or perceiving the least preparation on the part of the enemy.

    The severe changes of the weather, from rain to fresh gales and hard frost, retarding the boats in their repeated passages to and from the shipping, it was not until the 21st, that a sufficient number of troops could be assembled at Isle aux Poix to admit of their proceeding. On the following day the gun-vessels, and such others as could be brought into the lakes, being filled with about 2400 men, the advance, consisting of about 1600, got into the boats, and at eleven o’clock the whole started, with a fair wind, to cross Lac Borgne; but before they had got within ten miles of the Bayon, the whole of the vessels grounded in succession; the advance, however, pushed on, and at about midnight reached the entrance. A picquet, which the enemy had taken the precaution to place there being surprised and cut off, Major-General Keane, accompanied by Rear-Admiral Malcolm, who had been appointed to superintend the disembarkation, moved up the Bayon with the advance, and having effected a landing at day-break, took up a position across the main road to New Orleans, between the river Mississippi and the Bayon.

    In this situation, about an hour after sun-set, on the 23d, and before the boats could return with the second division, an enemy’s schooner of 14 guns, and an armed ship of 16, having dropped down the Mississippi, the former commenced a brisk cannonading, which was followed up by an attack of the whole of the American army. Their troops were, however, beaten back with considerable loss, and Major-General Keane advanced somewhat beyond his former position. As soon as the second division was brought up, the gun-vessels and boats returned for the remainder of the troops, the small-armed seamen and marines of the squadron, and such supplies as were required. On the 25th, Major-General Sir Edward Pakenham arrived at head-quarters, and took the command of the army.

    The schooner which had continued at intervals to annoy the troops, having been burnt on the 27th by hot shot from the British artillery, and the ship having warped farther up the river, the following day Sir Edward moved forward to within gun-shot of an entrenchment which the enemy had recently thrown up, extending across the cultivated ground from the Mississippi to an impassable swampy wood on his left, a distance of about 1000 yards.

    It being thought necessary to bring heavy artillery against this work, and also against the ship which had cannonaded the army when advancing, guns were brought up from the shipping, and on the 1st Jan. 1815, batteries were opened, but without having the desired effect, in consequence of which the attack was deferred until the arrival of a reinforcement of troops under Sir John Lambert, who joined on the 6th.

    In the proposed plan for the general attack upon New Orleans, it was decided to throw a body of men across the river to gain possession of the enemy’s guns on the right bank; and for this purpose the canal by which the provisions and stores had been conveyed towards the camp, was widened and extended to the river; and about fifty boats having, in the day-time of the /th, been tracked under cover and unperceived close up to the bank, at night the whole were after much labour dragged into the Mississipi, and placed under the command of Captain Roberts, of the Meteor, who had recently distinguished himself in a brilliant affair, to which we shall pay proper attention in our memoir of Captain Nicholas Lockyer, the officer who commanded on the occasion.

    Early on the morning of the 8th, the 85th regiment and about 600 seamen and marines, under the direction of Colonel Thornton, Captain Money of the navy, and Major Adair of the latter corps, were landed without opposition; and the armed boats moving up the river as they advanced, this part of the operations succeeded perfectly; the Americans being driven from every position, leaving behind them 17 pieces of cannon, and the colours of the New Orleans regiment of militia; but the great loss sustained in the unsuccessful attempt to gain possession of the enemy’s lines near the town, having induced Sir John Lambert (who had succeeded to the command of the army on the death of Sir Edward Pakenham) to send orders to Colonel Thornton to retire; after spiking the guns and destroying the carriages, the whole were re-embarked and brought back, the boats again dragged into the canal, and from thence to the Bayon, conveying at the same time such of the wounded as it was thought requisite to send off to the ships.

    The loss of the British on the 8th was about 2,000 killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. The brave Sir Edward Pakenham, as soon as from his station he had made the signal for the troops to advance to the general assault, gallopped on to the front, to animate them by his presence; and he was seen with his hat off, encouraging them on the crest of the glacis; it was there he received two wounds, one in the knee, and another in his body; he fell in the arms of his aid-de-camp, Major M‘Dougall. This sad event happening in the sight of the troops, together with the Major-Generals Gibbs and Keane being both borne off wounded (the former mortally) at the same time, with many other commanding officers; and further, the preparations to aid in crossing the ditch not being so forward as they ought to have been, caused a wavering in the column, which in such a situation became irreparable; and as Sir John Lambert advanced with the reserve, at about 250 yards from the lines, he had the mortification to observe the whole falling back upon him in the greatest confusion. Thus circumstanced, Sir John, having placed the reserve in position, went to meet the naval Commander-in-Chief, whom he informed of the failure, and that he did not think it prudent to renew the attack. On the following day it was determined to retreat, and the whole army was accordingly re-embarked under the superintendence of Rear-Admiral Malcolm, who had been left to conduct the naval part of the expedition on the departure of Sir Alexander Cochrane to arrange for the reception of the troops, and prepare the fleet for further operations.

    The laborious exertions and great privations of the officers and men of the squadron employed on this unfortunate expedition, very few of whom ever slept one night on board their ships for a period of about seven weeks, have never been surpassed. During that time a large army, with the principal part of its provisions, stores, artillery, ammunition, and the numerous necessary appendages, were all transported from the shipping to the head of the Bayon, a distance of 70 miles, chiefly in open boats, and conveyed back by the same tedious process in the most changeable and severe weather, notwithstanding which the utmost emulation and unanimity pervaded the whole.

    After the failure at New Orleans, the armament proceeded to Isle Dauphine, where the troops were landed and encamped. From thence a detachment proceeded towards Mobile, and on the 11th Feb. compelled Fort Boyer to surrender. This was the concluding operation of the American war, the treaty of peace between the two countries being ratified by the President of the United States on the 17th of the same month.