Alexander Cochrane

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For other people named Alexander Cochrane, see Alexander Cochrane (disambiguation).
Sir Alexander Inglis Cochrane
Alexander Cochrane.jpg
Sir Alexander Cochrane
Born (1758-04-23)23 April 1758
Scotland, Great Britain
Died 26 January 1832(1832-01-26) (aged 73)
Paris, France
Allegiance  United Kingdom / British Empire
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Rank Admiral
Commands held Leeward Islands Station
Jamaica Station
North American Station
Plymouth Command
Battles/wars American War of Independence
War of 1812
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath

Sir Alexander Inglis Cochrane GCB RN (23 April 1758 – 26 January 1832, born Alexander Forrester Cochrane[1]) was a senior Royal Navy commander during the Napoleonic Wars and achieved the rank of Admiral. He was knighted for his service.

Naval career[edit]

Alexander Inglis Cochrane was born a younger son of the Scottish peer Thomas Cochrane, the eighth Earl of Dundonald, and his wife.[1] He joined the Royal Navy as a boy and served with British naval forces in North America. He served during the American War of Independence.[1]

Cochrane also participated in the Egyptian operations in 1801.[1] When Alexandria fell, Cochrane, in the 74-gun third-rate HMS Ajax, with the sixth-rate HMS Bonne Citoyenne, the HMS Cynthia, the brig-sloops HMS Port Mahon and HMS Victorieuse, and three Turkish corvettes, were the first vessels to enter the harbour.

About 1802/3 Cochrane's actions alienated the Spanish Governor of Ferrol, and then incited an attack on Spanish treasure ships returning from South America, the effect of which was to bring Spain back into the war on France side in 1804. Cochrane had been incensed that the brilliant Sir Edward Pellew a tarpaulin officer, had preferred as Admiral of the White, to the East Indies station to himself, a well connected aristocrat. Cochrane tried to implicate Sir Edward Pellew, who had good relations with the Governor of Ferrol, in fraud. then making seriously damaging and unfounded allegations against Sir Edward Pellew's secretary Fitzgerald which were never substantiated and which destroyed Fitzgerald's career but didn't accomplish the destruction of its target, Sir Edward Pellew, later to become Viscount Exmouth. Exmouth papers

In 1805 he was made commander of the Leeward Islands Station.[1][2] He conducted operations against the French and Spanish on 6 February 1806 at the Battle of San Domingo during the Napoleonic Wars.[1] A cannonball blew his hat off his head while he was on the deck of his flagship, HMS Northumberland. He was knighted and appointed KCB on 29 March 1806 in recognition of his service.[1] Other rewards included thanks from both Houses of Parliament, freedom of the city of London, and a sword valued at 100 guineas.[1]

In Barbados, Cochrane met with General Francisco de Miranda, who had been defeated by Spanish naval forces in an attempt to liberate Venezuela. As Spain was then at war with Britain, Cochrane and the governor of Trinidad agreed to provide some support for an unsuccessful second attempt to invade Venezuela.

Following the concern in Britain that neutral Denmark was entering an alliance with Napoleon, with the rank of Rear-Admiral, in 1807 he sailed in HMS Belleisle (74 guns) as commander of the squadron of ships that was sent to occupy the Danish West Indies. In 1809 he commanded naval forces in the conquest of Martinique.[3]

Admiral Sir Alexander Inglis Cochrane by Robert Field

From April 1814, during the War of 1812 against the United States, Cochrane, then a Vice Admiral, served as Commander-in-Chief of both the North American Station, based at the new dockyard in Bermuda,[1] and the Jamaica Station, based at Port Royal.[4] He landed the force under Major-General Robert Ross that burned Washington and pushed successful naval forays at the same time. Initially he wanted to attack Rhode Island in New England after the success at Washington, but he was dissuaded by Ross and Admiral Cockburn, who wanted to go after the bigger prize of Baltimore, Maryland.

During the Battle of Baltimore, Cochrane directed the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, which proved ineffectual. He resisted calls by his junior officers to attack the fort more aggressively with frigates at close range. He ordered a diversionary raid by boats to assist the army encamped near Baltimore in their proposed attack on Hampstead hill (which they cancelled and withdrew), but this diversion had no success. In the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Cochrane's fleet used bomb vessels and a rocket ship for a long-range bombardment to minimize casualties and damage to the fleet from the fort's return fire, which inspired Francis Scott Key's poem that became "The Star-Spangled Banner," the US national anthem.

Cochrane led the British force that won the Battle of Lake Borgne in December 1814, in Louisiana. His forces built a hard short road to New Orleans for use by British armed forces. But, the British army was defeated at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. As news that Britain had ratified the peace treaty (the Treaty of Ghent) had not reached the battlefield, the Battle of New Orleans was technically fought after the war was ended. The peace treaty was being carried to Washington, D.C., for ratification by the U.S. Congress.

The Duke of Wellington held that the failure of the New Orleans campaign was largely the fault of Cochrane. In a eulogy to General Edward Pakenham -- Wellington's brother-in-law, killed at New Orleans, he said:

I cannot but regret that he was ever employed on such a service or with such a colleague. The expedition to New Orleans originated with that colleague.... The Americans were prepared with an army in a fortified position which still would have been carried, if the duties of others, that is of the Admiral (Sir Alexander Cochrane), had been as well performed as that of he whom we now lament.[5]

Despite the lack of success at New Orleans, the British nonetheless went on to force the surrender of Mobile, Mississippi Territory, and to capture the flagship, U.S.S. President and its commodore Stephen Decatur, outside the New York Harbor.

Cochrane was thence promoted to admiral in 1819. From 1821 to 1824, he was Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth.[1] He died in Paris on 26 January 1832.

Political career[edit]

Cochrane was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Stirling Burghs from 1800 to 1802, and from 1803 to 1806.[6][7]


In 1788 he married Maria Shaw; they had three sons and two daughters.[1] His son Thomas John Cochrane was entered in the Royal Navy at the age of seven; he rose to become governor of the colony of Newfoundland, and Admiral of the Fleet; he also received a knighthood in the Order of the Bath.

Alexander Cochrane was the sixth of the surviving sons of Thomas Cochrane, 8th Earl of Dundonald. The eldest son Archibald Cochrane became the earl and lost the family lands on a series of inventions and investments. Many of the younger sons served in the military or had careers supplying it. The next brother, Charles, served in the army and was killed at the Siege of Yorktown; he had married to Catherine, the daughter of Major John Pitcairn. The third surviving son, John Cochrane, was a paymaster and provisioner to the army and navy. His children included Nathaniel Day Cochrane, who became a rear admiral, and probably of the chess player John Cochrane. The next son, Basil Cochrane, made a fortune supplying the Royal Navy in India. Alexander was the sixth son. The seventh, George Augustus Frederick Cochrane, had an army career and served in Parliament. The youngest son, Andrew Cochrane-Johnstone, was an army officer, colonial governor, politician, and fraudster.

The Earl of St. Vincent wrote of the Cochrane brothers in 1806, "The Cochranes are not to be trusted out of sight, they are all mad, romantic, money-getting and not truth-telling—and there is not a single exception in any part of the family."[8]




  • Anderson, William. (1862). The Scottish Nation: Or The Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours, and Biographical History of the People of Scotland. Fullarton.
  • Cundall, Frank (1915). Historic Jamaica. West India Committee. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
William Tait
Member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs
February 1800 – December 1800
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs
Succeeded by
Sir John Henderson, Bt
Military offices
Preceded by
Robert Stopford
Commander-in-Chief, Leeward Islands Station
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Laforey
Preceded by
Sir John Warren
Commander-in-Chief, North American Station
Succeeded by
Sir David Milne
Preceded by
William Brown
Commander-in-Chief, Jamaica Station
Succeeded by
John Erskine Douglas
Preceded by
Viscount Exmouth
Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth
Succeeded by
Sir James Saumarez