Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Inglis Cochrane
Overall commander of the British expeditionary force. Cochrane had fought against the Americans in the War of Independence, during which he lost his brother. He harboured a deep hatred of Americans as a result.
Even before war broke out with the USA in 1812, Cochrane was acutely aware of the commercial importance of New Orleans “for the productions of all that vast Country laying on the Mississippi Ohio and other Rivers. ” Whoever controlled “possession of the mouth of the [Mississippi] River,” Cochrane well knew, would “have the Inhabitants of the Interior more or less under his Control.” And because “self interest” was “the ruling principle with” all Americans, Cochrane confidently predicted that Westerners would readily “join the party that pays for their produce,” ultimately separating themselves “from the Atlantic States.”
During the War of 1812, Cochrane had the chance to realise his strategic ambitions. He was also determined to bring the Americans to heel like Spaniels, as he put it. When the war with Napoleonic France ended he was led to expect up to 20,000 troops to join him as part of a huge amphibious force, targeting various places along the eastern and southern seaboard of the USA, with the ultimate intention of attacking New Orleans in December 1814.
That the capture of New Orleans offered a prize pot of some $20m was an additional incentive to Cochrane whom the Duke of Wellington characterised as a “shark,” and with good reason.