Memorial to Major Generals Sir Edward Pakenham and Samuel Gibbs
Richard Westmacott II
City of London
[Click on photograph to enlarge it.]
With thanks to the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral
The old adage has it that history is written by the winners, but the inscription on this lovely memorial, which emphasizes manly companionship, shows that losers also write it. The inscription reads, “Erected at the public expense to the memory of Major General the Honourable Sir Edward Pakenham, K.B. and of Major General Samuel Gibbs who fell gloriously on the eve of January 1815 while leading the tropps in an attack of the enemy's works in front of New Orleans.” Gloriously? Their death during the disastrous Battle of New Orleans makes this claim doubly and bitterly ironic: First of all, the battle occurred after the peace treaty was signed but before word could reach the British commanders. Second, repeated instances of British incompetence — Lieutenant Colonel Mullins forgot the ladders needed to scale the U.S. defences — meant that the bravery of British troops and many officers produced less a battle than a massacre: the British had 2002 causalties, the Americans 71.