John Keane, British army officer, military figure in the War of 1812 (b at Belmont, Ireland, 6 Feb 1781; d at Burton Lodge, Hampshire, England, 26 Aug 1844). John Keane’s military career began in 1794 when he was appointed to the rank of captain in a newly raised regiment that was soon broken up. In 1799, he joined the 44th Foot at Gibraltar and then accompanied the regiment to Egypt, where he served as aide-de-camp (ADC) to Lord Cavan, commanding a division. By 1804, he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the 13th Foot at Gibraltar. Keane served in the Napoleonic Wars and became a major general in 1814.
Keane at the Battle of New Orleans
Keane was sent to Jamaica with reinforcements for the pending New Orleans expedition. Keane landed at Jamaica on 25 November 1814. His force, whose numbers have often been grossly exaggerated, numbered 5500 officers and men. Major General Sir Edward Pakenham, the expedition commander, had not yet arrived, leaving Keane to head the initial stage of the expedition. The troops were embarked with the fleet under Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in late November and sailed for their objective.
Keane’s division landed about 14 kilometres from New Orleans. By 23 December a camp was established at the Villeré plantation 12 kilometres from New Orleans. Conditions were deplorable and many men fell sick. That night, the camp was attacked by the Americans but the engagement achieved nothing other than weakening the British force.
Troops from Keane’s dispersed army continued arriving at the plantation, while Keane considered a direct attack on the town. On Christmas Day, Pakenham arrived to supersede Keane as commander of the expedition. With him came additional reinforcements. The division was also reorganized and Keane received command of a brigade.
Pakenham placed Keane to the left of the British main assault on the American lines on 8 January 1815. His task was to follow an advance guard under Colonel Robert Rennie that was to break into the forward American redoubts and exploit Rennie’s success or move against the American centre, as circumstances indicated. Keane was severely wounded early in the battle and the added loss of both Pakenham and Gibbs left the main attack without any commander. The attack floundered and Keane’s brigade was destroyed. The battle ended in a British defeat and several days later, the British re-embarked.
Post-War of 1812
Following the war, Keane returned to Europe, and in 1815 he joined Wellington in Paris and was given command of the 9th Brigade in the army of occupation in France until early 1817. He was stationed at Jamaica from 1823-30, and briefly administered the government.
Keane became a lieutenant-general in July 1830. Between 1834 and 1839, Keane was commander-in-chief in Bombay and led British forces in the opening of the First Afghan War. He was made Baron Keane in 1839.
Author: John R. Grodzinski