Lambert, John

John Lambert, British army officer, military figure in the War of 1812 (b 1772; d at Weston House, Thames Ditton, Surrey, England, 14 Sept 1847). The son of a naval officer, John Lambert was commissioned as an ensign in the 1st Foot Guards in 1791. He became a lieutenant and captain, as was common with Guards regiments, in 1793. He was adjutant of the 3rd Battalion in the campaign of 1794 and went to Ireland with his battalion during the uprising of 1798. He then went to the Netherlands in 1799.

Lambert attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1801. He served in the Napoleonic Wars and in 1813 was promoted to the rank of major general and appointed the commander of a brigade in the 6th Division.

Lambert at the Battle of New Orleans

News of the successful British attack on Washington persuaded the government to expand the size of the New Orleans expedition, and Lambert’s brigade was ordered to join the force now under the command of Major General Sir Edward Pakenham. Lambert had an opportunity to confer with Pakenham and his second-in-command, Major General Gibbs, at Jamaica in December 1814 before continuing to the Gulf of Mexico.

By early January the army was just below New Orleans, but Pakenham decided that he needed more troops and delayed the assault on the American lines until Lambert and his brigade could arrive. Lambert reported to Pakenham’s headquarters on 3 January 1815 and on the following day, his brigade, consisting of the 7th and 43rd Regiments, joined the army. Pakenham could now field 5400 men. The battle was to commence early on 8 January 1815.

Lambert’s brigade was reinforced by the dismounted 14th Light Dragoons and the 1st West India Regiment, and was placed in reserve. Pakenham intended for Lambert to advance behind the leading brigades, but heavy casualties suffered by the senior officers slowed the advance. Gibbs was mortally wounded and when Pakenham fell, his final instructions were for Lambert to take command of the army. After reviewing the situation and consulting with Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Lambert decided another assault would be futile. A brief ceasefire allowed both armies to reclaim their wounded and to bury the dead. Lambert withdrew the army and re-embarked on 18 January. The fleet then bombarded Fort St Philip and continued to Mobile Bay where Fort Bowyer, which guarded the approaches to Mobile, was taken on 12 February without any losses. The next day, intelligence was received that the Treaty of Ghent, which still had to be ratified, had been signed.

Return to Europe

Lambert returned to Europe in time to command the 10th Brigade at the Battle of Waterloo. His brigade marched straight from Ghent and arrived on the field during the morning of 18 June, before the assault began, at which time he became acting commander of the 6th Division. Initially in reserve, the division was called up to the centre of the line in the afternoon. One of his battalions, the 1/27th, suffered the highest casualties of any British unit during the battle.

Lambert was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in 1825 and to general in 1841. In 1833, Lambert wrote a denial and refutation of the claims that booty was the key motivation for the New Orleans expedition. Lambert’s written dismissal of these accusations was signed by other officers present during the campaign and presented to the American president on 14 July 1833. This important document has been overlooked or ignored by historians ever since, who have repeated the story without any evidence to support it.

Author: John R. Grodzinski

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