British and American Gunboats in Action on Lake Borgne, 14 December 1814

During the preparation for the attack on New Orleans during the Anglo-American War of 1812-14, one of the obstacles for the British to overcome was five American gunboats moored on Lake Borgne, a sea lake to the east. Since the waters were too shallow to permit men-of-war to get within range, the attack was made by boats of the fleet. This force consisted of 42 launches, each with a carronade mounted in the bow, and carrying 980 seamen and marines. The five American gunboats were commanded by Lieutenant Thomas Catesby Jones and manned by 182 men.

When Jones's vessel drifted on the current a hundred yards nearer to his attackers, his was the first to be in action. He was boarded by sailors from the barge of Commander Nicholas Lockyer, the British officer in charge of the attack. The Americans resisted fiercely and had the advantage of height and anti-boarding netting. Lockyer was wounded, his number-two killed and his barge suffered heavy loss. When a second took its place it was sunk but by sheer weight of numbers the British boats prevailed. They cut away the nettings and subsequently all the gunboats were taken. 41 Americans and 94 British were killed or wounded.

On the immediate left in the foreground a grass-covered bank is visible, and water has been portrayed beyond with splashes from small-arms fire. Beyond and across the picture a group of British boats have been portrayed from astern. One of them in the centre has been hit and sunk. They are closing on the five gunboats that are grouped across the picture beyond them, identifiable from their American flags and rigged anti-boarding nets. Jones's gunboat is just right of centre, in starboard-broadside view, and has been boarded by Lockyer's barge.

Thomas Hornbrook was the eldest son of Richards Lyde Hornbrook a Royal Marine officer based in Plymouth, and was a successful oil painter of local naval scenes there. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1836 and again in 1844. He became Marine Painter to H.R.H. the Duchess of Kent and her daughter, the future Queen Victoria, in about 1833.

Object Details

ID: BHC0612
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Hornbrook, Thomas Lyde
Events: War of 1812, 1812-1815
Date made: Early - Mid 19th century
People: Royal Navy; United States Navy
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Frame: 760 mm x 1068 mm x 81 mm;Painting: 610 mm x 915 mm

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