Chemical Warfare During the Napoleonic Wars | ReginaJeffers’s Blog

Originally posted on ReginaJeffers’s Blog.

In 1812, Prince George received a plan outlining the use of “unusual” methods to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte. The plan came to the future George IV from Captain Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane. At the time, Wellesley’s successes in Spain were sporadic, and the Royal Navy struggled with the blockades of French ports. Cochrane’s plan offered hopes of a quick victory over the French.

Cochrane quickly rose through the naval ranks from midshipman to lieutenancy (earned in three short years) and later received command of his own ship, the HMS Speedy. Although the Speedy was but a 14 cannon sloop, Cochrane managed to capture the Spanish frigate Gamo, for which he earned praise. Cochrane possessed strategic cunning, which should have served him well in his position, but he also possessed the uncanny ability to “insult” his superiors by pointing out their shortcomings.

Fortunately for Cochrane, Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, arrived in London in 1804 as First Lord of the Admiralty. Melville presented Cochrane with the command of the frigate Pallas and permission to patrol the North Atlantic waters. Within two months, Cochrane earned 75,000 pounds sterling in prize money. Napoleon marked Cochrane with the name “The Sea Wolf.” [le loupe des mers]

Needless to say a person with such charisma cannot sustain the favor of the Crown for long. Part of Cochrane’s woes came via the court martial trial of Admiral James Gambier after the action at Aix Roads in 1809. Cochrane managed to drive all but two of the French ships ashore during the battle. The battle lasted for three days, but it failed to…

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