Sir George Cockburn, 10th Baronet GCB (1772–1853) was a British naval commander of the late 18th through the mid-19th centuries. He held important commands during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 and eventually rose to become Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord. He also served in the British parliament several times from 1818-1847.
George Cockburn had already proved effective in distrupting American commerce when he participated in the Britain's overwhelming victory at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814. With Admiral Alexander Cochrane's blessing, Cochrane and General Robert Ross prepared to attack Washington, despite intelligence that a contingent of American troops had fortifed the Capitol Building. While Ross expressed reservations, particularly as the British had carried heavy casualties at Bladensburg, Cockburn overrode them.
When the actual assault on the Capitol came, Ross was wounded in short order. Cockburn immediately rode out to take command, and was promptly wounded, although not seriously, and was able to walk off under his own power for the most part.
Despite his injuries, Robert Ross was able to assert himself over the army and Cockburn. He explicitly told his replacement, Colonel Arthur Brooke that the army would now lay siege to the Capitol rather than assault it, much to Cockburn's chagrin. Ross also ordered that Brooke detach 300 men to assist Cockburn in the burning of the Executive Mansion. While Cockburn was unhappy with this turn of events, he did leave the siege of the Capitol to the army, and personally oversaw the burning of the rest of the city. He was fired upon by the garrison in the Capitol, but was out of range of their guns.
Upon Cockburn's return to the camp, Ross informed him that their forces would now retreat. While Cockburn was angry, Ross overruled him, pointing out that their plan had not included getting mauled by Americans defending the Capitol building. Ross ordered Cockburn and Brooke to lead the retreat and offered to stay behind to oversee the retreat and keep up morale. What Cockburn didn't know was that Ross, still badly injured, had decided to surrender to the Americans in the hopes that they would treat his wounds.