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General Sir John Moore

Moore was born in Glasgow in 1761, son physician John Moore.  He attended The High School of Glasgow. After joining the army at the age of 16 he served in the American War of Independence (1779-83),  in Corsica during the French Revolutionary War (1794) in the West Indies (1796), Ireland (1798), Holland (1799), Egypt (1801), Sicily and Sweden (1802). He was responsible for the system of Martello Towers, including three in Scotland, built between 1805 and 1812 to defend the coast of Britain from the French navy.

In 1808 he was posted to Spain at the start of the Peninsular War (1808-14), taking command later the same year.  By December of 1808 defeat seemed unavoidable. After the French capture of Madrid Sir John led a winter retreat in atrocious conditions across the mountains from
Astorga to the coast at La Coruña, in order to evacuate by sea, pursued by Marshal Soult. Soult engaged the British Force  at  Elviña close to the city. A desperate battle ensued, and by nightfall the French had been repulsed.  General Sarazzin later wrote:

"Whatever Buonaparte may assert, Soult was most certainly repulsed at Corunna; and the English gained a defensive victory, though dearly purchased with the loss of their brave general Moore, who was alike distinguished for his private virtues, and his military talents".
History of the War in Spain and Portugal from 1807 to 1814 by Jean Sarrazin p. 358

Sir John was killed in the last stages of the battle, having seen victory obtained:

"Sir John Moore, while earnestly watching the result of the fight about the village of Elvina, was struck on the left breast by a cannon shot; the shock threw him from his horse with violence, but he rose again in a sitting posture …"
Sir W F P Napier - "History of the War in the Peninsula 1807-1814" 1886

"A round-shot had torn a hole so deep in his left shoulder that the lung was exposed, the ribs over the heart and part of the collar-bone had been smashed, the muscles of the breast had been torn into strips and the arm was hanging only by the sleeve of his coat and a shred of flesh." ¹

In order not to prejudice the evacuation Sir John was buried after nightfall in secret on the ramparts of La Coruña,  described in Rev. Charles Wolfe's , "The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna" (1817):


Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam's misty light
And the lanthorn dimly burning.

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest
With his martial cloak around him.

Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,
And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

We thought, as we hollow'd his narrow bed
And smooth'd down his lonely pillow,
That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,
And we far away on the billow!

Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that 's gone,
And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him—
But little he'll reck, if they let him sleep on
In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

But half of our heavy task was done
When the clock struck the hour for retiring;
And we heard the distant and random gun
That the foe was sullenly firing.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
But we left him alone with his glory.



 Rev. Charles Wolfe ,
"The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna" (1817)

Plaque with the poem in the Jardín de San Carlos, La Coruña


The Spanish defended the town for another four days, allowing the evacuation to be completed.

Jardín de San Carlos, La Coruña

The Jardín de San Carlos was established around Sir John Moore's tomb, replacing a memorial placed there on the orders of Marshal Soult. 

29th June 2012
29th June 2012
Fresh wreaths had been laid the previous weekend by the Ship's Company of
HMS ILLUSTRIOUS alongside an earlier wreath on behalf of The Light Infantry.

© Iain Laird

A statue in Moore's memory was installed in Glasgow's George Square in 1819.  Wreaths were laid at its base by the Lord Provost, together with soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and pupils from the High School in 2009, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his death.


© Iain Laird

There is a Memorial at the battle site, now the University of  La Coruña's Campus de Elviña (Facultad Informática) and there are plaques at Elviña's Church, San Vicente de Elviña to Brigadier General Anstruther and Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie, to one of Soult's Brigadiers, Jean-Yves Manigault Gaulois, and to the Fallen.

British Army

In accordance with common practice at the time. Soult in his memorial referred to British as English, and this has been reflected on the memorial at the Campus. The Spanish Memorial at the Jardín de San Carlos refers to British Troops.

The Commanders of three of four of Moore's Divisions were Scots: General Sir David Baird, Lieutenant General Hope who took command when Moore received his fatal wound, and Lieutenant General Mackenzie Fraser, and four of the eleven Brigade Commanders were Scots: Robert Craufurd (Crawford) Catlin Craufurd, James Leith Hay, and Robert Anstruther.

Seven Scottish Regiments took part in the battle, the 1st Foot (The Royal Scots), 26th Foot (Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)), 42nd Foot (The Black Watch), 71st Foot (Fraser Highlanders later Highland Light Infantry), 79th Foot (Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders) 91st Foot (Argyllshire Highlanders) and the 92nd Foot (The Gordon Highlanders).




Overview of General Sir John Moore

Battlefields of the Peninsular War - La Corunna 1809

Welcome to the 51st light Infantry Sir John Moore

¹Battle of Corunna 1809 : Marshal Soult : Sir John Moore

The Peninsular War | The Battle of La Coruña (Corunna, Elviña, Elvina), 16th January 1809

Portsmouth Napoleonic Society - Corunna - (Includes photos of Memorials)

Bicentenario de la batalla de La Coruña

Tile Map of the Battle

Sir John Moore Bicentenary - MOD Site