Scottish Life Magazine

Scotland's Music

Sir John Moore,
page 3 of 5

by a musket-ball. When the French surrendered at Cairo, Moore with 6,000 men was appointed to escort the French army, nearly 11,000, almost double the number of his men, to Rosetta. The strictest discipline had to be maintained, as the former enemy might turn upon them at any moment. So carefully and skilfully was the difficult duty discharged, that the French commander on taking leave said, “General Moore, never was a more orderly and better regulated movement executed than has been performed by your troops.”

When he returned to Britain he found his countrymen preparing to resist invasion by the French. The command of a brigade on the coast of Kent was given to General Moore. William Pitt, the prime minister, was warden of the Cinque Ports. He passed much of his time at Walmer Castle. Here Moore, as general of the district, had occasion to be a frequent visitor. A friend met him one day just as he had left Mr. Pitt.

“What a pity,” said Moore, “that man was not brought up to the army.”

“Indeed! Why so?” was the natural inquiry.

“Because,” replied Moore, “nature has made him a general. I never met anyone not a soldier who so thoroughly understood how to make the most of his ground.”

After this Sir John Moore was placed in charge of an army raised to assist Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, but, owing to some misunderstanding, he soon returned to Britain.

In 1808 he was appointed to the command of 35,000 men, to co-operate with the Spanish armies in the expulsion of the French from their dominions. Although greatly discouraged and hindered by the cowardice and falsehood of the Spanish allies, he determined to make a bold from Salamanca to attack Soult, the famous and favourite general of Napoleon. The news reached him that Madrid had fallen, and that Napoleon at the head of 70,000 men was marching to crush him. It would have been folly to have exposed his small army to such a power. In December he began the ever-memorable retreat from Astorga to Corunnaa journey of nearly 250 miles, through a desolate and mountainous country, made almost impassable by snow and rain — and all the time harassed by the enemy. The soldiers suffered intolerable hardship, and arrived at Corunna in a very distressed condition. Sad to relate, the fleet which they expected to be waiting to receive them on board, was not to be seen. The dragoon entrusted with the order to the admiral had got drunk on the road, and lost his despatches! The French were close upon them, and the engagement was now inevitable. In three days the delayed entered the harbour, and the embarkation commenced. The magazines of the city had been burned to save them Iron falling into the hands of the French-the cavalry were Already on board, their horses having been shot on the shore. Then the enemy made the attack, and there ensued one of the most terrible battles of modern times. Napier, in his count of the campaign says, “The road leading into Corunna was soon covered along its whole length with wounded men: some of whom were walking alone, some supported by their comrades, a good many placed in carts. We observed Sir David Baird carried off the field. Shortly afterwards, another group passed near us, bearing a wounded officer. This was the brave Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Moore, who a few minutes before had been struck off his I se by a cannon shot.” When the contest was severest, the 42nd regiment had through some mistake commenced a gradual retreat. Moore seeing this, rode up instantly. In


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