General Sir John Moore

1761 - 1809

Statue of General Sir John Moore, George Square, Glasgow
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Statue of General Sir John Moore, George Square, Glasgow

Soldier. Born in Glasgow, the son of a noted medical practitioner, Moore attended the High School in the city. He joined the army at the age of 16 and fought in the American War of Independence (1779-83), and then in Corsica during the French Revolutionary War (1794). He went on to serve 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 1814 to defend the coast of Britain from the French navy.

In 1808 he was sent to Spain to reinforce the British Army during the Peninsular War (1808 - 14), and took command in the same year. However by December of 1808 defeat was imminent, the French having taken Madrid. Moore led a winter retreat under terrible conditions across the mountains from Astorga to the coast at Corunna, with the intention of evacuating his army by sea. However, the French attacked with greatly superior numbers and a desperate battle ensued. Although the British were eventually triumphant, Moore was killed in the last stages of the battle. Moore had to be buried in secret the next day, an occasion described in Rev. Charles Wolfe's notable poem, The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna (1817), which begins:

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.

He remembered for his masterful tactics which undoubtedly saved a considerable proportion of the British Army. He was succeeded as commander in the field first by General Sir David Baird (1757 - 1829), who was himself then badly injured and thereafter by Sir John Hope, the 4th Earl of Hopetoun (1765 - 1823).

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

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