Walking through a very nice historic neighborhood………. which sits on a knoll surrounded by an old brick wall……….we walk on……….
Our last walk in La Coruña, takes us to the San Carlos Gardens where the English General, Sir John Moore is buried. I didn’t know anything about Sir John Moore, but to the Spanish, he is a hero. So here is my story of this English hero!
In 1808, Napoleon was in Spain, determined to dominate the continent, forcing King Charles IV and his heir, Prince Ferdinand, to renounce the throne in favor of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph. The Spanish people were furious and took up arms in Madrid. England decided to send troops to Portugal under the leadership of General John Moore. They thought by helping these mobilized Spanish forces that they could get rid of Napoleon for good, so sent ships and an army to Portugal, where they would march towards Madrid. When General Moore and his troops landed in Portugal in August, wagons, horses and oxen were in short supply and the English were not prepared for the exorbitant prices that the Portuguese wanted. Moore decided to split the infantry, artillery and cavalry to meet demands. The artillery and cavalry would be marching 130 miles more than their infantry comrades. Departing December 11th, 22,500 British infantry, 2,500 cavalry and 66 guns left for Madrid.
Meanwhile, Napoleon had defeated the Spanish in Madrid and decided to go north to take on the English. Communications and the re-stocking of provisions were horrible for General Moore, during his march south, and when he learned that the Spanish had not held, he decided it would be best to retreat to La Coruña, where a fleet of English ships and more troops were promised, to take on the fight. His men were not happy, after marching all this way through the mountains, just to turn around and march back. They had faced only small skirmishes and morale was low. The tortuous, mountain route in the winter in Northern Spain, took a heavy toll on the marching men. Facing snowy and icy weather, the men’s shoes wore out. They were freezing to death and had very little food. In the small villages they passed, the looting began, but the only thing plentiful was rum and raw salted fish. Many died from food poisoning and many got drunk and froze to death. Moore, who had designed the light infantry and changed the training of men, dismissing the severe floggings to keep them in order, had to resort to the draconian practices again to keep his men moving North. Napoleon’s men didn’t fare well either and Napoleon himself went back to Paris and sent Marshal Nicolas Soult, in his stead, to pick off Moore.
On January 11, 1809, Moore, who had lost 5,000 men on the retreat to La Coruña and allowed another 3,500 men to diverge to Vigo to be picked up, finally reached their destination. To Moore’s dismay, the British fleet did not arrive until three days later. The French army was catching up to them, so Moore wasted no time in transporting his men to the ships, retaining a small force behind to take on Soult. Moore waited at a small ridge, Monto Mero, two miles south of La Coruña. When he confronted the French troops a cannonball struck Moore in the shoulder, tearing it away from the collarbone. The Spanish garrison and the rest of Moore’s troops refused to surrender until the British ships were safely out of the harbor. Moore died three days after his injury and Soult honored his fallen foe, by erecting a monument to Moore, where Moore’s men had buried him.
This burial site is now the San Carlos Gardens………
The tomb of Sir John Moore………..
The San Carlos Gardens is near a garrison……
where the men still line up to drill……..in the Plaza de la Constitucion………..
And play rousing, patriotic music……….
And line up for precision drills………..
As we say goodbye to La Coruña………… and the Garrison’s fine red door………..
I’ve found a poem about Sir John Moore……….
The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna, by Charles Wolfe
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 was buried. We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light
And the lantern 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 hollowed his narrow bed
And smoothed 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!
See you next in Portugal!
2 Comments Add yours
I really enjoy reading your blog and you seem to have had a lot of fun along the way. Quick point about Sir John Moore; he was actually Scottish (or British), but he would not be looking down happily being referred to as English.
I look forward to your next piece…
As I am of Scottish descent I am glad you pointed this out to me! When I read your piece it seemed like I knew this already, but did not point it out. My error! I am glad you enjoy my blog and I look forward to hearing from you again.