Sir John Moore

51st Light Infantry

(2nd Yorkshire, West Riding)

1757 - 1821

Dr John Moore, father (Left), the 8th Duke of Hamilton (Centre) and a young John Moore (Gavin Hamilton, 1775-6)

Sir John Moore with his Horse

National Galleries Scotland

Sir John Moore by Thomas Lawrence, Circa 1800-1804.

National Portatrait Gallery

Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna, 1809.

Licensed copy of an Illustration from John Cassell's Illustrated History of England (W Kent, 1857/1858)

Tomb of Sir John Moore, Coruna, Spain

Courtesy of Galicia Guide

"The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna"

Charles Wolfe 1817 (out of copyright)

Sir John Moore


Born in Glasgow on the 13th Novemebr 1761, he was the son of John Moore, Scottish physician and writer. He attended Glasgow High School, but at the age of eleven joined his father and the Duke of Hamilton on a Grand tour of France, Italy and Germany. This included a two-year stay in Geneva, where his education continued.


In 1776, aged 15, Moore joined the British Army as an ensign in the 51st Foot , then based in Minorca. He first saw action in 1778 during the American Revolutionary War as a lieutenant in the 82nd under the 8th Duke of Hamilton. Returning to Britain in 1783 and was elected to Parliament in 1784 as the Member for Lanark, Selkirk, Peebles and Linlithgow, a seat which he held until 1790. He is seen here with the 8th Duke of Hamilton centre and his father to left of the picture.


In 1787 he was made Major and joined the 60th briefly before returning to the 51st as commanding officer in 1790. In 1791 his unit was assigned to the Mediterranean and he was involved in campaigning in Corsica and wounded at Calvi. He was later given a Colonelcy and became Adjutant-General to Sir Charles Stuart. However, there was friction between Moore and the new British viceroy of Corsica and this led to his recall and posting to the West Indies under Sir Ralph Abercromby.


In 1798 he was made Major-General and served in the suppression of the republican Irish Rebellion (1798) raging in Ireland. His personal intervention was credited with turning the tide at the battle of Foulksmills on 20th June and he regained control of Wexford town, thereby possibly preventing its sacking. Although the rebellion was crushed with great brutality, Moore stood out from most other commanders for his humanity and refusal to perpetrate atrocities.


When it became clear that Napoleon was planning an invasion of England, Moore was put in charge of the defence of the coast from Dover to Dungeness and it was on his initiative that the Martello Towers were constructed. They followed a pattern which had impressed him whilst in Corsica, where the prototype tower, at Mortella Point, had offered a stout resistance to British land and sea forces. He also initiated the cutting of the Royal Military Canal in Kent and Sussex and recruited about 340,000 volunteers to a militia that would have defended the lines of the South Downs, if an invading force had broken through the regular army defences.


In 1804 Moore was knighted and promoted to Lieutenant-General. In 1806 he returned to active duty in the Mediterranean and then in 1808 in the Baltic, to assist the Swedish. However, disagreements with Gustavus IV of Sweden led to him being sent home where he was ordered to Portugal.


Moore took command of the British forces in the Iberian peninsula following the recall of Burrard, Dalrymple and Wellesley, who all faced an inquiry over the Convention of Sintra. When Napoleon arrived in Spain with 200,000 men, Moore drew the French northwards while retreating to his embarkation ports of A Coruña and Vigo. Moore established a defensive position on hills outside the town.


Unfortunatley he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna, being struck in his left breast and shoulder by a cannon shot, whichbroke his ribs, his arm, lacerated his shoulder and the whole of his left side and lungs. He remained conscious, and composed, throughout the several hours of his dying, and was buried in the ramparts of the town.


When the French took the town, a monument was built over his grave as ordered by Marshal Soult, in memory of his passed adversary for whom he had much respect.