Moore, Sir John
MOORE, SIR JOHN (1761-1809), British general, the son of John Moore, was born at Glasgow on the 13th of November 1761. From his early years he intended to become a soldier, learned the Prussian firing exercise, and was " always operating in the field and showing how Geneva could be taken." By the duke of Hamilton's influence he obtained an ensigncy in the sist foot (1776), learned his drill at Minorca, and in 1778 was appointed captain-lieutenant in a new regiment raised by Hamilton for service in the American War. Moore remained in America to the peace of 1783, after which the Hamilton regiment was disbanded. In 1784 he was returned by the Hamilton interest as member of parliament for the united boroughs of Lanark, Selkirk, Peebles and Linlithgow. In parliament, though he never spoke, he seems to have taken his duties very seriously, and to have preserved an independent position, in which he won the friendship of Pitt and the respect of Burke, and (more important still) the friendship of the duke of York. In 1787 he became major in the 60th (now King's Royal Rifles), but in the following year he was transferred to his old corps, the Sist. In 1792 Moore sailed with his corps to the Mediterranean. He was too late to assist at Toulon, but was engaged throughout the operations in Corsica, and won particular distinction at the taking of Calvi, where he was wounded. Soon after this he became adjutant-general to Sir Charles Stuart, with whom he formed a close friendship. After the expulsion of the French Moore became very intimate with many of the leading Corsican patriots, which intimacy was so obnoxious to Sir Gilbert Elliot (later Lord Minto) that Moore was eventually ordered to leave the island in forty-eight hours, though Elliot wrote in warm terms of his ability. Pitt and the duke of York thought still more highly of Colonel Moore, who was soon sent out to the West Indies in the local rank of. brigadier-general. Here he came under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby, whose most valued adviser and subordinate Moore soon became. In the Santa Lucia expedition he won further distinction by his conduct at the capture of the Vigie and Morne Fortune, and when Sir Ralph left the island he appointed Moore governor and military commander. In 1 798 he accompanied Abercromby to Ireland as a major-general, and during the rebellion was actively engaged in command of a corps in the south, defeating a large force of the Irish, and saving Wexford from destruction after the battle of Vinegar Hill (June 21). His services were in universal request, and Abercromby had him appointed to the command of a brigade destined for the expedition to Holland. At the action of Egmont-op-Zee, on the 2nd of October 1799, his brigade lost very heavily, and he himself was wounded for the fourth time, on this occasion severely. On his return from Holland he was made colonel of the 52nd regiment, with which he was connected for the rest of his career, and which under his supervision became one of the finest regiments in Europe.
Throughout the Egyptian expedition he commanded the reserve. The 28th and 42nd regiments in this corps gained great distinction at the battle of Alexandria, where Moore himself was again wounded. He returned to duty, however, before the surrender of the French forces to General Hutchinson, and added so much to his reputation by his conduct in this brilliant campaign that after the short peace came to an end he was appointed to command the force assembled at Shornch'ffe camp (1803) as a part of the army intended to meet the projected invasion of Napoleon. Here were trained some of the best regiments of the service, amongst others the 43rd, 52nd and 95th Rifles, the regiments which afterwards formed the famous " Light Division " and won in the Peninsula an unsurpassed reputation, not only for the skilful performance of the duties of light troops, but also for invincible steadiness in the line of battle. These corps (now represented in the army by the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry and the Rifle Brigade) bore the impress of Moore's training for thirty years and more, and as early as 1804, on account of the " superior state " of the 52nd, the king granted the officers exceptional promotion (August 29, 1804). The system of light infantry tactics taught at Shorncliffe was not invented by Moore; but he had always advocated the creation of these troops, and he supervised the training which produced such great results. While at Shorncliffe he renewed his intimacy with Pitt, who was then residing at Walmer Castle, and his close friendship with Lady Hester Stanhope led to the erroneous belief that he was betrothed to her. On his return to office Pitt caused Moore to be made a Knight of the Bath, and about the same time came his promotion to the rank of lieutenant-general. Fox, when he succeeded to office, showed the same appreciation of Moore, and in 1806 sent him to the Mediterranean as secondin-command to his brother, General H. E. Fox. In the various minor expeditions of the time Moore had a share, at first as a subordinate, but soon, when Fox went home on account of illhealth, as commander-in-chief of the British army employed in the Mediterranean. About this time he formed an attachment for Caroline Fox (afterwards the wife of Sir William Napier), to whom, however, he did not offer marriage, fearing to " influence her," by his high position and intimacy with her father, " to an irretrievable error for her own future contentment " (Life of Sir C. Napier, i. 39). In 1808 Moore was ordered to the Baltic, to assist Gustavus IV., king of Sweden, against Russia, France and Denmark. The conduct of the king, who went so far as to place Sir John Moore under arrest when he refused to acquiesce in his plans, ruined any chance of successful co-operation, and the English general returned home, making his escape in disguise. He was at once ordered to proceed with his division to Portugal, where he was to be under the command of Sir Hew Dalrymple and Sir Harry Burrard. To Moore, as a general of European reputation, who had held a chief command, the appointment of two senior officers to be over him appeared as a bitter insult, though his resentment did not divert him from his duty. He met his reward, for when, in the excitement caused by the convention of Cintra, Dalrymple and Burrard were ordered home, Moore was left in command of the largest British army that had been employed since the commencement of the war. Wellesley, who returned home with the other generals, showed his appreciation of Moore, and in an interesting letter (Wellington Despatches, Oct. 8, 1808) expressed his desire to use his own great political influence to effect a reconciliation between Moore and the ministers.
It was not long before the Spaniards summoned Sir John Moore's army to assist them against the advance of Napoleon, and the troops were marched into Spain, Salamanca being their rendezvous. There Moore remained for a month calling up Sir David Baird's corps from Corunna to assist him. Soon, however, the overwhelming success of the emperor's attack threatened to isolate Moore, and it was then that he formed the magnificent resolution of marching northwards against the French line of retreat. The bold and skilful operations which followed this step will be found outlined in the article PENINSULAR WAR. Moore's advance paralysed the Emperor's victorious armies. Napoleon himself turned against the British army, which was soon in grave danger, but Spain was saved. Under these circumstances took place the famous retreat on Corunna. The indiscipline of a large proportion of the troops made it painful and almost disastrous, but the reserve under Edward Paget, in which served Moore's old Shorncliffe regiments, covered itself with glory in the ceaseless rearguard fighting which marked every step of the retreat. The march ended with the glorious battle of Corunna (Jan. 16, 1809), where, early in the day, Sir John Moore received his death wound. He would not suffer his sword to be unbuckled, though the hilt galled his wound, and so he was borne from the field. His last hours were cheered by the knowledge of victory, and his only care was to recommend his friends, and those who had distinguished themselves, to the notice of the government. He died with the name of Lady Hester Stanhope on his lips. By his own wish he was buried, before dawn on the 17th, in the ramparts of Corunna. Marshal Soult designed that a monument should be erected, with an inscription framed by himself, and the Spanish general La Romana afterwards carried out Soult's wishes. The temporary monument thus erected was made permanent in 1811 by Sir Howard Douglas, acting for the prince regent. The duke of York issued to the army on the 1st of February a noble order in which reference was made to the services of the general, and, above all, to the fact that " the life of Sir John Moore was spent among the troops." A memorial was erected in St Paul's Cathedral by order of parliament early in 1809, and his native city of Glasgow erected in George Square a bronze statue by Flaxman. The poem by the Rev. Charles Wolfe, " The Burial of Sir John Moore," became one of the most popular in the language. The best-known portrait of Sir John Moore is that by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A.
For many years controversy, largely political, raged over the events of the Corunna campaign, and only at a later period has any examination of Sir John Moore's merits and services been made in a dispassionate spirit. Mistakes were doubtless made in the retreat, but it is sufficient to accept Napoleon's view that they were probably inseparable from the difficulties with which Moore was surrounded. His greatest claim to renown is, however, independent of his conduct of armies in the field. He was the finest trainer of men that the British army has ever known. He had the true gift of the great man, judgment of character. While Wellington, whose work would have been vain but for Moore's achievements, perpetually complained of his officers and formed no school, Moore's name is associated with the career of all who made their mark. The history of the Light Division is sufficient in itself to indicate the results of Moore's training on the rank and file. In opposition to the majority, who regarded the lash and the gallows as the source of discipline, he sought always and by every means to develop the moral qualities no less than the physical. Of the senior officers Hope, Graham, Edward Paget, Hill and Craufurd all felt and submitted to his ascendancy. The flower of the younger generation, Colborne, Hardinge and the Napiers, even though they gained their laurels under Wellington and in chief command, were ever proud to call themselves " Sir John Moore's men."
See, besides the works mentioned in the article PENINSULAR WAR, J. C. Moore, Life of Sir John Moore (1833) ; Sir J. F. Maurice, Sir John Moore's Journal (1904); and the Records of the ,52nd (Oxfordshire Light Infantry). A shorter memoir will be found in Twelve British Soldiers (London, 1899).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)