Sir John Moore - The Making of a Controversial Hero, Janet MacDonald

Sir John Moore - The Making of a Controversial Hero, Janet MacDonald

General Sir John Moore is best known for his death at the battle of Corunna, at the end of a retreat that took his armies from the vicinity of Madrid across the mountains of north-western Spanish mountains to the coast, where the survivors were evacuated by sea, and for training the rifle corps at Shorncliffe. As this biography reveals, those were only two elements in a long and varied career. He fought on Corsica (at the same time as the young Nelson), went to the West Indies, was in Ireland when the French invaded, took part in one of the failed expeditions to Holland, the defeat of the French in Egypt, the defence of Sicily and commanded an expedition to Sweden that failed because of the attitude of the probably insane King.

Moore comes across as a rather prickly character. MacDonald points out his tendency to speak his mind, and then assume that the person he has just insulted won't hold a grudge as he was just telling them the truth. He also tended to complain about his appointments, arguing against any posting that denied him the chance for combat, and even finding ways to be insulted by his appointment to the army serving in Spain. Hardly surprisingly the two habits tended to feed each other, with his 'honesty' annoying the same political leaders whose support he needed if he was to be given senior commands.

The text is supported by many of Moore's letters and reports, and we get a very good picture of the man and his attitudes. If there is a flaw, it is the fairly standard tendency to sympathise too much with your subject and his point of view. He did have a difficult task in Spain, as the first British commander to run up against the Spanish commanders and their unreliable promises, but that doesn’t mean that all of his decisions in Spain have to be defended. Other than that this is a good readable biography of an important British commander of the Napoleonic Wars, casting a light on the less familiar parts of this career.

1 - Early Days
2 - Corsica: St Fiorenzo and Bastia
3 - Corsica: Calvi and After
4 - West Indies
5 - Ireland
6 - Holland
7 - Egypt: Preparation
8 - Egypt: Action and Aftermath
9 - Shorncliffe
10 - Sicily
11 - Sweden
12 - Portugal
13 - Into Spain
14 - Retreat and Battle
15 - Aftermath
16 - Character Assessment

Author: Janet MacDonald
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 276
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016

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