Like the Dunkirk campaign in 1940, General Sir John Moore’s advance and retreat from and to Corunna in the early stages of the Peninsular War, was a defeat that has acquired in hindsight all the glorious aura of a famous victory. This was largely due to Moore’s own heroic death at the climax of the campaign; but as Churchill remarked after Dunkirk, ‘Wars are not won by evacuations’ and any reader of these revealing diaries will be left in no doubt that Corunna was a calamitous defeat for Britain at the hands of a confident, competent French force. The author of these journals – first published in 1913 – was Captain Alexander Gordon, a Scottish aristocrat – (he was the son of the Earl of Aberdeen) – who wrote them up from notes he made at the conclusion of the campaign when the events he describes so vividly were still fresh in his mind. Although a Hussar, the conditions during the retreat on Corunna were so chaotic that Gordon, as he puts it “Enjoyed opportunities of becoming acquainted with the situation and general movements of the [whole] army”. His journals cover the complete campaign – from Moore’s unwise advance into Spain’s interior in an effort to link up with Spanish armies; his encounter with the French under Napoleon himself; and his fighting retreat on the port of Corunna where the Royal Navy was waiting to rescue them. The climax was the pitched battle of Corunna itself, during which Moore was killed by a cannon ball in his chest. The British army of 16,000 succeeded in holding the numerically equivalent French at bay until they had embarked, inflicting 2,000 deaths for their own losses of 900 men. But – as at Dunkirk – they had to abandon much of their equipment o the enemy, including 20,000 muskets. In retrospect it is probably fortunate that by the time of the battle, Napoleon had left Spain to meet an Austrian threat, leaving the battle to the cautious Marshal Soult. This is a valuable eye-witness account of an often overlooked campaign by a perceptive and informed professional observer. IIlustrated with maps and a portrait of the author.
A CAVALRY OFFICER IN THE CORUNNA CAMPAIGN 1808-1809 THE JOURNAL OF CAPTAIN GORDON of the 15th Hussars
A vivid eye-witness account of the catastrophic and chaotic Corunna campaign by a Scottish Hussar officer who was there. A must for all Napoleonic buffs – especially fans of the Peninsular War.