In October 1808, General Sir John Moore was ordered to march north-east from Portugal with 40,000 men, including reinforcements landed at Corunna under Sir David Baird to co-operate with the Spanish Army. By late November he learned that Napoleon was advancing to seize Madrid and the Spanish forces had been scattered.
Though his force was alone and hundreds of miles from the sea, Moore advanced from Salamanca to the Douro to threaten enemy lines of communication with France, and then turned north to attack Marshal Soult’s isolated French corps near Sahagun.
Napoleon who is recorded at the time as saying, “ Moore is the only General now fit to contend with me, I shall advance against him in person” reacted by sending 100,000 men to intercept him. Moore was forced to retire over the Austrias Mountains in bitter weather and make for a rendezvous with the British Fleet at Corunna.
From Astorago, Craufurd’s Light Brigade (1st/43rd, 2nd/52nd and 2nd/95th Rifles) supported by the Chesnut Troop, Royal Horse Artillery withdrew to Vigo, covering Moore’s flank but starving from lack of supplies. The rear guard on the Corunna route, including the 2nd/43rd, 1st/52nd and 1st/95th Rifles, fought a series of brilliant delaying actions.
In the final battle on the 16th January 1809, covering the British embarkation at Corunna, the attacking French were held, the 52nd and 95th then counter-attacked as far as the French gun lines. Moore was injured and subsequently died of his wounds. In the dead of night he was secretly buried ashore, but thanks to his arrangements, the gallant little army slipped away, the 43rd and 95th embarking last with the prisoners.
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