on 2 February 2005
I knew a little about what happened at Corunna before I read this book but wanted to know more about Sir John Moore's campaign against the French. I wasn't disappointed. By the end of the book I felt like I'd climbed every snow-covered hill and suffered the starvation, frostbite, despair, and anger of the men, not to mention their confusion over the actions of their general.
I'm a huge fan of history, particularly if its about the Napoleonic wars, but I'm not a huge fan of history books filled with fact after fact and nothing to 'hook' you. This book is nothing of the sort. Written like a story, it follows Sir John Moore's advance and retreat from start to finish, including his death and the response to the failed campaign in Britain (you may feel a slight outrage (having marched so far and endured so much) about this part).
The book includes pictures, extracts from memoirs and despatches written during and after the campaign and a very informative bibliography for those readers who want to know more. Which brings me to my only criticism. I realise that, as part of the Great Battles series, this book couldn't have been much longer, but there were some times when I felt like I was being rushed along to the end at the expense of detail.
I would recommend this book to someone who has a slight curiosity about what happened at Corunna as it is quite short and so less daunting than some of the other titles available. Those of you who want more depth and detail may prefer something else.
on 28 July 2010
This was recommended to me as still one of the best histories of Sir John Moores Corunna campaign in Spain during the Napoleonic wars, and despite being written in the 1960s is much better than many others I have read.
It is very clearly written and detailed and in some places reads like a novel and its impossible not to feel the cold and hunger of the starving frost bitten soldiers as they struggled over the mountains of Galicia relentlessly pursued by the French. The book is slim but detailed with some maps and some pictures of main participants.
It was a remarkable campaign, Moore landed with a British army of 20,000 men to support the Spanish fight the French but the Spanish collapsed and the British found themselves isolated in Northern Spain with winter coming and heavily outnumbered by the French. So Moore had no choice but to take his poorly equipped Army (in many cases with their families) through the mountains to be evacuated. The sick had to be left behind along with many guns and supplies but he kept the men going, one scene that stays in my mind is how many marched with no boots and the road was red with the blood of so many shoeless soldiers and their injured feet. Everytime the French came near a fierce fight ensued and they were driven off. Finally they reached the port of Corunna and during the battle the majority of the Army was embarked safely by the Royal Navy and got back to England but Sir John Moore himself was killed and buried on the ramparts of the town. A poem was written about this. Wellington later said that without Moore Britain wouldn't have won the war, and without him the majority of men would never have escaped in this campaign.