I have been to … Sir John Moore’s tomb

I doubt if there are few wargamers or military historians with an interest in the events of the Napoleonic Wars who have not heard of Sir John Moore and his death during the retreat to Coruña. He was buried not far from the battlefield, and his body now lies in a tomb in the San Carlos Gardens situated near the Galician Captain-General’s Headquarters.

The garden is maintained by the local municipality and every time I have been there it has been an oasis of quiet in an otherwise busy world.

The tomb is situated in the centre of the park, and every time that I have visited it (this was my third visit) there are always poppy wreaths adorning it.

Behind the tomb and overlooking the port, is an arch and viewpoint.

The arch has a plaque on either side of it has a quotation from Charles Wolfe’s poem about the death of Sir John Moore. (See the full text of the poem below.) The left-hand plaque is in English, and the right-hand plaque is in Spanish.

Above the arch is a plaque that commemorates the creation of the park in its present form in 1927.

Besides the tomb, there are several other monuments and plaques, including one that has a quote from Wellington praising the troops from Galicia who served with his army …

… and one that commemorates the sailors of HMS Serpent who died when their ship sank in 1890.


The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna
By Charles Wolfe

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O’er the grave where our hero we buried.

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light
And the lanthorn dimly burning.

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest
With his martial cloak around him.

Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,
And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

We thought, as we hollow’d his narrow bed
And smooth’d down his lonely pillow,
That the foe and the stranger would tread o’er his head,
And we far away on the billow!

Lightly they’ll talk of the spirit that ‘s gone,
And o’er his cold ashes upbraid him –
But little he’ll reck, if they let him sleep on
In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

But half of our heavy task was done
When the clock struck the hour for retiring;
And we heard the distant and random gun
That the foe was sullenly firing.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
But we left him alone with his glory.

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12 Comments on “I have been to … Sir John Moore’s tomb”

  1. A.W. KITCHEN says:

    I remember having to sing this poem at school – not sure of the tune it was set to . I'm having problems with blogger at the moment and the simplest thing seems to be just to start again (thus preserving my sanity) If you would like to 'refollow' me the link is
    http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/ Cheers Tony

  2. Lovely pictures and full marks to the local authorities for maintaining it so beautifully.

  3. A.W.KITCHEN (Tony),

    I can't imagine how or why someone would set this poem to music.

    All the best,

    Bob

    P.S. I shall be following your new blog with interest.

  4. Legatus Hedlius,

    Thanks for your kind comment.

    When on site it is obvious that the gardens are well looked after, and it is nice to know that the local community thinks highly enough of Sir John Moore to maintain them so well.

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. Jubilo says:

    Superb posting ! Thank you.

  6. Nigel Drury says:

    Strawhead did a good version of it on their 1982 album 'Thorough smoke and fire'.

  7. Jubilo,

    I am glad to read that you enjoyed it.

    All the best,

    Bob

  8. Nigel Drury,

    I will try to get a copy of that track as I would be interested to hear the tune that they used.

    All the best,

    Bob

  9. Nigel Drury says:

    Ask Ian about it on Sunday – I think he had the LP. I've checked but can't find it on Spotify.

  10. Nigel Drury,

    I could not find a trace of the track either, and will ask Ian about it on Sunday.

    All the best,

    Bob

  11. Gonsalvo says:

    Surely worth a visit by anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic WEars or Military history in general. A suitable monument, and impressive that it is cared for lovingly 2 centuries after his death in battle.

  12. Gonsalvo,

    I totally agree with both your points … and an added bonus is the small military museum one can visit that is sited just across the road from the San Carlos Gardens.

    All the best,

    Bob


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