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"The Hunt for Moore's Gold: Investigating the Loss ..." Topic

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358 hits since 14 Mar 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2019 12:46 p.m. PST

….of the British Amy's Military Chest During the Retreat to Corunna

"History abounds with unresolved puzzles and unanswered questions, none more so than that of the loss of the British Army's military chest during the retreat to Corunna in 1809. Sir John Moore's small force had dared to attack Marshal Soult's II Corps isolated in the north of Spain. But before Moore could pounce on the unsuspecting French corps, he learnt that the Emperor Napoleon, at the head of an overwhelming body of troops, was bearing down on the British force, hoping to cut it off from the sea and its only avenue of escape. A desperate race for the coast then began, with the French hard on Moore's heels. In sub-zero temperatures, the troops were driven on through the snow-clad Galician mountains at a punishing pace. As the men trudged on in deteriorating conditions, the bullocks pulling the army's military chest could no longer keep up. So, in order to prevent the money from falling into enemy hands, the entire military chest was thrown down a steep, and deep ravine. What then happened to all those dollars and doubloons? Some were snatched up by the pursuing French cavalry. Some, also, were retrieved by British soldiers who intentionally lagged behind, though their greed cost them their lives on the end of a French bayonet. But what of the rest of the money? With a group of fellow historians, the author set off to search the archives and the mountains of Galicia in a bid to find Moore's gold."


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ConnaughtRanger05 Jun 2019 9:44 a.m. PST

A strong contender for "Pointlessly Sensational Napoleonic Book Title of the Year" – the "Hunt" occupies only about the final 25 pages of the book and is (spoiler alert) utterly inconclusive. I bought this book because it is written by John Grehan and he has produced a number of excellent books on the Peninsular campaigns. It's a good potted history of Moore's campaign – not hugely detailed but very readable. I particularly liked the coverage given to the views of his subordinate commanders as the campaign progressed (I hadn't previously come across Paget's proposal for a death or glory attack on the entire French Army with just the cavalry and a few guns!). Moore doesn't come out of it all too well – he is seen to be at the mercy of events rather than directing them. There is no doubt that the retreat was badly managed, particularly from a logistic point of view and Moore must take a lot of the blame. It is interesting to compare Wellesley's (very successful) micromanagement with Moore's tendency to do little more than issue aggrieved General Orders as the Army fell apart. An interesting book (apart from the title!!) and well worth reading.

MaggieC70 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2019 10:40 a.m. PST

I've never understood the apparent adulation some folks feel for Moore. He was a third-rate commander with few skills that mattered: strategy, even tactics; logistics; battlefield sense; and so forth.

But we can say the same about a number of Napoleonic commanders as well.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2019 3:29 p.m. PST



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