The Battle of Corunna 16th January 1809

In Spain known as Battle of Elviña, took place on 16 January 1809, when a French corps under Marshal Nicolas Soult attacked a British army under Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore. The battle was a result of a French campaign, led by Napoleon, which had defeated the Spanish armies and caused the British army to withdraw to the coast following an unsuccessful attempt by Moore to attack Soult’s corps and divert the French army.

Doggedly pursued by the French, the British made a retreat across northern Spain while their rearguard fought off repeated French attacks. Both armies suffered extremely from the harsh winter conditions. Much of the British army, excluding the elite Light Brigade under Robert Craufurd, suffered from a loss of order and discipline during the retreat. Throughout the retreat the 36th Foot part of the 2nd Division under Lt. General Hope and part of the 3rd Brigade under Major General Catlin Crauford, formed part of the rearguard. When the British eventually reached the port of Corunna on the northern coast of Galicia in Spain, a few days ahead of the French, they found their transport ships had not arrived. The fleet arrived after a couple of days and the British were in the midst of embarking when the French forces launched an attack.

An aquatint of the Battle of Corunna . From the museum Collection .

In the resulting action, the British held off French attacks until nightfall, when both armies disengaged. British forces resumed their embarkation overnight; the last transports left in the morning under French cannon fire. But the port cities of Corunna and Ferrol, as well as northern Spain, were captured and occupied by the French. During the battle, Sir John Moore, the British commander, was mortally wounded, dying after learning that his men had successfully repelled the French attacks.