Our Object of the Month for October is the hand drawn Sketch Map of the Battle of Corunna.
These days, when you want to look at a map, you might open an app on your phone, check your car’s SatNav or open up a road atlas, but long before satellites meant that the Earth could be photographed from above in incredible detail, maps had to be hand drawn and measured.
This sketch map of The Battle of Corunna was made in July 1840 by Ensign Peter Hall of the 14th Regiment of Foot. At the time, an Ensign was the lowest rank of commissioned officer, and the ability to produce accurate field sketches – invaluable in battle – was one of the skills a young officer would be required to learn.
The Battle of Corunna took place in 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars. The British had been forced to withdraw to the Northern coast of Spain, and planned to board ships at the Port of Corunna to escape the pursuing French army. Unfortunately, their transport ships were delayed and the French were able to catch up and attack the British whilst they were still in the process of embarking the ships.
Whilst they were able to hold off the French and complete their escape – saving the army from complete destruction – the commander, Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore, was wounded. He died after several hours from severe injuries caused by cannon shot after learning his troops had successfully repelled the French attack and got away safely by sea.
Sir John Moore himself is a hugely important figure in the development of the British Army – He founded the Light Infantry: a new, elite kind of soldier whose uniform, equipment and tactics were revolutionised to allow them to move with stealth and speed.
A special display room in the museum tells the story of Sir John Moore in more detail, and features his impressive Ceremonial Order of the Bath silk mantle, as well as the sword he was wearing when fatally wounded at Corunna.
The sketch map was most likely created as a practise exercise, possibly set by the Adjutant to all the junior officers. The fact that the map was made decades after the Battle of Corunna suggests that Corunna, as the final resting place of Sir John Moore, was a site of lasting importance to the Light Divisions – as in fact it still is today.
See our Object of the Month for September 2017 here: The Commanding Officer’s Bugle
Visit the Light Infantry page of our website
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