The Battle of Corunna was fought early in the Peninsular War. It was fought at the height of Napoleon's power, after he had already over-run all of Western Europe, and was in the process of over-running Spain and Portugal. Portugal had a long standing alliance with Britain, and Spain was bravely resisting French incursions, so the British sent an army of over 16,000 to aid their allies on the Iberian Peninsula. The early battles however, were discouraging and command and communication between the allies was highly disorganized. John Moore, who had command of the British forces resolved on a retreat. The battle of Corunna was a rear-guard action, which allowed the main body of troops to safely embark, but Sir John Moore died in the action.

The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna

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.

—Charles Wolfe