Fernando R. Genovés, PhD in Philosophy, essayist, analyst specialized in the areas of ethics and political philosophy.
La guerra de sir John Moore. Historia de la campaña del ejército británico en el noroeste peninsular durante la Guerra de la Independencia (1808-1809), Punto de Vista Editores, Madrid, 2016, 142 pages.
In its brevity and concision, La guerra de Sir John Moore. Historia de la campaña del ejército británico en el noroeste peninsular durante la guerra de la Independencia (1808-1809), the last literary work up to date of the writer and historian Juan Granados, is an ambitious book. Ambitious and solid in terms of its content, however, it is worth pointing out, neither arduous nor tough for the reader whatsoever. A book that will fulfil the different reader’s expectations: of the researcher and well-informed, since it is a well-researched book, renowned and backed with several documents and testimonies related to the facts described; of the fond of historical novels (specially, military history), thanks to the well-versed literary writing style of Juan Granados, novelist and essayist, experienced author in former bookish incursions in which in all moments it has come out successful; and, in short, of all those who look for training and entertainment in reading, who pursue the pleasant adventures of the pages of a story which contains stories and vice versa. It is not easy to combine those diverse purposes and, at the same time, please a wide variety of readers.
La guerra de Sir John Moore offers the chronic of a particular national episode gathered in time and space, announced in the subtitle, and, even so, it suggests an keen reflection about a combat, a huge tragedy—the Napoleonic invasion and the subsequent Spanish Independence War,—with a broad scope: “it was a national and popular war, but it was also a war in the name of monarchy and religion, it was a war of independence but also of the scenario of an international conflict in which British had a very important role”. A chronicle made to keep distance with the Legend, a wide field where come together the feats and tail stories, the heroic deeds and the gestures, the fibs and the merry tales; without forgetting self-complacent and self-deception.
A rigorous and meticulous book, La guerra de Sir John Moore reproduces the difficulties of the campaign of the British Empire in the North East of the Peninsula during 1808 and 1809. However, likewise, it proposes a deep reflection on discipline and loyalty, sacrifice and service, of soldiers committed not only to a cause but to the fulfil of their duty, moderated by the sense of responsibility and the warmth of humanity in an upset atmosphere. In the case of sir John Moore, the general in charge of a British troop deployed in a foreign land, presumably allied with the Spaniards, with the aim of stopping French invasion and occupation in the Spanish land, although with the feeling of moving in a hostile land: “In general, British blamed the Spaniards for their lack of organization, a clear tendency to exaggerate and become disregarded of the enemy, overall behind the Bailén mirage, and their usual hostility and distrust to anything that sounded British”.
Neither a hagiography nor a biography, La guerra de Sir John Moore constitutes an exploration about the be or not to be, the make or not make, of a general who had not the leading role a military war but in a trip of one way without a retour, who did not pretend to be a hero, but who does not merit to be taken into account as a fearful or easily scared man.
Being beset by the impact of the French army, under the vigilance and direct pressure of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was himself in the scene hoping to incite its followers, the general Moore try his best to fulfil his duty: to stop the French and join his force to the Spaniards. But, who represented then the Spanish homeland? In the absence of an effective Government, with a wicked King who neither reigns nor governs its own country, in the absence of a regular army, with an uniform and which operates at the national level, the Spanish resistance is organized in guerrillas, direct by imprecisely organized local citizens assemblies, apart from being badly connected among them in the whole peninsula, even confronted or in conflict, with serious difficulties to mobilize their aloof parishioners, delegating the whole task of defence and contention of the enemy in the uniformed Englishman: “the battered Royal Tax Office explains the logistic and economic difficulties of maintaining an Army in a territory in the end of the Old Regime”.
In this field, sir John Moore finds himself propelled to combine the military mandate which obligates him to act—at the same time deployed in successive and contradictory superior orders— with an internal mandate of protecting to the maximum the integrity of the troop it commands, while in a humiliating retreat seeks to reduce the indiscipline and the outrages to the civil population. Here it is the question: “if the situation continues like this, the ruin of the Spanish cause and the defeat of our armies is inevitable; then it will be my duty to consider only the security of the British Army and take the necessary steps to take it out of a situation that, without the possibility of doing anything useful, expounds itself to a secure defeat” (Letter of Moore to the British representative in Spain, Sir Hookham Freere, 19th November). He does not add to this confidential letter the compromise of accomplish the mission even with the price of his life. But it did not happen this way.
Today, a monument consecrated to the memory of the British official presides San Carlos Garden in La Coruña. Juan Granados, on his part, offers in this essay a tribute to him, the biographical note of a soldier and a man. Who was Sir John Moore? A “paradoxical and brave Scottish, too sensible and human to be a perfect general, but with the courage to carry out the most generous sacrifice”.