Object of the Month – Sir John Moore’s Writing Desk

In 1796, Sir John Moore bequeathed this satinwood writing desk to his childhood friend, the man who had been present at all of his military campaigns, and also during his dying hours after the Battle of Corunna (1809), Lieutenant-General Paul Anderson. The writing case contains two secret compartments visible in the second picture. The inside lid flips down, revealing a leather writing surface and ribbon lattice for storage, whilst the bottom drawer and it’s compartments can only be opened by removing the brass pin.

Born in Glasgow, Sir John Moore (1761–1809) was a British Army Officer remembered for his tactical astuteness, strong command, and pioneering military training technique of implementing light infantry regiments.

Moore entered the army in 1776 as an ensign in the 51st Regiment of Foot. Appointed Captain-Lieutenant of the 82nd Regiment of Foot, Moore’s first campaign was at Penobscot Bay in 1778 during the American Wars of Independence.

 In 1784 Moore represented the Linlithgow burghs in Parliament, a position that he held until 1790. He continued to serve in the army with the 60th Royal American Regiment of Foot, but he noted that their training methods were somewhat moderate in comparison to other regiments. According to historian Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Butler, it was at this time that Moore developed his system of light infantry training.

Later that year, Moore re-joined the 51st and was stationed in Gibraltar, Toulon, and Corsica in support of the anti-French forces. In 1794 he received a head wound in the last French stronghold of Calvi, however the French soon surrendered and Moore was recognised by his superiors for his bravery, conduct and military talent.

In 1795 Moore was appointed brigadier-general in the West Indies’. Like so many of his men, he suffered from an attack of yellow fever and some six months later he reluctantly returned to Britain. It would have been after this that Moore bequeathed his writing table to close friend, Lieutenant-General Paul Anderson.

Moore then commanded an expeditionary force in 1799 seeking to free the Netherlands from French control, only to return to Britain that same year wounded. By May 1800 he was commanding a part of Sir Ralph Abercromby’s forces in the Mediterranean. Although Moore was wounded again, he recovered to partake in the capture of Cairo and the siege of Alexandria where in the aftermath he received the Turkish order of the Crescent.

In 1803, Moore commanded a brigade at Shorncliffe where he established his training camp for light infantry, however trouble in Europe caused him to be sent to Sicily, Gibraltar, and then Stockholm.

His last campaign was in 1808 where he assumed command of British forces in the the Iberian Peninsula, including soldiers of the Black Watch who were assisting Spain in their fight against Napoleon’s France. At the Battle of Corunna Moore was fatally wounded, however he lived long enough to learn of the French retreat, commenting, ‘I hope my country will do me justice’. (Life and Letters of Sir John Moore, pg.268) At his request, Moore was buried where he died, his funeral retold in The Reverend Charles Wolfe’s poem, ‘Funeral of Sir John Moore’


About blackwatchmuseum

The Museum of The Black Watch offers an insight into one of the British Army's if not the world's most famous fighting units. Scotland's Black Watch is an elite military regiment whose history stretches back almost three centuries.
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