Upon being appointed commander of British forces in Iberia, and Napoleon's subsequent invasion with Le Grande Armee, Sir John Moore's retreated to a defensive position near the port of Corunna, in preparation for an evacuation. Moore himself dies repulsing French attempts to prevent the evacuation with the Battle of Corunna

I'm interested in general details of the squadron that evacuated Sir John Moore's British force following the Battle of Corunna. In particular I'm attempting to build up a general knowledge of how military transport of British troops occurred during the Napoleonic Era. This particular evacuation would be one of the largest such, involving over 15,000 troops and organized on fairly short notice.

The level of detail would, ideally:
- distinguish which vessels did and didn't carry troops;
- provide the rating of each vessel; and
- distinguish permanent Royal Navy vessels from any commandeered temporarily just for the mission.

2 Answers 2


The Naval Chronicle (Vol 21) gives some additional information on the rescue fleet (that gives a significantly larger value for the number of transports).

Plymouth, Jan. 23.
Arrived this morning the Barfleur, of 100 guns, Rear-admiral Hood; Tonnant, of 80 guns, Rear-admiral de Courcy; Victory, of 100 guns; Implacable, Resolution, Norge, Elizabeth, and Zealous, of 74 guns each; Amazon, Unicorn and Endymion frigates; Mediator store-ship; and Parthian sloop of war, from Corunna; whence they sailed on Wednesday last, with about 400 sail of transports under convoy: nearly 100 of the latter have arrived here in the course of the day, with troops; the remainder are in the channel, under convoy of four sail of the line, and the greatest part will probably put in here.

The Naval Chronicle for 1809, Vol. XXI. pg. 61

So in addition to the ships mentioned in KillingTime's answer, it would appear that the following ships were also present in the operation at Corunna:

HMS Tonnant was an 80-gun third rate under Captain Richard Hancock and carrying the flag of Rear-Admiral Michael de Courcy (Captured from the French at the battle of the Nile).

The following were 74-gun third rates:

HMS Implacable under Captain George MacKensie (also a former French vessel captured after the battle of Trafalgar).

HMS Resolution under Captain George Burlton.

HMS Norge under Captain Edmund Boger (A former Danish ship captured at Copenhagen in 1807)

HMS Elizabeth under Captain Henry Curzon.

HMS Zealous under Captain Thomas Boys.

The Fifth rate frigates were:

HMS Amazon which was rated as 38-gun.

HMS Unicorn which was rated as 32-gun.

HMS Endymion which was rated as 44-gun (and went onto become famous for the capture of USS President).

The Mediator was originally constructed as an East Indiaman and had been converted initially as a 44-gun warship but only served as a store ship at Corunna (under Commander George Blamey).

The Parthian was a Cherokee class sloop of 10 guns under Commander Richard Harward.

Neither the Amazon nor the Unicorn mention Corunna in their service logs so these may have joined the returning fleet in the Channel.

While it's not mentioned in the quoted passage above, it appears that the Audacious (a sister ship of the Zealous) was also present at Corunna, under the command of Captain Thomas le Marchant Gosselin. This would bring the count of "two-deckers" to seven matching the number given in the earlier answer.

While the bulk of the army was taken on board the transports, the naval warships took their share too:

The Barfleur crammed in 819 soldiers, small groups of officers and men from as many as twenty-three different regiments. Together with the crew of 500 seamen, a remarkable total of 1,371 men were on board. The larger, 110-gun Ville de Paris had a crew of 600 but embarked 743 soldiers, making a total of 1,343, among them General Sir David Baird and his staff, 40 soldiers' wives and 7 children. The boats of the 74-gun Audacious destroyed the beached transports and took off General Hope, his staff and stragglers, taking a total of 308 soldiers to Portsmouth. Among the rescued on this ship were 13 wives and children and 33 French prisoners.

Britain Against Napoleon, R.Knight (Allen Lane, 2013) pg. 204


I'm not sure that I've the depth of information that you require but the following might be of use as a pointer for others.

Transportation of troops (and all their supplies) during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars was the responsibility of the appropriately named Transportation Board.

The commencement of the Peninsular War vastly increased the commitment of the Transportation Board to provide for 'the hiring and appropriating of ship's and vessels for the conveyance of troops and baggage, victualling, ordnance, barrack, commissariat, naval and military stores of all kinds'. By 1810 the tonnage employed on this service amounted to about 980 vessels amounting to 250,000 tons burthen, about a tenth of the British merchant marine.

The Victory of Seapower, R. Woodman (Chatham, 1998), pg 158

It was principally vessels of the Transport Service, under the command of Captain James Bowen, that were responsible for the evacuation of Moore's army at Corunna (for which he received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament).

Unfortuately, histories of the Royal Navy tend to concentrate on the warships and details of the other vessels employed by it are scant.

Regarding the evacuation at Corunna,

[Moore's] army reached Coruña on 11 January 1809, seeing the masts of 140 ships 'with indescribable feelings'. These however, turned out to be hospital and store ships, Commissioner Bowen's transports being wind-bound at Vigo, where it had been supposed Moore would go and whither he had sent Craufurd's Light Brigade. Fortunately Soult was delayed in bringing up his guns and Moore prepared to wait, embarking his sick and filling the storeships.

...On the 13th the British rearguard were dislodged from their position and fell back on the town: the battle of Coruña had begun.
   The following evening 110 transports, escorted by the Ville de Paris, Victory, Barfleur, seven two-deckers and two frigates, stood into the bay. Moore retained a handful of guns and began the embarkation at once with Soult now forcing the pace

...So tightly packed were many of the transports, ships of no more than 200 tons, that in one an officer was posted with sword drawn to prevent the packed men from moving about as the ship heaved in the heavy weather. Some of the exhausted infantry were still asleep when Bowen arrived at Portsmouth and their condition shook the public, but seapower had extricated a force of 28,000 men.

The Victory of Seapower, R. Woodman (Chatham, 1998), pg 163

So the British 'squadron' consisted of over 260 ships, of which just 12 were warships. Of the warships;

HMS Ville de Paris was a 110-gun first rate under the command of Captain John Carden.

HMS Victory was a 98-gun second rate under the command of Captain John Searle (she had been reduced from a first rate in January 1808)

HMS Barfleur was also a 98-gun second rate under the command of Captain Samuel Linzee, carrying the flag of Rear Admiral Sir Samuel Hood.

The "two-deckers" would have been third rates of 80- or 74- guns.

Ref: British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817, R.Winfield (Seaforth, 2005)

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