15 JUNE

‘HUMANE’ GENERAL CONDONES ‘PROMISCUOUS AND SEVERE PUNISHMENTS’

Portrait of Sir John Moore – knighted in 1804 – (National Portrait Gallery – via Wikimedia) and statue commemorating him in Glasgow (Xabier Cid via Wikimedia)

[ 15 June 1798 ]

On the morning of 15 June 1798, the villagers of Clogheen in County Tipperary in Ireland were visited by Redcoats under the command of Major General John Moore. He had been tasked with suppressing an uprising against British rule and punishing all those he found to have been complicit in it.  The population was fortunate that the general was reputed for his relative reluctance to engage in wholesale murder.  Britain’s National Army Museum comments that while ‘the rebellion was put down with great brutality, Moore stood out from most other commanders in his refusal to commit atrocities.’1 

The villagers were not so easily convinced of the general’s reputed goodwill. They took fright as soon as they saw Moore’s soldiers approaching and those who had not already fled lined ‘the sides of the streets… on their knees and hats off.’  By the following day, Moore was able to note in his diary that the High Sheriff, had made ‘great discoveries’, having ‘already flogged truth out of several respectable persons, who had confessed themselves to be generals, colonels, captains, &c., of the rebels.’ He explained that ‘the rule was to flog each person till he told the truth and gave the names of other rebels. These were then sent for and underwent a similar operation.’

Moore neglected to mention that the flogging, which was routinely administered by the drummers, was in at least one instance given over to the rank and file, after they ‘insisted that the drummers were tired, and entreated that the Sheriff would allow them to give him (a suspect rebel) his desert !’  The officer who witnessed the incident remarked ‘I need not tell you how well they were doing so, when the fellow was taken down to be tried by a Court- Martial,’ adding that another suspect ‘who was since tied up, has given material information against him.’2 In such circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that Moore concedes that ‘the number flogged was considerable. It lasted all forenoon,’ and that he was certain ‘some were innocent.’  The general also acknowledged that those burdened by more sentimental inclinations might ‘disapprove of such promiscuous and severe punishments’, but he himself was confident that such methods would ‘soon restore perfect tranquility.’3

FOOTNOTES

  1. ‘Great Commanders: Sir John Moore: Alone with his glory,’ National Army Museum website, accessed on 12 April 2019 at url https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/john-moore
  2. Letter dated 15 June from an officer of the Second Flank Battalion, The Cambridge Intelligencer, 30 June 1798, p. 1.
  3. Sir John Moore, diary entry 16 June 1798, Major General Sir J.F. Maurice ( editor ), The Diary of Sir John Moore, Edward Arnold, London, 1904, pp. 294-5.

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