Christmas Countdown: ‘Today’s news of an approaching peace has completely spoilt my Christmas…’, 25 Dec 1813

Our Christmas Countdown record today is a letter from Sir John Murray to William Murray found in the Murray of Polmaise collection (PD189). From 1807-1813, Murray commanded several forces during the Penninsula War. His efforts as a leader were stongly criticised with the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Benjamin Hallowell critical of his tactics during the war. Sir John Fortescue stated that ‘He must be pilloried by history without mercy as a cowardly and dishonourable man, unworthy to hold his Sovereign’s commission, or to wear the red coat of a British soldier’.

On 25th December 1813, Murray penned a letter to his half brother, William Murray. The letter was written shortly after Murray had been embarrased at the Siege of Tarragona, a failed attempt to the capture the Spanish port in June 1813. The result of the defeat led to Murray being admonished after being tried in court in January 1815.

His appetite for the war to continue is clear in his letter. The first line reads ‘Today’s [sic] news of an approaching peace has completely spoilt my Christmas and compelled me to put on a long face’.  He continues by stating that ‘as long as Bony (Bonaparte) lives & reigns there is hope’. Unfortunately for Murray, the war would end on the 17th April 1814.