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Record of the Formation and Services of the 79th OR Cameron Highlanders


Alan Cameron, whose "Badench" name was Brrodi, was son of Ewen Cameron and Margery, sister of MacLean of Drimnin, who resided at Erroch, near Fort William, North Britain, a most powerful man, standing six feet eight inches in height, and being muscular in proportion, nearly as tall as the celebrated Sam Macdonald of the 93rd (formerly one of the porters at Carlton House, who stood seven feet four inches, without his stickings). Young Cameron resided at home until his 19th year, when, happening to quarrel at a public ball, with a namesake of his own clan (whose Badenoch name was Morsheilich), the result was a challenge to Morsheilich, and a dual with broadswords, according to Morsheilich's choice, next morning. Several of the latter's followers were placed in ambush round the scene of combat, in order to prevent Brrodi's escape, should he prove the victor in this unequal contest, Morsheilich being a scientific swordsman, while his adversary was young and untaught. His "Guards", however, availed nothing against the strength of Brrodi's arm, who, with one blow, split his head in two, on which Morsheilich's men rushed from their ambush, and proclaiming the duel an unfair one, endeavoured to seize on Brrodi, whose activity enabled him to escape from them. They succeeded, nevertheless, in rousing the feelings of the men of Lachaber against the alleged murderer to such an extent, that he was obliged to fly at once, for his life, to the house of his cousin Dr. Alsander MacLean, of Pennycross, in the Isle of Mull, where he lay for two days concealed from a party of armed men from Fort William and Lachaber, who had tracked him with bloodhounds. At night he lay hid in a cave, near Pennycross House, so peculiarly situated that no stranger could discover its existence, but his pursuers knowing that he was in the neighbourhood, and ultimate discovery being inevitable, he fled to a cavern six miles distant, on the south-west of the island, where provisions were conveyed to him by stealth, by Dr. MacLean's youthful son Archibald. The door of this cavern, these two caves are known to the present day as "Cameron's caves", (which is named Inni Moir) was so constructed that one able swordsman could defend it against many intruders, while high rocks and the sea rendered the approach to it all but impossible. In this seclusion Alan remained for Six weeks, without light, except when he ventured to the mouth of the cavern; and his enemies having then abandoned the pursuit in despair, he left his prison and sailed for America, where he joined the 71st Highlanders as a volunteer, and behaved with such bravery that he was rewarded with a commission, and subsequently obtained the local rank of Major in America. Having been wounded and taken prisoner, he remained in confinement until the end of the war, when he was released, and, landing in England, proceeded to London, where he obtained from King George the Third a letter of service, dated Augt 17th 1793, empowering him to raise a Regiment of Highlanders, and conferring on him the rank of Major Commandant from that date.

Major Cameron then proceeded to Scotland, accompanied by twelve of his chosen friends, Officers of rank, and guarded by a body of faithful servants, the whole party being fully armed, and having arrived at Kilfinichin Argyleshire, the residence of Col MacLean, of Kinlochallen (son of MacLean of Drimnin) he made inquiries as to the state of feeling in Fort William and, when, learning that the ill-will which had formerly existed against him had now altogether subsided, he entered Fort William, preceded by his piper, playing the slogan of the clans, The "Camerons Gathering", and attended by his friends and followers, fully armed, however, in order to guard against treachery on the part of Morsheilich's surviving relatives. Finding that the inhabitants of Fort William and Lachaber were now friendly towards him, he declared his intention of raising a Highland Regiment, and having selected his Officers, Sergeants, and Corporals from his own namesakes and clansmen, he soon enlisted so many men the the Corps was completed to its full establishment within the prescribed period, although all the expense was obliged to be borne by the Officers, Government refusing to allow any bounty-money whatever.

The Regiment, having been inspected at Sterling in February 1794, was styled the "Seventy-ninth", or "Cameron Highlanders", and Major Cameron was promoted to the rank of Lieut Col his commission bearing date January 30th 1794; encouraged by which, he continued his efforts at recruiting the Corps, which soon numbered 1,000 bayonets.

The first active service seen by the 79th was in Flanders (also the scene of their last campaign) for which place the Regt embarked in 1794, and remained there about a year, having landed at Portsmouth Saturday, May 9th 1795 in transports conveying the following Infantry Regiments - 12th, 27th, 28th, 40th, 54th, 57th, 59th, 79th, 80th, 85th, and Loyal Emigrants, the whole number under the convoy of H.M.S. Leda, 36, Captain Woodley. In the summer of this year the Regiment was inspected by H.R.H. the Duke of York, then Commander in Chief, in the Isle of Wight, who, thinking it unwise to retain together the men of a Regiment that had been so hastily enroled, informed Lieut Col Cameron that the 79th should be at once drafted into other Regiments; on which Lieut Col Cameron replied - "Your Royal Highness's father does not possess the power of doing that", and produced the letter of service in which an immunity from being drafted was specially granted to the 79th Regt. This incensed the Duke so much that an order appeared requiring the Cameron Highlanders to embark for the West Indies forthwith, and the Regiment landed in November 1795 at Martinique where it continued to serve until July 1797, when an order arrived out, recalling the Officers and Non Commissioned Officers to Scotland, for the purpose of recruiting for another battalion, and allowing such men as preferred remaining abroad to volunteer into Regiments serving in the West Indies.

The men who wished to return home (210 in number) were to join the 42nd Highlanders, then under Orders for England, where the transports arrived July 30th 1795, and landed the troops at Portsmouth in such excellent health that out of 500 men of the 42nd and 79th Regiments, not a single man was reported sick; a circumstance so unprecedented, that it was at first supposed that the list of the sick had been omitted by mistake when the ships papers were transmitted for inspection.

The remainder of the Fleet arrived shortly after and Colonel Cameron and his Officers were ordered to Scotland for the purpose of recruiting, as before stated. On this occasion no rank was conferred on the Officers to reward them for their success in recruiting, notwithstanding which the Regt was completed to 780 Rank and File in the following year, at Inverness; and although several of the recruits were English and Irish, they soon became identified in feelings as in costume with their Gaelic brethern. The 79th embarked for the Helder in Augt 1779 and in the action which occurred Octr 2nd highly distinguished themselves; an observation which applies to every action in which the Cameron Highlanders have been engaged. 

The Army having re-embarked by Octr 25th and the 79th remained at home until Augt 21st 1800, when it embarked under Sir Jas Pulteney, in the expedition for Ferrol in Galicia, and landed in Dominos Bay on the 25th of that month; re-embarked next evening, and joined the army off Gibraltar, Septr 19th; sailed again Octr 3rd and arrived at Vigo Bay, Octr 5th; proceeded thence to Cadiz for the purpose of taking possession of City, and of the fleet in the harbour of Caraccas, when a gun from Cadiz announced a flag of truce, the object of which was to prevent any attack on a City whose inhabitants were already afflicted by a pestilence that had already killed thousands, and that seemed likely to destroy the entire population. Under such melancholy circumstances, the Commanders, Sir James Pulteney, Sir Ralph Abercromy, and Sir Edward Pellew, humanely ordered the re-embarkation of the troops, 2,500 of whom were at the time on board the gun boats.

The fleet sailed for the Bay of Tetuan, on the coast of Barbary Octr 7; but after having been there a few days, a dreadful storm arose, which compelled the Fleet to weigh anchor, and make for shelter under the lee of Cape Spartell, with the greatest precipitation. As soon as the weather became more calm, the Fleet returned to Gibralter, and on Octr 29th Sir Jas Pultneey sailed for Portugal with those Regiments whose services were restricted to service in Europe, while Sir R. Abercromy, with the remaining Regts (of which the 79th was one) sailed for Malta, that island having surrendered to Genl Pigot and Sir Thos Graham of Balgowan (afterwards Lord Lynedock) Septr 5th same year. From Malta the Fleet sailed Decr 20th and 21st in two divisions, for the Bay of Marmorice, where the first division arrived Decr 28th 1800, and the second division Jany 1st 1801. Here they remained until February 23rd when they sailed for Egypt in sight of which they arrived Sunday, March 1st 1801. The particulars of the Egyptian campaign are known to nearly all our readers, and I shall therefore content myself by saying that the 79th remained in Egypt until the end of Augt and sailed for Minorca, where it continued until the island as surrendered at the peace of Amiens in March 1802 on which the Regt was sent to Gibraltar, and subsequently returned to Scotland, where it received in 1804 the addition of a 2nd Battn, which was embodied and passed 25th March 1805.

The 1st Batt embarked for Portulgal in Augt 1808, and served with Sir John Moore's Army until January 1809 on the 19th of which month they embarked for England and landed either at Plymouth or Portsmouth. They embarked July 28th 1809 for Zealand, under the Earl of Chatham, in the unfortunate Walcheren Expedition, from which they returned after the evacuation of the place Decr 23rd and suffered so little that they were reported fit for service soon after, and sailed for Spain, Septr 20th 1810 along with the following Infantry Regts:- 7th, 8th, 50th, 71st, 92nd, 94th, 95th and a corps of Brunswicjers. On the termination of the Peninsular War in March, 1814, the 79th embarked at Bordeaux for England and passed over to Ireland, where they remained until April 29th 1815, when they marched from Belfast to Cork, in two divisions and embarked at the latter place for Flanders; joined the Army at Bruxelles and formed part of the 8th Infantry Brigade (under Sir James Kempt) consisting of the 1st Batt 28th 1st Batt 52nd 1st Batt 79th and 1st batt 95th (Rifle Brigade); remained in France with the Army of Occupation and landed at Dover, Friday, Octr 30th 1818; marched through East Grinsted and Horsham for Winchester, early in November; subsequently crossed over to Ireland and landed at Cork, whence it proceeded to Fermoy, and after a short stay at that place, arrived Monday, June 15th 1820 at Limerick, where it served during all the disturbances connected with "Whiteboy" outrages during 1820, 21, and 22; moved to Temlemore in 1822 and to Naas, and subsequently to Dublin in 1823; remained in Dublin until July, 1824, on the 26th of which month the first division marched for Kilkeney where Hd Qrs arrived saturday, Augt 7th relieving the 78th Highlanders, who had been quartered in that city since January 1822; received Orders to relieve 37th Regt at Quebec and marched from Kilkenny Thursday, July 28th 1825 (Hd Qrs division) for the cove of Cork, where the first division embarked Augt 25th in "Cato" transport (Lieut Corley R.N.) and the second division Augt 26th in H.M.S. "Romney" Capt N. Lacker C.B.; sailed for Quebec Thuirsday Septr 1st 1825 and remained in Canada until Septr 6th 1836 when the Regt having been relieved by 2nd Batt R1 Regt from Cork embarked in the "Maitland" transport Lieut C. H. Binstead R.N. and arrived Thursday, Septr 29th at Portsmouth whence the "Maitland" sailed for Leith Tuesday October 4th. Connected with this transport I beg to make the following remarks: the vessel was 648 tons and after being found unable to convey all the service companies of the 2nd Batt of the Royals sailed for Quebec with 20 Officers, 17 Officer's wives and children 476, Rank and file, 102 women and children, ships crew 42. Total 657, all crowded together in an old transport of 648 tons; The Men of the Royals has not standing room on the deck, but were packed as in a slave ship and during the passage there were 156 men on always deck night and day, and six men in a berth (six feet by six) in addition to 30 Hammocks being slung on the upper deck. Notwithstanding all this crowding, the end for which the vessel was chartered was not accomplished for on sailing for Cork she was obliged to leave behind a Detachment of Three Officers and 44 men whom it was originally intended that she should have taken to Canada, in addition to the 657 persons above enumerated. If a private vessel or a passenger vessel, she would be entitled to carry 389 adult passengers and no more:- while as a transport 657 human being were crowded together in a vessel in which was neither comfort nor accommodation for Officers or men. Even in the cabin there was not room for a carpet bag, and the Trunks were obliged to remain on the poop, wet or dry, and the cuddy was so limited in its proportions that Lieut Binstead very kindly gave up the use of his cabin daily to nine Officers and Ladies who had not room to sit or stand in the cuddy at meal-time. In addition to this the vessel was literally alive with bugs and the children had for weeks after landing at Qubec all the appearance of smallpox having been nearly devoured by those noxious vermin. Nor was this all; for there being no room on board the "Maitland" for Officer's baggage, they were obliged at a considerable personal expense to freight a ship at Cork to convey all the baggage exceeding the quantity allowed by H.M.'s regulations. When this wretched vessel came to anchor at Quebec, Col Wetherall made a formal complaint (which was hushed up) and the authorities seeing the men nearly suffocated, ordered immediate disembarkment of the Regiment which marched to the Citidal, where the men, having room to lie down, were in comparative luxury, although stretched for two nights on iron bed steads without a bundle of straw;

We copy the following passage connected with the Cameron Highlanders from the Quebec "Mercury" of Septr 1st 1836...

"This gallant corps will embark for England on Saturday Septr 3rd should the weather prove fair; and we learn that Sir John Colbone has determined to take upon himself chartering of another vessel to convey a portion of the Regt in order that the health and lives of these gallant fellows many not be endangered by being stowed in less space than (from motives of prudence not of humanity) a slave dealer would allot to his living cargo; Under the blessings of Heaven, the Royals landed here in health but at this season of the year, with the probability of encountering the equinoctial gales when approaching the coast of England, it would been little less than tempting Providence to have repeated an experiment which we hope that the voice of the British nation will compel the heartless projectors, though deaf to the call of humanity to immediately abandon, and which we hope, has been adopted with the sanction or knowledge of H.M.'s Government". It pleased the Lord to show mercy to those on board the "Maitland" on her homeward bound voyage, and after a quick passage of 23 days the Cameron Highlanders arrived at Portsmouth, where however they did not land, but sailed, as above stated, Octr 4th for Leith, when they disembarked, and marched thence to Glasgow to join the Depot which had lately arrived there from Paisley; moved to Edinburgh June, 1837, exchanging quarters with 42nd Highlanders; marched again for Glasgow, May 1838, preparatory to their removal to Dublin where 1st Division Saturday may 26th, second division, Sunday, June 3rd and the 3rd division Sunday June 10th; the Regt having been conveyed by the "Jupiter" steamer.

This favoured corps remained in Dublin until Wednesday may 1st 1839, when the left wing (5 Cos) embarked at the North Wall for Liverpool, and was followed next day by the remainder of the Regiment of which eight companies proceeded to Manchester, detaching two companies to Haliofax, moved in May 1840 to Haydock Lodge, from which station the first division proceeded to Deptford Tuesday, Novr 10th and embarked along with the service companies of 1st Batt Rifle Brigade, on board "Abercrombie Robinson" transport, Lieut How, Master, and sailed for Gibralter, Novr 12th, but the vessel having sprung her bowsprit, was obliged to put into Plymouth Sound Decr 10, and sailed on the 10th of that month for Gibraltar, where this division landed January 2nd 1841. The remainder of the service Cos moved from Haydock Lodge to Weedon about Novr 10th 1840 and proceeded thence by railroad to London, Decr 30th; marched from Euston Square over Waterloo Bridge, to Deptford, and embarked next day on board "Prince Regent" and "Bayne", transports, and sailed for Gibralter, being towed down the river by stram-tugs. 

Having now given an impartial account of the services of this highly favoured Regiment it only remains for me to state it has been always as remarkable for its excellent conduct in quarters, and for its admirable discipline, as for its unsurpassed bravery whenever it happened to meet with Old England's enemies; and having known the Regt for twenty three years, I am warranting in stating that there are few finer corps in the British Army; and as a proof of which I may remark that, when the 42nd and 79th were brigaded together in Dublin in the summer of 1838, the 42nd looked like children of the 79th which might truly be called a "Giant Corps", the whole Regt being more than the average height of Grenadier Companies. It is also worthy of remark that this Regiment has been ever alive to the benefits arising from the cultivation of the mind; proof which it is well known that the 79th possesses the best library of any Regiment in our service, or at least did so six years since. Another pleasing fact connected with this Corps is that no Officer has been tried by Court Martial for nearly 40 years.

Before concluding, I wish to allude to a discrepancy in dates which I am at present unable to account for. The late Genl Stewar, of Garth, in his account of the return of the 42nd from Martinique in 1797 states that the 42nd reinforced by a draft of 210 men from the 79th landed at Portsmouth, July 30th 1797 (vol. 1st p. 430) in this account of the same occurrences under the head of 79th Regiment (vol 2nd p. 248) he states that it took place Augt 31st 1797, Poor "Garth" has long since fed the land-crabs in the West Indies, so that I cannot appeal to him for the correction of this apparent mistake in chronology; but if any one of your readers will set me right as to any errors in this my narrative of the Cameron Highlanders, I shall feel most grateful, as my history of the Regiment is necessarily defective in many minute particulars, but will I hope be found to be generally accurate.

I am sir yours Truly

G. L. S.

28th Albermerle Street
Augt 2nd 1847

Below is a scanned copy of the final page of the handwritten original document from which this account was taken.

Scanned copy of original document


 

 


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