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The 78th Highlanders or Ross-Shire Buffs


As we have devoted so much space to a narrative of the active service of this distinguished regiment, we shall be compelled to recount with brevity its remaining history; this, however, is the less to be regretted, as, like most regiments during a time of peace, the history of the Ross-shire Buffs since the Indian mutiny is comparatively uneventful.

On the 1st of June 1859 Colonel Walter Hamilton was appointed to be Inspecting Field Officer of a recruiting district, by which the command of the regiment fell to Colonel Stisted, who, on the 30th of the following September, exchanged to the 93rd Highlanders with Colonel J. A. Ewart C.B., aide-de-camp to the Queen.

The regiment being once more assembled on the borders of Ross-shire (the county from which it received its name), after an absence of twenty years, was received on all sides with a most hearty and spontaneous and certainly thoroughly well-deserved welcome. The northern counties vied with each other in showing civility to the regiment by giving banquets to the men and balls to the officers. Into the details of these fetes we cannot of course enter. One of the most characteristic of these entertainments was a banquet given at Brahan Castle, by the Honourable Mrs Stewart Mackenzie, daughter of the Earl of Seaforth who raised the regiment, when a large family gathering of the Mackenzies of Seaforth assembled to do honour to the corps raised by their ancestors, on its return from the Indian wars. The regiment as a body was feted by the inhabitants of the town and county of Nairn, and by the noblemen and gentlemen of the northern countries and burgh of Inverness at the latter town. The freedom of the burgh of Nairn was also conferred on Lieutenant-Colonel MacIntyre, and in both cases addresses were presented to the regiment, showing a high and well-deserved appreciation of the noble work done by the " Saviours of India." On entering Inverness, Colonel MacIntyre halted the regiment in front of the house of General John Mackenzie, the oldest officer then in the British army, and who originally raised the light company of the 78th Highlanders. The men gave three cheers for the gallant veteran before proceeding along the streets appointed for the procession to the banqueting hall.

In the month of November a large meeting was held at Dingwall, for the purpose of considering the propriety of presenting some lasting testimonial from all classes in the county of Ross to the Ross-shire Buffs. The result of the meeting will appear in the sequel.

Shortly after this, Nos. 11 and 12 companies were formed into a depot, numbering 4 officers and 96 men, who, under Captain M’Andrew, proceeded to Aberdeen to join the 23rd dépôt battalion at that place.

The medals for the Persian campaign were received in February 1860, and on the 18th of that month were issued to the regiment. Out of the 36 officers and 866 men who served in Persia in the early part of the year 1857, only 15 officers and 445 men at this time remained on the strength of the regiment.

The 78th left Fort-George in two detachments, on the 21st and 24th of February, for Edinburgh, where its reception was most enthusiastic. The streets were rendered almost impassable by the people that thronged in thousands to witness the arrival of the famous 78th. In Edinburgh, as when at Fort-George, the people showed their appreciation of the services of the regiment by feting officers and men. On the 23rd of March the officers were entertained at banquet given by the Royal Company of Archers, Queen’s Body-Guard for Scotland; and on the 21st of April a grand banquet was given to the officers and men by the citizens of Edinburgh, in the Corn Exchange.

The 78th remained in Edinburgh till April 1861, furnishing detachments to Greenlaw and Hamilton. The detachment stationed at the latter place was duly banqueted, and the freedom of the borough conferred upon Lieutenant-Colonel MacIntyre, C.B.

While in Edinburgh, in accordance with a circular from the Horse-Guards, dated May 30th, 1860, directing that all distinction between flank and battalion companies be abolished, the grenadiers and light companies ceased to exist, as such; the green heckles, grenades, and bugles being done away with, together with all distinction as to the size of the men, &c. This step, though no doubt conducive to the greater efficiency of the service, was not a little grievous to old officers, who as a rule took considerable pride in the stalwart men of the grenadier companies.

On the 2nd of June, General Sir William Chalmers, K.C.B., died at Dundee, and was succeeded in the colonelcy of the regiment by Lieutenant-General Roderick M’Neil, formerly an officer of the 78th Highlanders.

On the 9th of August the medals granted for the suppression of the Indian mutiny were presented to the regiment by Lady Havelock (widow of the late Sir Henry Havelock), who happened to be in Edinburgh at the time. Out of about 900 of all ranks, who commenced the Indian campaign with the 78th in May 1857, only 350 remained at this time in the strength of the service companies, a few also being at the depot at Aberdeen.

The 78th left Edinburgh for Aldershot in detachments between April 27th and May 8th, 1861, remaining in huts till the end of August, when it removed into the permanent barracks. After staying a year at Aldershot it was removed on the 15th of May 1862 to Shorncliffe, where it spent about another year, removing to Dover on the 26th of May 1863. Here it was quartered on the Western heights, furnishing detachments regularly to the Castle Hill Fort, to be employed as engineer working parties. After staying in Dover until August 1864, the 78th embarked on the 5th of that month, under command of Colonel J. A. Ewart, C.B., for Ireland, disembarking at Kingstown on the 8th, and proceeding to Dublin. Here the regiment remained for another year, when it received the route for Gibraltar. During this period there is little to record in connection with the peaceful career of the 78th.

Since the return of the regiment from India, it had, of course, been regularly inspected, the inspecting officers, as was naturally to he expected, having nothing but praise to bestow upon its appearance, discipline, and interior economy. Shortly after the arrival of the 78th at Aldershot, it was inspected by H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, who spoke of it in terms of the highest praise; "it was a noble regiment and admirably drilled," the Duke said.

On the 19th of November 1861,an authority was received for an additional year’s service to be granted to those officers and soldiers of the 78th Highlanders who formed part of the column that entered Lucknow under Sir Henry Havelock; and on the 6th of March, in the same year, a similar reward was granted to those who were left by Sir Henry Havelock in defence of the Alum Bagh post on the 25th of September 1857.

Monument on the Castle-Hill, Edinburgh
Monument on the Castle-Hill, Edinburgh

Sacred to the Memory of the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Private Soldiers of the LXXVIII Regiment who fell in the suppression of the Mutiny of the Native Army of India in the years MDCCCLVII and MDCCCLVIII, this Memorial is erected as a Tribute of respect by their surviving brother officers and comrades, and by many officers who formerly belonged to the Regiment. - Anno Domini MDCCCLXI.

On the 15th of April 1862, a monument to the memory of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of the 78th Highlanders, who fell in India during the suppression of the mutiny in 1857—58, and which had been erected on the Castle Esplanade at Edinburgh by the officers and men of the regiment, and others who had formerly served in the Ross-shire Buffs, was publicly inaugurated by Major-General Walker, C.B., commanding the troops in Scotland, in presence of the Scots Greys, the 26th Cameronians, and the Royal Artillery. The monument is in the form of a handsome and tasteful large Runic cross, an illustration of which we are glad to be able to give above.

We mentioned above that a meeting had been held at Dingwall, to consider the propriety of presenting some testimonial to the Ross-shire Buffs from the county which gives the regiment its distinctive name. The outcome of the meeting was that, while the regiment was at Shorncliffe, on the 26th of June 1862, two magnificent pieces of plate, subscribed for by the inhabitants of the counties of Ross and Cromarty, were presented to the 78th by a deputation consisting of Keith Stewart Mackenzie (a descendant of Kenneth, Earl of Seaforth, who raised and equipped the regiment), Macleod of Cadbol, Major F. Fraser, and Lord Ashburton. The plate consists of a CENTRE PIECE for the officers’ mess, and a cup for the sergeants’ mess, and bears the following inscription:-

Presented by the Counties of Ross and Cromarty
to the 78th Highlanders or Ross-shire Buffs, in
admiration of the gallantry of the regiment and of
its uniform devotion to the service of the country
- 1859.

A very handsome flag for the pipe-major was also presented by Keith Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth to the regiment, which has six pipers.

While at Dover, on the 17th of October 1863, the first issue of the Lucknow prize-money was made, a private’s share amounting to £1, 14s.; that of the various other ranks, from a corporal upwards, increasing in regular proportion, up to the Lieutenant-Colonel, who received 17 shares, amounting to £28, 18s.

On the 22nd of this month died the colonel of the 78th, General Roderick Macneil (of Barra), to whom succeeded Lieutenant-General Sir Patrick Grant, G.C.B. In October of the following year, Lieutenant-Colonel Ewart, who had had command of the regiment for five years, retired on half-pay, and was succeeded by Major and Brevet-Colonel Colin Campbell MacIntyre, C.B.

It may be interesting to note here, that in compliance with a circular memorandum, dated Horse-Guards, 10th June 1865, the companies of the regiment, from July 17th, were designated by letters from A to M (excluding J), for all purposes of interior economy, instead of by numbers as hitherto.

The 78th had been at home for nearly six years, when on the 2nd of August 1865, it embarked at Kingstown for Gibraltar, the whole strength of the regiment at the time being 33 officers, 713 men, 74 women, and 95 children. Asiatic cholera was prevalent at Gibraltar at the time of the regiment’s arrival, and it therefore encamped on Windmill Hill until the 18th of October. The loss of the regiment from cholera was only 5 men, 1 woman, and 1 child.

During the two years that the 78th remained at Gibraltar, in performance of the tedious routine duties incident to that station, the only event worthy of record here is the retirement on full pay, in October 1866, of Colonel MacIntyre, who had been so long connected with the regiment, and who, as we have seen, performed such distinguished service in India. He was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart, C.B., who, in assuming the command of the regiment, paid, in a regimental order, a high and just compliment to his predecessor.

On the 6th of July 1867 the 78th embarked at Gibraltar for Canada. Previous to embarkation the regiment paraded on the Alameda, where his Excellency Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Airey, G.C.B., Governor of Gibraltar, bade the 78th "good-bye" in a short address highly complimentary to the regiment, and especially to Colonel Lockhart, who also, before his old regiment sailed, had to say farewell to it. Colonel Lockhart, after being connected with the 78th for thirty years, was about to retire on full pay, and therefore on the morning of the 8th, before the vessel quitted the bay, he handed over the command of the regiment to Major Mackenzie; and on the evening of that day his farewell regimental order was issued, in which he exhibited the deepest feeling at having to bid farewell to his dear old regiment, as well as intense anxiety for the highest welfare of the men. The address is, indeed, very impressive, and we are sorry that space does not permit us to quote it here. "If any 78th man meets me in Scotland," the Colonel said, "where, by God’s permission, I hope to spend many happy days, I shall expect he will not pass me by; I shall not him."

After being transhipped at Quebec on board a river steamer, the regiment landed at Montreal on the 23rd of July. The regular routine of garrison duty at Montreal was relieved by a course of musketry instruction at Chambly, and by a sojourn in camp at Point Levis, on the fortification of which place the regiment was for some time engaged.

The only notable incident that happened during the stay of the regiment in Canada was the presentation to it of new colours, the old ones being sadly tattered and riddled, and stained with the life-blood of many a gallant officer. The new colours were presented to the regiment by Lady Windham, in the Champ de Mars, on the 30th of May 1868, amid a concourse of nearly ten thousand spectators. After the usual ceremony with regard to the old colours, and a prayer for God’s blessing on the new by the Rev. Joshua Fraser, Lady Windham, in a few neat, brief, and forcible words, presented the new colours to Ensigns Waugh and Fordyce. Lieutenant-General C. A. Windham, the commander-in-chief, also addressed the regiment in highly complimentary terms. "Though he had not a drop of Scotch blood in his veins," he said, "he had exceedingly strong Scottish sympathies. It was under Scotchmen that he got his first military start in life, and under succeeding Scotchmen he had made his earlier way in the service. The 78th Highlanders had always conducted themselves bravely and with unsullied loyalty." At the dejeuner which followed, General Windham said that in the whole course of his service he had never seen a regiment which pulled together so well as the 78th, and among whom there were so few differences. All the toasts were, of course, drunk with Highland honours, and all went off most harmoniously down to the toast of the "Ladies," to which Lieutenant Cohn Mackenzie had the honour to reply, advising his young brothers in arms to lose no time in coming under the sway of the "dashing white sergeant."

The old colours of the Ross-shire Buffs were sent to Dingwall, in Ross-shire, there to be deposited in the County Buildings or the Parish Church.

On the 8th of May 1869 the regiment left Montreal; and, after being transhipped at Quebec, proceeded to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it arrived on the 14th of May. Previous to the regiment’s leaving Montreal, a very warm and affectionate address was presented to it by the St Andrew’s Society.

The regiment remained in Nova Scotia till November 1871, furnishing detachments regularly to St John’s, New Brunswick. On several occasions since its return from India, the strength of the regiment had been reduced; and while at Halifax, on the 21st of April 1870, a general order was received, notifying a further reduction, and the division of the regiment into two depots and eight service companies, consisting in all of 34 officers, 49 sergeants, 21 drummers, 6 pipers, and 600 rank and file. This involved a redistribution of the men of some of the companies; and, moreover, depot battalions having been broken up on the 1st of April, the depot companies of the 78th Highlanders were attached to the 93rd Highlanders.

Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Hastings Doyle, K.C.M.G., commanding the forces in British North America, inspected the regiment on the 11th of October 1870, a day or two after which the following very gratifying letter was received by Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie, C.B., from Brigade-Major Wilsome Black :—" The general desires me to say that he is not in the habit of making flourishing speeches at half-yearly inspections of Queen’s troops (although he does so to militia and volunteers), because her Majesty expects that all corps shall be in perfect order. When they are not, they are sure to hear from him, and a report made accordingly to the Horse Guards; but when nothing is said, a commanding officer will naturally take for granted that his regiment is in good order. The general, however, cannot refrain from saying to you, and begs you will communicate to the officers and men of the regiment under your command, that he was perfectly satisfied with everything that came under his observation at his inspection of your regiment on Tuesday last."

In compliance with orders received, the 78th, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Mackenzie, C.B., embarked on board H.M.’s troop-ship "Orontes," on the 25th of November 1871, and arrived at Queenstown Ireland, on the 17th of December, where the regiment was transhipped and conveyed to Belfast, arriving in Belfast Lough on the 20th, and disembarking next day.

The strength of the regiment on its arrival in the United Kingdom was 32 officers and 472 non-commissioned officers and men, which on the 22nd of December was augmented by the arrival of the depot battalion from Edinburgh, consisting of 2 officers and 45 non-commissioned officers and men. Shortly afterwards the strength of the regiment was augmented to 33 officers and 592 non-commissioned officers and privates; and in accordance with the Royal Warrant, dated October 30th, 1871, all the ensigns of the regiment were raised to the rank of lieutenant, the rank of ensign having been abolished in the army.

During its stay at Belfast the 78th regularly furnished detachments to Londonderry; and on several occasions it had the very unpleasant and delicate duty to. perform of aiding the civil power in the suppression of riots caused by the rancour existing between Orangemen and Roman Catholics in the North of Ireland. This trying duty the regiment performed on both occasions to the entire satisfaction of the Irish authorities as well as of the War Office authorities, receiving from both quarters high and well-deserved praise for its prudent conduct, which was the means of preventing greatly the destruction of life and property.