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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Having completed the details of the military service of the Forty-second regiment, from its original formation in 1739, down to the great and closing scene at the battle of Waterloo, I now proceed to give some account of the other Highland regiments, following the order of the dates at which they were embodied.

The Black Watch may be considered, if I may say so, as the parent of all the succeeding Highland regiments, and the model on which they were formed. The natural consequence was, that the military service of this regiment has been connected with so many expeditions, battles and campaigns, that, in the general narrative, much of the military service of other corps has necessarily been included. Hence, in the case of Fraser's and Montgomerie's of the Seven Years' War, Fraser's of the American, and Gordon's and Cameron's of the Late War, the duties of these corps were so frequently the same with those of the Forty-second regiment, that the notices under the head of each must necessarily be concise, as a more minute narration would only lead to tedious and unnecessary repetitions.

I now begin with Loudon's, the second Highland regiment raised in Scotland.

LOUDON'S HIGHLANDERS.

1745.

The loss of the battle of Fontenoy called for renewed and strenuous exertions on the part of the British Government. The distinction which Lord John Murray's Highlanders had obtained in that well-contested action, their eminent services, "which were heard over all Britain," and the general good conduct of the soldiers, were now so fully acknowledged, that many national jealousies, formerly entertained with regard to the character of Highlanders, began to be considered as ill-founded and unjust. With a view, therefore, of adding more men of this description to the military force of the country, Government granted authority to the Earl of Loudon to raise a regiment in the Highlands, under the patronage of the noblemen, chiefs, and gentlemen of the country, whose sons and connexions were to be appointed officers. By their influence, and by the confidence which the people reposed in their chief's and landlords, it was expected that the young men would readily enlist in a corps in which all were to be of the same country, to wear the same garb, to speak the same language, and to possess the same habits. These expectations were well founded; for, in as short a time as the recruits could be collected from the more distant districts, 750 men were assembled at Inverness, and 500 at Perth, forming a battalion of twelve companies, with the following officers, whose commissions were dated the 8th of June 1745:

Colonel, John Campbell, Earl of Loudon, died in 1782, a General in the army.

Lieutenant-Colonel, John Campbell, (late Duke of Argyll,) died a Field-Marshal in 1806.

Captains.

John Murray, son of Lord George Murray, (late Duke of Atholl.)
Alexander Livingston Campbell, son of Ardkinglas,
John Macleod, younger of Macleod.
Henry Munro, son of Colonel Sir Robert Munro of Fowlis.
Lord Charles Gordon, brother of the Duke of Gordon.
John Stuart, son of the Earl of Moray.
Alexander Mackay, son of Lord Reay.
Ewen Macpherson of Clunie.
John Sutherland of Forse.
Colin Campbell of Ballimore, killed at Culloden.
Archibald Macnab, son of the Laird of Macnab, died Lieutenant-general 1791.

Lieutenants.

Colin Campbell of Kilberrie,
Alexander Maclean.
John Campbell of Strachur, died in 1806, a general in the army, and colonel of the 57th regiment.
John Robertson, or Reid, of Straloch, died in 1806, a general in the army, and colonel of the 88th regiment.
Patrick Grant, younger of Rothiemurchus.
Duncan Robertson of Drumachuine, afterwards of Strowan.
Patrick Campbell, son of Achallader.
Donald Macdonald.
James Macpherson of Killihuntly.
John Campbell of Ardsliginish.
Alexander Campbell, brother to Barcaldine
Donald Macdonell of Lochgarry.
Colin Campbell of Glenure.

Ensigns

James Stewart of Urrard.
John Martin of Inch.
George Munro of Novar.
Malcolm Ross, younger of Pitcalnie.
Hugh Mackay.
James Fraser.
David Spalding of Ashintully.
Archibald Campbell,
Donald Macneil.
Alexander Maclagan, son of the Minister of Little Dunkeld.
Robert Bisset of Glenelbert, afterwards Commissary General for Great Britain.
John Grant, younger of Dalrachnie.

This corps was fortunately embodied at a critical period, being only a few weeks previous to the breaking out of the Rebellion, a circumstance which undoubtedly prevented many of the men joining the rebels. There can, indeed, be little doubt, that, had this plan of raising regiments in the Highlands been more early adopted, and had a field of honour and preferment been Opened to the gentlemen of the country, this unfortunate insurrection would not have been attempted, and the ruin of many honourable families might thus have been happily prevented.

The liberal, and even paternal, indulgence shown by George III. towards the victims of a mistaken loyalty is well known. [His Majesty knew well that there were many gentlemen in the North, who refused to take the oaths of abjuration. To those gentlemen he frequently sent his compliments by any person whom he knew going to their part of the country, and always reminded them, that, on the failure of their own King, he expected a transfer of their loyalty and attachment. He was much diverted with the ingenious method which a gentleman of Perthshire (Mr Oliphant of Gask) adopted to avoid drinking his health, and to substitute that of another. Gask had christened his son Charles. The boy sat next his father every day at dinner; and, after the cloth was removed, the old gentleman filled a bumper, and turning round to his son, cried out, with a tap on the shoulder, "Charles, the King's health!"] He looked upon their political attachment, and their fidelity to an unfortunate family, as pledges of disinterested loyalty, which, by kindness, might at some future day be transferred to the proper object, and which afforded the best proof of ultimate support to his own person and government. He therefore received graciously not only the descendants of those who had been engaged in that rebellion, but likewise several who had themselves acted a conspicuous part in it. Among these were the Earl of Airley and Lord Macleod, General Fraser of Lovat, Mr Farquhar-son of Monaltree, Sir John Wedderburn of Ballendean, and many others.

[As an instance of the influence his Majesty's conduct had on the mind and feelings of those who were once disposed to dispute the right of his family to the throne, I may mention that of an old and honourable Jacobite, who died in Atholl a few years ago. It will be recollected, that, when the French took possession of the Papal territories, they drove the late Cardinal York from his residence at Frescati, and confiscating and destroying all his property, left him totally destitute; and that his Majesty settled an annuity of L.4000 on the Cardi-. nal, who, in return for this generous liberality, left him the Rlibbon and Star of the Order of the Garter, which had been worn by Charles I., "the only property now in his possession, and the only legacy he had to leave to the rightful heir of his family, and possessor of that crown which his father and brother had so long claimed." The old gentleman I have just noticed had been "out" (as the term was) in the year 1745, and retained his ancient predilections to the last. living to a great age, his sight failed; and, one morning as his son was reading the newspapers aloud, he came to this notice of what the King had done for the Cardinal.—"Hold there," says the old man, starting up; "read that again." When this was done, he exclaimed, with great emotion, "May God Almighty, in his infinite goodness, bless and prosper him in the chair [The Highlanders call the Throne the Chair, in allusion, probably, to the chair in which so many of the kings of ancient Albion had been crowned, and which is now in the Tower of London.] he fills, and deserves so well, and may God forgive me for not saying so before !" and, as long as he lived, he never failed praying daily for his Majesty.] Several of these individuals were early employed in his Majesty's service.

By the breaking out of the Rebellion, this regiment was called to the field without being disciplined; but such a deficiency was then of less importance, as the habits of the people made the change to a military life easy; and besides, the enemy they were to meet was as undisciplined as themselves. A young soldier, in those days, was not startled at the report of his own piece, nor did it require time to accustom him to fire ball without shrinking. [If the volunteer system had served no other purpose but that of accustoming the youth of the country to the use of arms, the money expended would have been well bestowed. Happily for this country, war has for a long period been kept at such a distance, that its fatigues, habits, and dangers, have been known only by report; and young men had been so little aecustomed to the use of firearms, that it was equally ridiculous and remarkable to observe the alarm with which many were filled when they first began to use gunpowder. After they were in some measure habituated to this innocent but noisy exercise, it required a second training to make them cool and steady when firing ball.]

This regiment did not act in a body during those troubles. So rapid and unexpected were the movements of the rebels, that the communication between a division of the regiment at Inverness, and of another at Perth, was interrupted, and they never united till after the suppression of the insurrection. Indeed, several of the officers and a number of the men actually joined the rebels. The companies in the northern counties were employed there under Lord Loudon, while the others were occupied in the central and southern Highlands. Three companies, under the Honourable Captains Stuart and Mackay, and Captain Munro of Fowlis, were present at the battle of Preston in September 1745. Every man and. officer was taken prisoner. Three companies were also at the battle of Culloden, where they lost Captain Campbell and six men killed, and two soldiers wounded.

After the suppression of the Rebellion, the regiment remained in Scotland till the month of May 1747, when they marched to Burntisland, and embarked there on the 30th, with orders to join the allied army in Flanders. Owing to various delays, a junction was not formed with the Duke of Cumberland's army till after the battle of La Felt on the 2d of July; and hence it happened to Lord Loudon's as to Lord John Murray's Highlanders, who unfortunately arrived too late for the battle of Dettingen in 1744, and thereby lost the opportunity of distinguishing themselves on that occasion, the only victory obtained in those campaigns. It is remarkable, that, although the British had the advantage in the first part of every battle, and the enemy gave way to their impetuous advances, yet, when victory seemed their own, they were compelled by some fatality, or rather, perhaps, by the great talents of Marshal Saxe, to retire from the field. Such was the case at La Felt, which circumstance might lessen the disappointment of Loudon's regiment at being absent; at the same time, it may be recollected, that on no future occasion was the conduct of the 42d regiment more conspicuous or more favourably noticed than at Fontenoy, which was a thorough defeat. But as all true soldiers must regret the loss of every opportunity of distinguishing themselves, so the delay which prevented the junction of this regiment with the Duke of Cumberland's army previous to this battle must be considered as a misfortune,—a misfortune, however, which they had soon an opportunity of retrieving on an important service, namely, the defence of Bergen-op-zoom, This garrison Marshal Saxe had determined to attack with 25,000 men, under the command of General Count Lowendahl. To oppose this force, all the disposable troops in Brabant, including Loudon's Highlanders, were collected and marched to the lines of Bergen-op-zoom. These lines were strongly fortified, and occupied by eighteen battalions, to relieve the garrison of a portion of their duty, and to preserve the communication with the country. This fortress, a favourite work of Coc-horn, which had never been taken, and was supposed impregnable, contained six battalions, supported by the eighteen in the lines, with 250 pieces of cannon. General Crou-strum, the governor of Brabant, assumed the command. He was an officer of great experience, but aged, and so deaf, that he could hardly hear the report of his own guns. General Lowendahl carried on his preparations and approaches with great vigour, and opened his batteries on the 14th of July. These were answered with equal vivacity by the besieged. The importance of the place, the number of the opposing forces, and the vigour with which it was attacked and defended, attracted the attention of all Europe. From the 15th of July till the 17th of September, the siege was carried on without intermission. The besiegers suffered extremely, and were repulsed in every attempt. The troops in the town were relieved every twenty-four hours from the lines, and were so protected with covered ways and casements, that their loss was comparatively small. Many instances of bravery were displayed on both sides, in the different attacks and sorties. In one of these we find, that, on the 25th of July, "the Highlanders, who were posted in Fort Rouro, which covers the lines of Bergen-op-zoom, made a sally sword in hand, in which they were so successful as to destroy the enemy's grand battery, and to kill so many of their men, that Count Lowendahl beat a parley, in order to bury the dead. To this it was answered, that, had he attacked the place agreeably to the rules of war, his demand would certainly have been granted; but, as he had begun the siege, like an incendiary, by setting fire to the city with red-hot balls, a resolution had been taken neither to ask or grant any suspension of arms. [Hague Gazette.] There were more mines sprung, and more lives lost by their explosion, than in almost any similar operation on record. Those of the French were thrice exploded by the garrison, and, on one occasion, seven hundred of the enemy were destroyed in one of their own mines, which exploded too soon. At length breaches were made in a ravelin, and two bastions. The breaches being enlarged, General Lowendahl attempted a storm, which he accomplished on the night of the 16th September, when his troops threw themselves into the fosse, mounted the breaches, forced open a sally-port, and got possession of the ramparts, along which they ranged themselves, almost before the garrison had assembled. So sudden and unexpected was this attack, that several of the officers flew into the ranks in their shirts. But, although the enemy got possession of the ramparts, they did not gain the town so easily. There they were opposed by two regiments of the Scotch brigade, which made so firm a stand, that the governor and garrison were enabled to recover themselves from their first surprise; otherwise the whole would have been killed, or forced to surrender. "The Scotch assembled in the market-place, and attacked the French with such vigour, that they drove them from street to street, till fresh reinforcements pouring in, compelled them to retreat in their turn, disputing every inch as they retired, and fighting till two-thirds of their number fell on the spot, killed or severely wounded, when the remains brought off the old governor, and joined the troops in the lines." [On comparing the assaults on Bergen-op-zoom in 1747 and 1814, the coincidence of circumstances in the first part of the operations is striking. In 1814 the troops scaled the walls, and while one part secured the principal gate and drawbridge, the others got possession of the ramparts, and ranged themselves along two-thirds of the bastions, and all with no effectual resistance from the enemy. But, in the further execution and final result of this bold and well arranged enterprise, so highly creditable to the commander, and which deserved a better fate, the troops of General Graham were not so fortunate as those of Count Lowendahl.]

These troops made no movement in support of the garrison, but retreated immediately, with apparently unnecessary precipitation, abandoning all to the enemy. An account of this assault published at the Hague states, that "two battalions of the Scotch brigade have, as usual, done honour to their country, which is all we have to comfort us for the loss of such brave men, who from 1450 are now reduced to 330 men, and those have valiantly brought their colours with them, which the Grenadiers twice recovered from the midst of the French at the point of the bayonet. The Swiss have also suffered, while others took a more speedy way to escape danger." [Hague Gazette.] Another account, in commemorating the loss in this assault, says, "It appears that more than 300 of the Scotch brigade fought their way through the enemy, and that they have had 19 officers killed, and 18 wounded. [History of the Siege.] Lieutenants Francis and Allan Maclean of the Brigade were taken prisoners, and carried before General Lowendahl, who thus addressed them: 'Gentlemen, consider yourselves on parole. If all had conducted themselves as you and your brave corps have done, I should not now be master of Bergen-op-zoom.'" [Lieutenant Allan Maclean was son of Maclean of Torloisk. He left the Dutch and entered the British service. He was a captain in Montgomerie's Highlander's in 1757, raised the 114th Highland regiment in 1759, and, in 1775, raised a battalion of the 84th, a Highland Emigrant Regiment, and, by his unwearied zeal and abilities, was the principal cause of the defeat of the Americans at the attack on Quebec in 1775-6. Lieutenant Francis Maclean also entered the British service, and rose to the rank of Major-General. In the year 1777 he was appointed Colonel of the 82d regiment, and in 1779 commanded an expedition against Penobscot in Nova-Scotia, in which he was completely successful.]

The fate of this strong and important place excited vehement suspicions of treachery on the part of the garrison. After holding out with so much firmness against the most vigorous assaults, it at last yielded with little resistance beyond what was made by the Scotch brigade. So great was the anxiety of the people of the United Provinces for the safety of this garrison, that they supplied the soldiers with an additional allowance of provisions, and every necessary assistance; with nourishing food and cordials for the sick and wounded. Large sums of money were presented by individuals, and collected by general contribution, to encourage the soldiers to make a resolute defence. In Amsterdam L. 17,000 were collected in one day to be distributed among the soldiers if they compelled the enemy to raise the siege. During its continuance, every soldier who carried away a gabion from the enemy was paid a crown. Some of the Scotch soldiers gained ten crowns a-day by this kind of service. Those who performed more daring exploits, such as taking the burning fuse out of the bombs of the enemy, when they fell within the garrison, were rewarded with ten or twelve ducats. With such an anxious desire to preserve their garrison, the disappointment of the Dutch was deep and strong. They consequently gave ear the more readily to insinuations of treachery on the part of the commanders, who had so strong a force at their disposal. Whatever might have been the cause of the final result, the resolute defence made during the siege is proved from the loss of the enemy, which exceeded 22,000 men, an estimate which, great as it is, was believed and confessed by the French themselves to be correct, while that of the garrison, from their covered situation, and spirited resistance in all attacks except the last, did not exceed 4,000 men. No detailed account of casualties was published. [Mrs Grant, in her "Superstitions of the Highlanders," gives the following anecdote of faithful attachment:—Captain Fraser of Culduthel, an officer of the Black Watch, was a volunteer at this celebrated siege, as was likewise his Colonel, Lord John Murray. Captain Fraser was accompanied by his servant, who was also his foster-brother. ("When a son is born to the chief of a Highland family, there generally arises a contention among the tenants which of them shall have the fostering of the child when it is taken from the nursery. The happy man who succeeds in his suit is ever after called the foster-father; and his children the foster-brothers and sisters of the young laird."—Letters from an English Officer in the Highlands to a Friend in London,) A party from the lines was ordered to attack and destroy a battery raised by the enemy. Captain Fraser accompanied this party, directing his servant to remain in the garrison. "The night was pitch dark, and the party had such difficulty in proceeding, that they were forced to halt for a short time. As they moved forward, Captain Fraser felt his path impeded, and putting down his hand to discover the cause, he caught hold of a plaid, and seized the owner, who seemed to grovel on the ground. He held the caitiff with one hand, and drew his dirk with the other, when he beard the imploring voice of his foster-brother. 'What the devil brought you here?' * Just love of you, and care of your person.' 'Why so, when your love can do me no good, and why encumber yourself with a plaid?' 'Alas! how could I ever see my mother had you been killed or wounded, and I not been there to carry you to the surgeon, or to Christian burial ? and how could I do either without my plaid to wrap you in?' Upon inquiry, it was found that the poor man had crawled out on his knees and hands between the sentinels, then followed the party at some distance, till he thought they were approaching the place of assault, and then again crept in the same manner on the ground beside his master, that he might be near him unobserved. "

This faithful adherent had soon occasion to assist at the obsequies of his foster-brother, who was killed a few days afterwards by an accidental shot, as he was looking over the ramparts viewing the operations of the enemy.]

After the loss of Bergen-op-zoom, the regiment joined the Duke of Cumberland's army, and at the peace of 1748 was ordered to Scotland, and reduced at Perth in the month of June of that year.


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