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


Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Johnstone's Highlanders
or
One Hundred and First Regiment
1760

In the year 1760 commissions to raise Independent Companies in the Highlands, to consist of 5 sergeants and 105 rank and file each, were given to the following gentlemen, viz. Captains, Colin Graham of Drainie, James Cuthbert of Milncraigs, Peter Gordon of Knockespic, Ludovick Grant of the family of Rothiemurchus, and Robert Campbell, son of Ballivolin.

These officers were to recruit in their own counties of Argyle, Ross, and Inverness. As observed by a respectable veteran, who served as a lieutenant in one of those companies, "It was not necessary, in those days, to go to manufacturing towns to bribe with whisky and high bounties, the idle and the profligate; we got plenty of young men in the country." The companies were soon completed. Having assembled at Perth, they were marched to Newcastle, and remained there till towards the end of 1761, when the whole were ordered to Germany to reinforce Keith's and Campbell's Highlanders.

[While these companies lay at Newcastle, they received orders to be in readiness to march to Durham, as the Pitmen or Colliers in that part of the country had shown a disposition to riot, some colleries having struck work, and proceeded to acts of violence. When this order was received, every cutler's shop in the town was crowded with the soldiers, sharpening their swords, and preparing their arms, to the great surprise of the inhabitants, who had formed a very favourable opinion of the Highlanders, and who could not reconcile this apparent ferocity with their regular and orderly conduct, and their ordinarily quiet and obliging disposition. These preparations were the subject of much observation, and being reported to the discontented, the circumstance may have had some influence on their minds in producing that return to tranquillity which rendered active measures against them unnecessary.]

After the men had embarked, the officers were ordered back again to the Highlands to recruit. On this service they were very successful: in a few months 600 men were assembled at Perth, and were there formed into a regiment of six companies of 5 sergeants and 105 rank and file each. The regiment was numbered the 101st, and the command given to Major, afterwards Sir James, Johnstone of Westerhall, with the rank of Major Commandant.

Except Major Johnstone, Adjutant Macveah, and Sergeant-Major Coxwell, every officer and soldier, both in the Independent Companies and in the 101st regiment, were Highlanders.

Although Major Johnstone was not himself a Highlander, he had every qualification for the command of a Highland regiment. An excellent judgment enabled him to perceive the advantages of availing himself of the peculiar habits of the men, and of commanding them rather by influencing their minds, than by the fear of corporal punishments. He entered on his functions with the spirit of a knight of former times, and while he made himself agreeable to his men by wearing their favourite garb, and by humouring and indulging them in the exercise of their characteristic habits and customs, so far as they did not interfere with their duty, he secured their attachment, while he possessed their respect, by the spirit and energy he displayed. When reviewed at Perth in 1762 by Lieutenant-General Lord George Beauclerk, the regiment received his public commendation, and he declared that he had not seen a body of men in a more "efficient state, and better fitted to meet the enemy." But, however capable they were in this respect, they had no opportunity of being put to the proof. A detachment of the regiment was ordered to Portugal, under Lieutenant-General the Earl of Loudon, but while waiting for orders to sail from Portsmouth, they were countermanded in consequence of the negotiations for peace, and ordered back to Perth, where the regiment was reduced in August 1763.

The character and conduct of the five Independent Companies which had been drafted and sent to Germany, and that of the regiment afterwards recruited by the same officers, were exemplary. Major Johnstone's mode of discipline was admirably calculated for the subjects he had to work upon, and produced the happiest effects, so far as regarded conduct in quarters; and, as a man of good character, and of religious and moral habits in quarters, is invariably the best and most trust-worthy soldier in the field, it may be admitted, that, if these men had been tried in the face of an enemy, they would have afforded an additional proof how a Highland soldier of the old school would perform his duty when called upon to fight the enemies of his country under the auspices of those whom he esteemed and loved, and who established their claim to his fidelity and steadiness in the hour of trial, by personal kindness, by a condescending attention to his feelings and welfare, and, above all, by showing an example of true courage and spirit.


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