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


Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Seventy-fourth Regiment
1787

The state of affairs in India, during the year 1787, requiring an additional military force, four new regiments were ordered to be raised for that establishment; two of them to be recruited in the north of Scotland, and two in the United Kingdom in general.

The establishment of the army, after the conclusion of the war, having been reduced as low as the 73d regiment, the first of those now raised became, of course, the 74th, which, along with the 75th, was to be Highland; while the other two regiments, the 76th and 77th, were to have no particular denomination.

Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell, K. B., from the half-pay of Fraser's Highlanders, was appointed Colonel. The regimental establishment consisted of ten companies, of 75 men each, with the usual complement of officers and non-commissioned officers.

As the call for reinforcements to India was urgent, orders were issued to embody as many men as had been raised previously to January 1788, without waiting for the full complement. Accordingly, 400 men, of whom about one-half were Highlanders, were assembled at Glasgow, and marched to Grangemouth, where they embarked for Chatham, whence they sailed for the East Indies, under the command of Captain William Wallace; the Lieutenant-Colonel, Gordon Forbes, and the officers of the Staff, remaining to recruit the regiment to the full establishment. This object being accomplished in the autumn of the same year, the recruits, in February 1789, followed the former detachment; and, after a passage of four months, during which they enjoyed the most perfect health, landed at Madras in June. There was a marked difference in the state of this voyage, as compared with those of the Highlanders of the second battalion of the 42d, 73d, and 78th regiments, who, in the years 1780 and 1781, were eleven, twelve, and thirteen months at sea, during which time the scurvy, (a disease now almost unknown), and other complaints common in those days on long voyages, had carried off nearly 300 men of the three battalions, with a corresponding proportion of officers. Seaforth's Highlanders, in particular, were so reduced by scurvy, night-blindness, and an accumulation of other diseases, that it was not until they had been recruited by some months' rest and refreshment in the country, that they could take the field. In the present instance, however, no convenience was experienced, although a considerable proportion of the men had been raised in Glasgow and Paisley, the best nurseries for robust soldiers; for, independent]y of the dissipation too common in crowded cities, men con. lined twelve and fourteen hours a day in warm close manufactories, seldom breathing the fresh air, and never expos-ed to the inclemency and vicissitudes of the weather, re-quire time before their constitutions can accommodate them-selves to such a change of circumstances, and cannot bear wet and cold in the same manner as those trained up to agricultural employments, and from their infancy habitually exposed to all weathers. In the present instance, however, the healthy state of the troops was in a great measure owing to the excellent condition of the ships, the superior quality of the provisions, and the expeditious voy-age, all of which circumstances were different in the years 1780 and 1781.

The uniform of the regiment was the full Highland garb, which was laid aside in the East, as improper for the climate. Thus an uniform, which contributes to give so martial an appearance to a body of men, is unfortunately considered too cold for a winter campaign in the North, and too hot for one in the South; for, singular as it may appear, the kilt, as commonly worn, with so many plaits folded round the body, retains too much warmth in the hot seasons of the year, although it is found an excellent preventive against complaints in the bowels, common in cold and damp weather.

"When this regiment was, in 1789, united at the cantonments of Poonamalee, it composed a corps of 750 men, perfectly fitted for service. Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, who had succeeded Colonel Forbes in the command, was indefatigable in training them to an uniform discipline. Of this sort of duty he had acquired some experience during his service in America, as Captain in Fraser's Highlanders; though, perhaps, that corps was but an indifferent school for acquiring the polish and correctness which strict discipline bestows. Yet few regiments, in modern warfare, did more duty, of the most efficient kind, with less discipline, than Fraser's Highlanders; and, as the training of the 7lst, such as it was, so well answered every purpose for which all drilling is intended,—that of overcoming an enemy,—it could not be greatly misapplied in the case of the 74th. Hostilities, which had for some time past been anticipated, were now ready to commence; and Colonel Maxwell had an early opportunity of giving an honourable specimen of his ability, and of the professional knowledge which he had acquired. In the spring of the year 1790, Lord Cornwallis put all his forces in motion; the Madras army, of which the 74th formed a part, being under the command of Major-General Meadows. After a variety of movements, this regiment, in conjunction with the corps commanded by Colonel Kelly, was ordered to defend the passes leading into the Carnatic from Mysore. This officer having died towards the end of September, the command devolved or* Colonel Maxwell. On the 1st of November, he was ordered to attack Baramahl; and, entering that country, reached the neighbourhood of Kistnaggery, (one of those stupendous, and apparently impregnable, fortified works, with which that country abounds), which he intended to attack; but, before he had completed his arrangements, Tippoo Saib, who had received speedy information of this invasion of his territory, marched, with three-fourths of his army, to relieve the place, and, on the 12th, appeared in great force, ready to act against Colonel Maxwell. But this officer took up so excellent a position, and availed himself with such judgment of the strength of his ground,—with equal decision and promptitude, varying his dispositions according to circumstances, that he anticipated and frustrated every attempt of the Sultan to attack him, unless at such manifest disadvantage as Tippoo was unwilling to hazard. On the two following days, similar attempts were renewed, with the aid of increased numbers, but with no better success.

On the evening of the 4th, the Sultan drew off his troops, on the approach of General Meadows with the British army. Thus, with the 74th and 76th regiments, the 4th battalion of the Madras Europeans, and the 3d, 7th, 13th, 14th, 21st, 26th, and 27th Bengal Seapoys, Colonel Maxwell baffled the bold attempts of an army greatly superior in numbers, and thwarted the plans of the Sultan, which, had they been successful, would have given him an eclat extremely advantageous to his military character.

When Colonel Maxwell's detachment joined the army, under General Meadows, the 74-th was put in brigade with the 71st and 72d Highland regiments, and accompanied all the movements of the army, with no loss on their part, until the 21st of March 1791, when the Grenadiers, along with those of the 36th, 52d, 71st, and 76th regiments, together with their Light companies, under the command of Major Skelly of the 74th, supported by the 76th regiment, the whole commanded by Colonel Maxwell, were ordered to storm Bangalore, which had been previously besieged. The attack succeeded in every point. The loss of the ene-my was great, that of the British moderate. With the loss of only five men, was taken a garrison, regularly fortified, and defended by a numerous force, when, as will be seen in the article on the second battalion of the 42d regiment, Mangalore, an almost open town, with few artificial, and no natural defences, but garrisoned by a small but resolute body of men, resisted for many months a force of not less than 90,000 men, whose attempts would have been completely frustrated, had it not been for the failure of provisions. Fourteen hundred brave men paralyzed and rendered unavailable every effort of an enemy more than sixty times their own number, and this too in a garrison without regular fortifications.

The 74th continued to bear a share in all the movements of the campaign, until the second attempt on Seringapatam, when, on the 6th of February 1792, the army was formed for the attack. The right wing, under Major-General Meadows, consisted of the 36th and 76th regiments, the centre, under the immediate orders of the Commander-in-Chief, was composed of the 52d regiment, and of the 71st and 74th Highlanders. The 72d Highlanders formed the left wing, under Colonel Maxwell. [This able and high-spirited officer died at Cuddalore in 1794. He was son of Sir William Maxwell of Monreith, and brother of the Duchess of Gordon. At an early age he was appointed to a company of Fraser's Highlanders,. in which regiment he served during the whole of the American war, with a degree of approbation which his later conduct proved he so well merited, and which showed that he was one of those whose premature death their country has reason to deplore.]

On this, as well as on all succeeding occasions, the conduct of the 74th was honoured with marked approbation. After the conclusion of the war with the Sultan, this regiment returned with the army to the coast; and, in the month of July 1793, the flank companies were embodied with those of the 71st, and formed part of the expedition against Pondicherry.

This service being completed, these companies again joined their battalions, now augmented by an accession of numbers from Europe, more than sufficient to supply the loss sustained in the preceding campaigns; and, in 1797, when the 71st was ordered to Europe, upwards of 200 men of that regiment joined the 74th, so that, in the following year, when the regiment took the field, under Lieutenant-General Harris, it was strong in numbers, and in an efficient state for service.

In all the operations that ultimately led to the storming of Seringapatam, on the 4th of May 1799, this regiment had its full share, and, on this memorable occasion, when the destruction of a powerful dynasty was completed, and a great empire overthrown, "the very spirited attack, led by Lieutenant-Colonel (afterwards Lieutenant-General Sir) Alexander Campbell, of the 74th regiment, which tended so greatly to secure the position our troops had attained in the enemy's works, claimed the strongest approbation of the Commander-in- Chief."  [General Orders.]

From this period nothing material occurred until 1803, in the August of which year the regiment formed part of the brigade commanded by Colonel Wallace, in the army detached under the Honourable Major-General Arthur Wellesley. On the 8th of this month, the fortress of Ahmadnagur, then in the possession of Scindia, the Mahratta Chief, was attacked and carried by assault, in which the 74th was present, and distinguished for its conduct. On the 23d of September was fought the battle of Assaye, where the brunt of the attack fell on the 74th. [The regiment lost at Assaye Captains D. Aytone, Andrew Dyce, Rode-rick Macleod, John Maxwell, Lieutenants John Campbell, John Morshead Campbell, Lorn Campbell, (Lieutenant Lorn Campbell was son of Colonel Campbell of Melford, an active and intelligent officer of Montgomerie's Highlanders, from which corps he was promoted to a company in the 42d regiment in the year 1761. The Melford family was very unfortunate this year. Three brothers fell in the field, Captain John Campbell, and Lieutenants Alexander and Lorn Campbell, as also a near relation, Lieutenant Morshead Campbell, son of Colonel Alexander Campbell of the 74th regiment.) James Grant, J. Morris, Robert Neilson; Volunteer Moore, 9 sergeants, 7 drummers, and 127 rank and file, killed. Major Samuel Swinton, Captains Norman Moore, Mathew Shaw, John Alexander Mein, Robert Macmurdo, J. Longland, Ensign Kierman; 11 sergeants, 7 drummers, and 270 rank and file, wounded.] A short account of this service will be seen in the article on the 78th Regiment, as also of the battle of Argaum on the 2.9th November, when this regiment was also engaged, though much reduced in numbers, from the loss sustained at the battle of Assaye.

The 74th continued under the command of General Wellesley while he was in the field, and, in September 1805, embarked for England, leaving the men fit for duty in the country.

Few Highland officers being in the regiment when it re-turned from India, recruiting was by no means successful in the North, with the exception of that part of the duty intrusted to Captain Russell Manners, whose zeal and exertions at Perth met with merited success.

In 1809 the Highland uniform was laid aside, and, as the corps was not hereafter to be known by any national designation, the uniform of the line was adopted.

[In the autumn of 1811, this regiment, now upwards of 700 strong, embarked for Spain, and was again placed under the command of its former General in India.

During the course of the campaigns in Spain and France, they maintained an uniform character for gallantry in the field. A mere enumeration of the battles in which they were engaged, will show how well this respectable regiment merits the gratitude of the country, and will give some notion of the share they have had in the signal and successive defeats sustained by the enemy. In India they were present at Seringapatam and at Assaye. In Spain and France, at Busaco, Fuentes de Onor, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orths, and Toulouse, being twelve in all;—an honourable enumeration, and all fought under the eye of the same commander; for although General Wellesley did not Command-in-Chief at Seringapatam as at Assaye, he was a General on the Staff, and close to the 74th regiment, which had afterwards performed so many long and fatiguing marches, and shared in so many important events under him.


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