BY ALEXANDER CLARK CASSELMAN, TORONTO.
BEFORE 1775 many natives of
the Highlands of Scotland emigrated to
America and settled within the borders of what is now the United States.
Sometimes this emigration was of an individual character, but the
emigration whose influence is yet distinctly felt in the Dominion of
Canada and the United States was different in cause and character. Whole
families, many times whole communities, were compelled to leave the glens
they loved so well and seek new homes in America.
The Highlanders, like all peoples that live in rocky
picturesque countries, love their home, their family and their freedom.
From earliest times the Highlanders sought foreign service in various
capacities. Accustomed as they were to scanty fare at home, their
industry, perseverance, frugality and honesty soon enabled them in more
highly favored countries to acquire a competency. With this the wanderer
returned to his native hills and heath to live in homely affluence the
rest of his days.
When families or communities migrated it was from
necessity, not from choice. When they bade adieu to their past
surroundings it was with a heavy heart, because they never hoped to
return. The preparation for the journey has been graphically described by
more than one writer. They approached the kirk and the adjoining yard with
tears in their eyes. They kissed the walls of the sacred edifice, they
prostrated themselves on the mounds of earth that marked the
resting-place of their departed ones, and after a short prayer they moved
slowly away from the hallowed scenes with heavy steps and aching hearts.
A Highland poet thus describes. them:
Farewell to the land of the mountain and wood,
Farewell to the home of the brave and the good,
My bark is afloat on the blue-rolling main,
And I ne'er shall behold thee, dear Scotland, again!
Adieu to the scenes of my life's early morn,
From the place of my birth I am cruelly torn;
The tyrant oppresses the land of the free
leaves but the name of my sires unto me.
Oh I home of my fathers, I bid thee adieu,
For soon will thy hill-tops retreat from my view,
With sad drooping heart I depart from thy shore
To behold thy fair valleys and mountains no more.
'Twas there that I wooed thee, young Flora, my wife,
When my bosom was warm in the morning of life,
I courted thy love 'mong the heather so brown,
And heaven did I bless when it made thee my own.
The friends of my early years, where are they now?
Each kind honest heart, and each brave manly brow;
Some sleep in the churchyard, from tyranny free,
And others are crossing the ocean with me.
Lo! now on the boundless Atlantic I stray,
To a strange foreign realm I am wafted away;
Before me as far as my vision can glance,
see the wave-rolling wat'ry expanse.
So farewell, my country and all than is dear,
The hour is arrived and the bark is asteer,
and forever, oh! Scotland adieu
The land of my fathers no more I shall
The causes that led to emigration were the oppression
of Lauderdale in the reign of Charles II. in trying to suppress
conventicles; the adherence of many of the clans to the ill-fated Stuart
cause in 1689, in 1715 and again in 1745; the change of land tenure after
the "45," and the introduction of sheep-farming.
The particulars of each of these causes may be found in any history of
One of the first Highland settlements in America was
in South Carolina. Lord Cardross, afterwards Earl of Buchan, brought out a
colony of Presbyterians, groaning under the tyranny of Lauderdale. They
settled on Port Royal Island in 1683 and under some agreement claimed
co-ordinate authority with the Governor and Grand Council of Charlestown.
The local government disallowed the claim and Lord Cardross returned to
Britain. The colony prospered and lived on very friendly terms with the
Indians, but was eventually scattered by the Spaniards, and its members
found refuge in the other settlements.
Georgia was very early a refuge
for the Highlanders. It was at first a plantation for refugee
debtors languishing in English prisons. It was founded by James
Oglethorpe, a philanthropist and afterwards an able general. After some
years of trial, the trustees found that the poor of Britain was indeed a
poor foundation upon which to build a colony. The settlements were in
constant danger of extinction from raids of the Spaniards from Florida,
and with every encouragement the colony did not prosper. It was proposed
to induce men to emigrate who were hardy, inured to manual labor, with
simple habits of life, men who could meet the exigencies of cultivation or
of defence, and be successful in either. Such men were to be found only in
the Highlands of Scotland. In February, 1736, 150 emigrants from
Inverness-shire arrived in Georgia. They were settled on the Alatarnoha
river, which was considered the b9undary between the British and Spanish
dominions. They called their settlement New Inverness and the fort Darien.
Here they lived in contented freedom and independence, cherishing the
national characteristics of manner and dress. They were joined by others
from their native country, and soon a minister, Rev. John MacLeod, was
selected and sent out to attend to their spiritual wants. This minister
preached in Gaelic, instructed the children in English and other branches
of education, and in some measure tried to bring the Gospel to the
From its very inception the settlement was threatened
by invasion by the Spaniards. The Highlanders were not at all dismayed by
the prospect of meeting the Spaniards in war. In fact
they rather enjoyed such a meeting. When their ship landed at Savannah,
some people of South Carolina tried to dissuade them from going to the
proposed place by saying the Spaniards were all ready there and would
shoot them. The Highlanders replied "In that case we will drive them out
of their fort, and have houses ready built for us."
For ten years there was continuous
warfare, the brunt of which was borne by the Highlanders, and to the
success of these actions Oglethorpe owed his reputation. The wonderful
fighting powers of the Highlander has brought fame to many a general since
the days of Oglethorpe, and memories of his gallant soldiers in far-off
Georgia may have had some effect in preventing his coming to an engagement
with their kinsman when they were out with Prince Charlie in '45.
Another early settlement, and
perhaps the largest at the time of the Revolution, was in North Carolina,
along Cape Fear River. It is not known when the first settlers came, but
there were Highlanders there in 1729, probably the survivors of the broken
up South Carolina Colony. The first great acquisition to this nucleus was
the arrival of a shipload in 1739 from Kintyre, in Scotland, under Neil
McNeil. From time to time others, dissatisfied with their homes, joined
them, but in 1746 and 1747 the great emigration took place, caused by the
oppression after the outbreak in 1745. Emigration continued from every
part of Scotland, but just before the Revolution there was the greatest
influx of settlers.
The most notable accessions to the
Highlanders in North Carolina was the emigration of the McDonalds of
Raasay and Skye. The most prominent figure among them was Allan McDonald,
of Kings- burgh, husband of the heroic Flora McDonald, the faithful
attendant of Prince Charlie. Allan McDonald was a splendid type of the
aristocratic Highlander. The picture that is handed down to us is a large
stately man, with steady, noble countenance, with his jet black hair tied
behind, and dressed in the height of Highland fashion. It is not wonderful
that such a man would take precedence among his countrymen.
At the first signs of the
disturbance, Allan McDonald went to Governor Martin and offered to raise a
battalion of Highlanders. He was granted permission, provided those who
had the management of affairs would sanction it. It was the same old
story— inefficient Governors, who were afraid to take prompt measures
without authority, and indifferent officers and generals at headquarters,
who refused to listen to the warnings of those who knew most about the
true state of affairs. This delay strengthened the hands of the rebels,
and dissension was sown among the Highlanders. Old clan jealousies were
revived, and the adherence of the young men born in the colony was lost to
the British cause. At first neutral, they were compelled to take up arms
Early in 1776, Donald McDonald,
from New York, arrived at Cape Fear River, with authority to raise a
regiment. The mistake was made in not sending a force to command respect,
as several of the older residents desired to remain neutral, because
overawed by a superior force of rebels. However, a battalion was raised
wholly from the late emigrants, and about the middle of February took up
the line of march to Wilmington to embark for New York. The rebels, under
Moore, placed themselves in the way, and the result was that after a
slight skirmish the Highlanders were surrounded by a greatly superior
force and compelled to surrender. The leaders were imprisoned in Halifax
and the men released after being compelled to take an oath of neutrality.
Several small parties, however,
managed to find their way northward, and enlisted in a corps called the
Royal Highland Emigrants.
The most picturesque personage in
the forming of this loyal regiment was Flora McDonald. She personally
aided in getting the men to enlist and when the regiments were formed she
addressed them and so enthusiastic was she that she followed her husband
for several days until they came in touch with the rebel forces. At his
earnest solicitation she consented to return to her home. Embracing her
husband she breathed a prayer for the success of their cause and a quick
return to their homes. She never saw her husband again in America. After
the defeat of his force he and his eldest son were imprisoned, two of her
younger children died of fever and on the advice of her husband she
started for Scotland, with her daughter, Fanny, in 1779. Her five sons
and, son-in-law were actively engaged in the war. The vessel on which she
took passage was attacked by a French privateer and during the engagement
she persisted in remaining on deck. While here she slipped and broke her
arm. She used to say that she served both the House of Stuart and the
House of Brunswick and was worsted in the cause for each.
New Jersey at the time of the
Revolution had a large Highland population. The early influx to this
colony was due to two of its proprietaries, Robert Barclay of Urie, and
Lord Neil Campbell, brother of the Duke of Argyle.. Its first settlers
were the Covenanters, but it received its fair share of the emigration
until the breaking out of the Revolution. The Loyalists from New Jersey
were numerous, as there were formed four battalions of Loyalists from its
population besides contributing many volunteers to other loyal regiments.
In New York there were two
distinctive Highland settlements; one planted by Lauchlin Campbell between
the years 1737 and 1750 on the watershed that separates the streams
flowing into Lake George from those flowing into the Hudson. The colony
was augmented very materially by the practice of giving a grant of land in
America to every discharged soldier.
The most notable Highland
settlement in the province was that on the Mohawk.
Sir William Johnson for his
services in the last war was rewarded with a grant of 100,000 acres of
land north of the Mohawk. He had dreams of being a great feudal lord, and
to people this vast estate he went to England to secure colonists. The
broken fortunes under changed conditions of land tenure in Scotland of
many of the Highland families led Sir 'William to seek for tenants in the
Highlands. Consequently we find that his agents secured all the colonists
he required from the Miacdonells of Glengarry, Glen Morrison, Glen
Urquhart and Strath Glass. These were all of the Roman Catholic faith, and
the leaders were Alexander Macdonell (Aberchalder), John Macdonell (Seotas),
Archibald Macdonell (Leek), and Allan Macdonell (Collachie), and four
hundred other heads of families. They reached their destination in
September, 1773. They began at once to fell the trees and build their log
houses for protection during the winter. For two years they toiled on
their farms and the prospect for a brilliant future was most promising.
The Highlanders became deeply attached to Sir William Johnson and their
confidence in his integrity and honesty was not misplaced. But from such
brilliant dreams of the future they were to be suddenly awakened.
The next June Sir William died and
his son, Sir John Johnson, succeeded to the title and estates.
The rebels under the leadership of
Schuyler, wishing to exact an oath of neutrality from Sir John, invaded
his estate and the Macdonell settlement. Opposition was out of the
question, so the Highlanders were disarmed and their leaders taken as
hostages for their good behavior. Schuyler knowing that the loyal
sentiments of the Highlanders would not stand too much provocation,
resolved to imprison Sir John and a few more of the Highland leaders. But
they were warned just in time. They fled to Canada and Sir John got
permission to form a regiment called the King's Royal Regiment of New
York. Nearly all the officers and a large share of the men were
Highlanders, who after the war settled in the counties of Stormont and
Glengarry in Tipper Canada. A full description of these people is to be
found in the pages of "Sketches of Glengarry," by Mr. John Greenfield
Macdonell, of Alexandria; and "Lunenburgh," by the late Judge Jacob
A notable accession to the
Highlanders in America were the disbanded heroes of the three famous
Highland regiments that had won undying fame under Wolfe, under Forbes and
under Amherst, in the struggle between the British and French for the
possession of the continent. These regiments were the 42nd or Royal
Highland Regiment, so well known as the Black Watch, the strongest and
best regiment under Abercrombie in the ill-managed expedition that ended
so disastrously at Ticonderoga; the 77th or Montgomery's Highlanders,
named from its commander, Archibald Montgomery, son of the Earl of
Eglinton,—a regiment that, under Forbes, drove the French from the forks
of the Ohio, and whose prowess enabled him to perpetuate the name of
Britain's great war minister, Pitt, in the Ohio valley. The other regiment
was the 78th or Fraser's Highlanders, formed and organized by Simon
Fraser, son of Lord Lovat, who paid with his life the penalty of an
unswerving attachment to the hopeless Stuart cause. This was the first
regiment to climb the heights of Abraham on the grey dawn of that
September morning that put an end to the hopes of building a French empire
After taking part in the various
campaigns, and being sent wherever hard work was to be done, these
regiments were to be sent home. In 1767 the Black Watch were to embark
from Philadelphia for Ireland, but all men who wished to stay in America
were allowed to join other regiments until their time of service expired,
when they were discharged and became settlers. In 1763 Montgomery's
Highlanders were offered the choice of going home or staying in America. A
large number remained and received grants of land. Fraser's Highlanders
were similarly treated, and, as in the other regiments, many became
Every writer who has narrated the services of these regiments
has spoken of them in the highest terms of praise. The officers and men
were from the same people, having the same manners, the same customs, a
common language and a common devotion. The officers were of the best
families in Scotland, and were the embodiment of all the virtues that a
private soldier so dearly loves in a commander.
Perhaps it may not be out of place
to quote here the famous words of the Earl of Chatham when speaking in the
House of Lords in 1776 in reference to the Highland regiments. He said:
"I sought for merit wherever it
could be found. It is my boast that I was the first minister who looked
for it and found it in the mountains of the north. I called it forth and
drew into your service a hardy and intrepid race of men; men who, left by
your jealousy, became a prey to the artifices of your enemies and had gone
nigh to have overturned the state in the war before last. These men in the
last war were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity as
they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the
When the Revolution broke out
authority was given to raise a regiment from the disbanded soldiers of
these three Regiments and others who could be induced to join it. The
command of the first battalion was given to Col. Allan MacLean, son of
Torloisk, late of the 104th Regiment, and the command of the second
battalion to John Small, late of the 42nd.
This regiment was called the Royal
Highland Emigrants, afterwards the 84th.
Five companies of the 2nd
battalion remained in Nova Scotia during the war while the other five
joined Clinton and Cornwallis. At Eutaw Springs these five were in the
brigade that drove all before them.
The first battalion, 350 strong,
assembled at Quebec, but on the approach of the rebels under Montgomery,
by Lake Champlain, McLean was ordered to St. Johns, but when at Sorel he
heard that Arnold was marching on Quebec. By wonderful marching he
succeeded in evading Arnold and getting within the fortress. He arrived
just in time, as the city was held by only 50 men of the Fusiliers, some
seamen and the Militia, and the citizens were about to surrender it. When
Carleton arrived he found everything in readiness and in perfect order for
withstanding a siege. Had Mc- Lean been anything different from what he
was, Quebec must have fallen. A. weaker commander would have given way
under the urgent appeals of the populace. Hatred of rebels to his
sovereign was so exasperating that he turned out some of the disaffected
to the mercy of the rebels.
An American writer says:-
Some of the faint-hearted were
inclined to open the gates, but were held in check by the mastiff loyalty
of McLean. The veteran guarded the gates with his Highlanders, forbade all
communication with the besiegers, and fired upon their flag as an ensign
of rebellion." Again the same writer says, " It was the hope of Washington
to conquer Canada, but the despatches were withering. The works seemed to
Montgomery incapable of defence, the only defenders being McLean's
We all know the result of the
attack on the last day of the year 1776. Montgomery and a large number of
his men killed, Arnold wounded and his men dispirited. However he remained
till spring, when he was driven out of Canada.
During the remainder of the war
the first battalion was engaged in garrison duty in Canada and in several
small expeditions in the rebellious parts of the provinces.
It is a remarkable fact that the
Highlanders took the Loyalist side. Every Highland settlement from Georgia
to Canada declared for King George. It is remarkable because these people
were the ones who suffered expatriation for their adherence to the Stuarts
thirty years before.
In the service of Britain were two
purely Highland regiments and a third about half Highlanders, and in every
other regiment formed of the Loyalists there was a fair proportion of
Scotchmen, while there was not one distinctive High- land regiment with
the rebels. The attitude of the Highlanders has been a puzzle to
historians of the United States. They reason thus:—since the Highlanders
were punished by the House of Brunswick for being loyal to the Stuarts,
they should now grasp the opportunity to punish the authors of their
misfortunes. But they were made of sterner and more reliable stuff. They
were of the blood that was loyal to kings. They knew England and England's
king, and during their short sojourn in the colonies they had an
opportunity of becoming acquainted with his opponents. Because they chose
the Royalist side they have been maligned by writers with unceasing
regularity, from that time to the present. Because they would not listen
to pleasing promises and were proof against intimidation, they have been
called weak-minded and little better than slaves who knew not freedom.
In a book published last summer in
speaking of North Carolina Highlanders, the following expressions of a
United States writer may be found:
"That the action of the
Highlanders was ill-advised at that time admits of no discussion. They
failed to realize the conditions if the country and the insuperable
difficulties to overcome before making a junction with Sir Henry Clinton.
What they expected to. gain by their conduct is uncertain, and why they
should march away a distance of one hundred miles and then be transported
by ships to a place they knew not where, thus leaving their wives and
children to the mercy of those men whom they had offended and driven to
arms, made bitter enemies of, must ever remain unfathomable. It shows they
were blinded and exhibited the want of ordinary foresight. It is no wonder
that although nearly a century and a quarter have elapsed since the
Highlanders unsheathed the claymore in the pine forests of North Carolina,
not a single person has shown the hardihood to applaud their action."
To my mind it is very easily
explained. One word is sufficient —loyalty. The attitude of persons who
write as above is also easily explained. Their natures are so constituted
that selfishness and the love of mere gain have dwarfed every other noble
sentiment, such as self-sacrifice or loyalty to their sovereign.
As descendants of loyalists we are
proud of the sturdy Scotch who, in the face of unusually trying
circumstances, remained loyal —not merely passively loyal, but were
actively loyal, and, rather than live among men guilty of the crime of
rebellion, they came to Canada, there to build up a nation such as we have
to-day. All honour, I say, to those Highlanders who laid the foundation of
New Brunswick, of Nova Scotia, of Prince Edward Island and part of Upper
Canada. May their descendants ever cherish their self-sacrificing deeds
and revere the loving devotion of those noble men, and all will be well
with the future of Canada.