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Deeside Tales
Chapter VI


THE BLACK WATCH {continued)

“Oh! oar sodger lads look’d braw, look’d braw,
Wi* their tartans, kilt, an’ a’, an’ a',
Wi* their bonnets,, an’ feathers, an’ glitterin’ gear,
An’ pibrochs sounding loud an’ clear.
Will they a’ return to their ain dear glen?
Will they a* return, our Highland men?
Second-sighted Sandy look’d fu’ wae,
An’ mithers grat when they marched away.”
—Baroness Nairn.

T0 return to the history of the Black Watch. The withdrawal of that regiment from the Highlands was the signal for the disaffected clans to set the law at defiance; and it cannot be doubted but that the conduct of the Government greatly embittered their feelings, and thus favoured the designs of the Jacobites, who now began with much zeal to concoct plans for the restoration of the House of Stuart Rumours of these at length reached the ears of His Majesty's ministers, and began to open their eyes to the folly of keeping no watch over the machinations of these restless spirits, who beheld with displeasure their ancient authority succumbing to the daily increasing power of the law.

To repair the mistake, orders were issued in the beginning of 1745 to enrol a new Black Watch, or rather three companies of local militia as a reserve force to the old Black Watch, now serving in Flanders with great honour to themselves, and benefit to their country. The new levy was principally raised on Deeside and in the Highlands of Perthshire; and though the privates were not of the same social standing as those of the original companies, they were still select men, and not unworthy of the regiment whose name they bore. The Deeside corps was commanded by James Farquharson, younger of Invercauld, whose superior officer was his brother-in-law—the Laird of Mackintosh.

This force, even could it have been relied on for such a service, was far too weak to be any check on the insurrectionary spirit that now fired the clans; and scarcely were its numbers complete when the rebellion burst like a thunderclap over the Highlands. The object of the Government had been to obtain the services of certain chiefs, rather than to raise a force capable of suppressing a rising, should that take place. The fact that the chief of the Mackintoshes and the heir of Invercauld were in His Majesty's pay, was assumed to be a guarantee that their clans would at least keep quiet, if they would not take part with the Hanoverian troops in the struggle now beginning.

But these expectations were doomed to disappointment Several hundred Farquharsons came out under Francis of Monaltrie, young Invercauld’s cousin, and others united themselves to the Mackintoshes, under his sister, who, in the absence of her husband, raised the clan, and thus earned for herself the facetious, but not inappropriate name of “Colonel Anne;” and young Invercauld himself, though an officer under King George, was the accepted son-in-law of Lord George Murray, the commander-in-chief of Prince Charles’s army. Similar complications obtained among the other clans. It was not therefore to be expected that the royal militia would be very forward in affording information of the designs of their kinsmen of the opposite faction; and so the event proved. Prince Charles’s standard had floated on the breeze in Glenfinnan several days before the authorities in Scotland were aware of his arrival.

In the hurried measures at length adopted to oppose the insurgents, the militia were joined to the regular troops, under Sir John Cope, but they served with a bad grace during his brief and inglorious campaign. One company refused to embark with him at Aberdeen, as being contrary to the terms of their engagement; and another deserted almost to a man on the night preceding the battle of Prestonpans, while a few of the officers succeeded in getting themselves taken prisoners by their clansmen, sometimes under rather peculiar circumstances, as was the case with the Laird of Mackintosh.

This brave officer, on being apprehended by a party of Highland scouts, demanded to be brought before a person of rank to whom he might surrender himself a prisoner of war. He was accordingly conducted into the presence of his wife, then acting the part of chief of the clan in the Chevalier’s army. As he presented his sword she greeted him in true military style—“Your servant, Captain,” to which he replied with equal brevity, “Your servant, Colonel,” and so they ended the matter.

The above recorded incident occurred only a short time previous to the battle of Culloden. Lady Mackintosh had, at an early period of the insurrection, raised the clan in the interest of the Prince, from whom she received many marks of attention and consideration. On one occasion she was the means of saving him from captivity, perhaps death, at the hands of Lord Loudoun’s Highlanders. The event is thus narrated by the historian of the Rebellion—“On Sunday, the 16th February, Charles reached Moy Hall, the seat of the Laird of Mackintosh, about sixteen miles from Inverness. The laird was absent on duty as a partizan of the Government The lady (Invercauld’s daughter), who, as already mentioned, had raised the clan for the Prince, received him and his immediate attendants with great hospitality. Charles designed to rest here until his men should come up, before going nearer to Inverness, where the Earl of Loudoun had about sixteen hundred men in arms. Some one— suspected to be Grant of Dalrachny—sent information to Lord Loudoun that Charles was lodged at Moy Hall, with a slender retinue; and the Earl immediately formed the design of marching thither to take him prisoner. Notwithstanding the exertions he made to keep this scheme a secret, it became known to the Dowager Lady Mackintosh, who lived in Inverness, and who immediately despatched a messenger to put her daughter-in-law and the Prince on their guard. Meanwhile, in the evening, 1500 men had taken the road for Moy, under the conduct of the Earl. The messenger, a boy named Lauchlan Mackintosh, tried to pass through the army on the road, but finding this difficult, and dreading that he might be arrested, he lay down in a ditch by the way side till all had passed, and then bounded off by a circuitous road towards Moy. About five in the morning (17th February), he reached the house ‘in a top sweat,’ bearing information that the Earl of Loudoun’s men were little more than a mile distant The guard instantly awoke the Prince, who dressed quickly and came down to the courtyard. Lady Mackintosh appeared there likewise, ‘in her smock petticoat,’ for it was no time for delicacy, and exerted herself to get the Prince and his guard sent to a place of safety, and all his valuable effects put out of the way. He went along Moy Loch to a place more than a mile off, where he met Lochiel and a party of his troops, with whom he resolved to stand his ground in case of an attack. Meanwhile Lord Loudoun’s expedition had experienced a strange interruption. Lady Mackintosh had, the night before, sent out a patrolling party, consisting of five men armed with muskets, to keep guard on the road towards Inverness. The head of the party was a clever fellow named Fraser, the blacksmith of Moy. When he became aware of the approach of a great body of men along the road, he instantly comprehended the design in view. Planting his men at intervals along the wayside, he fired his piece at the head of the approaching body, and by the shot killed the Laird of MacLeod’s piper, reputed the best of his time in the Highlands. The other men also fired, conveying the impression of a wide-spread body of opponents. The blacksmith was then heard crying upon the Camerons and Macdonalds to advance on the villains who designed to murder the Prince. The van of the advancing troops immediately fell into a panic, and, turning back with precipitation, they threw the rear into confusion, oversetting and trampling many as they went along. The whole army became inspired with the same terror, and fled amain to Inverness, where they arrived in a state of extreme distress from bruises, exhaustion, and mortification of mind.” Such was the rout of Moy, in which it may be said that “ Colonel Anne,” with five retainers put to flight 1500 of his Majesty’s best troops, commanded by an officer who was deservedly reputed one of the best generals of his age. It was, therefore, small shame to her husband to be compelled to surrender his sword to such a heroine.

After the disastrous defeat of the clans on Culloden Moor, the part assigned to the Highland Militia must have been very revolting to their feelings. They were united to the army of Cumberland, and employed to hunt down the fugitives, bum their houses, and plunder their lands. To the credit of their humanity, however, it deserves to be recorded that on Deeside at least they did more to alleviate than aggravate the sufferings of their unfortunate clansmen, displaying considerable ingenuity in leading the English soldiers away from their places of concealment, and otherwise affording them means of escape. To Invercauld in particular his kinsmen were under a deep debt of gratitude for the part he acted.

Old John was accounted one of the shrewdest and most prudent men in the whole Highlands, while his son, James, uniting to not a little of his father’s wisdom a more amiable and benevolent disposition, deservedly secured for himself, throughout the long period, 45 years, during which he held the estate, an amount of influence both with the Government and among his clansmen and dependants that had never before been enjoyed by one of his name. From the suppression of the rebellion to his death in 1805, no other name fills so large a space in the annals of Deeside; and in the generation that followed, no memory was more revered and cherished than that of the "Old Laird,” as he was called. His disposition did not lead him to adopt the profession of arms on which he had entered just as he had attained his majority, and the service he had seen was of a nature rather to repel than attract him. He accordingly soon quitted it for a more peaceful, and probably a more useful life.

To the company in which he had served a new and more honourable career was soon presented. The men had been fired with the fame of the brave 43rd, or Old Black Watch, perhaps also influenced by the consideration the Government had at length shown for the feelings of that regiment in not requiring it to serve in Scotland during the civil war. At all events, when the militia companies were invited to form a small detachment to recruit the numbers of the 43rd, previous to their re-embarking for foreign war, so great was their eagerness for the service that they petitioned to be allowed to join the regulars en masse; and so ardent was every man to measure swords with the French that, to avoid giving offence to those left behind, recourse was had to the ballot to select the required number.

This ardour on the part of the Highlanders requires a word of explanation. It might be thought that the French, who had encouraged the rising in favour of the House of Stuart, would have had the sympathies, rather than the hostility, of a people devoted to the cause of that unfortunate dynasty. But while the Government clans hated them for having fomented the insurrection, the others entertained no better feeling towards them, believing that they had duped them into rising, and then betrayed and deserted them. They accordingly bore them a deeper grudge than they bore the English. A curious incident, illustrative of the hold this feeling had taken of the Highland mind, occurred many years after, at the capture of Quebec. The brave general, who fell on that occasion, had been engaged at Culloden, and taken some part in the subsequent severities practised on the insurgents, yet the Highlanders had no objection afterwards to serve under him. One of those who had been out in the ’45, but was now serving under Wolfe in America, was discovered after the battle of Quebec, seated on a fragment of the ruins, sedately taking a pinch of snuff, with the bodies of seven Frenchmen, all slain by his own hand, lying around him; and it is related that when asked why he had dealt so severely by the enemy, he replied, “ NainseF didna like the French, they werena true to Charlie.”

In November, 1747, the volunteer band of the Black Watch set sail from Leith, to join the regiment at the seat of war; and on many a well fought field in Flanders fairly earned the reputation of being the most daring soldiers in the British army. Their comrades who remained at home were still continued as a militia corps, though little or no active service was expected of them. The task of extinguishing the last embers of the late insurrection was entrusted to parties of the “ English Red Coats,” as they were called, whose activity was stimulated by the hope of plunder and prize-money.*

It is probable that the following pathetic song refers to some disaster that occurred in these troublous times, though the circumstances that gave rise to it are now unknown—

“YOUNG MONALTRIE,

“Hark! Hark! it is the horn
On mountain breezes borne.
Awake! it is the morn:
Awake, Monaltrie!

“One word to his fair bride,
Who’s sleeping by his side,
We can no longer bide;
Away, Monaltrie!

“She sits in her lone tower,
At evening’s pleasant hour ;
Dark shades around her lower—
Come back, Monaltrie!

"What shrieks of wild despair
Awake the midnight air?
*Tis a frantic lady fair,
Who seeks Monaltrie.

“That evening by his side,
Reposed his lovely bride.
Fair Agnes there has died
For Young Monaltrie.”

For many years after the suppression of the rebellion the country was in a depressed and poverty-stricken condition. A new system of living had necessitated an entire change of avocations, and these were not speedily or willingly adopted. The old rent of personal service was inappropriate and valueless to the proprietors. Even payments in kind, which was the first step in the change, were ill suited to their requirements, now that every obligation was commuted into a money value. Money there was none among the tenants, and no means of raising it, agriculture and other industrial employments being as yet only in their infancy.

While the Highlands were in this condition the preliminaries of a peace between Great Britain and France were signed. The army in Flanders was recalled, and a very considerable reduction made in the military establishments of the country. Had the Highland soldiers been disbanded, the evils arising from a superabundant population would have been greatly increased, but, fortunately, this did not happen. The “Old Black Watch” had so signalized itself in the war, that, while other regiments were reduced, it was not only retained but a special mark of honour was designed for it Its name and number were now changed to the ever memorable 42nd Royal Highlanders, than which a prouder title does not emblazon the page of the military history of this or any other kingdom.

The peace was of short duration. But now at length the importance of the Highlands as a nursery for the British army was fully recognised, and on the renewal of hostilities most of the new regiments were thence obtained. Their first service was in America, where they bore the brunt of far more trying and sanguinary campaigns than their companions in arms had been subjected to in the Low Countries. This may be said to have been the first time that the Highland regiments formed a distinct brigade in the national army. Their general, Lord Loudoun, was also commander-in-chief of the expedition.

When we think of this brave band, every bosom in it throbbing with the love of its native glen, embarking hand to hand and shoulder to shoulder for a far distant shore—a shore which every man had been accustomed to associate with penal settlements and the worst of misfortunes—there to meet, besides their old foes the French, the barbarous warfare of the wild Indians, while we admire the military ardour that bore them on, we need not refuse our sympathy with the feelings that oppressed them, and the sentiment, relative to another occasion, so pathetically expressed by Lady Naime, comes forcibly over the mind—

“Will they a’ return to their ain dear glen?
Will they a’ return our Highland men?”

The answer is a melancholy negative. The graves of the brave who then left our shores are to be found in Jamaica and Martinique, on the heights of Quebec and Abraham; and many, very many, slept their last sleep by the gloomy walls of Ticonderoga, but sadly strange it is that the memory of the present generation does not point to one who returned to sleep with his fathers in a green churchyard by the Dee.


 


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