The Highland Guard of Chicago was
one of the earliest organizations to answer the President’s call in 1861.
Its first commander, as was fitting, was a Scot, John McArthur, who was
born in Erskine in 1826, and came to the United States when twenty-three
years of age. In the Civil War he commanded a brigade at the assault on
Fort Donelson, and for his gallantry there was promoted brigadier-general.
At Shiloh, in the operations around Vicksburg, and in the battle of
Nashville, he rendered conspicuous service to his adopted country and was
Another regiment of volunteers of
Scottish origin, the Seventy-ninth High-landers of New York, rendered
distinguished service in the war. Originally a company called "The
Highland Guard," with a uniform patterned after that of the Black Watch,
it was reorganized in 1861 and enrolled in the Federal service, in which
it held the record for "fighting more battles and marching more miles than
any other New York regiment." Its colonel during its first service was
James Cameron, a brother of Simon Cameron, Secretary of War in the cabinet
of President Lincoln. He was killed at the first battle of Bull Run. Among
the Scottish officers of this regiment who achieved distinction should be
named Colonel David Morrison, a Glasgow man who succeeded Colonel Cameron,
Colonel Joseph Laing, Colonel A. D. Baird, and Captain Robert Gair.
Another transplanted Scot who
achieved high rank in the Federal service was Brigadier-General James
Lorraine Geddes, a native of Edinburgh, where he was born in 1827.
Previous to emigrating to this country Geddes had served in the Punjab
campaign in the British service, and was present at the battle of Keyber
Pass. In 1857 he settled at Vinton, Iowa, and on the outbreak of the war
enlisted as a private in an Iowa regiment. His military services to the
Union were of such value that he rose to the rank of brigadier-general in
the volunteer service in 1865. In his later years he was connected with
the Iowa College of Agriculture. He also wrote a number of war songs,
which, set to music, became widely popular. Among them were "The Soldier's
Battle Prayer," and "The Stars and Stripes."
General James Grant Wilson, born in
Edinburgh, April 28, 1832, and long a prominent figure in the literary
life of the country, was a son of William Wilson, the poet (1801-1860), a
native of Perthshire, who was a kinsman of the Hon. James Wilson of
Pennsylvania. General Wilson not only had a distinguished war record and a
recognized standing as an author and historian, but he possessed several
interesting personal relics of Lincoln, Grant and Washington, and his
informal talks and lectures on these great characters, two of whom were
his personal friends, will be long remembered.
Of those officers of Scottish
descent, General Grant demands first attention. General Ulysses S. Grant
was born April 27, 1822, at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio. He was
the eighth lineal descendant of Matthew Grant, who with his wife,
Priscilla, in 1630, and an infant daughter, named also Priscilla, embarked
from Plymouth, England, with a party of 140 emigrants in the
Mary and John vessel, of
400 tons, and after a prosperous voyage of 70 days, arrived at Nantasket
on the 30th day of May. He tarried for four years at Dorchester, Mass.,
and following the tide of immigration, removed to Windsor, Conn., and was
chosen the first surveyor of the town and later became town clerk. "Few
men filled so large a place in the early history of Windsor as honest
Matthew Grant." His name figures in almost every place of trust, and the
early records of the town show "that his duties were always
conscientiously performed." General Grant's genealogy follows: (1) Matthew
Grant, was probably one of the original company. (2) Samuel Grant, born in
Dorchester, November 12, 1631, son of Matthew Grant. (3) Samuel Grant,
born in Windsor, Conn., April 20, 1659. (4) Norah Grant, born East
Windsor, Conn., December 16, 1692. (5) Captain Norah Grant, born at Grant
Hill, Tolland, Conn., July 12, 1718. (6) Captain Norah Grant, born
Tolland, Connecticut, June 20, 1748. (7) Jesse Root Grant, born
Westmoreland, Pa., January 23, 1794. (8) General U. Simpson Grant, born
Point Pleasant, Ohio, April 27, 1822. General Grant’s mother was Hannah
Simpson, also of Scottish descent. It is said that the blood of the same
family of Simpsons flowed in both General Grant and Jefferson Davis.
In this connection it is interesting
to note that when the Scots’ Charitable Society of Boston was organised in
1657, of its first year membership of twenty-seven three were Grants:
Alexander Grant, James Grant, and Peter Grant.
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), Commander
in Chief of the Confederate Army, was a son of "Light-horse Harry" Lee, of
Virginia fighting stock that certainly laid claim to good Scottish blood
whether or not it was that of the Bruce.
Thomas Jonathan Jackson, the
great-grandfather of Stonewall Jackson (1824-1863), emigrated to Maryland
in 1748 and married Elizabeth Cummins.
General Samuel McClellan, General
George Brinton McClellan, and the latter’s son, the late Mayor of New
York, are of Galloway descent and trace their origin to the Ulster Scot,
James McClellan who was chosen a constable at the second annual town
meeting in Worcester, Mass., in March, 1724.
Ohio gave to the Union army General
Grant, and from that State came also the McDowells, the Mitchells, the
MePhersons, the McCooks, the Gibsons, the Hayeses, the Gilmores and a host
of other Scot descendants whose names are familiar to all.
Major-General Irwin McDowell
(1818-1885) was graduated from West Point in 1838, was brevetted captain
for gallantry in the Mexican War and had a notable career in the Civil
Gen. James Birdseye McPherson
(1828-1864) was graduated from West Point in the class of 1853. He was
chief engineer on the staff of General Grant at Vicksburg and was second
in command to General Sherman in the Georgia campaign when he was killed
in the fighting before Atlanta.
The "Fighting McCooks" were the sons
and grandsons of George McCook, who emigrated from the North of Ireland.
The two fathers, Daniel and Dr. John McCook, nine sons of Daniel and five
of John, all were officers in the northern forces—a record probably
unequalled under any flag.
General Irving Adams Gilmore
(1825-1888), another Ohio Scot,. revolutionized naval gunnery in his
bombardment and capture of Fort Pulaski, which brought him international
Gen. Winfield Scott (1786-1866) was
a native of Virginia and a veteran of the War of 1812, the Mexican War and
the Creek and Seminole Wars. He retired shortly after the beginning of the
Civil War to make place for a younger man.
Among other distinguished officers
of Scottish descent were Gen. John A. Logan (1826-1886), a son of Dr. John
Logan, who came to Maryland as a young man, afterward removing
successively to Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois; Col. Alexander Biddle
(1819-1899), of the noted Philadelphia fami]y, who fought with conspicuous
bravery at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg; General Samuel
Wylie Crawford (1829-1892), also of Philadelphia, who as an
assistant-surgeon was with Major Anderson in Fort Sumter during the
bombardment. His successive promotions to the rank of major-general were
all for bravery, at Gettysburg, Five Forks, the Wilderness and in the
Virginia campaign; Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg (1813-1916), of
Pennsylvania, the last surviving Union general who fought at Gettysburg;
the gallant Southern leader, General Albert Sydney Johnston (1803-1862),
who in 1849 handled the Mormon situation with such tact and ability, and
espousing the Confederate cause as a brigadier-general, bade fair at his
untimely death, early in the war, to be the South’s greatest general; and
J. E. B. Stuart (1833-1864), great Confederate cavalry leader.