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The Scot Abroad
Chapter 2 - The Soldier - Part 1


The Dugald Dalgetties—The divisions at home carried out abroad—Scotsmen on both sides of the Thirty Years’ War Monro Grey Hepburn The Leslies—The Jacobite refugees—The Keith Family—The Earl Marischal—The Field-Marshal---The Seven Years’ War and Frederick the Great—Sotsmen in Russian adventures—Patrick Gordon in search of employment—His eminence in the Russian service—Peter the Great—Admiral Greig.

THESE chapters are not arranged on any principle of precedence or order among the classes of men who figure in them. We had a good deal of soldiering in the first volume; and now having had an interval of literature, it may be as well to get back to the field, were it only to be rid of the dust of the book-shelves.

The greater and far the more important portion of the military services of Scotsmen in foreign countries belongs to the history of the Old League, so that this chapter is much shortened by what has been already said. We have seen how in that contest the Scots troops were purified of the taint that attaches to absolutely mercenary soldiers, because they were fighting the sworn enemy of their country on foreign soil. Their successors, who continued to swarm into other countries, could scarcely claim so high a place in the scale of motives; but even they stood in a higher place than absolute mercenries, like the Italian Condottieri, who were trained to the trade of serving any master who paid them, and killing any persons they were paid to kill, without any question as to the religion or the nationality of either side, or the question at issue between them. The Scots generally enjoyed the respectability of being engaged in their own quarrel. The union of the crowns could not entirely obliterate the old feuds, and the contests between the Cavaliers and their opponents was in Scotland tinged by the influence of the old feud with England and the friendship with France. In the next political epoch the Jacobites represented the French party and the Hanoverians the English.

From those who went into foreign battle-fields under such influences the dignity of the old ardent nationality had departed. They were fighting for a party, not for a country, and carried abroad with them the unseemly characteristics of civil strife.

Sir Thomas Urquhart, the most delightfully sanguine of authors, is fain to derive consolation from this peculiarity—it helps him to the conclusion that the Scots are an unconquered people; for wherever, in any great battle in the Thirty Years’ War, they are beaten on one side, they mush for that very reason, have been victorious on the other.

It scarcely reconciles one to this theory to recall the powerful picture presented in Scott’s Dugald Dalgetty. It is not from an uninstructed or inaccurate hand, for Scott’s fictions contain fuller revelations on many features in the career of his own country than the histories of the gravest and dreariest of her investigators. Severity towards his countrymen is not a charge that can with any sincerity be brought against him; but if he had his allegiance to nationality, he had also his allegiance to art to give effect to. He had to make a picture—he made it without positive departure from the truth; but still Dugald—who is not without his virtues either—is taken from a rather extreme type of the Scots trooper of the Thirty Years’ War.

I am not, therefore, inclined to accede to the truth and justice of the denunciation put into the mouth of the young Earl of Menteith, when he says, "Shame on the pack of these mercenary swordsmen! they have made the name of Scot throughout all Europe equivalent to that of a pitiful mercenary, who knows neither honour nor principle but his month’s pay; who transfers his allegiance from standard to standard at the pleasure of fortune and the highest bidder; and to whose insatiable thirst for plunder and warm quarters we owe much of that civil dissension which is now turning our swords against our own bowels."

Sir James Turner, it is true, speaks of having imbibed a touch of this spirit in foreign warfare. But even he, though somewhat notorious as a rough-handed and unscrupulous leader, alludes to it, with regret and penitence, as an error of his youth. "I had swallowed," he say; "without chewing, in Germanie, a very dangerous maxime which militarie men there too much follow, which was, that soe we serve our master honestlie, it is no matter what master we serve." But no vestiges of such lax morality will be found in the ‘Expeditions’ of old Robert Monro, whence Scott drew his materials for the character and habits of the Rittmaster. Other defects it has in abundance. The title-page, beginning with "Monro, his expedition with the worthy Scots regiment (called M’Keyes regiment) levied in August 1626 by Sir Ronald M’Key, Lord Rhees, colonel for his Majesty’s service of Denmark, &c. &c.," is of itself a piece of tough and tedious reading. The confusion, ambiguity, and verbose prolixity of the narrative, involve the reader in immediate hopelessness, and keep him in perpetual doubt of the period, the persons, and the part of the world to which his attention is called. Far from being the production of an illiterate soldier who despises learning, it is saturated in a mass of irrelevant erudition. But it affords fine clear glimpses here and there of the character and habits of the Scottish cavalier of fortune; and on these Scott has seized with his usual practical sagacity. "Sir," says our friend Dugald, "I have been made to stand guard eight hours, being from twelve at noon to eight o’clock of the night, at the palace, armed with back and breast, headpiece and bracelets, being iron to the teeth, in a bitter frost, and the ice was as hard as ever was flint" These words are taken precisely from Monro, with a material alteration to heighten the picture for northern readers, after the example of the Greenland missionary in his description of the place of torment. Instead of a "bitter frost," Monro says, "in a hot summer-day, till I was aweary of my life;" and oddly enough adds, "which ever after made me the more strict in punishing those under my command." So wholesome, we suppose, had he found the lesson.

But while there are such resemblances and identities as this, we shall search in vain through Monro’s prolixities for the greedy and mercenary spirit which is made to inspire the talk of the otherwise single-minded and honourable soldado, as if it were the current slang of his trade, which he could not help mechanically imbibing. Monro has a thorough, and perhaps a rather ludicrous, sense of the worth of himself and his comrades. He speaks of "my Lord Spynie being present with his regiment, consisting of brave and valorous officers, being all worthy cavaliers of noble descent and of good families, having action, valour, and breeding answerable to their charges; they were desirous to gain honour and credit against a powerful enemy with whom they were engaged." "It is the property of our nation," he says, "an army being near, in time of alarm to be in readiness before any other nation." And when Stralsund obtains Sir Alexander Leslie for a governor instead of luxuriating, after Dalgetty’s manner, in a contemplation of that fortunate soldier’s privileges and allowances, he enlarges on the special blessing bestowed on the community in having obtained a Scotsman for their ruler—" And what a blessing it was to get a good, wise, virtuous, and valiant governor in time of their greatest trouble; which shows that we are governed by a power above us." And so, becoming more eloquent by degrees on the good fortune of Stralsund and the merits of his countrymen, he concludes: "It faring then with Stralsund as with Sara: she became fruitful when she could not believe it, and they became flourishing, having gotten a Scots governor to protect them, whom they looked not for, which was a good omen unto them, to get a governor of the nation that was never conquered; which made them the only town in Germany free as yet from the imperial yoke by the valour of our nation, which defended their city in their greatest danger."

But there are better things even than this nationality in Monro’s unreadable book. The sentiments following appear to be just and commendable, and in every way honourable to the heart and head of the person uttering them:-

"Continency is a virtue very necessary for a soldier, for abstaining from many inordinate appetites that follow his profession, that he may the better suffer hunger, cold, thirst, nakedness, travel, toyl, heat, and what else, patiently, never mutinying for any defect,—for it is the greatest victory we can attain unto, to overcome ourselves and our appetites."

"It is also very necessary, at such service, if we have time, that we be careful to bring off our comrades’ bodies killed on service, that died honourably before their enemies, to be laid in the bed of honour, in burying their bodies as becomes Christians. We are also tied in duty to our comrades that were with us in danger if either they be wounded or mutilated, to care for their safeties so far as lieth in our power. And we must not prefer the safety of our own bodies to the public weal of our comrades or countrymen dead or living, but we ought, with the hazard of our own lives, to bring off the dead and hurt."

The contest which ended in the independence of the United Provinces saw Scot contending with Scot, and fighting out in the Dutch marshes the bitter animosities which desolated their own mountain homes. The Scots in the service of the States were formed into a separate body, known in their own country as the Dutch Regiments, and in Holland as the Scottish Brigade. In the curious annals of the house of Seton there is an account of the adventures of George Lord Seton, who, an enthusiastic follower of Queen Mary, was found by the government of the States endeavouring to seduce the Scottish troops over to the side of Spain and the Queen of Scots. "The rebellious States of Holland," says the indignant family historian, "did imprison and condemn the said George to ride the cannon;" and he only escaped a worse fate through the earnest intervention of his countrymen, who would not see a kindly Scot sacrificed to foreign vengeance, however readily they would themselves have cut him down in fair contest. In this Scottish corps, a short time before the Revolution, there were, if we may believe an anecdote which rests chiefly on tradition, two rival claimants for promotion, of totally opposite genius and character, whose rivalry was extinguished in a memorable contest—John Grahame of Claverhouse, and Mackay of Scourie, the leader of the Revolution army at the battle of Killiecrankie. Mackay, though he showed himself so far inferior to his opponent in the genius of war, was a man of remarkable attainments in the organisation of warfare. We owe to him one of the greatest improvements of modern warfare—the fixed bayonet, which enabled the soldier to charge immediately after fire, instead of waiting to be cut down in the attempt to screw the blade upon the barrel.

The cause of the Elector Palatine—the husband of the daughter of King James—attracted the national sympathies of the Scots. In 1620, a considerable body of adventurers, recruited to that service by Sir Andrew Grey, found their way to Bohemia through marvellous difficulties. But the cause to which they had devoted themselves was abandoned by its head, and they found themselves in the forlorn and alarming position of an army without a leader, and, what was worse, without a paymaster. Their position, in its difficulties, was not unlike that of the Ten Thousand. But while the Greeks were so totally alien in personal and national habits from the Oriental tribes whose territories they required to pierce, that an amalgamation with them was not to be anticipated, Sir Andrew Grey’s contingent, mixing with mercenary soldiers of all countries, would undoubtedly have been individually absorbed into corps belonging to other nations, but for their peculiar nationality, which kept them together as a separate body. They served for some time under the banners of Mansfeldt, then assisted the Dutch against Spinola, and passed into the hands of the King of Denmark.

They at last found their true master in Gustavus Adoiphus, who knew their qualities well, and made full use of them in building up the great fabric of his fame. Mr Grant enumerates thirteen regiments of Scottish infantry in his service; and many other corps in his great army, where the pikemen were Swedes, English, or Germans, had Scottish officers. The great events of later warfare have not eclipsed the brilliant achievements of this hosts or rendered less wonderful the stride in effective discipline accomplished under the command of the King of Sweden. And if we are not to concentrate the glory, as well of every dashing enterprise as of the great advancement in discipline and strategy, entirely upon the crowned leader of this wonderful army, Scotland is entitled to a large—perhaps the chief— share in its aggregate fame.

"The misfortune," says Colonel Mitchell in his ‘Life of Wallenstein,’ "which befell a detachment of seven hundred Scotch soldiers, under the command of Colonel Robert Monro, deserves to be recorded, as it shows what courage and resolution can effect even in situations that appear hopeless."

While on their way to join the Swedish army they were shipwrecked. Managing to get ashore on rafts, they found that they were eighty miles from the Swedish outposts, and on the island of Rugen, all the fortresses of which were in the hands of Imperialists. They had landed their arms, but they had no ammunition; and, as Monro remarks, "the enemy being near, our resolution behoved to be short." He managed to find an old dismantled castle, which seems to have been left in the hands of its feudal owner, found to be a secret partisan of Gustavus. For some powder and shot, if he could furnish it, Monro offered to clear away the Imperialists. Getting into the old castle secretly, the Scots pounced, in the middle of the night, on the Imperialists, prepared for attack from without, but not from within; and as the nature and quantity of the force so unexpectedly appearing could not be estimated, the usual effect of a panic followed, and Monro performed his promise of clearing off the Imperialists. When the island was deserted by them, he managed to hold it against all comers, and it was a very valuable acquisition to the side of the Swedes. He made good the post till relieved by his countryman, Sir John Hepburn, and then both were in a position to act with effect.

Hepburn blockaded Colberg. The great Montecuculi was sent to relieve the place, and it was important that he should be stopped on his way. Monro, with some companies of Scottish infantry, found a defensible post in Schevelin, on the Regá. Montecuculi, with his large force, haughtily called on them to capitulate, and not interrupt his passage. Monro, inspired with an epigrammatic spirit, answered that he did not find the word "capitulation" in his instructions. The Scots defended the place bitterly. They were obliged to burn the town; but they held the castle until the exasperated Italian abandoned the attack and retired. Thus, in Colonel Mitchell’s words, "the future rival of Turenne, having lost both time and men before an old ruinous castle, was unable to relieve Colberg, which surrendered shortly after."

Their gallant efforts were not always so fortunate. A thousand of them served with an equal number of Swedes in the defence of New Brandenburg. With a wall in ruins, a moat nearly filled up, and only a couple of falconets, or two-pounders, as their whole artillery, they were surrounded by Tilly’s army, provided with a perfect battering-train. An accidental blunder made them deem it their duty to hold out Instructions to capitulate on terms had been transmitted, and miscarried. It cost Tilly a long contest and two thousand men, and he took payment in the slaughter of the garrison. Colonel Mitchell, to whose investigations our knowledge of this incident is owing, tells us that "in the old town records, which give an afflicting account of the cruelty exercised towards the citizens, a Scotch nobleman, called Earl Lintz [Lindsay?], is mentioned as having defended his post long after all other resistance had ceased." "This nine days’ defence," he says, "of an old rampart without artillery, proves how much determined soldiers can effect behind stone walls; and is exceedingly valuable in an age that has seen first-rate fortresses, fully armed, surrender before any part of the works had been injured—often, indeed, at the very first summons."

In no way, perhaps, can a better general idea of the importance of, the Scottish troops in the wars of Gustavus be formed than by a perusal of the ‘Memoirs of a Cavalier,’ attributed in the critical world by a sort of acclamation to De Foe. Some have maintained, to be sure, that it must have been printed off from the actual diary or memorandum-book of an English gentleman volunteer. But as evidence that it has been corrected by a descriptive pen, one little particular will be sufficient. Ignorant of the provincial character of the force which entered England under Leslie, before the treaty of Berwick, as Lowland Scottish Covenanters, the author, under the supposition that they were Highlanders, gives a very picturesque description of them, drawn from the experience of the march to Preston in 1715. This alone is sufficient to show that, if the narrative be taken from the memoranda of one who actually served, it has been decorated for the press; and where was then the pen save De Foe’s that could have given it so searching and specific an individuality?

The Scottish contingent holds the first place throughout the narrative, and the presumption that it was perfected by De Foe—probably from the rude journal of some soldier unskilled in letters— does not incline me to question the justice of the merit assigned to our countrymen. De Foe was not their friend; he was a thorough "true-born Englishman ;" and when we read his distinct and animated account of the services of the Scots, we must presume that he is communicating the actual statements contained in the journal of an English cavalier; or, in the supposition of the narrative being purely inventive, that its ingenious author constructed it out of such materials as would be capable, from their substantial truthfulness, of standing the test of investigation. The Castle of Marienburg, for instance, is to be attacked. It stands on a steep rock, with strong outworks, and the garrison is large and well found. The cavalier, when describing its capture, says, "The Scots were chosen out to make this attack, and the King was an eyewitness of their gallantry. In this action Sir John [Hepburn] was not commanded out, but Sir James Ramsay led them on: but I observed that most of the Scotch officers in the other regiments prepared to serve as volunteers, for the honour of their countrymen, and Sir John Hepburn led them on. I was resolved to see this piece of service, and therefore joined myself to the volunteers. We were armed with partizans, and each man two pistols at our belt. It was a piece of service that seemed perfectly desperate: the advantage of the hill; the precipice we were to mount; the height of the bastion; the resolute courage and number of the garrison, who from a complete covert made a terrible fire upon us,—all joined to make the action hopeless. But the fury of the Scots musketeers was not to be abated by any difficulties: they mounted the hill, scaled the works like madmen—running upon the enemy’s pikes; and after two hours’ desperate fight, in the middle of fire and smoke, took it by storm, and put all the garrison to the sword." The cavalier tells us that he was, on Sir James Ramsay being disabled, intrusted with the command of 200 Scots, "all that were left of a gallant regiment of 2000 Scots which the King brought out of Sweden with him under that brave colonel." Along with the remaining 200 there were thirty officers, who, having lost their men, "served as reformadoes with the regiment." They were in the town of Oppenheim, which they were instructed to hold, while Gustavus and Hepburn attacked the castle garrisoned by 800 Spaniards. The cavalier says that the reformadoes came running to him, saying that they believed, if he would give them leave, they could enter the castle by a surprise, and take it sword in hand. "I told them I durst not give them orders, my commission being only to keep and defend the town; but they being very importunate, I told them they were volunteers and might do what they pleased, that I would lend them fifty men, and draw up the rest to second them or bring them off as I saw occasion, so as I might not hazard the town. This was as much as they desired. They sallied immediately, and in a trice the volunteers scaled the port, cut in pieces the guard, and burst open the gate, at which the fifty entered." "The Spaniards were knocked down by the Scots before they knew what the matter was, and the King and Sir John Hepburn, advancing to storm, were surprised when, instead of resistance, they saw the Spaniards throwing themselves over the wall to avoid the fury of the Scots." Even the iron rigidity of Gustavus must unbend to so brilliant a disregard of discipline. His reception of the successful storming - party is told briefly enough, but with much character. "The King came on and entered on foot. I received him at the head of the Scots reformadoes, who all saluted him with their pikes. The King gave them his hat, and, turning about—’Brave Scots—brave Scots,’ says he, smiling, ‘you were too quick for me.’" He had a speedy opportunity, according to the cavalier, of seeing the mettle of these restless spirits in the attack on Creutznach. "The first party," says the cavalier, "were not able to make anything of it; the garrison fought with so much fury that many of the volunteer gentlemen being wounded, and some killed, the rest were beaten off with loss." The King was dis-pleased, and ordered the assault to be renewed. It was now the turn of the reformado Scots volunteers. "Our Scots officers," says the cavalier expressively, "not being used to be beaten, advanced immediately," and the work was accomplished.

They were not so satisfactory in the execution of some of the work which Gustavus wanted done, and the national pride came out occasionally in a way which so rigid a disciplinarian did not like. At the siege of Frankfort he ordered Monro one evening to construct a mining line of approach before morning. The General kept his men at work as well as he could, but Gustavus was much displeased at the scant progress they had made, and, forgetting his usual caution in such matters, he gave utterance to a general remark that "the Scots, however excellent in the open field, were too lazy and too proud to work, even in cases of the utmost extremity, which abated more than one-half of their military merit."

The army of Gustavus sent back to Scotland many a military commander trained and instructed to bear a share in the wars that were to desolate Britain. Among these were the two Leslies—Alexander, who led the Covenanting troops to the English border; and the far more skilful David Leslie, Lord Newark, who divided with Cromwell the fame of victory at Marston Moor. The distance by which Scotsmen were in that age severed from each other in opinion and party, is forcibly recalled by the recollection that the name of Leslie was nearly as memorable in the Imperial camp as in that of the Swede. Near the hill of Benochie stands the ruined Castle of Balquhain—a stern, simple, square block, as destitute of decoration or architectural peculiarity as any stone boulder on the adjoining moor. A cadet of the Leslies of Balquhain became a Count of the Empire, and Imperial ambassador to Constantinople. The service which proved the foundation of his eminent fortunes is not one to be dwelt on with satisfaction. His name is too well known in connection with the death of Wallenstein. His son James, who succeeded to his hereditary honours and his lordship of Neustadt, gained a worthier fame in the defence of Vienna against the Turks.

I here, before stepping onwards to a later period, offer an enumeration of Scotsmen in the German wars by the loquacious Sir Thomas Urquhart. It is not liable, by the way, to the reproach of his usual wandering profuseness of language—its leading defect, on the other hand, is its too great resemblance to a muster-roll. It is after he has been enlarging on the older services of his countrymen that he winds up:—

"Nor did their succession so far degenerate from the race of so worthy progenitors, but that even of late (although before the intestine garboyles of this island) several of them have for their fidelity, valor, and gallantry, been exceedingly renowned over all France, Spaine, the Venetian territories, Pole, Moscovy, the Low-countryes, Swedland, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, and other states and kingdoms; as may appear by General Rutherford, my Lord General Sir James Spence of Woriniston, afterwards by the Swedish king created Earl of Orcholm; Sir Patrick Ruthven, governor of Ulme, general of an army of High-Germans, and afterwards Earl of Forth and Branford; Sir Alexander Leslie, governor of the cities along the Baltick coast, field-marshal over the army in Westphalia, and afterwards intitled Scoticani foederis supremus dux; General James King, afterwards made Lord Ythen; Colonel David Leslie, commander of a regiment of horse over the Dutch, and afterwards in these our domestic wars advanced to be lieutenant - general of both horse and foot; Major-General Thomas Ker; Sir David Drummond, general-major, and governor of Statin in Pomerania; Sir George Douglas, colonel, and afterwards employed in embassies betwixt the soveraigns of Britain and Swedland; Colonel George Lindsay, Earl of Craford; Colonel Lord Forbes; Colonel Lord Saint Colme; Colonel Lodowick Leslie, and in the late troubles at home, governor of Berwick and Tinmouth-sheels; Colonel Sir James Ramsey, governor of Hanaw; Colonel Alexander Ramsey, governor of Crafzenach, and quartermaster-general to the Duke of Wymar; Colonel William Baillie, afterwards in these our intestin broyls promoved to the charge of lieutenant-general; another Colonel Ramsey, besides any of the former two, whose name I cannot hit upon; Sir James Lumsden, colonel in Germany, and afterwards governor of Newcastle, and general-major in the Scottish wars; Sir George Cunningham, Sir John Ruthven, Sir John Hamilton, Sir John Meldrum, Sir Arthur Forbes, Sir Frederick Hamilton, Sir James Hamilton, Sir Francis Ruthven, Sir John Innes, Sir William Balantine; and several other knights, all colonels of horse or foot in the Swedish wars.

"As likewise by Colonel Alexander Hamilton, agnamed Dear Sandy, who afterwards in Scotland was made General of the Artillery, for that in some measure he had exerced the same charge in Dutch-land, under the command of Marquis James Hamilton, whose generalship over six thousand English in the Swedish service I had almost forgot, by Colonel Robert Cunningham;" but I must really spare the reader two-thirds of this portentous list, and skip for him to the conclusion. "Colonel Alexander Cunningham, Colonel Finess Forbes, Colonel David Edinton, Colonel Sandilands, Colonel Walter Leckie, and divers others Scottish colonels, what of horse and foot (many whereof within a short space thereafter, attained to be general persons) under the command of Gustavus the Caesaromastix, who confided so much in the valour, loyalty, and discretion of the Scottish nation, and they reciprocally in the gallantry, affection, and magnanimity of him, that immediately after the battle at Leipsich, in one place, and at one time, he had six-and-thirty Scottish colonels about him; whereof some did command a whole brigad of horse, some a brigad composed of two regiments, half horse, half foot; and others a brigad made up of foot only, without horse: some againe had the command of a regiment of horse only, without foot: some of a regiment of horse alone, without more; and others of a regiment of dragoons: the half of the names of which colonels are not here inserted, though they were men of notable prowesse, and in martial atchievements of most exquisite dexterity; whose regiments were commonly distinguished by the diversity of nations of which they are severally composed; many regiments of English, Scots, Danes, Sweds, Fins, Liflanders, Laplanders, High-Dutch, and other nations serving in that confederate war of Germany under the command of Scottish colonels."


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