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Scottish Regiments
The Black Watch - Discipline and Embarking to America


At the period of their arrival in Ireland the uniform of the regiment had a very somber appearance. "The jackets were of a dull rusty-colored red, and no part of the accoutrements was of a light color. Economy was strictly observed in the article of clothing. The old jacket, after being worn a year, was converted into a waistcoat, and the plaid, at the end of two years, was reduced to the philibeg. The hose supplied were of so bad a quality that the men advanced an additional sum to the government price, in order to supply themselves with a better sort. Instead of feathers for their bonnets, they were allowed only a piece of black bear-skin; but the men supplied themselves with ostrich feathers in the modern fashion, and spared no expense in fitting up their bonnets handsomely. The sword-belts were of black leather, two inches and a half in breadth; and a small cartouche-box, fitted only for thirty-two rounds of cartridges, was worn in front above the purse, and fixed round the loins with a thick belt, in which hung the bayonet. In these heavy colors and dark-blue facings the regiment had a far less splendid appearance at a short distance than English regiments with white breeches and belts; but on closer view the line was imposing and warlike. The men possessed what an ingenious author calls 'the attractive beauties of a soldier; sun burnt complexions, a hardy weather-beaten visage, with a penetrating eye, and firm expressive countenance, sinewy and elastic limbs, traces of muscles strongly impressed, indicating capacity in action, and marking experience of service". The personal appearance of the men has, no doubt, varied according as attention was paid to a proper selection of recruits. The appointments have also been different. The first alteration in this respect was made in the year 1769, when the regiment removed to Dublin. At this period the men received white cloth waistcoats, and the colonel supplied them with white goat-skin and buff leather purses, which were deemed an improvement on the vests of red cloth, and the purses made of badgers' skins.

"The officers also improved their dress, by having their jackets embroidered. During the was, however, they wore only a narrow edging of gold-lace round the borders of the facings, and very often no lace at all, epaulettes and all glittering ornaments being laid aside, to render them less conspicuous to the Indians, who always aimed particularly at the officers. During their stay in Ireland the dress of the men underwent very little alteration. The officers had only one suit of embroidery; this fashion being found too expensive was given up, and gold-lace substituted in its stead. Upon ordinary occasions they wore light hangers, using the basket-hilted broadsword only in full dress. They also carried fusils. The sergeants were furnished with carbines instead of the Lochaber axe or halbert, which they formerly carried. The soldiers were provided with new arms when on Dublin duty in 1774. The sergeants had silver-lace on their coats, which they furnished, however, at their own expense".

The regiment remained in Ireland after its return from North America about eight years, in the course of which it was occasionally occupied in different parts of that country in aid of the civil powers, a service in which, from there conciliatory disposition, they were found very useful. While in Ireland, a new company was added, as was the case with all the other regiments on the Irish establishment. Captain James Macpherson, Lieutenant Campbell, and Ensign John Grant, were in consequence appointed to the 42d.

In 1775 the regiment embarked at Donaghadee, and landed at Port Patrick, after an absence from Scotland of thirty-two years. Impelled by characteristic attachment to the country of their birth, many of the old soldiers leaped on shore with enthusiasm, and kissed the earth, which they help up in handfuls. From Port Patrick the regiment marched to Glasgow.

The conduct of the regiment and its mode of discipline while in Ireland is depicted by an intelligent officer who served in it at that time, and for many years both before and after that period, in a communication to General Stewart. He describes the regiment as still possessing the character which it had acquired in Germany and America, although there were not more than eighty of the men remaining who had served in America, and only a few individuals of those who had served in Germany previously to the year 1748. Their attachment to their native dress, and their peculiarity of language, habits, and manners contributed to preserve them a race of men separate from others of the same profession, and to give to their system of regimental discipline a distinctive and peculiar character. Their messes were managed by the non-commissioned officers, or old soldiers, who had charge of the barrack-room; and these messes were always so arranged that in each room the men were in friendship or intimacy with each other, or belonged to the same glen or district, or were connected by some similar tie. By these means every barrack-room was like a family establishment. After the weekly allowances for breakfast, dinner, and small necessaries had been provided, the surplus pay was deposited in a stock purse, each member of the mess drawing for it in his turn. The stock this acquired was soon found worth preserving, and instead of hoarding, they lent it out to the inhabitants, who seemed greatly surprised at seeing a soldier save money. Their accounts with their officers were settled once in three months, and, with the exception of a few careless spendthrifts, all the men purchases their own necessaries, with which they were always abundantly provided. At every settlement of accounts they enjoyed themselves very heartily, but with a strict observance of propriety and good humor; and as the members of each mess considered themselves in a manner answerable for one another's conduct, they animadverted on any impropriety with such severity as to render the interference of further authority unnecessary.

Shortly after the arrival of the regiment in Glasgow two companies were added, and the establishment of the whole regiment augmented to 100 rank and file each company. The battalion, when complete, amounted to 1075 men, including sergeants and drummers. Little inducement was required to fill the ranks, as men were always to be found ready to join a corps in such high estimation. At this time the bounty was a guinea and a crown. It was afterwards increased to three guineas; but this advance had little effect in the north where the esprit de corps ad greater influence than gold.

Hitherto the officers had been entirely Highland and Scotch; but the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, contrary to the remonstrance's of Lord John Murray, who saw the advantage of officering the regiment with natives of Scotland, prevailed with the government to admit two English officers into the regiment. His excellency even went so far as to get two lieutenants' commissions in favor of Scotchmen cancelled, although they had been gazetted.

In consequence of hostilities with America, the regiment was order to embark for that country. Before its departure the recruits were taught the use of the firelock, and, from the shortness of the time allowed, were drilled even by candle-light. New arms and accoutrements were supplied to the men by the government, and the colonel furnished them with broadswords and pistols, iron-stocked, at his own expense. The regiment was reviewed on the 10th of April 1776 by General Sir Adolphus Oughton, and being reported quite complete and unexceptional, embarked on the 14th at Greenock, along with Fraser's Highlanders.

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