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Scottish Regiments
The Black Watch - The West Indies - Guadaloupe


So successful were the officers in recruiting, that within three months seven companies, each 120 men strong, which, with the three additional companies raised the preceding year, were to form the second battalion, were raised in three month, and embodied at Perth in October 1758. The officers appointed to these seven additional companies were Francis MacLean, Alexander Sinclair, John Stewart of Stenton, William Murray, son of Lintrose, Archibald Campbell, Alexander Reid, and Robert Arbuthnot, to be captains; Alexander MacLean, George Grant, George Sinclair, Gordon Clunes, Adam Stewart, John Robertson, son of Lude, John Grant, James Fraser, George Leslie, John Campbell, Alexander Stewart, Duncan Richardson, and Robert Robertson, to be lieutenants; and Patrick Sinclair, John Mackintosh, James MacDuff, Thomas Fletcher, Alexander Donaldson, William MacLean, and William Brown, to be ensigns.

Government having resolved to employ the seven new companies in an expedition against Martinique and Guadaloupe, 200 of the 840 men, embodied at Perth, were immediately embarked at Greenock for the West Indies, under the convoy of the Ludlow Castle, for the purpose of joining the armament lying in Carlisle Bay, destined for that service. The whole land force employed in this expedition amounted to 5560 men, under the command of Major-generals Hopson and Barrington, and of Brigadier-generals Armiger, Haldane, Trapaud, and Clavering. They sailed from Barbadoes on the 13th of January 1759, for Martinique, which they descried next morning; and on the following day the British squadron entered the great bay of Port Royal. About this time the other division of the seven newly raised companies joined the expedition. On the 16th, three ships of the line attacked Fort Negro, the guns of which they soon silenced. A detachment of marines and sailors landing in flat-bottomed boats, clambered up the rock, and, entering through the embrasures with fixed bayonets, took possession of the fort, which had been abandoned by the enemy. The whole French troops retired to Port Royal, leaving the beach open, so that the British forces landed next morning at Cas de Navire without opposition. No enemy being in sight, the grenadiers, the 4th or king's regiment, and the Highlanders, moved forward about ten o'clock to reconnoiter; but they had not proceeded far when they fell in with parties of the enemy, who retired on their approach. When within a short distance of Morne Tortueson, an eminence that overlooked the town and citadel of Port Royal, and the most important post in the island, the advanced party halted till the rest of the army came up. The advancing and retiring parties had kept up an irregular fire when in motion, and they still continued to skirmish. It was observed on this occasion, "that although debarred the use of arms in their own country, the Highlanders showed themselves good marksmen, and had not forgot how to handle their arms". The inhabitants of Martinique were in the greatest alarm, and some of the principal among them were about sending deputies to the British commander to treat for a surrender, but General Hopson relieved them from their anxiety by re-embarking his troops in the evening. The chief reason for abandoning the enterprise was the alleged impracticability of getting up the heavy cannon. The British had one officer killed and two wounded, one of whom was Lieutenant Leslie of the Royal Highlanders. Sixty privates were killed and wounded.

In a political point of view, the possession of Martinique was an object of greater importance than Guadaloupe, as it afforded, from its spacious harbor, a secure retreat to the enemy's fleets. By taking possession of St Pierre, the whole island might have been speedily reduced; and the British commanders proceeded to that part of the island with that view; but alarmed lest they might sustain considerable loss by its capture, which might thus cripple their future operations, they absurdly relinquished their design, and proceeded to Guadaloupe. On the expedition reaching the western division of the island, it was resolved to make a general attack by sea upon the citadel, the town, and the batteries by which it was defended. Accordingly, on the 20th of January, such a fire was opened upon the place that about ten o'clock at night it was in a general conflagration.

The troops landed at five o'clock in the evening of the following day without opposition, and took possession of the town and citadel, which they found entirely abandoned. The Chevalier D'Etreil, the governor of the island, taking shelter among the mountains yielded the honor of continuing the contest to a lady of masculine courage named Ducharmey. Arming her slaves, whom she headed in person, she made several bold attempts upon an advanced post on a hill near the town, occupied by Major (afterwards General) Melville, opposite to which she threw up some entrenchments. Annoyed by the incessant attacks of this amazon, Major Melville attacked her entrenchments, which he carried, after an obstinate resistance. Madame Ducharmey escaped with difficulty, but some of her female companions in arms were taken prisoners. Ten of her people were killed and many wounded. Of the British detachment, 12 were slain and 30 wounded, including two subaltern officers, one of whom, Lieutenant MacLean of the Highlanders, lost an arm.

Finding it impracticable to carry on a campaign among the mountains of Basseterre, the general resolved to transfer the seat of war to the eastern division of the island, called Grandeterre, which was more accessible. Accordingly, on the 10th February, a detachment of Highlanders and marines was landed in that part of the island in the neighbourhood of Fort Louis, after a severe cannonading which lasted six hours. The assailants, sword in hand, drove the enemy from their entrenchments, and, taking possession of the fort, hoisted the English colors.

General Hopson died on the 27th. He was succeeded by General Barrington, who resolved to complete the reduction of the island with vigor. Leaving, therefore, one regiment and a detachment of artillery under Colonel Debrisay in Basseterre, the general re-embarked the rest of the army and proceeded to Grandeterre, where he carried on a series of successful operations by means of detachments. One of these consisting of 600 men, under Colonel Crump, carried the towns of St Anne and St Francis with little loss, notwithstanding the fire from the entrenchments. The only officer who fell was Ensign MacLean of the Highlanders. Another detachment of 300 men took the town of Gosier by storm, and drove the garrison into the woods. The next operation of the general was an attempt to surprise the three towns of Petit Bourg, St Mary's, and Gouyave, on the Capesterre side, the execution of which was committed to Colonels Crump and Clavering; but owing to the extreme darkness of the night, the the incapacity of the negro guides, the attempt was rendered abortive. Resolved to carry these towns, the general directed the same commanders to land their forces in a bay near the town of Arnonville. No opposition was made to their landing by the enemy, who retreated behind a strong entrenchment they had thrown up behind the river Licorn. With the exception of two narrow passes which they had fortified with a redoubt and entrenchments mounted with cannon, which were defended by a large body of militia, the access to the river was rendered inaccessible by a morass covered with mangrove; yet, in spite of these difficulties, the British commanders resolved to hazard an assault. Accordingly, under cover of a fire from the entrenchments from their field-pieces and howitzers, the regiment of Duroure and the Highlanders moved forward, firing by platoons with the utmost regularity as they advanced. Observing the enemy beginning to abandon the first entrenchment on the left, "the Highlanders drew their swords, and, supported by a part of the other regiment, rushed forward with their characteristic impetuosity, and followed the enemy into the redoubt, of which they took possession".

(By private accounts, it appears that the French had formed the most frightful and absurd notions of the Sauvages d'Ecosse. They believed that they would neither take nor give quarter, and that they were so nimble, that, as no man could catch them, so nobody could escape them; that no man had a chance against their broadsword; and that, with a ferocity natural to savages, they made no prisoners, and spared neither man, women, nor child; and as they were always in the front of every action in which they were engaged, it is probable that these notions had no small influence on the nerves of the militia, and perhaps regulars of Guadaloupe". It was always believed by the enemy that the Highlanders amounted to several thousand. This erroneous enumeration of a corps only eight hundred strong, was said to proceed from the frequency of their attacks and annoyance of the outposts of the enemy, who "saw men in the same garb who attacked them yesterday from one direction, again appear t0-day to advance from another, and in this manner ever harassing their advanced position, so as to allow them no rest". - Letters from Guadaloupe).

Several other action of minor importance afterwards took place, in which the enemy were uniformly worsted; and seeing resistance hopeless, they capitulated on the 1st of May, after an arduous struggle of nearly three months. The only Highland officer killed in this expedition was Ensign MacLean. Lieutenants MacLean, Leslie, Sinclair, and Robertson, were wounded; and Major Anstruther and Captain Arbuthnot died of the fever. Of the Royal Highlanders, 106 privates were killed, wounded, or died of disease.

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