A narrative of the principal services of the Regiment, from its formation in 1626, to the battle of Nordlingen, in 1634; and of its subsequent incorporation with the Corps now known as The Royal Scots or First Regiment of Foot of the British Army. This account was extracted from the Transactions of the Gaelic Society and we have created a pdf file of the account but here is how it starts...
When King James VI. of Scotland became also King of England, there followed a lengthened period of peace and quietness throughout the two kingdoms, which was in striking contrast to the warlike and unsettled state of affairs that preceded his reign. For men brought up to arms there was little or nothing to do in their profession at home, and, as they could not remain idle, they looked abroad for military employment. Vast numbers of brave and adventurous men accordingly left Scotland in search of fame and fortune, and took service under the banners of the various princes who were then warring for supremacy on the continent of Europe. There was soon plenty to do. Strong hands and stout hearts were wanted; for, before the first quarter of the seventeenth century had passed, a fierce war was raging, which convulsed the whole of Europe. This was the long and terrible struggle, now known in history as the thirty years’ war. That war had begun by the Elector Palatine (Frederick IV.) accepting the crown of Bohemia, offered to him by the protestants of that country, who were then in the ascendant, and trying to carry everything with a high hand. The Elector had married the Princess Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James VI. of Scotland; and many Scottish cavaliers, afterwards found fighting on the side which became identified as that for the preservation of civil and religious liberty, had joined in the straggle, simply because the Princess was looked upon as one of themselves. This explains how such leaders as Sir Andrew Gray and Sir John Hepburn, and other Roman Catholic gentlemen were found in the protestant ranks. It was the principle of loyal devotion to their King’s daughter that led them to enter the struggle, and not any preference for the Elector rather than the Emperor, for the interests of both rulers were alike indifferent to them. The accepting of the crown of Bohemia by the Elector, led the Emperor of Austria to oppose his claim. Both had their friends and allies, and in a short time the whole of Germany was involved in the struggle.
Prominent among the military adventurers of the time was Sir Donald Mackay. He was born in 1590, had been knighted by King James in 1616, and was just in the prime of life, when, early in 1626, he left his home in the far North and proceeded to London to request permission from King Charles I. to raise a regiment for service abroad. His object, as he informed the King, was to assist Count Mansfeldt, the leader of the Bohemian army, in the war he was then waging on behalf of the Elector against Austria. The King favoured his project, and instructed the Privy Council to grant his request. The requisite commission was issued on 6th March, and in it Sir Donald was authorised to levy and transport 2000 men for the purpose named. He then returned to Scotland, and in a short time nearly 3000 men, levied almost entirely among his own clan and kinsmen, were ready to follow him on foreign service. The regiment was thus easily raised. It consisted of eleven companies; but as no muster roll of the regiment, so far as I know, is now in existence, and as a company in those days numbered from 150 to 300 men, I have not been able to ascertain its strength when it left Scotland. Sir Robert Gordon, in his History, states that he saw the greater part of the levies (that is the 3000 men above-mentioned) embark at Cromarty for the Continent Grant, again, in his Memoirs of Sir John Hepburn, gives the strength of the regiment as only 1500 men, but he adduces no authority for the statement Munro, however, in his Expedition, which is the best authority extant on the history of the regiment, gives certain returns, from which it is evident that the number must have been at least 2000.
No regiment of modem times can show a list of officers superior to those selected by Sir Donald Mackay. Most of them were of good families and position, and better men could not be found. Even among the non-commissioned officers and privates, there were many gentlemen’s sons, and Munro of Fowlis joined as a volunteer.