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The Story of the Royal Scots
Chapter IX - Canada and the West Indies, 1756-1792


Early Days of North America—Canada and the French—The Royals at Louisburg—Fighting the Cherokees—Cuba and the Assault on the Moro—Newfoundland—Brimstone Hill, St. Christopher—Big Sam.

Up to the middle of the eighteenth century The Royal Scots had fought far and wide on the European continent, but outside it only at Tangier for Charles II and in the tragic blunder of the Spanish Main Expedition of 1741. They were now to extend their experience to the New World, but they took no part in the campaigns which established the British Raj in India. Clive and Lawrence had none of the First Foot under their command, and no Indian honour earlier than Nagpore finds a place on the regimental colours.

We therefore turn our attention to North America. The French were the pioneers in the early explorations of Canada, and their first serious settlements were at Port Royal, Nova Scotia, in 1603, and at Quebec and Montreal in 1608. The latter year saw the British established in Virginia.

The discovery of America by Cabot, who sailed from Bristol, was the basis of the British claim to the whole continent, and in 1613 the English Governor of Virginia destroyed the Jesuit settlement at Port Royal by way of emphasizing that contention.

Eight years later a Scottish colony was planted at Port Royal, and the territory was named Nova Scotia.

This was followed by a more vigorous act of aggression in 1627, when some London merchants sent an expedition which captured Quebec and so made Canada British. After the peace of 1632 Charles I restored the new colony to France, but Cromwell retook it in 1654, and it did not go back into Louis the Fourteenth’s possession until 1667.

Concurrently with the foundation of Nova Scotia, the colony of New England was established at New Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts in 1628, and Connecticut and Rhode Island had taken British shape by 1638. So much we owe to the Pilgrim Fathers. By 1664 the Dutch had been turned out of New Amsterdam, which became New York, and by 1680 Pennsylvania was in being; All this time the French Jesuits and adventurers were tightening their hold on the Indians north and west of these eastern seaboard possessions, and by 1680 France claimed everything from the Alleghanies to the Rockies. It took some time before Britain saw what this meant in the strangling of _the new-born oversea trade and in the destruction by the French of the Iroquois Indians who were friendly to Great Britain. Colonel Dongan was Governor of New York and organized the Indians against the French Canadians, but the military efficiency of the French was high; they were well led, and King William at home had his hands too full to send help. Fortunately Louis XIV was likewise fully occupied, as New York could have been captured easily by a French fleet.

The Peace of Ryswick brought an end to a bloody campaign in which French unity scored heavily against the divided counsels of the English colonies.

From then until the Seven Years War, there was sporadic fighting between French and British, the latter now alive to the importance of securing Canada.

The outbreak of the Seven Years War renewed hostilities in the New World, and the French of Cape Breton Island seized Nova Scotia.

The New Yorkers retaliated by taking Louisburg, and Shirley, Governor of Massachusetts, sought English aid to clear the French out of Canada.

Three British regiments arrived to garrison Louisburg, but the expedition led by General St. Clair got no further than Quimperld on the French coast (as narrated in the last chapter), and the colonists had to work out their own salvation, which they did as much by good luck as good management.

Their disgust with the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle may be imagined. Without being consulted they found that Louisburg, so brilliantly won and so laboriously retained, had been handed back to France.

The peace in Europe threw many soldiers out of the ranks, and four thousand veterans were sent to Nova Scotia as settlers, and two regiments to garrison Halifax as a counterpoise to the French fortress of Louisburg.

Between 1749 and 1754 there was incessant trouble, and some fighting between the colonists and the French; Dinwiddie, the Governor of Virginia, was the strong man on the British side, and with him a young fellow of twenty-one, George Washington.

Fighting against the apathy of. the colonies not immediately threatened, as well as against the skill of the French and the savagery of the natives who had been won over to the French side, the situation looked desperate.

Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburg) was lost, and the Ohio River became a French stream. Washington himself was driven to capitulate with his little force to the French on May 27. The Home Government moved at last, and sent two regiments in January of 1755 under the command of General Braddock. Washington joined his staff in May, and the force marched on Fort Duquesne. By July 8 Braddock was near his objective on the Monongahela river. The French and their Indian allies were carefully hidden, and the British redcoats marched to their death. They had no knowledge of this forest warfare, and when they fell back—a broken rabble—they carried with them Braddock in his death agony. He was a man of the Cumberland mould, a brutal martinet, but of a courage which his blunders only throw into greater relief. Five hundred men alone returned of fourteen hundred, and the French loss was trifling. Nor were the forces of the Colonials more successful in their attacks on Crown Point and Niagara : they achieved nothing in this year of disaster but the taking of Fort Beausejour; and the opening weeks of 1756 saw France and England in open warfare both in North America and Europe. Parliament was now alive to the significance of the struggle, after long blindness, and new regiments were raised, the Fiftieth to the Fifty-ninth. In March the Sixtieth began to be recruited. By June the war had so far developed in the Mediterranean that Minorca was lost to us, and things went no less disastrously in America. The only good thing to record was the resignation of the incompetent Newcastle, and the accession to power of William Pitt, under the Duke of Devonshire, at the end of the year. His policy rapidly developed; two regiments of Highlanders were raised; the artillery and marines were augmented; the Militia Bill was introduced; in the new year a new spirit was abroad.

Thus much it has been necessary to set out, in order to make clear the nature of the quarrel in which The Royals were to take a hand.

The first battalion remained this year in Ireland, but the second sailed for Halifax with seven others and arrived there in July. They came under the command of the Earl of Loudoun, with five other battalions, and were detached for the capture of Cape Breton Island and its capital, the fort of Louisburg, but nothing was done during 1757 but exercise the troops and instruct them in the growing of vegetables!

In the following May, they sailed with Amherst and effected a brilliant landing under General James Wolfe. By July Louisburg surrendered, but not without an arduous siege, in which The Royals lost two officers. From then until now Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island have never been out of British possession. Meanwhile Abercrombie's attack on Ticonderoga Fort, Lake Champlain, had failed badly, and Amherst shipped five regiments, including The Second Royals, to Boston in September and joined up with Abercrombie on Lake George.

It was not until the following summer that a new move was made against the French positions on Lake Champlain. Fort Ticonderoga was blown up by the French on July 25, and Crown Point, to which they retreated, was abandoned soon after. The enemy had armed vessels on the lake, and Amherst could do no more until he had built ships to attack them. They were ready by October, but the season was too late for further operations with Montreal as objective, and The Royals went into winter quarters at New Jersey.

In September Quebec had fallen to Wolfe, a victory purchased at the price of that heroic soldier’s death.

During this and the previous years the Cherokee Indians had been harrying settlers in the southern provinces, and it became necessary to deal with this local danger. A punitive force of thirteen hundred men, including four hundred Royals, was detached under Colonel Montgomery for South Carolina, and annihilated several Indian bands. The British had now learnt the ways of forest warfare and were undismayed by the fierce whoops and deadly sniping of the redmen. The casualties were heavy, but the slaughtered settlers were avenged. Meanwhile the other four companies had returned to Crown Point and were present when the French Governor of Montreal surrendered the city in September. Amherst’s deliberate strategy and able organization had at length wrung from France her Canadian Empire, and the work had been done in face of inconceivable difficulties.

But the American service of The Royals was not ended. The Cherokees again proved intractable, and a new campaign against them was opened. The four companies, with some few others, marched up country in South Carolina and laid waste the Indian villages until the redmen sued for peace.

Meanwhile the two flank companies remained in garrison in New York, and the four which had been at Montreal embarked for Guadeloupe, whence they sailed to Dominica and took part in the capture of that island. There is some doubt whether they were engaged in the later attack on Martinique.

The following year saw the four companies, which had been in the Cherokee expedition, shipped from Charleston to the Barbadoes, whence they joined the expedition against Havannah, in Cuba, an outcome of the new war with Spain. The main feature of these operations was the siege of the Moro Fort, and The Royals were with the force detailed for the assault. It was largely an affair of sappers and miners, but when a breach was blown in the fortifications more than half The Royals were engaged with the storming party, and did their part to admiration. The Spaniards were driven from the walls and fell back on Havannah, which capitulated on August 13, much to the comfort of Albemarle, the British commander, for his men were dying like flies from disease.

In this year the two companies which had been left in New York took part in the operations which turned the French out of St. John's, Newfoundland.

On peace being declared, the Havannah companies returned home in September and the rest followed later in the year, so that the whole of the second battalion was reunited at Carlisle by the last day of December. The service of The Royals had been as varied as successful.

During the seven years some events of regimental interest had taken place. Sir Henry Erskine, who had been colonel since 1762, died in 1765, and was succeeded by John, Marquess of Lorne, afterwards Duke of Argyll. The regiment was for a time described as

Lome’s, but by 1767 the practice of designating a regiment by its colonel’s name fell into disuse, and the number was marked on buttons, as it had been on colours, drums, and on the caps of the Grenadier companies since 1747. In 1768 the first battalion went into garrison at Gibraltar.

In the following year the regiment petitioned for the re-establishment of the ranks of drum major and piper, which had lapsed for some years, but without success, and in 1770-1771 both battalions were authorized to add a Light company. In 1771 the second battalion took up garrison duty in Minorca, and there remained until 1776.

In 1780 it took its share in suppressing the Gordon Riots, and the first battalion went in 1781 to the Dutch Island of St. Eustqrtia, which surrendered without serious fighting. It was moved later to St. Christopher.

In the following January a French fleet appeared before the island, and the little British force was besieged in an old fort on Brimstone Hill by greatly superior forces. Admiral Hood’s arrival with his fleet and some troops did not help them, and the French slowly closed around the devoted garrison. The enemy’s batteries had disabled nearly all the guns on the hill, and the local militia had deserted in large numbers, but still The Royals and a few odd companies of other units held to their post.

Eventually the situation became hopeless, and surrender was inevitable. However, they marched out with all the honours of war, and were allowed to return to England on parole until exchanged, a formality which was completed by May. In this year Lord Adam Gordon became colonel.

In 1783 there joined the first battalion a man named Samuel M'Donald, or Big Sam, who rejoiced not only in a height of 6 ft. 10 in., but also in extraordinary strength. Some anecdotes told about him are worth repeating:

"Being placed sentry over a piece of ordnance, he suddenly appeared in the guard room witn it over his shoulder, remarking: "What’s the use of standing out on a cold night, watching that bit of iron? I can watch it as well in here.’”

"Asked by a comrade to fetch a loaf down off a high shelf, he took the man by the neck and, holding him up at arm’s length, said: ‘Tak it down yersel’”

"In Dublin, being twitted by a butcher about his strength, he made no reply till the butcher, pointing to a large carcase, said: ‘It is yours if you could carry it home.' Sam, thinking of his comrades, shouldered it, and carried it two miles back to Richmond Barracks.”

The next few years yield nothing of interest, and we may bring this chapter to a close with the end of 1792, which found the first battalion in garrison at Jamaica, and the second in Ireland.


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