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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Keith's and Campbell's Highlanders
or
Eighty-Seventh and Eighty-Eighth Regiments
1759

An active war brings into contrast and rivalry the physical powers and intellectual capacities of mankind, and shows that success in the field as frequently depends on pre-eminent courage and physical strength, as on mere numbers. The wars in which Great Britain has been engaged, since the middle of the last century, introduced the military character of the Scotch Highlanders to the notice of the Government of the country, and to that of the world in general. From the time of their first introduction into the British army they have maintained the reputation of brave and trust-worthy soldiers. By the military of those European nations who have either served with, or been opposed to them in the field, they are almost never mentioned but in terms of respect bordering on admiration. This military character, allowed equally by friends and foes, I have endeavoured to account for, by reference to the modes, habits, and feelings, which anteriorly prevailed, and which were cherished in their native country.

The education which Highlanders, in former ages, received, in their native glens, moulded their minds by impressions more vivid and permanent, than any which can be conveyed in formal systems of scholastic instruction, and was naturally calculated to produce firmness of character in the intercourse of civil life, and to prepare them, as soldiers, for encountering the severest trials of war.

The feudal system, or patriarchal government of the clans, however startling and inconsistent the proposition may appear to many, generated and cherished a spirit of independence and self-respect, which, in a very eminent degree, tended to preserve principles correct and character unsullied; and it also secured to the Highlanders an education which fitted them for the station they were destined to hold in civil and military society. They were taught to believe themselves descended of persons distinguished for bravery and virtue from a remote antiquity. Hence the desire of preserving the honour of a respected ancestry stimulated them to daring actions in the field, as the dread of becoming a reproach to their memory deterred from the commission of crime in the common intercourse of life. "The Highlander was thus brave as a soldier, decorous and correct in his moral conduct. His exterior aspect might be rugged, but the soul was lofty and enthusiastic; capable at once of receiving and retaining honourable impressions." [Jackson's Military Characteristics.]

It was from among these Highlanders, of the ancient school, that two regiments, commanded by Major Robert Murray Keith, and Major John Campbell of Dunoon, were formed. Major Keith had served in the Scotch Brigade, in Holland, and, after the death of his illustrious relative, Field Marshal Keith, at the battle of Hochkirchen in 1758, had returned to Scotland, where he was appointed to command three newly raised companies of Highlanders, consisting of 105 men each. With this small corps, he joined the allied army in Germany, under Prince Ferdinand, in August 1759.

The opinion early formed of this corps may be estimated from the circumstance of their having been ordered to attack the enemy the third day after they arrived in the camp of the allies. In what manner this duty was executed may be learned from the following statement:"The Highlanders under Major Keith, supported by the Hussars of Luchner, who commanded the whole detachment, attacked the village of Eyback, sword in hand, where Beau Fremonte's regiment of dragoons were posted, and routed them with great slaughter. The greater part of the regiment was killed, and many prisoners taken, together with two hundred horses and all their baggage. The Highlanders distinguished themselves greatly by their intrepidity, which was the more remarkable, as they were no other than raw recruits just arrived from their own country, and altogether unacquainted with regular discipline." [Smollett's History of England.]

By the recommendation of Prince Ferdinand, founded on a favourable opinion of the conduct of this little corps, orders were given to augment it to 800 men, with officers in proportion; and, at the same time, to raise another regiment in the Highlands, both of which were to be placed under the command of his Serene Highness. The latter corps was to be of the same strength, and the command was given to John Campbell of Dunoon, reserving liberty to the Earls of Sutherland and Breadalbane, the Lairds of Macleod and Innes, and other gentlemen in the North, to appoint captains and officers to companies raised on their respective estates. Lord Breadalbane recommended Major Macnab, son of Macnab, Captain Archibald Campbell, brother of Achallader, John Campbell of Auch, and other officers. Macleod raised a company in the Isle of Sky, to which he appointed his nephew Captain Fothringham of Powrie. [A daughter of Hugh, tenth Lord Lovat, married, first, the Laird of Macleod, secondly, the Earl of Cromartie, and lastly, Fothringham of Powrie. She bore sons to each of her husbands, and thus made three distinguished families, Macleod, Cromartie, and Powrie, brothers.] All the men were raised in the counties of Argyle, Perth, Inverness, Ross, and Sutherland. A few weeks only were required to fill the ranks from that range of country.

When the men had marched down from the Highlands, Keith's regiment was embodied at Perth, and Campbell's at Stirling. Of the officers of both regiments, there were alive, in 1823, the Duke of Roxburghe, then Captain James Innes, [Sir James Innes of Innes, Chief of that name and ancient family, succeeded, as heir of line, to the estate and dukedom of Roxburghe in the year 1810.] Mr Grant of Tullochgorum, a lieutenant, and Mr Campbell of Auch, an ensign.

These two battalions being embodied at the same time, and ordered on the same service, officers were promoted and removed from the one to the other in the manner practised, at a latter period, when second battalions were added to regiments. They were embarked for Germany, and joined the allied army under Prince Ferdinand, in 1760. Though they had but little time for discipline, and none for experience, they were placed in the Grenadier Brigade, a distinguished honour for so young a corps.

The campaign having opened on the 29th of July 1760, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick marched from the camp at Kalle, with a body of troops, including the two English battalions of Grenadiers, the two of Highlanders, and four squadrons of Cope's and Conway's dragoons; and, on the 30th, in a smart action, near Warburg, defeated the enemy with considerable loss. Prince Ferdinand wrote to King George II. an account of the battle; and, after stating the relative losses of the enemy and of the allies, fixing the former at 1500 men, and more than an equal number prisoners, he adds, that "ours, which was moderate, fell chiefly upon Maxwell's brave battalion of English Grenadiers, and the two regiments of Scots Highlanders, which did wonders. Colonel Beckwith, who commanded the whole brigade formed of English Grenadiers and Scots Highlanders, distinguished himself greatly."

Immediately after this piece of service, another was attempted with equal success. On the night of the 5th of August, the army marched to Zeirenberg (Maxwell's battalions of Grenadiers and the Highlanders forming the head of the column), and advanced to within two miles of the fortress in sight of the enemy's fires. The corps above mentioned proceeded by different roads, and in profound silence, to the attack of the place, which was carried in the most gallant manner. "The Scots Highlanders mounted the breaches sword in hand, supported by the Chasseurs. The column of English Grenadiers advanced in great order, and with the greatest silence. In short, the service was complete, and the troops displayed equal courage, soldier-like conduct, and activity." [Military Memoirs.] Another account states, that "the Brigade formed of Grenadiers and Highlanders distinguished themselves remarkably upon this occasion." [Hague Gazette.] The brigade afterwards returned to Warburg, where they remained till the 5th of October 1760, when, having received orders to join the Hereditary Prince, they proceeded with all expedition, and, on the 14th, arrived at a very critical moment, when the allied army, having been attacked by Marshal de Castries, was compelled to retire, and take up a position near the Convent of Campvere.

The Prince being joined by Lieutenant-General Wald-erave's and Major-General de Bork's corps, determined to attack the Marshal in his turn, before the arrival of some expected reinforcements. The action which ensued was well sustained from five till nine in the morning, when the Prince gave orders to retreat, and again left his antagonist in possession of the field of battle. In this affair the Highlanders were actively engaged in different parts of the field. "They were in the first column of attack, were the last to retreat, and kept their ground in the face of every disadvantage, even after the troops on their right and left had retired. The Highlanders were so exasperated with the loss they sustained, that it was with difficulty they could be withdrawn, when Colonel Campbell received orders, from an aide-de-camp sent by the Prince, desiring him to retreat, as to persist in maintaining his position longer would be an useless waste of human life."

The night before the battle, Major Pollock was sent, with one hundred men of the Grenadiers, and one hundred of Keith's, to surprise the Convent of Closter Camp, where the enemy had a strong detachment, and where it was believed Marshal de Castries and several general officers of France intended to pass the night. Major Pollock succeeded in cutting off several sentinels without noise, and excited no alarm till he came to the sentinel of the main guard, on whom he rushed, running him through the body with his sword. But the thrust not being immediately mortal, the wounded man turned round upon his antagonist and shot him with a pistol, upon which they both fell dead. This alarmed the enemy, who prepared for the attack; and their opponents being equally ready, a general action commenced, and concluded in the manner above stated. [At this time the corps was joined by a reinforcement of 400 men from Johnson's Highlanders, and soon afterwards by 200 of Macleans.]

It does not appear that these two battalions, who had now acquired the character of veteran soldiers, were again engaged till the battle of Fellinghausen in July 1761. On that occasion their conduct was honoured by a flattering mark of approbation from the Commander-in-Chief. "His Serene Highness, Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, has been graciously pleased to order Colonel Beckwith to signify to the brigade he has the honour to command, his entire approbation of their conduct on the 15th and 16th of July. The soldier-like perseverance of the Highland regiments in resisting and repulsing the repeated attacks of the chosen troops of France, has deservedly gained them the highest honour. The ardour and activity with which the Grenadiers pushed and pursued the enemy, and the trophies they have taken, justly entitle them to the highest encomiums. The intrepidity of the little band of Highlanders merits the greatest praise." Colonel Beckwith, communicating these orders of his Serene Highness, adds, "The humanity and generosity with which the soldiers treated the great flock of prisoners they took, does them as much honour as their subduing the enemy." [On this occasion Major Archibald Campbell of Achallader was killed in leading his men against the chosen troops of France. This officer's talents, high spirit, and military genius, attracted great notice on one occasion, by a spirited dash, with a few of his Highlanders, against a detachment of the enemy which had unexpectedly pushed forward to the quarters of General Griffin, afterwards Lord Howard of Walden; he dispersed five times his own number, and rescued General Griffin, who had been taken by the enemy. For this piece of service Captain Campbell was promoted, the week before he was killed. He was brother to Achallader, whose classical learning and accomplishments attracted the notice of Lord Lyttleton.] While these soldiers were thus supporting the honour of their country, their humanity, their upright principles, and their conciliating manners in quarters, were equally the objects of approbation. Indeed, the latter part of their character was considered as still more remarkable than the former. In regard to their conduct and character, nearly the same absurd anticipations had been formed in Germany as in many parts of Great Britain. The Highlanders were, in both countries, regarded as semi-barbarians, to whom courage and the other warlike virtues might be allowed, but from whom urbanity towards strangers kindness to prisoners, and general regularity of conduct, were not, by any means, to be expected: when discovered, therefore, they excited the more surprise. [No trait in the character of these corps was more particularly noticed than respect paid by the men to their chaplain, Mr Macauley, and the influence which he possessed over their minds and actions. Many of the men, when they got into any little scrape, were more anxious to conceal it from the chaplain than from the commanding officer.]

Nothing worthy of notice occurred till June 1762, when these corps formed a part of the troops under Prince Ferdinand, in the successful attack on the French army at Graib-enstein, under the command of the Marshals d'Estrees and Soubies. The victory was, in itself, so complete, and obtained with so little loss, that it appeared rather the result of surprise than of a regular engagement. The loss of the enemy in killed, wounded, and prisoners, amounted to upwards of 4000, including two hundred officers; while the loss of the allies did not exceed 700 men. The British Guards, Granadiers, and Highlanders, were, on this occasion, under the command of the Marquis of Granby, "who acquitted himself with remarkable valour, and had a great share in the victory. Our troops behaved with a bravery not to be paralleled, especially our Grenadiers and Highlanders. The Guards and Hodgson's (the 5th regiment) behaved nobly, and took as many prisoners as they had men."

Various passages have at different times been quoted from periodical and other publications, for the purpose of showing the impression made in England and other countries, by the appearance of the Scotch mountaineers in their native garb; and it may not, perhaps, be uninteresting to give some idea of the feelings they excited, and the opinions entertained of them among our German allies. With this view I shall copy a curious article which appeared in the Vienna Gazette of that year, and which communicates some singular intelligence respecting our countrymen. They are there described as running wild, like savages, in their native woods and mountains, and as ignorant of the principles of Christianity; but capable of becoming good and useful subjects when converted from Heathenism. "The Scotch Highlanders are a people totally different in their dress, manners, and temper, from the other inhabitants of Britain. They are caught in the mountains when young, and still run with a surprising degree of swiftness. As they are strangers to fear, they make very good soldiers when disciplined. The men are of low stature, and the most of them old or very young. They discover an extraordinary submission and love for their officers, who are all young and handsome. I From the goodness of their dispositions in every thing, for the boors are much better treated by these savages than by the polished French and English ; from the goodness of their disposition, which, by the by, shows the rectitude of human nature before it is vitiated by example or prejudice, it is to be hoped that their King's laudable, though late, endeavours to civilize and instruct them in the principles of Christianity, will meet with success." To this account it is added, that the "French held them at first in great contempt, but they have met with them so often of late, and seen them in the front of so many battles, that they firmly believe that there are twelve battalions of them in the army instead of two. Broglio himself has lately said, that he once wished that he was a man of six feet high, but that now he is reconciled to his size, since he has seen the wonders performed by the little mountaineers."

During the remainder of this campaign, military operations were continued with considerable spirit and enterprise, although negotiations for a general peace had already commenced, and were in a state of great forwardness. Different skirmishes and rencounters happened with various success, but without any decided advantage to either side. These affairs, however, led, on the 12th of August, to an engage ment of considerable magnitude. On that day the Heredi-tary Prince attacked the French who were posted on the heights of Johannisberg, near the banks of the Weir. After a desperate conflict, the Hereditary Prince, who was severely wounded in the hip-bone, was forced to retreat with the loss of more than 3000 men killed, wounded, and prisoners. There were no British troops in this affair, except Elliott's dragoons, and the picquets under Lord Frederick Cavendish.

On the 21st of September, another obstinate action took place at Brucher Muhl, remarkable for the perseverance with which each side contended for the possession of the small post which defended the bridge at that place. The Allies occupied a redoubt on one side of the road, and the French a mill on the other; the engagement commenced between two small bodies with a few guns, but as the action grew warm, the artillery was gradually augmented to twenty-five pieces of heavy cannon on each side. The Allies had originally but one hundred men in this post, but before the contest was decided, seventeen regiments were engaged, one successively relieving another, after they had exhausted their ammunition. A constant fire was supported by these bodies, without intermission, for fifteen hours, from the dawn of day till nightfall. Neither side gave way; and this resolute contest for a trifling object left the combatants in their former situation; the Allies in possession of their redoubt, and the French of their mill. In this long contested struggle the Allies lost 600 men in killed and wounded. The troops were so well covered in the redoubt, that the principal loss was sustained in passing and repassing when the regiments were relieved. This, in some measure, accounts for the small loss in so long an action, and with so many corps engaged.

After every engagement, some mark of favour was shown to these two corps. Major Archibald Macnab was appointed additional Lieutenant-Colonel, Captain John Murray succeeded Major M'Lean, killed, and Lieutenants Gordon Clunes, James Fraser, William Mackintosh, and Alexander Duff of Muirtown, were appointed captains, with the lieutenants and ensigns in succession.

The siege of Cassel, and its surrender to the allies, on the 1st of November, followed these operations. But while Prince Ferdinand was preparing to lay siege to Zurenberg, a conclusion was put to all farther hostilities, by the notification to both armies of the signature of the preliminaries of peace. This took place on the 15th of November 1762, and thus ended three campaigns, highly honourable to the courage and character of the British army, which, as it was uniformly placed in the post of danger, obtained a high degree of celebrity. Of this reputation, "the little band of Highlanders" earned their full share. As they had been placed in the same brigade with the Grenadiers, and often opposed to "the chosen troops of France," over whom they were uniformly victorious, their military character was, accordingly, well established.

After this, the two regiments were ordered home, and, on their march through Holland, were received, in various towns, with acclamations, the women presenting laurel leaves to the soldiers, and even the children attempting to imitate their garb and broad swords. Some said that these indications of approbation arose from the respect with which they and their broad swords had inspired the common enemy, while others attributed this kind feeling to the friendship and intimacy which had subsisted between the Dutch and the soldiers of the Scotch Brigade, so long established in Holland; and asserted, that the esteem now exhibited by the people was only a share of that which the Brigade had always enjoyed. Whatever may have been the cause, the reception was equally honourable to both parties.

The regiments embarked at Williamstadt, and landing at Tilbury Fort, marched to Scotland. Though hospitably received in all the towns through which they passed, their reception at Derby was the most remarkable. No payment was taken from them for quarters, and subscriptions were raised to give gratuities to the men. For their cordial reception here, as well as in Holland, different motives were assigned. While some asserted that the whole was done in testimony of respect for military gallantry, and the services they had performed for their country, others alleged, that it originated in, and was called forth by, less loyal motives. The Highlanders, they alleged, were supposed to be Jacobites, as many in the north-western counties of England at that time were; and the people remembered with gratitude, that the rebels had conducted themselves with unexampled regularity in Derby, and had respected the property and persons of the inhabitants. Nor was it forgotten, though they were in open insurrection, and in situations where the greatest turbulence and licentiousness were to be expected, that nothing of the kind had occurred, and that no ill usage or insult had been offered by those men, who, as a gentleman in Derby, writing at the time to a friend, remarked, "said grace with great seeming devotion, before and after meals, like any Christian."

When they arrived in Scotland, Keith's regiment was marched to Perth, and Campbell's to Linlithgow, and both were reduced in July 1763.

At Linlithgow one of those unfortunate collisions of opinion occurred, of which there have been too frequent instances in corps of this description. I have had occasion, more than once, to notice that a Highland soldier of the old school was orderly, steady, obedient, and attached to officers who merited respect. But then, to ensure this respect, strict justice must have been done him, great regard must have been had to his feelings, and, in all his pecuniary transactions with his officers, he must have observed in them the most perfect accuracy and honour. Let these pre-requires exist, and a Highlander will abandon his post and his life together. In the hurry of the campaign, new clothing had not been served out to the soldiers for the year 1763, and when they were disbanded, it was thought they had no occasion for military uniforms. The soldiers thought otherwise, and said that they were fully entitled to pay, clothing, and all that had been promised, and was therefore due to them. The thing was at first resisted, but the men persevering, it was at length acquiesced in, and an allowance in money given them in lieu of the clothing. In this resistance to authority, for the support of what they considered their rights, some indications of violence, very opposite to their previous exemplary conduct, were manifested. But no disrespect was shown to their officers, nor was any blame imputed to them. On the contrary, the confidence reposed in them by the soldiers remained unshaken. This was particularly remarked in the company of Captain Innes, the late Duke of Roxburghe, who were much attached to their young and high-spirited commander.

The following return of killed and wounded will show the loss sustained by the two regiments from 1760 to 1763.

Names of Officers Killed.

Camphen,
Major Pollock.
Lieut, William Ogilvie.
Alex. Macleod.
Fellinghausen, Major Archibald Campbell of Achallader.
Fellinghausen, Lieut. William Ross.
John Grant.
Brucher Muhl, Major Alexander Maclean.

Names of Officers Wounded.

Warburg,
Lieut. Walter Ogilvie.
Camphen,
Capt. A. Campbell of Achallader.
Lieut. Gordon Clunes.
Arch. Stewart.
Ang. Mackintosh of Killachy.
Walter Barland.
Fellinghausen, Major
Arch. Macnab.
Capt. James Fraser.
Fellinghausen,
Lieut. Arch.Macarthur.
Pat. Campbell.
John Mackintosh, brother of Killachy, and father of Sir Jas. Macintosh, M. P.
Brucher Muhl,
Capt. Pat. Campbell.
Lieut. Walter Barland.


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