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


Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Seventy-eighth Regiment
or
Ross-shire Highlanders, First Battalion
1793

In 1793, and the succeeding years, the whole strength and resources of the United Empire were called into action. In the northern corner of the kingdom a full proportion of its disposable resources was produced. A people struggling against the disadvantages of a boisterous climate, and barren soil, could not be expected to contribute money. But the personal services of the young and active were ready, when required, for the defence of the liberty and independence of their country. The men whom these districts sent forth, in the hour of danger, possessed that vigour and hardihood peculiar to an agricultural and pastoral life. As a proof of this, in late years, when typhus and other epidemic diseases were prevalent in the South, it was so different in the mountains, that, except in cases where infection was carried from the Low country, few instances of typhus or other contagious distempers occurred, and where they actually broke out, they did not spread, as might naturally have been expected, from the confined and small dwellings of the Highland peasantry,a fact only to be accounted for from their habitual temperance, and that robust vigour of constitution produced by sobriety and exercise.

It may, therefore, be allowed that the effective national defence which the agricultural population afford the State is to be valued beyond a numerical force of another description, in so far as a man, whose strength of constitution enables him to serve his country for a term of years, though subjected to privations and changes of climate, is more valuable than the man whose constitution gives way in half the time. This remark applies forcibly in the present instance. Indeed, where sickness has prevailed among Highland soldiers, it has in general been occasioned less by fatigue, privations, or exposure to cold, than from the nature of the provisions, particularly animal food, and from clothing unnecessarily warm. [In 1805, the second battalion of the 78th regiment, newly raised, and composed of nearly 600 boys from the Highlands, was quartered in Kent where many of the finest looking lads were attacked with inflammatory diseases, preceded by eruptions on the skin, arising entirely from the quantity of animal food suddenly introduced into the system, previously accustomed to barley and oatmeal, or vegetable diet. The stomachs of many rejected the quantity of animal food supplied, and it was not till the following year that they were fully seasoned.] In the march through Holland and Westphalia in 1794 and 1795, when the cold was so in-tense that brandy froze in bottles, the Highlanders, consisting of the 78th, 79th, and the new recruits of the 42d, (very young soldiers), wore their kilts, and yet the loss was out of all comparison less than that sustained by some other corps. [During the whole of that campaign, from the landing at Ostend, in June 1794, till the embarkation at Bremenlee, in May 1795, the number killed and died of sickness in the 42d regiment was only twenty-six men.] Producing so many defenders of the liberty, honour, and independence of the State, as these mountains have done, and of which an aggregate statement will be given, they might have been saved from a system which tends ultimately to change the character, if not altogether to extirpate their hardy inhabitants. We have heard of the despotic institutions of the Mesta in Spain, which provide that the lands and pastures shall be cleared for the royal flocks, who are driven from district to district for subsistence. The monopoly of farms, which expatriates a numerous and virtuous race, is a species of Mesta, greatly more ruinous to the ancient inhabitants than that so justly complained of in Spain. Whether it proceeds from the privileges of an absolute monarch, or the power of engrossing wealth, we find that monopoly and despotism are frequently analogous in their ultimate result, although they may differ in the means to which they may resort for their attainment.

Individual severity as certainly generates disaffection to the commonwealth, as the political sins and oppressions of the government. However, the loyalty of Highlanders is not easily alienated; for, although the engrossing of farms, and removal of the old occupiers, caused such discontent in the county of Ross, that the people broke out in open violence [See Article 42d Regiment, vol. I. page 416.] in the year 1792, and the recruiting for the 42d and other regiments was materially affected, yet, whenever the general welfare and honour of the country were called in question, and war declared, all complaints seemed to be buried in oblivion. And as the Frasers, who had been one of the most active, numerous, and efficient clans in the Rebellion of 1745, were the first, in the year 1756, to come forth in his Majesty's service, under the very leader who had headed them at Culloden, and, in like manner, in the American war, when the 71st, or Fraser's Highlanders, was the first regiment embodied; so now, in the same country, whither, but two years before, troops had been ordered to repair, by forced marches, to quell the riotous discontents of the people, the first regiment raised in the late war was completed in a few months, after letters of service had been granted to the late Lord Seaforth. When completed it was numbered the 78th (the old establishment of the army being 77 regiments), the regiment raised by his predecessor the Earl of Seaforth, in the year 1779, having the same number. This regiment, however, was not raised with the same expedition as in former times. Probably some lurking feel-ings of dissatisfaction at the late proceedings and depopulations still remained. The desolate appearance of the once populous glens, the seats of happiness and contentment, too strongly commemorated these hated proceedings; especially as the people were, at the same time, uncertain whether a similar fate awaited themselves. But, notwithstanding of these appalling discouragements of patriotic and chivalrous feeling, the first establishment of the regiment was completed, and embodied by Lieutenant-General Sir Hector Munro at Fort George on the 10th of July 1793. Five companies were immediately embarked for Guernsey, where they were brigaded with the other troops under the command of the Earl of Moira. The other five companies landed in Guernsey in September 1793.

This was an excellent body of men, healthy, vigorous, and efficient; attached and obedient to their officers, temperate and regular; in short, possessing those principles of integrity and moral conduct, which constitute a valuable soldier. The duty of officers was easy with such men, who only required to be told what duty was expected of them. A young officer, endowed with sufficient judgment to direct them in the field, possessing energy and spirit to ensure the respect and confidence of soldiers, and prepared, on every occasion, to show them the eye of the enemy, need not desire a command that would sooner, and more permanently, establish his professional character, if employed on an active campaign, than that of 1000 such men as composed this regiment.

Among these men desertion was unknown, and corporal punishment unnecessary. The detestation and disgrace of such a mode of punishment would have rendered a man infamous in his own estimation, and an outcast from the society of his country and kindred. Fortunately for these men, they were placed under the command of an officer well calculated for the charge. Born among themselves, of a family which they were accustomed to respect, and possessing both judgment and temper, he perfectly understood their character, and ensured their esteem and regard. Many brave honest soldiers have been lost from the want of such men at their head. The appointment of a commander to a corps so composed, is a subject of deep importance. Colonel Mackenzie knew his men, and the value which they attached to a good name, by tarnishing which they would bring shame on their country and kindred. In case of any misconduct, he had only to remonstrate, or threaten to transmit to their parents a report of their misbehaviour. This was, indeed, to them a grievous punishment, acting, like the curse of Kehania, as a perpetual banishment from a country to which they could not return with a bad character. For several years, during which he commanded the regiment, he seldom had occasion to resort to any other restraint. The same system was followed up with such success by his immediate successors, Lieutenant-Colonels Randoll Mackenzie, John Mackenzie (Gairloch), and Alexander Adams, who successively commanded the regiment, that, after being many years in India, "very little change occurred in the behaviour of the men, except that they had become more addicted to liquor than formerly. Selling regimental necessaries, or disorderly conduct in barracks, were very uncommon, and the higher crimes totally unknown. They were steady and economical, lived much among themselves, seldom mixed with other corps, were much attached to many of their officers, and extremely national. The climate of India preventing the officers from so frequently visiting or being so much among them as when in Europe, lessened the knowledge and intimacy that had previously subsisted between them, but by no means did away their reliance and confidence in each other." No officer enjoyed this confidence more than Colonel Adams. Although not a Celtic Highlander of Scotland, he was a Celt of Wales; and had he been from the Highlands of Ross, he could not have been more acceptable to the soldiers, who Were fortunate in having, for many years, a commander who so fully appreciated the peculiar traits of their dispositions. He joined the regiment at the formation when very young, entered readily into their feelings and peculiarities, and looked upon them with more indulgence than many of their own countrymen.

The following is a list of the original officers. Commissions dated 8th of March 1793.


In September 1794, the 78th, along with the 80th regiment, embarked from Guernsey to join an expedition form-jric under the command of Major-General Lord Mulgrave, intended to occupy Zealand. By an unpardonable neglect, the troops were put on board transports recently arrived from the West Indies, with a number of prisoners, of whom many had died of fever on the passage. Without any inspection, the same bedding was served out to the troops, who, as might have been anticipated, caught the infection. By great care it was, however, prevented from spreading; and when the fleet reached Flushing, the 78th, 79th, 80th, 84th, and 85th, received orders to join the Duke of York's army on the Waal. Lord Mulgrave was to return with the other corps to England. In the middle of October the Highlanders reached Tuil, and marched from thence to the village of Roscum, on the Bommil Wart on the Maese. The opposite bank was occupied by the enemy in force. Nothing occurred beyond popping shots across the river. One of these causing a false alarm, an emigrant Dutch artillery officer, by some misapprehension or ignorance of the language, fired a gun loaded with case shot, and desperately wounded Lieutenant Archibald Christie of the 78th, and a sergeant, who were standing in the range of the shot, giving directions to a sentinel. Lieutenant Christie, who is now Commandant-General of Hospitals, suffered extremely, for many years, from the severity of the wound received by so unfortunate and provoking an occurrence.

[While the troops lay at this post, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Mackenzie Fraser, much attention was excited by the regularity with which a battery on the other side of the river opened a smart fire whenever any portion of the troops happened to be under arms, although not seen by the enemy.

At last it was observed, that, before the fire commenced, a wind-mill, on the same side with the British, always put its wings in motion. This excited suspicion, and it was discovered that the miller had concerted signals with the enemy. The man was seized, and ordered to be hanged immediately, but, by the humane interference of Colonel Mackenzie, he was pardoned. Instances, such as this are not perhaps sufficient to indicate the general feelings of a country, but so many occurred during this campaign, that it is not easy to withhold concurrence in the general opinion, that the Dutch were hostile to the British on every occasion when they could display that feeling with impunity.]

The enemy having laid siege to Nimeguen, the 78th was ordered to reinforce the garrison, from which a sortie was made, on the 4th of November, by the 8th, 27th, 28th, 55th, 63d, and 78th Highlanders, along with some cavalry and Dutch troops. In this their maiden service, the Highlanders did justice to the expectations formed of them. They moved forward under a very heavy fire, and leapt into the trenches, in the midst of a French battalion drawn up ready to receive them. These they attacked and overthrew with the bayonet, reserving their powder till the enemy had fled beyond reach. An affair of such close fighting was soon decided, with a loss to the British of only 12 rank and file killed; 12 officers, 10 sergeants, 149 rank and file, wounded; of whom the Highlanders lost 7 rank and file killed; Major Malcom, Captains Hugh Munro and Colin Mackenzie, Lieutenant Bayley, Ensign Martin Cameron, (who died of wounds), and 4 sergeants, and 56 rank and file, wounded.

[The greater part of the wounds were given by musketry, when the troops were advancing to the batteries. A musket ball entered the outward edge of Captain Munro's left eye, and passing under the bridge of the nose through the right, carried away both eyes, without leaving the least mark or disfiguration, farther than the blank in the eyes shot away. He was quite well in a few weeks, and has since taught himself to write a short letter with much correctness, and to play on several musical instruments. He is now a judicious agriculturist, and spirited improver of his estate. As the Sergeant Major leapt into the trenches, a ball struck him high up on the outside of the right thigh, passed down to the knee, and entering the left leg in the calf, came out at the ankle, but, as it touched no bone, it did not disable him above ten days, notwithstanding the circuitous direction it followed, running round so many bones.]

The enemy having advanced with an overpowering force, Nimeguen was evacuated on the 6th, and, on the 10th, the Highland regiment was removed to the 3d brigade or reserve, consisting of the 12th, Lieutenant-Colonel Perryn, 33d, the Honourable Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Wellesley, and the 42d, Major William Dickson; the whole being under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Mackenzie Fraser.

In this position they lay till the 29th of December, when the enemy crossed the Waal on the ice, at Bommill. The right wing of the British immediately marched, and concentrated at Khiel, under the command of Major-General David Dundas, and, the same night, moved forward on a position of the enemy at Tuil, which, however, they evacuated on the approach of the British. Brevet-Major Murray, and some men of the Light company 78th, were killed by a distant cannonade, as the troops were advancing.

The army lay on the snow for two nights, and, on the 31st, were put into barns till they were removed to Gildermalsen, on which place the enemy advanced in force on the 5th of January 1795. The 78th was drawn up in two wings in front of the village, leaving the road open between the wings, and having the Light company, with two howitzer guns, in advance. The 42d, in support, occupied the different avenues to the village; the 12th and 19th regiments were at some distance to the right, and the 33d, with a squadron of the 11th dragoons, in the advanced post of Meteren. The enemy made his attack with such vivacity, that the outposts were quickly driven in. A regiment of French Hussars, dressed in an uniform similar to that of the emigrant regiment of Choiseul in our service, pushed forward under cover of this deception, and gallopped along the road, with great fury, crying "Choiseul, Choiseul!" This so far succeeded, that they were allowed to get close to the advanced company of the 78th before the truth was discover-ed, when they were instantly attacked and checked, but not sufficiently to prevent a part pushing, at full speed, through the intervals between the two wings towards the village. Here they were met by the Light company of the 42d, whose fire drove them back, and scattered them in an instant. When the attacking column of the enemy's infantry perceived that their cavalry had got through, beyond the first line, they advanced with great boldness, singing the Carmagnole March. The 78th reserved their fire till the enemy nearly closed upon them, when it was opened with such effect, that they were driven back in great confusion. The repulse of the cavalry and infantry was so complete and expeditious, that the loss of the Highlanders was trifling; [When the light troops and cavalry in advance were forced to retire, they left the guns in possession of the enemy, who pushed so far forward, that their cavalry got mixed with the Light infantry; but a company of the 78th, under Lieutenant David Forbes, stationed a little to the right of the road, fired with such good aim, as to kill and wound many of the enemy, without touching any of our own people, although in the line of the fire.] that of the 78th being Captain Duncan Munro wounded, and a few soldiers killed and wounded. [At this time one of those artifices was exhibited by which the French, on many occasions during the Revolutionary war, laid the foundation of their victories. An inhabitant, in one of the quarters, opened his stores, and sold liquor to the soldiers in large quantities, at a price so much below value as to create suspicion that the object was to intoxicate the soldiers, and render them incapable of resistance. This was confirmed in the morning by the apprehension of a man at the outposts, sent forward by the enemy to ascertain the effects of the stratagem. It is well known that the French frequently tamper ed with their enemy, and that they found individuals infamous enough to sacrifice their own honour, and the best interests of their country. But they have ever evinced their respect for the character of the British army so far, that there is not an instance in the late war of an attempt to seduce an officer from his. duty. But, although this respect has been shown to the character of officers, the unhappy propensity of our soldiers to liquor was not thought proof against temptation, and might have succeeded in this instance, had not the distribution of the liquor been checked.]

After this affair the regiment accompanied the movements of the army through this campaign, and in the severe march to Deventer, the difficulty of which, occasioned by the depth of the falling snow, and the intense cold, has been only surpassed by the late disastrous campaign of the French in Russia. On the 28th of April they reached Bremen, embarked in a few days afterwards, and landed at Harwich on the 10th of May; and, after different movements, were, early in August, put under the command of the Earl of Moira, in the neighbourhood of Southampton, together with the 12th, 80th, and 90th regiments, preparatory to an expedition in support of the French Royalists in La Vende.


Of this battalion 560 were of the same country and character as the first, and 190 from different parts of Scotland. In August they embarked at Fort George for England, and remained stationary there till April 1795, when six companies embarked in an expedition under Vice-Admiral Keith, Elphinstone and Major-General James Henry Craig, for an attack on the Cape of Good Hope. After the capture of this colony, which was purchased with the loss of a few men killed, and Major Monypenny, Captain Hercules Scott, and five men, wounded, the battalion remained in garrison under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Mackenzie of Fairburn.

I now return to the first battalion, which, as already mentioned, together with the 12th, 80th, and 90th regiments, was placed under the command of the Earl of Moira, and detached in August 1795, under Major-General W. Ellis Doyle, as the advance of a more considerable armament, to follow under his Lordship, to make an impression in favour of and to support the Royalists in La Vendee. The Royalists had established a strong position at Quiberon, but they were unfortunately attacked by a great force, and overpowered, before the reinforcement from England arrived. Being thus enabled to land in face of the numerous armies which the French had brought to the coast, the expedition landed on Isle Dieu, and established a post on that island, from whence they menaced different parts of the opposite coast, till January 1796, when the place was evacuated, and the troops returned to England. The 78th marched to Pool, where orders were received to embark for the East Indies. Both battalions were to be formed into one, and the junior officers of each rank to retire on full pay till otherwise provided for.

At this time Colonel Lord Seaforth resigned, retaining his rank in the army. On the 6th of March the regiment embarked at Portsmouth, and landed at the Cape of Good Hope on the 1st of June 1796. Both battalions were now consolidated, the supernumerary officers and men ordered home, and a very effective and healthy body of men (consisting of 970 Highlanders, 129 Lowlanders, and 14 English and Irish) formed, which sailed for Bengal on the 10th of November, (having previously witnessed the surrender of a large Dutch fleet at Saldanha Bay), and, after a long passage, in which the scurvy made its appearance on board some of the ships, but not to a great extent, landed at Fort William on the 12th of February 1797, and, a few days afterwards, marched to Burhampore.

During six years' residence in different cantonments in Bengal, no material event occurred. The corps sustained throughout a character every way exemplary. The commanding officer's system of discipline, and his substitution of censure for punishment, attracted much attention. [The temperate habits of the soldiers, and Colonel Mackenzie's mode of punishment, by a threat to inform his parents of the misconduct of a delinquent, or to send an unfavourable character of him to his native country, attracted the notice of all India. Their sobriety was such, that it was necessary to restrict them from selling or giving away the usual allowance of liquor to other soldiers. ] Every friend of humanity, and of the honour of the British army, must earnestly wish that the same system were more generally adopted. It might, doubtless, be extended, by attention to the feelings and peculiar habits of men. If a sense of honour, national spirit, and pride, were once instilled and kept alive among them, the main point would be gained. When fully persuaded that the character and good name of their country were confided to their charge, they would feel the weight of such a responsibility, and would be convinced that courage is only one of the many virtues necessary to sustain and perpetuate the national honour.

In reference to Colonel Mackenzie Fraser's mode of discipline, I may add, that, in the twenty-five years during which the first battalion has been established, there has no been one desertion among the men enlisted in the Highlands. [There were in this battalion nearly 300 men from Lord Seaforth's estate in the Lewis. Several years elapsed before any of these men were charged, with a crime deserving severe punishment. In 1799 a man was tried and punished. This so shocked his comrades, that he was put out of their society as a degraded man, who brought shame on his kindred. The unfortunate outcast felt his own degradation so much, that he became unhappy and desperate; and Colonel Mackenzie, to save him from destruction, applied and got him sent to England, where his disgrace would be unknown and unnoticed. It happened as Colonel Mackenzie had expected, for he quite recovered his character. By the humane consideration of his commander, a man was thus saved from that ruin which a repetition of severity would have rendered inevitable.]

Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie Fraser left India in 1800 and was succeeded in the command by Colonel J. Randoll Mackenzie, who also returned to England in 1802, when the command devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel John Mackenzie (Gairloch), and then on Lieutenant-Colonel Adams; but in all these changes the system of discipline continued the same. In February 1803 the regiment embarked at Fort William in Bengal, and, landing at Bombay in April, were ordered to join the army commanded by Colonel John Murray. After some movements under this officer, the battalion was removed to the army commanded by Major-General the Honourable Arthur Wellesley, and placed in brigade with the 80th and the 1st European and 3d Native battalions, under Lieutenant-Colonel Harness. Lieutenant-Colonel Wallace commanded the brigade formed of the 74th, with the same number of European and Native regiments. The Cavalry brigade, of the 19th Light dragoons and Native cavalry, were under Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell. Each corps of infantry and cavalry had two guns attached. A corps of pioneers, and a considerable force of Mysore and Mahratta horse, accompanied the army. The whole were well equipped for service, and had a sufficient supply of provisions. In short, no precautions were neglected to secure that success which soon distinguished its exertions. The order of march was equally well regulated. The line of baggage, an object of much importance in Indian warfare, kept close to the columns; both flanks and the rear being covered by corps of Native horse. In this order the army commenced its march on the 2d of June 1803, and, after many delays, encamped, early in August, within eight miles of Ahmednaggur. On the 8th of the month General Wellesley resolved to attempt the town by assault. The army was formed in three columns, the flank companies of the 74th and 78th Highlanders being the advanced guard. The other two columns were led by the battalion companies of the same corps. The latter met with little resistance, the principal efforts of the enemy being directed against the advanced guard, which had also to overcome a perplexing obstacle. The walls were high and narrow, without a rampart, or any place for the soldiers to obtain a footing on, after they had gained the top. Unable to advance, and disdaining to retreat, every man who had reached the top was killed on the spot; but, notwithstanding, the enemy were so intimidated, that they surrendered the town without farther resistance. The 78th regiment lost Captains F. Mackenzie Humberstone and Duncan Grant, Lieutenant Anderson, and 12 men, killed, and Lieutenant Larkins and 5 men wounded. [On this occasion the spirit and animation of a subaltern of the 78th regiment (now Major-General Sir Colin Campbell), particularly attracted General Wellesley's notice. He was appointed extra aid-de-camp the following day, and has ever since been in his family and confidence. It is remarkable that this officer, like his illustrious patron, has never been wounded, although present in every battle fought by the Duke of Wellington from Assaye to Waterloo.]

After this service, the army resumed its forward movements. In the progress of many long and harassing marches, the General made arrangements so admirable and so easily comprehended, that no orders were given for halting or marching, or taking ground to the right or to the left, beyond the tap of a drum, or a signal from a bugle-horn. The troops were so well provided with supplies, and all movements so regulated, that the soldiers were never unnecessarily exposed; and, although many of the marches were very fatiguing, all impediments were so well guarded against, and foreseen, that on no occasion was it necessary to be on the march at unseasonable hours.

On the 21st of September, the army found itself within a short march of two numerous bodies of the enemy, under the command of Scindia and the Rajah of Berar. Colonel Stephenson, with a detachment of the Bombay army, was also within a day's march ; and the two British commanders having met on the 22d, measures were concerted for a joint attack on the enemy, who, it was feared, would not hazard , a general engagement. Each army continued its separate line of march and, on the morning of the 23d, General Wellesley received intelligence that the enemy's cavalry were already on their retreat, and the infantry, then only distant a few miles, preparing to follow. The case being now too urgent to wait for Colonel Stephenson, the General ordered the troops to march instantly, while he himself hastened forward with the cavalry to reconnoitre. This little army had been already weakened by the separation of two battalions detached to Poonah, and a third left at Ahmednaggur. There now only remained the 19th Dragoons, and the 4th, 5th, and 7lh Native cavalry; the 74th and 78th Highland regiments; with the first battalion of the 2d, the first battalion of the 4th, the first battalion of the 8th, the first battalion of the 10th, and the second battalion of the 12th Native infantry; in all, about 4700 men, with twenty-six field-pieces. When the leading division of the army reached within a short distance of the enemy's position, the line of battle was formed as follows: The first line consisted of the Picquets of the army on the right, the 78th on the left, and the 8th and 10th Native regiments in the centre; the second line was composed of the 74th regiment, with the 12th and 4th Native battalions; the Cavalry were in reserve in the third line.

To oppose this force, the enemy was supposed to have one hundred pieces of cannon, and 30,000 men, including the Light troops, who had gone out to forage in the morning (and were those reported to have marched), but who returned before the close of the action. The infantry were dressed, armed, and accoutred in the same manner as the Seapoys in the Company's service, and well disciplined by French and other European officers. The artillery was well served, and was observed to fire with considerable celerity. The two Rajahs, attended by their ministers, were in the field. The opposing armies were divided by the Kaitna, a small stream, with high banks and a deep channel, impassable to cavalry and guns, except at the fords. The enemy were drawn up on a rising ground, with the cavalry on the right, and their line extended to the village of Assaye on the left.

On General Wellesley's approach to reconnoitre, the enemy commenced a cannonade, the first shot of which killed one of the escorts. As the first attack was to be made on the enemy's left, it was necessary to cross a ford of the Kaitna considerably within reach of their cannon, which played with effect on the column of march. During this movement, the enemy's first line changed position to the left, to oppose a front to the intended attack. Their second line remained in their original position, by which means it was at right angles to the first. The first line of the British formed parallel to that of the enemy, separated about 500 yards, the left being directly opposite to the right of the enemy, and the second and third lines in the rear. During the formation of this order, the enemy's great guns fired with precision and rapidity, several of the shots piercing through the three lines to the rear. This was answered by the guns of the first line, which had already so many draught oxen disabled, that the soldiers were obliged to draw the cannon.

The order of battle was now formed; and the picquets being named as the battalions of direction, the General ordered the line to advance in a quick pace, without firing a shot, but to trust all to the bayonet. This order was received with cheers, and instantly obeyed. It was soon perceived, however, that the leading battalion, composed of the picquets, had diverged from the line of direction, which made it necessary to halt the whole front line. This was a critical moment. The troops had got to the summit of a swell of the ground, which had previously sheltered their advance, and the enemy, believing that the halt proceeded from timidity, redoubled their efforts, firing chain-shot and every missile they could bring to bear upon the line. General Wellesley, dreading the influence of this momentary halt on the ardour of the troops, rode up in front of a Native battalion, and, taking off his hat, cheered them in their own language, and gave the word to advance again. This was also received with cheers, and instantly put in execution. When the 78th was within 150 yards of the enemy, they advanced in quick time, and charged. At this instant some European officers, in the service of the enemy, were observed to mount their horses and fly. The infantry, thus deserted by their officers, broke and fled with such speed, that few were overtaken by the bayonet: but the gunners held firm to their guns; many were bayoneted in the act of loading, and none gave way till closed upon by the bayonet.

After this charge, the 78th quickly reformed line, and, preparing to advance on the enemy's second line, wheeled to the right, thus showing a front to their left. During these operations on the left, the 74th pushed forward to the front, over an open plain, and suffered exceedingly from the fire of the enemy's artillery. They were the longer exposed this destructive fire, from the difficulty they encountered of getting through a prickly-pear hedge. Many of the men having lost their shoes, their feet were much torn and pierceed. In this state, exposed to the fire of thirty pieces of cannon, and with one half of their number killed and wounded, large body of the enemy's cavalry advanced to charge; but the rapid advance of Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, with the 19th dragoons, gave a most timely support to this regiment. At this critical moment, he charged the enemy in flank, drove them off the field, and thus enabled the remains of the 74th to take up their position in the front line.

The first battalion of the 12th Native infantry, who, at the same time, had also advanced, with great steadiness, from the second line, suffered exceedingly. The army was now in one line, the 78th on the left, and the 74th on its immediate right. The enemy kept up a heavy fire from the village, numbers coming up from the banks of the river, and others who had thrown themselves on the ground as dead, and had been passed over by our men, now started up and gained possession of their own guns, which had been abandoned on the charge of our first line. From these they commenced a heavy fire from the rear, at the same time that a body of cavalry appeared on the left flank preparing to charge. To resist this, the left wing of the Highlanders was thrown back some paces on its right, and, at that instant, Lieutenant D. Cameron, who had been left with a party to protect two guns which could not be brought forward owing to their draught oxen being killed, now forced his way through, and joined his regiment most seasonably, when all were in anxious expectation of the farther orders of the General. This was an important moment, for it now seemed almost as if the battle had only commenced, or was to be fought over again. With an unbroken line of the the enemy in front, keeping up a constant fire of cannon, flanked by batteries of round shot on their right, grape from the rear, and with cavalry threatening the left; with all this in view, and exposed to so severe a trial, the silence and steadiness of the troops were highly honourable to their character. But they were not long kept in a state of suspense. The General ordered the cavalry to charge the enemy's squadron on the left (who did not wait the attack), and, directing the line to attack to their front, led the 78th, the 19th dragoons, and 7th Native cavalry to the rear, and attacked the enemy who had collected there in considerable force. Part of this force retreated, but in such good order, that one brigade stood the charge of the 19th Light dragoons, in which Colonel Maxwell, a brave and zealous officer, was killed. The Highlanders had considerable difficulty in clearing that part of the field to which they were opposed, and in recovering the cannon. The enemy made a strong resistance, forcing the regiment three times to change its front, and to attack each party separately, none giving way till attacked; and while the regiment moved against one, the others kept up a galling fire which continued till the whole were driven off the field. At this time the cavalry, which had been detached by the enemy in the morning, returned; but, when a party of Mysore horse marched against them, they retreated, and the fire ceased entirely at half-past four o'clock.

Thus ended the battle of Assaye, the most desperate and best contested that ever was fought in India. On no occasion did the enemy display more bravery, or serve their guns with more precision, steadiness, and effect. The brilliancy of this victory will be more conspicuous, when we consider that it was gained over a force six times more numerous, that 98 pieces of cannon, and military stores, in proportion, were taken on the field of battle, and that 1200 men were killed, and 3000 supposed to be wounded. The British loss was 21 officers killed, and 30 wounded., The 78th lost Lieutenant Douglas, and 27 rank and file, killed; Captain Alexander Mackenzie, Lieutenants Kin-loch and Larkins, Ensign Bethune, 4 sergeants, and 73 rank and file, wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Adams was knocked off his horse by the blow of a spent ball on the shoulder, but as he was able to remount and keep the field, he did not include himself in the list of wounded. Lieutenant Thomas Fraser was also slightly wounded. Indeed, there were only two officers of the regiment that escaped without some contusion or bruise, but, following the example of their commanding officer, their names did not appear among the wounded.

After the wounded and sick were settled in quarters, the army resumed active operations. A variety of movements and several partial skirmishes ensued, until the 29th of November, when the enemy were discovered drawn up in regular line of battle, on a plain in front of the village of Argaum. The troops moved forward, in one column, to the edge of the plain, in sight of the hostile army, which was nearly equal in number to that at Assaye, but neither so well disciplined nor so well appointed; the artillery were also less numerous (being only 38 pieces) and less expert. General Wellesley's army, on the other hand, exceeded its former amount, having been reinforced by Colonel Stephenson's division, consisting of the 94th or Scotch Brigade, six Native regiments of infantry, and two of cavalry. A small village lay between the head of the British columns and the enemy's line. The cavalry were ordered up, and formed in close column behind this village. The right brigade passed the village, and formed line in its front; and the other corps followed and formed in succession. The enemy were about 1200 yards distant. The instant the leading picquet passed the village, the enemy fired twenty pieces of cannon in one volley.

Courage in some men, individually as well as collectively, is a firm constitutional principle, equally steady and uniform in all situations, and not to be shaken by any unexpected assault or alarm. The courage of others, again, is sometimes ardent and enthusiastic, and may be led to the cannon's mouth; but not being an inherent principle of action, and depending often on contingencies, it is not constant, and may fail in moments of the greatest need. Here the Native picquets, and two battalions which had been eminently distinguished at Assaye, only two short months before, were so panic-struck with this noisy reception, which in fact did no execution, that, notwithstanding the greatest exertions of their officers, they retired in the utmost confusion behind the village, leaving the picquets of the 78th and the artillery standing alone in the field. The 78th regiment instantly marched up and formed line with the picquets and artillery. Other corps also moved forward in succession, and, through the exertions of their officers, the battalions which had retired were also brought up again into line.

The army was drawn up in one line of fifteen battalions, the cavalry forming a Reserve or second line, the 78th being on the right, and next to them the 74th; and the 91th forming the left of the line. When this regiment (which was supported by the Mysore horse) reached and formed on their proper ground, the whole moved forward, the 78th directing its march against a battery of nine guns, which supported the enemy's left. As they approached, a body of 800 infantry rushed out from behind the battery, and, at full trot, made for the intervals between the 74th and 78th. Surprised at this daring advance, the regiments obliqued their march to close the interval, and with ported arms moved forward in quick time to meet their assailants. But a muddy deep ditch (before unperceived) intervened, and prevented an actual shock with the bayonet. The enemy, however, stood by the ditch, with a resolution almost unparalleled in Eastern troops, firing till their last men fell. The following morning upwards of five hundred dead bodies were found lying on the ground where these men had been drawn up. They were a party of desperate fanatics, who fought from a religious principle.

This was the only serious attempt made by the enemy. An attack was made by Scindia's cavalry on the left of Colonel Stephenson's division, but they were quickly repulsed by the 6th Native infantry, and the whole line immediately gave way, leaving 38 pieces of cannon on the field, and was pursued beyond Argaum, where, the sun having now set, the infantry halted, but the cavalry continued the pursuit by moonlight, till nine o'clock. The victory was complete, and, unlike that of Assaye, was purchased with little loss, which fell principally on the 78th regiment.

Colonel Harness, compelled, by an illness of which he died some time afterwards, to resign the command of the right brigade, it devolved upon Colonel Adams; Major Hercules Scott, as field-officer of the day, commanding the picquets of the line, the command of the 78th regiment fell to Captain James Fraser.

No particular notice was taken of the conduct of the two Highland regiments at Assaye, where so much was done, while at Argaum the General says of them, "The 74th and 78th deserved, and received, my thanks." [At the battle of Assaye, the musicians were ordered to attend to the wounded, and carry them to the surgeons in the rear. One of the pipers, believing himself included in this order, laid aside his instrument, and assisted the wounded. For this he was afterwards reproached by his comrades. Flutes and hautboys they thought could be well spared, but for the piper, who should always be in the heat of the battle, to go to the rear with the whistlers, was a thing altogether unheard of. The unfortunate piper was quite humbled. However, he soon had an opportunity of playing off this stigma, for, in the advance at Argaum, he played up with such animation, and influenced the men to such a degree, that they could hardly be restrained from rushing on to the charge too soon, and breaking the line. Colonel Adams was, indeed, obliged to silence the musician, who now, in some measure, regained his lost fame.]

On the 2d of December active operations recommenced, and, on the 13th, the strong fort of Gawelghur was taken by assault. This exploit concluded the hostile operations of this army against the enemy; but their fatigues, from marching and countermarching, were incessant, till the 20th July 1804, when the 78th reached Bombay. More men and officers fell sick in the last month than in the previous campaign. And, as it often happens, when troops are placed in a state of rest after an active campaign, they continued sickly for a considerable time.

In May 1805 five companies were ordered to Baroda in the Guzzerat, and in July a reinforcement of 100 recruits from Scotland was received. In the succession of reinforcements at different times, from the second battalion, from the Scotch Militia, and from recruiting parties, this regiment was uncommonly fortunate. At Goa, whither it had been removed from Bombay in 1807, it embarked for Madras in the month of March 1811, when the strength of the corps was 1027, and only five men were left behind from sickness. Of these 835 were Highlanders, 184 Lowlanders, 8 English, and 9 Irish. But the numerical strength of this fine body of men was less to be estimated than their character, personal appearance, efficiency, and health. Upwards of 336 were volunteers from the Perthshire, and other Scotch Militia regiments, and 400 were drafts from the second battalion, which had been seasoned by a service of three years in the Mediterranean. Such was the stature of many of the men that, after the Grenadier company was completed from the tallest men, the hundred men next in height were found too tall, and beyond the usual size of the Light infantry.

The harmony which so frequently subsisted between Highland corps and the inhabitants of the countries where they have been stationed, has been frequently observed. In Goa it appears to have been the same as elsewhere. The Conde de Surzecla, Viceroy of Portuguese India, on the departure of the regiment from under his command, embraced the opportunity "to express his sentiments of praise and admiration of the regular, orderly, and honourable conduct of his Britannic Majesty's 78th Highland Regiment, during the four years they have been under his authority, equally and highly creditable to the exemplary discipline of the corps, and to the skill of the excellent commander; and his Excellency can never forget the inviolable harmony and friendship which has always subsisted between the subjects of the Regent of Portugal, and all classes of this honourable corps."

The regiment did not land at Madras, but were placed under the orders of Lieutenant-General Sir Samuel Achmuty, and formed part of the force intended for the conquest of Java. They sailed on the 30th of April.1811, the 78th being in the second brigade commanded by Lieutenant- Colonel Adams.

In August the fleet reached Batavia, and the army disembarked without opposition at Chillingching, a few miles east of the city. After some days passed in landing and in necessary preparations, the advance of the army, under Colonel Rollo Gillespie, moved forward, and, on the 8th, took possession of the city of Batavia, abandoned by the enemy, who retreated to Weltevreede. The army followed to Batavia on the 10th, while Colonel Gillespie, with the advance, moved forward towards the enemy's cantonment at Weltevreede, from which they retired to a strong position two miles in front of Cornells. [As several of the officers were preparing to move forward, they were suddenly taken ill, in consequence of swallowing some drugs which had been infused into their coffee by a Frenchman who kept the house where they were quartered. They, however, soon recovered, and as a punishment to their trecherous landlord, forced him to drink his own medicine, and poured down his throat a small part he had left. ] This post was occupied by 3000 of their best troops, and strengthened by an abbatis of felled trees. Colonel Gillespie made an immediate attack, and carried it at the point of the bayonet. The enemy made an obstinate resistance, but were completely routed, with the loss of all their guns. In this smart affair, "the flank companies of the 78th, (commanded by Captains David Forbes and Thomas Cameron), and the detachment of the 89th, particularly distinguished themselves." Lieutenant John Munro and 13 men of the 78th were killed, and Captain Cameron and 22 men wounded.

The interval from the 10th to the 20th was occupied in preparing batteries against Cornelis. This was a level parallelogram of 1600 yards in length, and 900 in breadth, having a broad and deep river running on one side, with ditches cut around the other three. The old fort of Cornelis stood on the bank of the river. To this fort six strong redoubts had been added by General Daendels. Each of these was mounted with cannon, and so situated, that the guns of the one commanded and supported the other. The space within was defended by traverses and parapets, cut and raised in all directions, and intended as a cover for the musketry while the great guns fired over them. The whole were defended by 5000 men. Besides the outward ditches, small canals had been cut, in different directions, within this fortified position. The attack was made on the 20th. Colonel Gillespie, with the flank battalions, supported by Colonel Gibbs, with the 59th, and the Bengal Volunteers, were to attack the main front opposite Cornells. The Light company, under Captain David Forbes, and the Grenadiers of the 78th, under Captain Donald Macleod, formed part of this attack. The battalion of the 78th, under Lieutenant-Colonel William Campbell, were to push forward to the assault by the main road. Every attack was completely successful. The enemy was forced from every traverse and defence, as the troops advanced, but not without strong resistance. By some strange oversight on the part of the Dutch, the ditch over which the battalion companies of the 78th had to pass was left dry. Captain James Macpherson pushed forward with two companies,' and took possession of the dam-dike which kept back the water from the ditch, and prevented the enemy from cutting it. In this affair, Captain Macpherson was wounded in a personal rencountre with a French officer. Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell was mortally wounded as the regiment advanced to the ditch, which they crossed, and carried the redoubt and defences in their front, with a spirit and ardour which the enemy could not resist. After an obstinate contest, the enemy were overpowered, and retreated by the side of the camp which had not been attacked, leaving upwards of 1000 men killed, and a great number wounded; while that of the British was only 91 rank and file killed, and 513 wounded. The 78th lost Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel William Campbell, and 18 rank and file, killed; and Captains William Mackenzie and James Macpherson, Lieutenant Mathiesion, Ensign Pennycuik, 3 sergeants, and 62 rank and file, wounded. This conquest was soon followed by the surrender of the whole colony.

The regiment was stationed in different parts of the country till September 1816, when they embarked for Calcutta. During this period of four years, the men suffered exceedingly from climate. [In the summer of 1813, several officers of the 78th, in a convalescent state, were removed to the village of Probolingo, near Sourabaya, a spot celebrated for the salubrity of the climate. On the 18th of June they visited a native of the country, a man of large property in the neighbourhood; and, as they were riding home in the evening, they were attacked by a body of men, a species of banditti, who occasionally make excursions, and infest that part of the country. Lieutenant-Colonel Fraser and Captain Macpherson, who had distinguished himself at Cornells, were killed, along with their landlord, who had rode along with them. The other officers, Captain Cameron, Lieutenant Robertson, and Ensign Cameron, escaped with difficulty.] That fine body of men which, in 1811, had sailed from Madras 1027 strong, was now greatly reduced in numbers; and, as often happens from sickness by climate, the stoutest and largest men had first fallen. The regiment was assembled at Batavia from the distant stations, and, on the 15th September, embarked on board the Frances Charlotte and another transport. The Charlotte, with six companies on board, had a favourable voyage till the morning of the 5th of November, when, at two o'clock, the ship struck on a rock, twelve miles distant from the small island of Prepares. Fortunately, the weather was moderate; but the ship, being under a press of sail, struck with such force, that she stuck fast to the rock, and in fifteen minutes was filled with water to the main-deck.

Then was displayed one of those examples of firmness and self-command, which are so necessary in the character of a soldier. Although the ship was in the last extremity, and momentarily expected to sink, there was no tumult, no clamorous eagerness to get into the boats; every man waited orders, and obeyed them when received. The ship rapidly filling, and appearing to be lodged in the water, and to be only prevented from sinking by the rock, all hope of saving her was abandoned. Except the provisions which had been brought up the preceding evening for the following day's consumption, nothing was saved. A few bags of rice, and a few pieces of pork, were thrown into the boats, along with the women, children, and sick, and sent to the island, which was so rocky, and the surf so heavy, that they had great difficulty in landing. It was not until the following morning that the boats returned to the ship. A part of the rock was dry at low water; and as many as could stand there (140 men) were removed on a small raft, with ropes to fix themselves to the points of the rock, in order to prevent their being washed into the sea by the waves which dashed over the rock at full tide. The rock was about 150 yards from the ship. It was not till the third day that the boats were able to carry all in the ship to the island, while those on the rock remained without sleep, and with very little food or water, till the second day, when water being discovered on the island, a supply was brought to them.

During all this time the most perfect order and resignation prevailed, both on the island and on the rock. Providentially the weather continued favourable, or those on the rock must have been swept into the sea. In the evening of the third day, the Po, a country ship, bound for Penang, appeared in sight, and soon afterwards bore down towards the wreck, of which a small part now only remained above water. A large boat was immediately sent, and forty men taken off the rock; and soon afterwards a lesser boat was sent. Too many men crowding on board, and throwing the boat to one side, she upset; but the men got back to the rock. In the mean time, the commander of the Po, believing himself short of provisions, or from some other cause, proceeded the same evening on his voyage to Penang, leaving his boat and the unfortunate sufferers to their fate. However, on the morning of the 10th, after being five days in this state, they were cheered by the sight of a large ship a few miles distant, and steering towards the island. This was the Prince Blucher, Captain Weatherall, perceiving the wreck, and the people on the rock, he immediately sent boats, and took all the people on board, and the following morning the women and the sick were taken from the island; but the wind blowing fresh, the ship was obliged to keep well out to sea, to avoid the rocks; and there being no safe anchorage, the communication with the island was much interrupted. The weather continued unfavourable till the 13th, when it blew a gale of wind; and Captain Weatherall seeing no prospect of being able to take the whole on board in time to reach Calcutta, with his stock of provisions, for so great an addition to his numbers, he determined to sail for that place; and, arriving there on the 23d of November, the Marquis of Hastings, the Governor-General, immediately dispatched two vessels with provisions and clothes, and on the 6th of December they made the island of Prepares. The people there were by that time nearly reduced to the last extremity. The. allowance of provisions (a glass full of rice and two ounces of beef for two days to each person) was expended, and they had now only to trust to the shell-fish which they picked up at low water. These soon became scarce; and they had neither lines to catch fish, nor fire-arms to kill the birds and monkeys, the only inhabitants of the island, which is small and rocky, covered with low trees and brushwood. In this deplorable state, the men continued as obedient, and the officers had the same authority, as on parade. Every privation was borne in common. Every man who picked up a live shellfish carried it to the general stock, which was safe from the attempts of the half-famished sufferers. Nor was any guard required. However, to prevent any temptations, sentinels were placed over the small store. But the precaution was unnecessary. No attempt was made to break the regulations established, and no symptoms of dissatisfaction were shown, except when they saw several ships passing them without notice, and without paying any regard to their signals. These signals were large fires, which might have attracted notice when seen on an uninhabited island. Captain Weatherall required no signal. He met with some boards and other symptoms of a wreck, which had floated to sea out of sight of the island, and, suspecting what had happened, immediately steered towards it. To his humanity, the safety of the people on the rock may, under providence, be ascribed; for, as the violence of the gale was such as to dash the ship to pieces, leaving no part visible in a few hours, the men must have been swept off the rock at its commencement.

Five men died of weakness; several were drowned in falling off the kind of raft made to convey them from the ship to the rock; and some were drowned by the surf in going on shore: in all, fourteen soldiers and two Lascars were lost. Unfortunately, the gale that destroyed the ship blew off the island, so that no part of the wreck floated on shore. Had it been otherwise, some things might have been carried back to the island. [Since the publication of the first edition, I have been informed, that, after the Po set sail, and left the people on the wreck to their fate, several of the men behaved in a most improper manner, and, giving themselves up to despair, seized upon some liquor in the cabin, and threw themselves into a state of intoxication, which added to the wretchedness of their situation. The Lascars gave up entirely, and could not be made to exert themselves in any way; No part of this misconduct attached to the people on the island, whose conduct was exemplary throughout.]

The vessels which took the men off this island had an expeditious passage back to Calcutta, where they landed on the 12th of December. After the men had been refreshed and new clothed, they embarked for England, in the end of February 1817, on board the Prince Blucher, Captain Weatherall, to whose humanity they in a great measure owed their lives. They sailed on the 1st of March, and landed in Portsmouth in June. From thence they embarked for Aberdeen, and in a few weeks were removed to Ireland.

At this time a report was pretty generally spread that the three Highland regiments, the 42d, 78th, and 92d, had been ordered out of Scotland under a conviction that they were not to be trusted at a time when disturbances were expected in Glasgow and other manufacturing towns. This unfounded and malicious report must have originated in what was considered to be an unexpected removal of those National corps to Ireland, particularly the removal of the 78th, in a few weeks subsequent to their return to their native country, after a course of honourable service, and after an absence of twenty-three years, without having had an opportunity of seeing their friends and their kindred. The character of these soldiers is now too well established to admit, of any distrust or want of confidence in their performance of their duty. The honour and good name of a soldier ought to be like the virtue of Caesar's wife, not only pure, but unsuspected. The honour of Highland soldiers has hitherto been well supported, and Ross-shire has to boast that the 78th has all along maintained the honourable character of their predecessors. All those who value the character of a brave and virtuous race may look with confidence to this corps, as one of the representatives of the military and moral character of the peasantry of the mountains" In this regiment, twenty-three have been promoted to the rank of officers during the war. Merit thus rewarded will, undoubtedly, have its due influence on those who succeed them in the ranks.


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