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


Fencible Regiments

Argyle, 1759

In 1759 the spirit of the nation, which had been roused by the danger of our Colonies, and exasperated by the disasters and defeats of our fleets and armies in the years 1756, 1757, and 1758, loudly called to arm in order to retrieve the national character. The direction of the hostile operations was intrusted to an illustrious statesman, whose vigorous measures, and successful prosecution of the war, laid the best foundation for an honourable peace.

The family of Argyll, which had exhibited so many eminent examples of patriotism and loyalty, was now called upon to exert the great influence which it enjoyed in the Highlands. So soon as the system of raising Fencible corps was determined upon, (as will be mentioned in the next article), the Duke of Argyll received Letters of Service for raising a regiment within the county of Argyle. As the attempt was experimental, and to be confined to the Highlands, only two,—the Argyle and Sutherland regiments, were raised. At that time the Duke of Argyll, as has been already noticed, was very powerful in Scotland. Few appointments were disposed of without his recommendation or knowledge; and consequently, his regiment, in this instance, had a priority of rank,—the commissions of the Argyle officers being dated in July, and those of Sutherland in August 1759. But this priority extended only to the date of the commissions. "While the Sutherland men flocked round the standard of Morar Chattu, [The name of Sutherland is unknown in the Gaelic. The Highlanders call that country Chattu, and Lord Sutherland Morar Chattu. Caithness is also unknown in that language; that county is Gallu, or the land of strangers. That this northern point of Scotland was occupied by strangers, is evident from the language, &c. of the inhabitants, differing in every respect from that of the Gaels who surround them.] much in the same manner as a Highland clan of old assembled round their chief, it was more than three months before the ranks of the Argyle regiment were completed to 1000 men.

It has been said, that although the gentlemen of Argyle-shire have always shown a strong predilection for a military life, the common people are more inclined to the naval service. The reason assigned is the insular nature of the country, and the number of inlets of the sea, which run far up and intersect the country; thus accustoming them, from their youth, to seafaring habits. If there be any foundation for this remark in the case of the Argyleshire-men, it does not extend to the northern isles of Ross-shire and Inverness-shire, nor to the Mainland districts, which are in a manner inclosed by arms of the sea. No people in the North are better or more willing soldiers than those of the Isles of Skye, Lewis, &c, [In the Island of Lewis, Lord Seaforth's estate alone furnished 732 men for one regiment (Seaforth Highlanders) in the first twelve years of the late war. In like manner, upwards of 1600 men enlisted in the Isle of Skye an North Uist for the regiments of the line and fencibles; and more than 2000 men entered for the regular militia, volunteers, and local militia, of the same Isles, and Rasay.] or the men of Kintail, and similar districts on the Mainland, which are so much indented by deep bays and salt water lakes, as to be almost surrounded by them, and to assume a peninsular form. But, whether the common people be more inclined to the sea than the land service, there can be only one opinion as to the military disposition of the gentlemen of Argyle, and the chieftain-like and paternal support they have always received from their chief and protector. Of thirty-seven officers in the Argyle regiment, twenty-two were of the name of Campbell.

This regiment consisted of 1000 men, and was quartered in different parts of Scotland till the peace of 1763, when it was reduced.


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