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History of the Scottish Regiments in the British Army
By Arch. K. Murray, Esq.


In the present Work, the Author, without pretending to submit anything very startling or original, has endeavoured to gather from the records of the past such facts as may enable him, avoiding the tedium of detail, to present to the reader a brief and, it is hoped, at the same time, a comprehensive narrative of the origin and principal events in which our Scottish Regiments have so largely and honourably been distinguished.

It is wholly foreign to the purpose of the Author in any way to overlook the valorous achievements of the English and Irish Regiments in Her Majesty’s Service, which have alike contributed to build up the military renown of the British Army; he only trusts he shall receive that same charitable indulgence, in his present undertaking, which in like circumstances he, with every right-hearted Scot, should cordially extend to brethren of cither a sister land or sister isle. It is in these pages, as a Scotsman, he ventures to give expression to the nation’s gratitude and honest pride—awards, in the name of friend and foe, the meed of praise justly due to the brave soldier who has fought his country’s battles in almost every land—ofttimes victoriously—at all times honourably.

The Author gratefully acknowledges the assistance freely rendered him in this compilation by many Officers of the Regiments described. He feels also considerably indebted to many very valuable works, on the same and kindred subjects, for much of his information. Unfortunately, many of these volumes are now very ancient, others nearly extinct, and nearly all so expensive as to fail in answering the purpose of the present Work, by bringing before the public, in a cheaper and more popular form, the records of those heroic deeds, the narrative of which ought to be as “household words,” infusing a thrill of living patriotism and loyalty into the soul.

It is hoped, as the grand result of the Work, that Scotsmen, considering the rich legacy of military glory bequeathed them by their heroic forefathers, specially registered in these Scottish Regiments, will be more impressed with the duty devolving on them to maintain and emulate the same. Whilst these records may afford knowledge, it is also hoped that they may awaken a larger sympathy and deeper interest on the part of the people in those, their brave countrymen, who so well represent the nation; and if circumstances preclude us from accepting the “Royal Shilling,” and so recruiting the army, let us be ready to accept, for the expression of our thoughts and feelings, that grand channel which, in our time, has been revived as the exponent of the people’s patriotism and loyalty —the Volunteer Movement—whether as active or honorary members, giving effect to our sentiments, and demonstrating, “by deeds as well as words,” that we are in earnest.


Nature has been aptly represented as a fickle goddess, scattering her bounties here and there with a partial hand. Some spots, like very Edens, are blessed with the lavish profusion of her favours—rich fertility, luxuriant vegetation, warm and delightful climates. Some, on the other hand, which have not so shared the distribution of her gifts, represent the barren wilderness, the sterile desert, the desolate places of our earth —entombed in a perpetual winter—a ceaseless winding-sheet of snow and ice seems for ever to rest upon these cobl, chilly, Polar regions: or parched, fainting, dying, dead, where no friendly cloud intervenes, like the kindly hand of love and sympathy, to screen the thirsty earth from the consuming rays of a tropical sun. But, as if by “the wayside,” we gather from the analog}’, that as in the world of man there is a Scripture proclaiming comfort and blessing to the poor and needy whilst it tells the rich how hardly they shall enter into "life”—so in the world of nature there is an over-ruling, all-wue, all-ju.?t Providence, “Who moves in a mvsterioiis wav,” making ample amends in the it mlt upon the climes, so as yet shall cause " the w ildcrncss to rejoice.” Thus we find that lands enriched by nature ofttimes produce a people who, rich in this world’s good things, acquired without much effort, allow their minds to become so intoxicated with present delights and indolence, as to fail in cultivating the virtues of the man. Too frequently the fruits are these—ignorance, lust, passion, infidelity, and general debility. Whilst the barren, dreary wilderness, the bleak and desolate mountain-land— like the poor and needy upon whom Nature has frowned— enjoy the smile of Providence “in a better portion;” for there, amid a comparatively poor people, are nurtured all the sterner, the nobler, the truer, the God-like qualities of the man, the soldier, and the hero. There, too, hath been the birth-place and the abiding shrine of freedom—the bulwark and the bastion of patriotism and loyalty. Ascending higher, these—the peoples of the rejected and despised places of the earth—have ofttimes begotten and been honoured to wear the crowning attribute of piety. Turning to the history of Scotland or of Switzerland, for illustration, and taking merely a military retrospect, there it will be found. All centuries, all ages, all circumstances, are witness to the bravery and the fidelity of their mountain-soldiers.

Scotland, the unendowed by Nature, has been thus largely blessed by Nature’s God, in yielding a long line of valiant and illustrious men. Perhaps no nation engrosses so large and prominent a place in the temple of military fame—none can boast so bright a page in the history of the brave. Her stern and rugged mountains, like a vast citadel, where scarce a foeman ever dared to penetrate, have been defended through centuries of war against the advancing and all but overwhelming tide of aggression; besieged, too, by the countless hosts of Tyranny, they have still remained impregnable. Iler wild and desolate glens, like great arteries down which hath flowed the life-blood of the nation, in the living stream—the native and resistless valour of her clans. J Ter bleak and dreary heaths have written on them one dark history of blood—“ the martyred children of the Covenant.” Faithful unto death; “of whom the world was not worthy.” Her crown oft crushed beneath a tyrant’s heel—her freedom trampled on—her people bet raved—all lost but honour. Unscathed, unsullied, she has triumphed, and still lives to write upon her banner, the mighty, envied, and thrice-glorious word, “Unconquered.”

Armies have a very ancient history. Their origin might be traced to the very gates of Paradise. When the unbridled lust and wrathful passions of man were let loose like Furies, to wander forth upon the earth, then it was that lawless adventurers, gathering themselves together into armed bands for hostile purposes, to live and prey upon their weaker brethren, constituted themselves armies. Passing down the stream of time, through the Feudal Age, we find one among the many greater, mightier, wealthier—a giant towering above his fellows—exercised lordship, levied tribute, military and civil, over other's as over slaves. These were the days of chivalry, —the Crusades—when cavalry constituted the grand strength of an army. Here we might begin the history of cavalry as an important constituent in armies, were such our purpose. The comparative poverty of our ancient Scottish nobility prevented them contributing largely to the chivalry of the age. Almost the sole representative we have of our Scottish Cavalry, is the Second Regiment of Royal North British Dragoons, or Scots Greys—a most worthy representative. The wars of the Interregnum in Scotland—the times of Wallace and Bruce— when the feudal lords had nearly all either deserted or betrayed her, introduce us to a new force, more suited to the independent character and patriotism of the Scottish people—the formation of corps of infantry, or armed bands of free burghers. These were the fruit, to a large extent, of the Magna Charter in England, and of the struggle for liberty in Scotland. Hence the wars of Edward the Black Prince with France, distinguished by the victories of Poitiers, Agincourt, and Cressy, may be viewed not merely as the epitome of the triumphs of England over France, but more especially as illustrating the success of this new force—represented in the English yeomen, burghers, citizens, and freemen—over the old force, sustained in the chivalry, the cavalry of France. The result of these successive defeats, we find, was most disastrous to France. The jealousy and fear of the nobles and feudal lords had denied the people the use and the knowledge of arms; so that when themselves were defeated, France was ruined—since they could expect no support, as in Scotland, from an unarmed and unskilled people. They had done what they could to quench rather than foster the spirit of free patriotism, which in the nation’s extremity should have been the nation’s refuge—the soul burning to deliver their land from the yoke of the stranger. In not a few cases, the French rather sympathised with, as they sighed for the same blessings of our free-born English yeomen. Here we would mark, respectively in the English and Scottish armies, the first formation of that branch of the service for which the British army has ever been specially distinguished—the Infantry.

Our reader is no doubt aware of the calamitous results which flowed from the short-sighted policy of these privileged orders—the old feudal lords; whose love of a petty despotism laboured to postpone the day of reckoning “till a more convenient season”—and so refused the timely surrender of those privileges and that liberty which the growing wealth and intelligence of the people claimed. Long, bloody, and unavailing civil wars have desolated and vexed many countries as the consequence; and in France the contest attained a fearful crisis, and the people wreaked a cruel retribution in the awful horrors of the Revolution.

The increasing importance of commerce, and the growing desire for wealth in preference to the uncertain and doubtful lustre of the battle-field, induced men to gather themselves together, not as formerly for war, but rather for the prosecution of trade; thus constituting themselves into tradeunions, communities, burgherates, free townships. Disowning the bondage of feudalism, as a system peculiarly adapted for war, and hostile in its spirit to a more peaceful vocation, they sought and obtained, in their earlier history at least, royal protection. Independently of their engagements and allegiance to the throne, these trailing communities, aware of the restlessness, rapacity, and necessities of the old feudal lords around them, formed themselves into trained bands of free yeomen, or sort of militia, for the purpose—first, of defending their own industry, property, and lives; and, secondly, for the service of their sovereign and country in times of need. These are amongst the earliest ideas we have of a regiment. At an earlier age, we find many of the monarchs of Europe retaining in their service a body of foreign guards, specially entrusted with the defence of the royal person, so often threatened through the ambition of the nobles and the turbulence of the people. In nearly every instance these were composed of Scottish emigrants, driven from their country by the cruel and desolating wars which then disturbed her peace, and had proscribed many of the honourable and brave. We know no exception in which these corps of guards have not maintained the Scottish character, nay, been specially distinguished for the valour and fidelity with which they fulfilled their duty. Thus originated the First Royals, or Royal Scots Regiment of the present British army. The free citizens, continuing to prosper and proportion ably growing in power and influence, gradually insinuated themselves into State affairs. As they grew in wealth, so unfortunately they increased in pride and arrogance, forgetting altogether their early humility. They essayed to be a political as well as a trading community. Having overthrown the power of feudalism, they threatened to shake the foundations of the throne. These murmurings speedily awakened the royal jealousy, and broke in upon the peaceful harmony of their hitherto successful alliance. The prosperity and support of these freemen had elevated the might and majesty of the throne, with which they had been early leagued, and these together had compelled the old feudal nobility to exercise their rule in something more of a constitutional way. Gladly, therefore, did these last avail themselves of these dissensions to restore their long-lost power. Uniting with the crown, whose interests were more peculiarly their own, they called upon their still adherent tenantry to muster around them; and thus commenced the sanguinary civil wars, already in a previous paragraph referred to, between king and people, which have devastated so many lands. These tenantry, thus raised, ultimately taken into the royal pay, as regiments, have gone far to constitute the armies of their several states.

In conclusion, we would remark, that the wars of the past have been as it were material contests—wars of matter rather than of mind—by which we mean that might has been understood as right; not as now, when right is acknowledged as might. Formerly it was he who excelled in physical strength and prowess that was crowned victor; now-a-days the appliances of mind, the inventive genius of man, have so improved the art of war, that upon these the result of the contest must largely depend. Skill and science, developed in a thousand ways, are the weapons with which our battles are to be fought and won; and this, too, at a time when man has been dwarfed in his bodily might by the bloody ami protracted wars of the past, and enervated by the ease and indolence found in cities, so as to be no longer able for a contest as of old; and so the providence of God steps in to supply the vacuum occasioned by decay, and from the rapid march of civilisation, and the wonderful development of the mind, represents to us a better state of things—the triumph of the mind of the present over the matter of the past. The victories of the battle-field are being superseded by the triumphs of the Cabinet. The first Napoleon conquered by the sword— the present Napoleon conquers by superior craft and intrigue, whilst we, as a nation, are sitting by to register with an occasional growl his successes. It has been the knowledge of these facts—this new system of warfare—that has aroused the nation to see its danger in time; to feel that “ our glory” is but an ideal security; to know that steam and electricity have comparatively bridged the sea, and so done away with our best defence; to learn that the inventions of men comparatively equalise combatants. It has been the knowledge of these things, along with indications of a coming struggle casting its shadow before, that has called the nation, with one enthusiastic voice, to arms—in our present Volunteer force.

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