Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Scottish Regiments
The Black Watch -
1854 - 1856

EARLY in 1854, the regiment was removed to Portsea, preparatory to embarking for Turkey, in consequence of hostilities with Russia.

About 200 Volunteers were received from depots in Ireland, and for the first time for upwards of 45 years, without regard to country. The ten service companies embarked in the hired screw ship the "Hydaspes," Captain John Baker, on the 20th May, and sailed next morning. They consisted of 32 officers, 45 sergeants, 20 Drummers and Pipers, and 850 Rank and File. On 1st June they went into Malta, and on the 7th anchored off Scutari. They landed and encamped on the 9th, joining in Brigade with the 79th and 93d.

On the 13th the division, consisting of the Brigade of Guards and the Highlanders, embarked and reached Varna next day, and disembarked on 15th, encamping near to Yarns. On the 1st of July they moved to Aladyne; on the 28th to Gevrekler ("The three springs"); and on 16th August repassed Varna to Galatabourna, where the regiment was in camp until the embarkation of the army on the 29th, on which day it went on board the ss. ‘Emeu," and sailed with the expedition on the 5th September.

The British force consisted of 27,000 men of all arms; the French about 30,000; and the Turks 7000; making a total of 63,000 men, with 128 guns. Lord Raglan was the chief of the British forces, while Marshal St Arnaud commanded the army of France. The English infantry consisted of four divisions; the Light, First, Second, and Third Divisions. The First Division, under the command of H. R. H. the Duke of Cambridge, consisted of the third battalion of the Grenadier Guards, and the first battalions of the Coldstream and Scotch Fusilier Guards, commanded by Major-General Bentinck. Major-General Sir Colin Campbell (Lord Clyde), was commander of the other half of this division (the Highland Brigade), composed of the 42d, 79th, and 93d Highlanders. The 42d was commanded by Colonel Cameron, who had joined the regiment in 1825, and was made lieutenant-general in 1868.

On the 14th of September 1854, the allied armies of England and France, landed unopposed at Old Fort, Kalamita Bay, about 30 miles north of Sebastopol.

"The seamen knew," says Kinglake, the fascinating historian of the Crimean War, "that it concerned the health and comfort of the soldiers to be landed dry, so they lifted or handed the men ashore with an almost tender care: yet not without mirth— nay, not without laughter far heard—when, as though they were giant maidens, THE TALL HLGHLANDERS OF THE FORTY-SECOND, placed their hands in the hands of the sailor, and sprang, by his aid, to the shore, their kilts floating out wide while they leapt." It was not until the 19th that all the soldiers and their accompaniments were landed, and not until the 19th that the march southwards on Sebastopol commenced. On the first night of their march, the allies bivouacked on the banks of the stream of the Bulganak, six miles from their landing place.

"During the march, the foot-soldiers of the Allied armies suffered thirst; but early in the afternoon the troops in advance reached the long-desired stream of the Bulganak; and as soon as a division came in sight of the water, the men broke from their ranks, and ran forward that they might plunge their lips deep in the cool, turbid, grateful stream. In one brigade a stronger governance was maintained. Sir Colin Campbell would not allow that even the rage of thirst should loosen the discipline of his grand Highland regiments. He halted them a little before they reached the stream, and so ordered it that, by being saved from the confusion that would have been wrought by their own wild haste, they gained in comfort, and knew that they were gainers. When men toil in organised masses, they owe what well being they have to wise and firm commanders."

When the allied forces came in sight of the Alma, they found the Russians intrenched in what looked a very formidable position, on the hills which rise from its left or southern bank. For a short distance from the mouth of the river, the banks rise precipitously from the river and form a table-land above, accessible by several gorges or passes. Further up the river the banks rise more gently, and the slope of the hills southwards is more gradual; everywhere are the heights cut up by passes or ravines into knolls and separate rounded heights. "From the sea-shore to the easternmost spot occupied by Russian troops, the distance for a man going straight was nearly five miles and a-half; but if he were to go all the way on the Russian bank of the river, he would have to pass over more ground, for the Alma here makes a strong bend and leaves open the chord of the arc to invaders who come from the north."’ All over the heights extending from near the sea to this distance eastwards along the south-side of the river, the Russian force, amounting to 39,000 men and 106 guns, was massed on the side of the various slopes, in formidable looking columns. On the right of the Russian position rose gradually from the banks of the river a gentle slope, which terminated in a large rounded knoll, known as the Kourganč-hill. At about 300 yards from the river, the Russians had thrown up a large breastwork armed with fourteen heavy guns; this was known as the Great Redoubt. With this work Prince Mentschikoff, the Russian commander, was delighted; indeed, he fancied his position so impregnable, that he expected to hold out for three days, by which time he was confident the allies would be utterly exhausted, and fall an easy prey to his northern legions. On the same hill, but higher up, and more to his right, the Prince threw up another slight breast-work, which he armed with a battery of field guns. This was the Lesser Redoubt. At many other points which commanded the approaches to his position he had large batteries planted, and the vineyards which skirted the north bank of the river were marked and cleared, so as to give effect to the action of the artillery.

As it would be out of place here to give a general account of the battle of the Alma, we shall content ourselves mainly with setting forth the part taken in it by the 42d Royal Highlanders, the actual strength of which regiment going into action was 27 officers, 40 sergeants, 20 pipers and drummers, and 703 rank and file. The work done by the other Highland regiments will be told in the proper place. The French and Turks, who formed the right of the allied army, were appointed to attack the left of the Russian position, while the British had to bear the brunt of the battle, and engage the enemy in front and on the right, being thus exposed to the full force of the murderous fire from the above-mentioned batteries.

"The right wing of the Russian army was the force destined to confront, first our Light Division, and then the Guards and the Highlanders. It was posted on the slopes of the Kourganč Hill. Here was the Great Redoubt, armed with its fourteen heavy guns; and Prince Mentschikoff was so keen to defend this part of the ground, that he gathered round the work, on the slopes of the hill, a force of no less than sixteen battalions of regular infantry, besides the two battalions of Sailors, and four batteries of field-artillery. The right of the forces on the Kourganč Hill rested on a slope to the east of the Lesser Redoubt, and the left on the great road. Twelve of the battalions of regular infantry were disposed into battalion-columns posted at intervals and checkerwise on the flanks of the Great Redoubt; the other four battalions, drawn up in one massive column, were held as a reserve for the right wing on the higher slope of the hill. Of the four field-batteries, one armed the Lesser Redoubt, another was on the high ground commanding and supporting the Great Redoubt, and the remaining two were held in reserve.. General Kvetzinski commanded the troops in this part of the field. On his extreme right, and posted at intervals along a curve drawn from his right front to his centre rear, Prince Mentschikoff placed his cavalry,—a force comprising 3400 lances, with three batteries of horse-artillery.

"Each of these bodies of horse, when brought within sight of the Allies, was always massed in column.

"Thus, then, it was to bar the Pass and the great road, to defend the Kourganč Hill and to cover his right flank, that the Russian General gathered his main strength; and this was the part of the field destined to be assailed by our troops. That portion of the Russian force which directly confronted the English army, consisted of 3400 cavalry, twenty-four battalions of infantry, and seven batteries of field-artillery, besides the fourteen heavy guns in the Great Redoubt, making together 23,400 men and eighty-six guns."

In the march from its bivouac on the night of the 19th there were two or three protracted halts, one caused by a slight brush with some Cossack cavalry and artillery. The rest we must relate mainly in the charming words of Kinglake, after whose narrative all others are stale.

"The last of these took place at a distance of about a mile and a half from the banks of the Alma. From the spot where the forces were halted the ground sloped gently down to the river’s side; and though some men lay prostrate under the burning sun, with little thought except of fatigue, there were others who keenly scanned the ground before them, well knowing that now at last the long-expected conflict would begin. They could make out the course of the river from the dark belt of gardens and vineyards which marked its banks; and men with good eyes could descry a slight seam running across a rising-ground beyond the river, and could see, too, some dark squares or oblongs, encroaching like small patches of culture upon the broad downs. The scam was the Great Redoubt; the square-looking marks that stained the green sides of the hills were an army in order of battle.

"That 20th of September on the Alma was like some remembered day of June in England, for the sun was unclouded, and the soft breeze of the morning had lulled to a breath at noontide, and was creeping faintly along the hills. It was then that in the Allied armies there occurred a singular pause of sound—a pause so general as to have been observed and remembered by many in remote parts of the ground, and so marked that its interruption by the mere neighing of an angry horse seized the attention of thousands; and although this strange silence was the mere result of weariness and chance, it seemed to carry a meaning; for it was now that, after near forty years of peace, the great nations of Europe were once more meeting for battle.

"Even after the sailing of the expedition, the troops had been followed by reports that the war, after all, would be stayed; and the long frequent halts, and the quiet of the armies on the sunny slope, seemed to harmonise with the idea of disbelief in the coming of the long-promised fight. But in the midst of this repose Sir Cohn Campbell said to one of his officers, ‘This will be a good time for the men to get loose half their cartridges;’ and when the command travelled on along the ranks of the Highlanders, it lit up the faces of the men one after another, assuring them that now at length, and after long expectance, they indeed would go into action. They began obeying the order, and with beaming joy, for they came of a warlike race; yet not without emotion of a graver kind— they were young soldiers, new to battle."

The Light Division formed the right of the British army, and the duty of the Highland Brigade and the Guards was to support this division in its attack on the right of the Russian position. The 42d formed the right of the Highland Brigade, the 93d the centre, and the 79th the left. The Konrganč hill, which had to be assailed by the Light Division, supported by the Highlanders and Guards, was defended by two redoubts, by 42 guns, and by a force of some 17,000 men.

The battle commenced about half-past one P.M., and lasted a little over two hours. The French attack on the left was comparatively a failure, and their losses small, for they had but little of the fighting to sustain. The battle on the part of the English was commenced by the Light and Second Divisions crossing the Alma, the former getting first to the other or Russian side, driving the Russian skirmishers and riflemen before them at the point of the bayonet. As soon as they got out of the vineyards, double the number of guns opened upon them with grape and canister, still they moved on, keeping up a telling fire against the Russian gunners. By the time they reached the great redoubt they were terribly shattered, but, nevertheless, successfully carried it and captured two guns. Being, however, now comparatively few in number, and unsupported, they were compelled to leave the redoubt by a huge body of Russian infantry, upon whom, they never turned their backs. Other operations, with more or less success, were going on in other parts of the hillside, but our place, is with the Highlanders of the First Division, who, along with the Guards, were now advancing to support the Light Division, so sore bestead. "This magnificent division, the flower of the British army, had crossed the river rather higher up than the Light Division, and consequently were on its left. . . The First Division formed-up after crossing the Alma, and although they incurred considerable loss in so doing, they nevertheless advanced in most beautiful order—really as if on parade. I shall never forget that sight—one felt so proud of them." Lord Raglan had been looking on all this time from some high ground, where he and his staff were posted, and where he obtained a comprehensive view of the battle-field. When he saw the First Division coming up in support, he said, "Look how well the Guards and Highlanders advance!" We must allow Mr Kinglake to tell the rest.

"Further to the left (of the Guards), and in the same formation (of line), the three battalions of the Highland Brigade were extended. But the 42d had found less difficulty than the 93d in getting through the thick ground and the river, and again the 93d had found less difficulty than the 79th; so, as each regiment had been formed and moved forward with all the speed it could command, the brigade fell naturally into direct echelon of regiments, the 42d in front. And although this order was occasioned by the nature of the ground traversed and not by design, it was so well suited to the work in hand that Sir Cohn Campbell did not for a moment seek to change it.

"These young soldiers, distinguished to the vulgar eye by their tall stature, their tartan uniforms, and the plumes of their Highland bonnets, were yet more marked in the eyes of those who know what soldiers are by the warlike carriage of the men, and their strong, lithesome, resolute step. And Sir Cohn Campbell was known to be so proud of them, that already, like the Guards, they had a kind of prominence in the army, which was sure to make their bearing in action a broad mark for blame or for praise."

[We shall take the liberty of quoting here the same author’s sketch of Campbell’s career:-

Whilst Ensign Campbell was passing from boyhood to man’s estate, he was made partaker in the great transactions which were then beginning to work out the liberation of Europe. In the May of 1808 he received his first commission—a commission in the 9th Foot; and a few weeks afterwards—then too young to carry the colours—he was serving with his regiment upon the heights of Vimieira. ‘Where the lad saw the turning of a tide in human affairs ; saw the opening of the mighty strife between ‘Column’ and ‘ Line ;‘ saw France, long unmatched upon the Continent, retreat before British infantry; saw the first of Napoleon’s stumbles, and the fame of Sir Arthur Wellesley beginning to dawn over Europe.

He was in Sir John Moore’s campaign, and at its closing scene—Corunna. He was with the Walcheren expedition; and afterwards, returning to the Peninsula, he was at the battle of Barossa, the defence of Tarifa, the relief of Taragona, and the combats at Malaga and Osma. He led a forlorn hope at the storming of St Sebastian, and was there wounded twice; he was at Vittoria ; he was at the passage of the Bidassoa ; he took part in the American war of 1814 ; he served in the ‘West Indies he served in the Chinese war of 1842. These occasions he had so well used that his quality as a soldier was perfectly well known. He had been praised and praised again and again; but since he was not so connected as to be able to move the dispensers of military rank, he gained promotion slowly, and it was not until the second Sikh war that he had a cornmand as a general: even then he had no rank in the army above that of a colonel. At Chilianwalla he commanded a division. Marching in person with one of the two brigades, he had gained the heights on the extreme right of the Sikh position, and then bringing round the left shoulder, lie bad rolled up the enemy’s line and won the day ; but since his other brigade (being separated from him by a long distance) had wanted his personal control, and fallen into trouble, the brilliancy of the general result which he had achieved did not save him altogether from criticism. That day he was wounded for the fourth time. He commanded a division at the great battle of Gujerat; and, being charged to press the enemy’s retreat, he had so executed his task that 158 guns and the ruin of the foe were the fruit of the victory. In 1851 and the following year he commanded against the hill-tribes. It was he who forced the Kohat Pass. It was he who, with only a few horsemen and some guns, at Punj Pao, compelled the submission of the combined tribes then acting against him with a force of 8000 men, It was he who, at Ishakote, with a force of less than 3000 men, was able to end the strife ; and when he had brought to submission all those beyond the lndus who were in arms against the Government, he instantly gave proof of the breadth and scope of his mind as well as of the force of his character ; for he withstood the angry impatience of men in authority over him, and, insisted that he must be suffered to deal with the conquered people in the spirit of a politic and merciful ruler.

‘‘After serving with all this glory for some forty-four years, he came back to England ; hot between the Queen and him there stood a dense crowd of families—men, women, and children—extending further than the eye could reach, and armed with strange precedents which made it out to be right that people who lead seen no service should be invested with high command, and that Sir Colin Campbell should be only a colonel. Yet he was of so fine a nature that, although he did not always avoid great bursts of anger, there was no ignoble bitterness in his sense of wrong. He awaited the time when perhaps he might have high command, and be able to serve his country in a sphere proportioned to his strength. His friends, however, were angry for his sake; and along with their strong devotion towards him there was bred a face hatred of a system of military dispensation which could keep in the background a man thus tried and thus known.

Upon the breaking-out of the war with Russia, Sir Colin was appointed—not to the command of a division, but of a brigade. It was not till the June of 1854 that his rank in the army became higher than that of a colonel."]

"The other battalions of the Highland Brigade were approaching; but the 42d—the far-famed ‘Black Watch‘— had already come up. It was ranged in line. The ancient glory of the corps was a treasure now committed to the charge of young soldiers new to battle; but Campbell knew them—was sure of their excellence—and was sure, too, of Colonel Cameron, their commanding officer. Very eager—for the Guards were now engaged with the enemy’s columns—very eager, yet silent and majestic, the battalion stood ready.

"Before the action had begun, and whilst his men were still in column, Campbell had spoken to his brigade a few words—words simple, and, for the most part, workmanlike, yet touched with the fire of war-like sentiment. ‘Now, men, you are going into action. Remember this: whoever is wounded—I don’t care what his rank is—whoever is wounded must he where he falls till the bandsmen come to attend to him. No soldiers must go carrying off wounded men. If any soldier does such a thing, his name shall be stuck up in his parish church. Don’t be in a hurry about firing. Your officers will tell you when it is time to open fire. Be steady. Keep silence. Fire low. Now, men’—those who know the old soldier can tell how his voice would falter the while his features were kindling—’Now, men, the army will watch us; make me proud of the Highland Brigade

"It was before the battle that this, or the like of this, was addressed to the brigade and now, when Sir Colin rode up to the corps which awaited his signal, he only gave it two words. But because of his accustomed manner of utterance, and because he was a true, faithful lover of war, the two words he spoke were as the roll of the drum: ‘Forward, 42d !‘ This was all he then said; and, ‘as a steed that knows his rider,’ the great heart of the battalion bounded proudly to his touch.

"Sir Colin Campbell went forward in front of the 42d; but before he had ridden far, he saw that his reckoning was already made good by the event, and that the column which had engaged the Coldstream was moving off obliquely towards its right rear. Then with his Staff he rode up a good way in advance, for he was swift to hope that the withdrawal of the column from the line of the redoubt might give him the means of learning the ground before him, and seeing how the enemy’s strength was disposed in this part of the field. In a few moments he was abreast of the redoubt, and upon the ridge or crest which divided the slope he had just ascended from the broad and rather deep hollow which lay before him. On his right he had the now empty redoubt, on his right front the higher slopes of the Kourganč Hill. Straight before him there was the hollow, or basin, just spoken of; bounded on its farther side by a swelling wave or ridge of ground which he called the ‘inner crest.’ Beyond that, whilst he looked straight before him, he could see that the ground fell off into a valley; but when he glanced towards his left front he observed that the hollow which lay on his front was, so to speak, bridged over by a bending rib which connected the inner with the outer crest— bridged over in such a way that a column on his left front might march to the spot where he stood without having first to descend into the lower ground. More towards his left, the ground was high, but so undulating and varied that it would not necessarily disclose any troops which might be posted in that part of the field.

"Confronting Sir Colin Campbell from the other side of the hollow, the enemy had a strong column—the two right battalions of the Kazan corps—and it was towards this body that the Vladimir column, moving off from the line of the redoubt, was all this time making its way. The Russians saw that they were the subject of a general officer’s studies; and Campbell’s horse at this time was twice struck by shot, but not disabled. When the retiring column came abreast of the right Kazan column it faced about to the front, and, striving to recover its formation, took part with the Kazan column in opposing a strength of four battalions —four battalions hard-worked and much thinned —to the one which, eager and fresh, was following the steps of the Highland General.

"Few were the moments that Campbell took to learn the ground before him, and to read the enemy’s mind; but, few though they were, they were all but enough to bring the 42d to the crest where their General stood. The ground they had to ascend was a good deal more steep and more broken than the slope close beneath the redoubt. In the land where those Scots were bred, there are shadows of sailing clouds skimming straight up the mountain’s side, and their paths are rugged, are steep, yet their course is smooth, easy, and swift. Smoothly, easily, swiftly, the ‘ Black Watch’ seemed to glide up the hill. A few instants before, and their tartans ranged dark in the valley—now, their plumes were on the crest. The small knot of horsemen who had ridden on before them were still there. Any stranger looking into the group might almost be able to know—might know by the mere carriage of the head—that he in the plain, dark-coloured frock, he whose sword-belt hung crosswise from his shoulder, was the man there charged with command; for in battle, men who have to obey sit erect in their saddles; he who has on him the care of the fight seems always to fall into the pensive yet eager bend which the Greeks—keen perceivers of truth— used to join with their conception of Mind brought to bear upon War. It is on board ship, perhaps, more commonly than ashore, that people in peace-time have been used to see their fate hanging upon the skill of one man. Often, landsmen at sea have watched the skilled, weather-worn sailor when he seems to look through the gale, and search deep into the home of the storm. He sees what they cannot see; he knows what, except from his lips, they never will be able to learn. They stand silent, but they question him with their eyes. So men new to war gaze upon the veteran commander, when, with knitted brow and steady eyes, he measures the enemy’s power, and draws near to his final resolve. Campbell, fastening his eyes on the two columns standing before him, and on the heavier and more distant column on his left front, seemed not to think lightly of the enemy’s strength; but in another instant (for his mind was made up, and his Highland blood took fire at the coming array of the tartans) his features put on that glow which, seen in men of his race—race known by the kindling grey eye, and the light, stubborn crisping hair—discloses the rapture of instant fight. Although at that moment the 42d was alone, and was confronted by the two columns on the farther side of the hollow, yet Campbell, having a steadfast faith in Colonel Cameron and in the regiment he commanded, resolved to go straight on, and at once, with his forward movement. He allowed the battalion to descend alone into the hollow, marching straight against the two columns. Moreover, he suffered it to undertake a manoeuvre which (except with troops of great steadiness and highly instructed) can hardly be tried with safety against regiments still unshaken. The ‘Black watch’ 'advanced firing.’

"But whilst this fight was going on between the 42d and the two Russian columns, grave danger from another quarter seemed to threaten the Highland battalion; for, before it had gone many paces, Campbell saw that the column which had appeared on his left front was boldly marching forward; and such was the direction it took, and such the nature of the ground, that the column, if it were suffered to go on with this movement, would be able to strike at the flank of the 42d without having first to descend into lower ground.

"Halting the 42d in the hollow Campbell swiftly measured the strength of the approaching column, and he reckoned it so strong that he resolved to prepare for it a front of no less than five companies. He was upon the point of giving the order for effecting this bend in the line of the 42d, when looking to his left rear, he saw his centre battalion springing up to the outer crest." This was the 93d.

"Campbell’s charger, twice wounded already, but hitherto not much hurt, was now struck by a shot in the heart. Without a stumble or a plunge the horse sank down gently to the earth, and was dead. Campbell took his aide de-carnp’s charger; but he had not been long in Shadweil’s saddle when up came Sir Colin’s groom with his second horse. The man, perhaps, under some former master, had been used to be charged with the ‘second horse’ in the hunting-field. At all events, here he was; and if Sir Colin was angered by the apparition, he could not deny that it was opportune. The man touched his cap, and excused himself for being where he was. In the dry, terse way of those Englishmen who are much accustomed to horses, he explained that towards the rear the balls had been dropping about very thick, and that, fearing some harm might come to his master’s second horse, he had thought it best to bring him up to the front.

When the 93d had recovered the perfectness of its array, it again moved forward, but at the steady pace imposed upon it by the chief. The 42d had already resumed its forward movement; it still advanced firing.

"The turning moment of a fight is a moment of trial for the soul, and not for the body; and it is, therefore, that such courage as men are able to gather from being gross in numbers, can be easily outweighed by the warlike virtue of a few. To the stately ‘Black Watch’ and the hot 93d, with Campbell leading them on, there was vouchsafed that stronger heart for which the brave pious Muscovites had prayed. Over the souls of the men in the columns there was spread, first the gloom, then the swarm of vain delusions, and at last the sheer horror which might be the work of the Angel of Darkness. The two lines marched straight on. The three columns shook. They were not yet subdued. They were stubborn; but every moment the two advancing battalions grew nearer and nearer, and although—dimly masking the scant numbers of the Highlanders— there was still the white curtain of smoke which always rolled on before them, yet, fitfully, and from moment to moment, the signs of them could be traced on the right hand and on the left in a long, shadowy line, and their coming was ceaseless.

"But moreover, the Highlanders being men of great stature, and in strange garb, their plumes being tall, and the view of them being broken and distorted by the wreaths of the smoke, and there being, too, an ominous silence in their ranks, there were men among the Russians who began to conceive a vague terror—the terror of things unearthly; and some, they say, imagined that they were charged by horsemen strange, silent, monstrous, bestriding giant chargers. Unless help should come from elsewhere, the three columns would have to give way; but help came. From the high ground on our left another heavy column—the column composed of the two right Sousdal battalions—was seen coming down. It moved straight at the flank of the 93d." This was met by the 79th.

"Without a halt, or with only the halt that was needed for dressing the ranks, it sprang at the flank of the right Sousdal column, and caught it in its sin —caught it daring to march across the front of a battalion advancing in line. Wrapped in the fire thus poured upon its flank, the hapless column could not march, could not live. It broke, and began to fall back in great confusion; and the left Sousdal column being almost at the same time overthrown by the 93d, and the two columns which had engaged the ‘Black Watch’ being now in full retreat, the spurs of the hill and the winding dale beyond became thronged with the enemy’s disordered masses.

"Then again, they say, there was heard the sorrowful wail that bursts from the heart of the brave Russian infantry when they have to suffer defeat; but this time the wail was the wail of eight battalions; and the warlike grief of the soldiery could no longer kindle the fierce intent which, only a little before, had spurred forward the Vladimir column. Hope had fled.

"After having been parted from one another by the nature of the ground, and thus thrown for some time into echelon, the battalions of Sir Colin’s brigade were now once more close abreast; and since the men looked upon ground where the grey remains of the enemy’s broken strength were mournfully rolling away, they could not but see that this, the revoir of the Highlanders, had chanced in a moment of glory. Knowing their hearts, and deeming that the time was one when the voice of his people might fitly enough be heard, the Chief touched or half lifted his hat in the way of a man assenting. Then along the Kourgan slopes, and thence west almost home to the Causeway, the hill-sides were made to resound with that joyous, assuring cry, which is the natural utterance of a northern people so long as it is warlike and free.

"The three Highland regiments were now re-formed, and Sir Colin Campbell, careful in the midst of victory, looked to see whether the supports were near enough to warrant him in pressing the enemy’s retreat with his Highland Brigade. He judged that, since Cathcart was still a good way off, the Highlanders ought to be established on the ground which they had already won; and, never forgetting that, all this while, he was on the extreme left of the whole infantry array of the Allies, he made a bend in his line, which caused it to show a front towards the south-east as well as towards the south.

"This achievement of the Guards and the highland Brigade was so rapid, and was executed with so steadfast a faith in the prowess of our soldiery and the ascendancy of Line over Column, that in vanquishing great masses of infantry 12,000 strong, and in going straight through with an onset which tore open the Russian position, the six battalions together did not lose 500 men."

The British loss was 25 officers and 19 sergeants killed, and 81 officers and 102 sergeants wounded; 318 rank and file killed, and 1438 wounded, making, with 19 missing, a total loss of 2002. The French loss was probably not more than 60 killed and 500 wounded, while the Russian killed and wounded amounted to considerably above 6000. The 42d in killed and wounded lost only 37 men.

After the battle, it was a touching sight to see the meeting between Lord Raglan and Sir Colin Campbell. The latter was on foot, as his horse had been killed in the earlier period of the action. Lord Raglan rode up, and highly complimented Campbell and his brigade. Sir Colin, with tears in his eyes, said it was not the first battle-field they had won together, and that, now that the battle was over, he had a favour to ask his lordship, which he hoped he would not refuse—to wear a bonnet with his brigade while he had the honour to command it.

The request was at once granted, and the making up of the bonnet was intrusted secretly to Lieutenant and Adjutant Drysdale of the 42d. There was a difficulty next morning as to the description of heckle to combine the three regiments of the Brigade. It was at last decided to have one-third of it red, to represent the 42d, and the remaining two-thirds white at the bottom, for the 79th and 93d. Not more than half a dozen knew about the preparation of the bonnet, and these were confined to the 42d. A brigade parade was ordered on the morning of 22d September on the field of Alma, "as the General was desirous of thanking them for their conduct on the 20th." The square was formed in readiness for his arrival, and he rode into it with the bonnet on. No order or signal was given for it, but he was greeted with such a succession of cheers, again and again, that both the French and English armies were startled into a perfect state of wonder as to what had taken place. Such is the history of "the bonnet gained."

The 42d had its own share in the harassing and tedious work which devolved on the British soldiers while lying before Sebastopol, although it so happened that it took no part in any of the important actions which followed Alma. Here, as elsewhere, the men supported the well-known character of the regiment in all respects. On the first anniversary of the battle of the Alma, September 20, 1855, the first distribution of medals was made to the soldiers in the Crimea, on which occasion Lieutenant-General Sir Colin Campbell issued the following stirring address, duty preventing him from being present:-

"Highland Brigade,

"On the first anniversary of the glorious battle of the Alma, our gracious Sovereign has commanded the Crimean medal to be presented to her gallant soldiers, who were the first to meet the Russians and defeat them on their own territory. The fatigues and hardships of last year are well known, and have greatly thinned our ranks since we scaled the Alma heights together; but happy am I to see so many faces around me, who, on that day, by their courage, steadiness, and discipline, so materially assisted in routing the Russian hordes from their vaunted impregnable position. To that day Scotchmen can look with pride, (and Scotchmen are everywhere). For your deeds upon that day you received the marked encomiums of Lord Raglan, the thanks of the Queen, and admiration of all. Scotchmen are proud of you! I, too, am a Scotchman, and proud of the honour of commanding so distinguished a Brigade; and still prouder, that through all the trying seventies of the winter, its incessant labours, and decimating disease, you have still maintained the same unflinching courage and energy with which your discipline, obedience, and steadiness, in whatever circumstances you have been placed, make you so unrivalled (and none more so than the oldest regiment of the brigade), and your commander confident of success, however numerous and determined your foe. The young soldiers who have not this day been presented with a medal, nor shared in the glories of the Alma, may soon win equal honours, for many an Alma will yet be fought, when I hope they will prove themselves worthy comrades of those who have struck home for Scotland, and for honours for their breast.

"Many have shared the greatest portion of the hardships of this campaign, and were ready upon the 8th (September) to do their duty, and eager for the morning of the 9th, when if we had been required I am positive would have gained renown.

"The honour of these last days all are equally entitled to, and I hope soon again to be presenting the young soldiers with their medals.

"I cannot conclude without bringing to your minds, that the eyes of your countrymen are upon you. I know you think of it, and will endeavour by every effort to maintain your famed and admirable discipline; also that your conduct in private equals your prowess in the field; and when the day arrives that your services are no longer required in the field, welcome arms will be ready to meet you with pride, and give you the blessings your deeds have so materially aided to bring to your country. And in after years, when recalling the scenes of the Crimea by your ingle side, your greatest pride will be that you too were there, and proved yourself a worthy son of sires who, in by-gone days, on many a field added lustre to their country’s fame."

The brave Sir Colin seems to have been particularly fond of the old Black Watch, "the senior regiment" of the Highland Brigade, as will be seen from the above address, as well as from the following, in which, after regretting he was not present at the distribution of medals and clasps on the 20th September, he proceeds

"Your steadiness and gallantry at the battle of Alma were most conspicuous and most gratifying to me, whilst your intrepidity, when before the enemy, has been equalled by the discipline which you have invariably preserved.

"Remember never to lose sight of the circumstance, that you are natives of Scotland; that your country admires you for your bravery; that it still expects much from you; and, as Scotchmen, strive to maintain the name and fame of our countrymen, who are everywhere, and who have nobly fought and bled in all quarters of the globe. In short, let every one consider himself an hero of Scotland. It is my pride, and shall also be my boast amongst the few friends which Providence has left me, and those which I have acquired, that this decoration of the order of the Bath, which I now wear, has been conferred upon me on account of the distinguished gallantry you have displayed. Long may you wear your medals, for you well deserve them! And now for a word to the younger officers and soldiers. It is not only by bravery in action that you can anticipate success; much depends upon steadiness and discipline. Remember this, for it is owing to the high state of discipline heretofore maintained in the Highland Brigade, and in the senior regiment thereof in particular, that such results have been obtained as to warrant the highest degree of confidence in you, in whatever position the fortune of war may place you.

"Endeavour, therefore, to maintain steadiness and discipline, by which you will be able to emulate the deeds of your older comrades in arms, for we may yet have many Almas to fight, where you will have the opportunity of acquiring such distinction as now adorn your comrades."

From the 19th of October, the Highland Brigade was commanded by Colonel Cameron of the 42d, Sir Colin having been appointed to command the forces in and about Balaclava. In January 1855, the establishment was increased to 16 companies, and on the 3d of May, the regiment was embarked to take part in the Kertch expedition, but was recalled on the 6th. It again embarked on the 2d May, and landed at Kertch on the 24th, whence it marched to Yenikale. Two of the 42d men, while the regiment was at the last-mentioned place, were shot in rather an extraordinary manner. They were standing in a crowd which had assembled round a house for the purpose of "looting" it, when a Frenchman, having struck at the door with the butt of his musket, the piece went off, killing one 42d man on the spot and wounding the other. These, so far as we can ascertain, were the only casualties suffered by the regiment in this expedition. The 42d returned to Balaclava on the 9th of June, and on the 16th of the same month, took up its position in front of Sebastopol. On June 18th it formed one of the regiments of reserve in the assault of the out-works of Sebastopol, and was engaged in siege operations until August 24th, when the regiment marched to Kamara, in consequence of the Russians having again appeared in force on the flank of the allied armies. On September 8th, it marched to Sebastopol, took part in the assault and capture, returned to Kamara the following day, and remained there until the peace, 30th March 1856.

On June 15th, the regiment embarked at Kamiesh for England, landed at Portsmouth on the 24th of July, proceeded by rail to Aldershot, and was reviewed by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, after which it proceeded by rail to Dover, in garrison with the 41st, 44th, 79th, and 93d regiments.

The positive losses of the regiment in the Crimea from actual contact with the enemy, were nothing compared with the sad ravages made upon it, along with the rest of the army, by disease and privation, and want of the actual necessaries of life. During the campaign only 1 officer and 38 men were killed in action, while there died of wounds and disease, 1 officer and 226 men, besides 140 officers and men who had to be sent to England on account of wounds and ill-health.

Previous | Index | Next


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus