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

Mutinies of the Highland Regiments


The year 1795 exhibited another instance of insubordination, originating in horror of the disgrace which, according to Highlanders' views, could not fail to attach to themselves and their country from an infamous punishment for crimes not in themselves infamous, in the moral sense of the word: for it is necessary to make a distinction between this and the feeling excited among these men when punishments are awarded for disgraceful crimes. In cases where soldiers were guilty, or were suspected of bringing shame on themselves by actions unbecoming good men, I have always observed that the soldiers were anxious they should be brought to the punishment their crimes deserved.

The mutiny of the Grant was, in every respect, similar in its cause, object, and consequences, to that of the Breadalbane Fencibles. Several men were put into confinement, and threatened with punishment. The idea was insupportable to many of the soldiers, who, in defiance of their officers, broke out and released the prisoners. Sir James Grant, the colonel and patron of the regiment, hurried to Dumfries, where the regiment was then quartered. But he was too late; and the violation of order and of military discipline was too glaring to be passed over. The regiment was removed to Musselburgh, where Corporal Macdonald, Charles and Alexander Mackintosh, Alexander Fraser, and Duncan Macdougall, were tried and condemned to be shot. The corporal was pardoned, and the three soldiers were ordered to draw lots (Alexander Fraser was not permitted to draw), when the fatal chance fell on Charles Mackintosh, who, with Fraser, was shot on Gullane Links, on the 16th July 1795; and thus affording another striking instance of the necessity of paying a due regard to the feelings of soldiers, and of treating them as men of good principles, whose culpability may proceed more from mistaken notions than from depravity. It also affords a striking instance of the paramount call on those under whose direction they are placed in their native country, that their treatment be not such as to loosen and destroy those finer feelings, and render the people desperate, regardless of their own character, disaffected to the government, and transplant a spirit of hatred and revenge, instead of the fidelity, confidence, and attachment of other times.

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