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


I, Page 71. Highland Armour

Beague, in his History of the Scotch Campaigns of 1548 and 1549, describing the battle of Pinkie, in which the Scots were defeated, says, "The Highlanders, who show their courage on all occasions, gave proof of their conduct at this time, for they kept together in one body, and made a very handsome and orderly retreat. They are armed with broad swords, large bows, and targets."

"The armour,'' says the author of "Certayne Matters,'' in 1597 "with which they covered their bodies in times of war, is an iron bonnet, and halberzion side almost even with their heels; the weapons against their enemies are bows and arrows; they fight with broad swords and axes; in place of a drum they use a bagpipe; they delight much in music, but chiefly in harps and clairsshoes (clairsach is the Gaelic for harp) of their own fashion.'' The author of "Memoirs of a Cavalier," speaking of the Highlanders in the Scotch army under General Leslie in 1640, says, "I confess the soldiers made a very uncouth figure, especially the Highlanders; the oddness and barbarity of their garb and arms seemed to have something in it remarkable. They were generally tall swinging-looking fellows; their swords were extravagantly broad; and they carried large wooden targets, large enough to cover the upper parts of their bodies. Their dress was antique as the rest; a flat cap on their heads, called by them a bonnet, long hanging sleeves behind, and their doublets, breeches, and stockings, of a stuff they called plaid, striped across red and yellow, with short cloaks of the same. These fellows looked, when drawn out, like a regiment of Merry Andrews, ready for Bartholomew fair. They are in companies all of a name, and therefore call one another by his Christian name, as James, John, Rob, and Allister, that is Alexander, and the like; and they scorn to be commanded but by one of their own clan or family. They are all gentlemen, and proud enough to be kings. The meanest fellow among them is as tenacious of his honour as the best nobleman in the country, and they will fight and cut one another's throats for every trifling affront; but to their own chiefs or lairds they are the willingest and most obedient fellows in nature. To give them their due, were their skill and exercise and discipline proportioned to their courage, they would make the best soldiers in the world. They have large bodies, and prodigious strong, and two qualities above all other nations, viz. hardy to endure fatigue, hunger, cold, and hardships, and wonderfully swift of foot. The latter is such an advantage in the field, that I know none like it, for if they conquer, no enemy can escape them, and if they run, even the horse can hardly overtake them. There were some of them, as I observed before, went out in parties with their horse. There were 3,000 or 4,000 of these in the Scotch army, armed only with swords and targets, and in their belts some of them had a pistol, but no musquets at that time among them. But there were also a great many Scotch regiments of disciplined men, who, by their carrying their arms, looked as if they understood their business, and by their faces, that they durst see an enemy."

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