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

Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Aberdeenshire Highland Regiment

The year 1778 is memorable in the North for the number of new regiments raised there, besides a very considerable number of soldiers recruited for the old regiments of the line. The 73d, of two battalions, the 74th, 76th, 77th, 78th, and 81st, regiments of the line, and the Argyle Regiment of Fencibles—in all nine battalions, of ten companies each were embodied and completed in less than five months.

In December 1777 the Honourable Colonel William Gordon, brother of the Earl of Aberdeen, received orders to raise a regiment of Highlanders. Although the estate and influence of the Aberdeen family lay in the Lowland districts of Aberdeenshire, it was from the Highlands that Colonel Gordon expected to fill his ranks; and as an inducement to the young men to enter more readily, the Highland garb, to which they were then extremely partial, although prohibited by severe penalties, was to be the regimental uniform.

It would appear that the expectation entertained of the ready enlistment of the Highlanders was well founded. Of 980 men then embodied, about 650 were from the mountains. Major Ross was followed by so many of his own clan and name, that he had nine men of the name of John Ross. In a body of men so intimately connected as these were, it may be supposed that their character and conduct must either be very good or very indifferent, as example, of whatever tendency, would more readily spread among a community so much knit together by the ties of kindred, country, and early intimacy.

In this regiment the current took a favourable turn, and its conduct and character were excellent throughout; but, unluckily, like their neighbours the Athole Highlanders, they had not an opportunity of proving in what manner they would acquit themselves before an enemy, and realize the expectations grounded on the steadiness of their general conduct.

The regiment was marched to Stirling, and passed from thence to Ireland, where it was stationed three years, always sustaining a character approved by the general officers in command, and by the people of the country. In the end of 1782 they crossed over to England, and, in March 1783, were embarked at Portsmouth, with an intention of sending them to the East Indies, immediately after the preliminaries of peace were signed, although the terms on which the regiment had enlisted were, that they should be discharged in three years, or at the conclusion of hostilities. The men, however, made no objections or complaint, and embarking very cheerfully, remained quietly on board, waiting the orders for sailing, and apparently overlooking or indifferent about the conditions of their engagements.

At length, however, a very opposite feeling evinced itself, when it was known that the Athole Highlanders had insisted on the performance of the terms of their agreement, and they refused to embark. The example, as might have been expected, spread rapidly, and the Aberdeenshire regiment, following that of the Athole Highlanders, called for the fulfilment of their agreement, and requested to be disembodied, and marched back to their own country, to be there discharged. This request being conceded, the regiment marched to Scotland, and was disbanded in Edinburgh in April 1783.

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