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The Scottish Nation

GARDINER, JAMES, a distinguished military officer, celebrated as much for his piety as for his courage and loyalty, the son of Captain Patrick Gardiner, of the family of Torwoodhead, by Mrs. Mary Hodge, of the family of Gladsmuir, was born at Carriden, Linlithgowshire, January 10, 1687-8, and received his education at the grammar school of Linlithgow. He served as a cadet very early, and at fourteen years of age had an ensign’s commission in a Scots regiment in the Dutch service, in which he continued till 1702, when he received an ensign’s commission from Queen Anne. At the battle of Ramillies, May 23, 1706, he was wounded and taken prisoner, but was soon after exchanged. In the latter year, he obtained the rank of lieutenant, and on January 31, 1714-15, was made captain-lieutenant in Colonel Ker’s regiment of dragoons. At the taking of Preston in Lancashire, in 1715, he headed a party of twelve, and advancing to the barricades of the insurgents, set them on fire, in spite of a furious storm of musketry, by which eight of his men were killed. He afterwards became aide-de-camp to the earl of Stair, and accompanying his lordship in his celebrated embassy to Paris, acted as master of the horse on occasion of his splendid entrance into the French capital. After several intermediate promotions, he was, July 20, 1724, appointed major of a regiment of dragoons, commanded by his friend Lord Stair; and in January 1730, he was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the same regiment, in which he continued till April 1743, when he received a colonel’s commission in another dragoon regiment then newly raised, which was quartered in the neighbourhood of his own house in East Lothian.

      Colonel Gardiner had for many years been noted for his gay and dissolute habits of life, but about the middle of July 1719 a remarkable change took place in his conduct and sentiments, caused by his accidental perusal of a religious book, written by Mr. Thomas Watson, entitled ‘The Christian Soldier, or Heaven taken by storm.’ The account of his wonderful conversion as given by Dr. Doddridge, in his celebrated memoir of him, which partakes of the character of the early miracles of the church, is well known. He was, says his biographer, in the most amazing manner, without any religious opportunity, or peculiar advantage, deliverance, or affliction, reclaimed, on a sudden, in the prime of his days and the vigour of health, from a life of profligacy and wicked ness, not only to a steady course of regularity and virtue, but to high devotion and strict though unaffected purity of manners; which he continued to sustain until his untimely death.

      On the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1745 his regiment marched with the utmost expedition to Dunbar, and being joined by Hamilton’s regiment of dragoons, and the foot under the command of Sir John Cope, the whole force proceeded towards Edinburgh, to give battle to the rebels. The two hostile bodies came into view of each other on September 20, in the neighbourhood of Colonel Gardiner’s own house of Bankton near Prestonpans, of which the following, sketched by Mr. J.C. Brown in 1844, is a representation. It was totally destroyed by fire on 27th November, 1852.

[pic of Gardiner’s home]

      On the 21st he fell at the battle of Prestonpans. At the beginning of the action he received a wound by a bullet in his left breast, and soon after received a shot in his right thigh. After a faint fire, his regiment was seized with a panic, and took to flight; at the same moment he saw a party of infantry who were bravely fighting near him, without an officer to head them, on which he said, “These brave fellows will be cut to pieces for want of a commander,” and riding up to them, he cried out, “Fire on, my lads, and fear nothing.” But just as the words were spoken, he was cut down by a Highlander with a scythe fastened to a long pole, and immediately after, being dragged off his horse, another Highlander gave him a stroke, either with a broadsword or a Lochaber axe, on the back part of his head, which was the mortal blow. His remains were interred on the 24th of the same month at the parish church of Tranent, where he usually, when at home, attended divine service. He had married, July 11, 1726, the Lady Frances Erskine, daughter of the fourth earl of Buchan, by whom he had thirteen children, five only of whom, two sons and three daughters, survived their father. One of his daughters, named Richmond, married Mr. Laurence Inglis, depute-clerk of Bills at Edinburgh. She was the subject of a song of Sir Gilbert Elliot’s, ‘Fanny fair, all woe-begone,’ which was originally set to the tune of Barbara Allan. She herself wrote poetry, and in 1781 published at Edinburgh, in a quarto volume, ‘Anna and Edgar, or Love and Ambition, a Tale.’ She died at Edinburgh, 9th June 1795.

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