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The First Highland Regiment
The Argyllshire Highlanders


When King James vacated the throne of England and Scotland, and the Revolution of 1688 was an accomplished fact, William of Orange found himself confronted with a war in Flanders, a war in Ireland, open mutiny amongst the troops in England, and an almost certain Jacobite insurrection in Scotland—a train of circumstances which necessitated an increase in the army.

Amongst those who accompanied the new King to England was Archibald Campbell, who, since the execution of his father, the ninth Earl of Argyll in 1685, had been an exile in Holland, but had since been restored to the properties and family dignaties. To shew his gratitude to the new Government, and not without an eye to his own further interests, the new Earl, in view of the trouble in Scotland, proposed to raise a regiment of 600 men from among his tenants in the Western Highlands. The offer being readily accepted, the following order was issued to raise the regiment: ‘The Estates of the Kingdome of Scotland, considering that the Earl of Argyle Hes made ane offer to Levie one Regiment of six hundred foot to be commanded by him as Collonell, And to be Imployed in the service of His Majestie William, By the Grace of God King of Great Britain, Ffrance, and Ireland; And the Estates Reposing speciall trust and confidence in the fidelitie, couradge, and good conduct of the said Earl of Argyle, Have therefor nominated, constitute, and appointed, And by these presents Do nominat, constitute, and appoynt The said Earl of Argyle to be Collonell of a Regiment of foot, appointed by the act of the said Estates of dait oF these presents, to be levied by him as said is, consisting of ten companies

trouble in Scotland, proposed to raise a regiment of 600 men from among his tenants in the Western Highlands. The offer being readily accepted, the following order1 was issued to raise the regiment: ‘ The Estates of the Kingdome of Scotland, considering that the Earl of Argyle Hes made ane offer to Levie one Regiment of six hundred Toot to be commanded by him as Collonell, And to be Imployed in the service of His Majestie William, By the Grace of God King of Great Britain, Ffrance, and Ireland; And the Estates Reposing speciall trust and confidence in the fidelitie, couradge, and good conduct of the said Earl of Argyle, Have therefor nominated, constitute, and appointed, And by these presents Doc nominal, constitute, and appoynt The said Earl of Argyle to be Collonell of a Regiment of foot, appointed by the act of the said Estates of dait oT these presents, to be levied by him as said is, consisting of ten companies and sixtie men in each company; with full power to the said Earl of Argyle to nominat the Li veten riant Collonell and Major of the said Regiment, and the Captaines and inferior officers of the several companies, and to grant commissions accordingly; And to command and exercise the said regiment, both officers and souldiers, carefully and dilligently; and to keep them in good order and discipline; And to do and act all things competent and incumbent for any collonell of foot to doe and per forme; Requiring and commanding thereby all officers and souldiers of the said Regiment to give due obedience to the said Earl of Argyle as their collonell, and to their respective commanding officers; and, further, the Estates doc hereby command and require the said Earl of Argyle to observe and prosecute such orders and directiones as he snail receive from tyme to tyme from them, or from Major Generali M‘Kay, present Commander in Chiefe of the forces of this Kingdome, or any other commander in chiefe for the tyme, or any superior officers, according to the rules and discipline of warr; and the Estates Doe Declair that each company, both officers and souldiers, is to enter in pay after the same is mustered compleat, and the field officers after the wholl regiment is mustered; and that this commissione shall continue untill the King's most excellent Majestic shall be pleased to grant new commissions for the said regiment, or otherwayes dispose thereof. Signed by Warrand, and in the name of ye Estates,

Hamilton.
22nd April, 1689.
President.

No definite information regarding the uniform worn by this regiment of Argyllshire Highlanders is at present obtainable; but it is believed that it was similar to that of an English line regiment of the period, substituting the round blue bonnet for the English cocked hat. Above the door of Dunstaffnage House is a coat, İf arms, carved, which formerly stood over the door of the old castle. It has for supporters what are believed to be two privates of Argyll’s Regiment in 1692. I am indebted to Dunstaffnage for a steel engraving done from the stone carving over his door. With the exception of the head-dress, which is a Scottish round flat bonnet such as is now worn, the uniform closely resembles the uniform of an ordinary line regiment of the period.

Campbells were, naturally, a predominating element in the regiment: of the first nine principal officers appointed six bore that name. The Earl of Argyll, colonel also of rhe Dumbarton and Bute Militia, was the colonel and captain, and Sir Duncan Campbell, Bart., M.P., of Auchenbreck? the lieutenant-colonel and captain; the field officers, as was customary in those days, also commanding companies. The other captains appointed were Archibald M‘Aulay of Ardincaple; James Campbell, younger of Ardkinglass; Archibald Lamont of Lamont; Archibald Campbell of Torrie; Archibald Campbell of Barbreck; Hector Bannatyne, younger of Kames; and John Campbell of Airds.

The recruiting of the regiment was fairly quickly completed in the Western Highlands, but not before the battle of Killiecrankie had restored to James the whole country beyond the Forth. And, looking to the probabilities of the case, nothing saved the rest of Scotland from a similar fate but the death of the gallant Dundee. However, the regiment is soon found engaged in its unenviable duty of coercing its fellow countrymen; no doubt hoping to be even with some of the clans, for the Campbells had some old scores to wipe out. The Lowlands ar this time were peaceful and progressive enough under the new Government, but the emblems of civil war still smouldered in the Highlands. There the poverty of the people and the want of industrial employment made peace anything but welcome to the chiefs or their retainers. There was ample occupation, therefore, for the Argyll Highlanders in reducing the strongholds of those who still held out for King James, in suppressing cattle stealing and other raids, and in otherwise maintaining order among rival clans. If there was little love lost between the Campbells and the Jacobite clans, and if the duties of the regiment were sometimes carried out in a manner which would now-a-days be considered unnecessarily severe, allowance must be made for the custom of the times, and for the manner in which the Campbells had themselves suffered. Only five years back the head of their clan, the ninth Earl, had been put to death, his property confiscated, and his sons exiled. Within the same period their lands had been overrun by ten of the Jacobite clans, who drove the population into the woods, and pillaged and burned their homes.

Deprived of their one capable leader in Dundee, the Highlanders after Killiecrankie were helpless. His death, in the moment of victory, broke the only bond which held them together, and in a few weeks the host which had spread terror through the Lowlands melted hopelessly away. The clans returned, to their mountains, not forgetting to load themselves with plunder on the way. The opportunity was not lost on ‘Coll of the Cows,' as Macdonald of Keppoch was called on account of his lifting propensities. With his own men and the Macdonalds of Glencoe he made his way through Perthshire, spoiling the lands and goods of Campbell of Glenlyon, a man who could ill afford the loss. By this raid in which was carried out in violation of the Protection order which Glenlyon had received from the Commander-in-Chief of King James1 Army, Glenlyon and his few dependents lost their whole stock—all they had in the world—estimated at some /8ooo of Scots money—a large sum in those days. To the unfortunate Laird, who had already suffered considerable misfortune, it meant such complete ruin that, driven in his advancing years, for he then bordered on sixty, to earn his daily bread, he was glad to accept a company in the Argyllshire Highlanders, in which he was destined to achieve an unfortunate notoriety.

By the end of 1689 the Argyllshire Highlanders—as the regiment may properly be called — were busy at work, one detachment under Captain John Campbell of Airds being specially employed in an effort to reduce what was clearly his own property — Castle Stalcairc or Island Stalker, between Lismore and Appin, but which was then held for the young Laird of Appin by his tutor John Stewart of Ardsheal fresh from leading the clan at Killiecrankie. The castle, which was strongly placed and well fortified, had been disposed of by the Stewarts of Appin some years before, but as Hereditary Keepers they had seized and held it for the King. In July, 1690, the headquarters of the regiment were at Perth, whence they marched to Stirling in anticipation of a descent of the Jacobites, but as that never came off the regiment was moved into Argyllshire, with Glencairn’s Regiment, for the purpose of reducing the Isles, the Earl of Argyll specially devoting himself to the strongholds in Mull. The castle of Island Stalker surrendered to him on the 9th October, 1690, and, to his credit, he treated the defenders considerately, and gave them honourable terms. After this he tried his hand hard at the castles of Duart and Cairnburgh, strongholds of the young Sir John Maclaine, the chief of that clan. Though the Highlands were comparatively quiet at this time, the war still smouldered, and the pacification of the clans was slow work. The attempt at bribing the chiefs had failed, and the Government were getting impatient, for they wanted the troops in Flanders. This was the situation when a suspension of arms between the 30th June and tst October, 1691, was agreed upon, during which time negotiations for a permanent pacification went on. in August a proclamation was issued promising an indemnity to all Jacobites who should swear allegiance to William and Mary before the 1st January, 1692, and threatening with the severest penalties those who should neglect the offer. And it is in connection with the enforcement of this order that occurs the one dark spot in the history of the Argyllshire Highlanders. The story of the Massacre of Glencoe has often been repeated, though rarely with strict regard to accuracy in detail, but it is impossible to avoid reference to it in this account of the regiment.

Most of the chiefs took the alarm at the proclamation, and escaped the threatened danger by tendering their allegiance before the appointed day, except Macdonald or Glencoe, whose pride delayed his taking the oath till after the latest date fixed by the proclamation; and, even then, the fact of his having sworn allegiance was not permitted to save him and his clan. Glencoe is a wild and somewhat gloomy vale in the district of Lorn, Argyllshire, but for beauty and grandeur is excelled by few passes in Scotland. Mists and storms brood over it through a great part of the finest summer, while, even on those days when the sun is bright and the sky cloudless, the impression made by the landscape is somewhat sad, though not quite such a Valley of the Shadow of Death as Macaulay so picturesquely describes it.

Sentence of extermination against the clan having gone forth from the King, through the influence of the Earl of Breadalbane and the Master of Stair, the instructions for the carrying out of the same were made clear and unmistakable. They were issued by Brigadier-General Sir Thomas Livingstone, Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, through Colonel John Hill, Governor of Fort-William, to Lieutenant-Colonel James Hamilton,16 each of whom perfectly understood the treachery about to he practised. 'The work' wrote the Master of Stair to Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, who willingly undertook it, 'must be secret and sudden? The troops were chosen from Hill’s Regiment111 and the Argyllshire Highlanders—the latter not on good terms with the clansmen of Glencoe. On the 12th February, 1692, 400 of Hill’s Regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel James Hamilton, and a similar number of the Argyllshire under Major Robert Duncanson,17 were ordered to Glencoe to co-operate on the following morning with Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon’s company of the Argylls, which had been quartered peacefully in the Glen among the Macdonalds for some twelve days till all suspicion of their errand had disappeared. Indeed, during that time, he and his men had been living on the most friendly terms as the guests of those who were soon to be their victims; and so that there should be no inkling of what was intended, his men were not informed of the duty on which they were bent until the company paraded while still dark on the fatal morning of Saturday, the 13th February. Tradition says that the tune known as the Breadalbane March, the ‘ Carles with the Breeks,* and the * Wives of the Glen,’ was played by Glenlyon’s piper on this occasion in the hope of warning the M‘Ians of their danger. It is said that one M‘Ian wife heeded the warning, and fled to the hills with her child, saving his life:

‘Wives of wild Cona Glen, Cona Glen, Cona Glen,
Wives of wild Cona Glen wake from your slumbers;
Early I woke this morn, early I woke this morn,
Woke to alarm you with music’s wild numbers?

Without waiting for Hamilton’s and Duncanson’s detachments, which had been delayed by a storm of unusual severity, the troops, as arranged, fell upon their unarmed and unsuspecting hosts, and in a few minutes thirty of the clansmen with their chief lay dead—Hamilton’s and Duncanson’s parties arriving later and completing the tragedy; the rest of the Macdonalds, sheltered by the storm, escaped to the mountains to perish, for the most part of cold and hunger. It fell to the lot of Campbell of Glenlyon and his two subalterns—Lieutenant Lindsay and Ensign John Lundie—with a Captain Thomas Drummond, to act the principal parts in the tragedy, though Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton and Major Duncanson acted with great brutality when they did arrive.

Glenlyon has been credited with perhaps an undue amount of the odium which very properly attaches to the massacre. If anything can be permitted to condone the breach of hospitality, treachery, and murder of which he was guilty, it is to be found in the positive orders he received from his superior officer and in the provocation which he had received at the hands of the Macdonalds. With the Macdonalds of Keppoch they had completely ruined him and his clan: indeed his wife and family were at that very time struggling at home against the severest poverty. Glenlyon’s life had been an unfortunate one. He was originally a man of prepossessing appearance and fine physique. He it was who in 1680 marched with the Breadalbane and Glenlyon men into Caithness in hostile array to reduce the refractory Sinclairs to obedience—the occasion on which tradition says that his piper improvised the well-known pibroch of ‘The Carles with the Breeks,’ also known as the Breadalbane march. In his youth he was unfortunately addicted to gambling and display, to which in later days he added an excessive love for wine. With his wife’s extravagance his misfortunes increased, until his affairs were brought to a climax and ruin by the Macdonald raid in 1689. After this he appears to have existed on the charity of Breadalbane, who had to supply his outfit to enable him to accompany the regiment to Flanders.30 He died at Bruges on the and August, 1696, in the sixty-fifth year of his age—a broken man.

The degree of the Earl of Argyll’s complicity in the massacre is not easy to determine. As commanding officer of the regiment, he must have been aware of the sentence of extermination which had been pronounced against the Macdonalds, but there is no evidence of his being a party to the treachery by which it was accompanied. Lockhart describes him as 'in outward appearance a good natured, civil, and modest gentleman,’ whose actions were quite otherwise; while in Lochiel’s eyes he appears a man of a frank, noble, and generous disposition. Judging from his conduct generally in the awkward duty upon which he was employed in the Highlands as colonel of his regiment, one is disposed to view his character in the more favourable light. The chief blame surely lies with those who conceived the massacre — the Earl of Breadalbanc and the Master of Stair, and with the King, who so readily acquiesced in the scheme. Nor is it to the credit of King William that, when the affair became public and the prosecution of the chief offenders was recommended by the Committee of Enquiry, he made no effort to move in the matter. The subordinates, remorseless tools though they were, merely obeyed the orders of their superior officers.

Within a few weeks of these events the Argyllshire Highlanders received orders to march to Leith, with a view to early embarkation to join the army in Flanders. The order was far from popular with the men, who with difficulty concealed their aversion to leaving their country. The feeling was not, however, accompanied with anything like insubordination. It was merely the outcome of that pardonable devotion to their homes and those dear to them which characterised all the Highlanders of Scotland; feelings such as inspired Allan Ramsay’s words in ‘Farewell to Lochabar:'

‘The tears that I shed they’re a’ for my dear.
And no for the dangers attending on weir;
Though borne on rough seal to a far bloody shore,
Maybe to return to Lochaber no more.'

We find the regiment, however, at Brentford in the summer of 1692, and it did not for various reasons sail for Flanders till the following spring, about the time King William was preparing to confront the superior numbers of the French under Louis XIV. William was at his best as a soldier: indeed he never appeared quite at ease except in the field of battle, where he repeatedly proved his high personal courage. Lieutenant-Colonel Robert ackson took the regiment out, and if bravery in the field could atone for their unfortunate connection with the Glencoe affair, it will be found that the Argyll men did their utmost to wipe away the stain which attached to their name.

In May, 1693, the regiment was encamped at Parck, with the army under King William covering Brussels and Upper Brabant, and formed part of the Scots Brigade under Brigadier-General Ramsay. On the 1st July it was detached with a force of 8,000 Infantry and 600 Cavalry under the Prince of Wurtemburg, and bore the brunt of the fighting on the 9th July, when the Count D’Alfeldt’s Division played a brilliant part in forcing the fortified lines between the rivers Scheldt and Lys at D’Otignies, and drove the French from their entrenchments with heavy loss. The regiment eminently distinguished itself on this occasion, the Grenadier company under Captain Thomas Drummond leading the attack on Pont David. Without wincing, his Grenadiers kept steadily on in the face of the enemy’s fire till they gained the parapet of the redoubt. The French fire was tremendous. Both the subalterns dropped; and, before the main body could reach the redoubt, the company was reduced to a few scattered men, still fighting on against thirty times their number. At the end of the day more than a quarter of Drummond’s company lay-dead on the ground. The regiment afterwards acconipanied Wiirtemburg’s Division of the Allied Army, destined tor the relief of Charleroi; but King William abandoned the enterprise. Charleroi fell on the 1st of October, the campaign closed, and the regiment went into winter quarters at Bruges. The year 1693 had not been a profitable one for the Allies. They had suffered, a crushing defeat at the hands of the renowned Duke of Luxembourg at Landen, as at Steinkirk the year before. ‘Am I always to be beaten by that hunchback?’ exclaimed the King, passionately, alluding to the victorious French Marshal, who was somewhat deformed. William III. was a soldier and a general of no mean order, but in strategy he was much interior to Luxembourg, who was known in France as the taptssier of Notre Dame, from his having upholstered that Cathedral with so many captured flags. Macaulay has given a vivid portrait of William at the battle of Landen, and nis admirable retreat from that fatal field.

Shortly after the arrival of the Argyllshire Highlanders in Flanders some busybody reported to King William that certain men of the regiment were in the habit of drinking to King James’s health; which was quite possible, seeing that many of the Campbells were known to have strong leanings in favour of the Stuarts and hereditary right, although, since the restitution of the MacCailean-Mores to their homes and dignities, they kept their feelings quiet. Turning to General Tollmache—the Taimash of Tristram Shandy—the King asked how they behaved in the field. ‘As well as any troops in the army,’ was the reply. ’Well, then,’ rejoined the sensible King, ‘if only they fight for me, why, let them drink my father-in-law’s health as often as they please.

In March, 1694, the Earl of Argyll resigned the colonelcy of the regiment in favour of his son John, Lord Lorne, then a lad of fifteen, who was duly appointed captain of a company and colonel on the 7th April. The other principal officers at this time were Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Jackson, Major Robert Duncanson, Captains Neil Campbell, Duncan Campbell, Thomas Drummond (Grenadiers), Colin Campbell, senior, Colin Campbell, junior, Robert MacAulay, Alexander Campbell of Finab, John Louis de la Bene, George Somerville, and Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. The Earl of Argyll, if not a great soldier, had performed useful service in Scotland since the Revolution. By considerable tact he had, through the influence of religion, gradually habituated his followers to the new order of things, till the country of the Campbells exhibited a picture of peacefulness and civilization in strong contrast to the rest of the Highlands. In 1696 he was appointed Colonel of the Scots Troop of Life Guards. He was created a Dulce 33rd June, 1701, became Major-General 12th May, 1702, and died at Newcastle, on his way to Scotland, on the 28th September, 1703, and was buried at Kilmun, the burying-place of the family of Argyll.

In 1694 the army of 90,000 men which William commanded did no more than hold the French successfully at bay; year after year he had to fight against odds. Soon after the campaign of 1695 opened, the regiment, under command of LieutenantColonel Patrick Hume, recently appointed in place of Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson, was detached with a large force, under Major-General Ellenberg, to garrison Dixmude, which was invested by the French. This General, a Danish officer who had risen from the ranks, was in command. Of supplies and munitions of all descriptions there were plenty. The works were not strong, but the place was capable of a prolonged resistance. Not twenty-four hours, however, had elapsed after the trenches were opened before Ellenberg beat a parley and called a Council of War. He laid before the Council the condition of the place, and proposed a capitulation, to which, after some persuasion, the majority of the officers consented. But Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Duncanson, who had succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel Hume in the command of the Argyllshire Highlanders, though the youngest in the Council of War, flatly refused to give his adherence. With only one supporter, he urged that as yet there was no breach, and the enemy had not effected a lodgement in the counterscarp, and to talk of surrender was dishonourable. The General, however, obtained a majority, and the capitulation was signed the next day—17th July, 1695. It is recorded that the soldiers forming the garrison were greatly exasperated when required to lay down their arms and surrender their colours as prisoners of war. The Argyll men were loud in their remonstrance, and, to their credit and honour be it said, rather than the colours under which they had fought so well should fall into the hands of the enemy, they tore them from the poles and destroyed them.' General Ellenberg was tried by Court Martial, and beheaded; O’Farrel was cashiered and imprisoned; while most of the others who had signed the capitulation were broke. The officers and men of the garrison were shortly afterwards released, and the regiment went into winter quarters at Damme. The year’s campaign ended in a great triumph over the French in the capture of Namur, which would have been more marked had King William been able to follow it up by a victory in the field.

The campaigns of 1696 and 1697 were uneventful, the duty of the regiment consisting chiefly in protecting Bruges, Nieuport, and the neighbourhood. The war, in fact, was fast drawing to a close, and when King William returned to Holland in the spring of the latter year, peace negotiations were on the point of being opened at Ryswick. No further military operations took place, and it only remains to add that France, reduced to utter exhaustion, was only too ready to consent to peace, which was concluded by England, the United Provinces, and Spain on the 10th September, 1697: the Emperor definitely acceded on the 30th October. And so ended the military service of the Argyllshire Highlanders, the first Highland regiment raised for the British Standing Army. For though there was an Independent Foot Company of 'Highland men’ on the Scottish establishment in 1678, and a similar Company of Highlanders was raised by Lieutenant-General Hugh Mackay in 1689, there appears to have been no Highland Regiment on the establishment prior to the raising of the Argyllshire Highlanders in 1689. The late Colonel Clifford Walton, C.B., in his History of the British Army, 1660-1700 claims the distinction for Colonel George Hamilton’s Scottish Regiment of Foot. But Hamilton’s Regiment, though raised in Scotland, was apparently not raised in the Highlands. Nor was it formed until more than three years after Argyll’s regiment. The Argyllshire Highlanders were disbanded in Flanders, the officers and men returning home by the end of 1697, the former being placed on half-pay in 1698.

Lord Lorne’s connection with the regiment had been very slight, though he nominally commanded it since April, 1694. He succeeded his father as second Duke of Argyll in 1703, and was created Duke of Greenwich in 1719. Pope immortalized him in the well-known lines:

'Argyll, the State's whole thunder born to wield,
And shake alike the Senate and the field.’

But we are concerned with him here as a soldier. He served as a general officer under Marlborough at Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet, in which last-named battle he greatly distinguished himself by his extraordinary bravery. He served also at the sieges of Ostend, Menin, Lille, and Ghent. As Lieutenant-General he commanded at the siege of Tournay, where he was wounded. In February, 1711, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Spain, with the rank of General. After his return he was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Scotland and Governor of Edinburgh Castle. He commanded the Government troops at Sheriffmuir against the Jacobite forces. He held at different times the colonelcy of the 3rd Foot, the Scots Troop of Life Guards, the 2nd Dragoon Guards, and the Royal Horse Guards. He was also Master-General of the Ordnance, Field Marshal, and Commander-in-Chief, besides being a K.G. and K.T. He died in October, 1743.

Lieutenant-Colonel Duncanson, whose admirable conduct in command of the Argyllshire Highlanders atoned in some measure for his unfortunate connection with the Glencoe affair, was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Earl of Huntingdon’s Regiment (afterwards the 33rd) on 12th February, 1702; Brevet Colonel in the Army, 1st November, 1703 ; Colonel of Huntingdon’s Regiment, 22nd February, 1705; and died as a soldier, being killed at the siege of Valencia de Alcantara on the 8th May, 1705.

Robert MacKenzie Holden.


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