The Black Watch Regiment (1739-2006)

From U.K. Telegraph, 29 March, 2006


It was out with the old and in with the new yesterday as six regiments were consigned to military history.

The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) was the first kilted regiment in the British Army, and the first to introduce the bagpipe. It's the oldest Highland regiment and can trace a line back to 1624 when the government of the day started raising Independent Companies to keep a check on the wild clansmen.

While Black Watch veterans,wearing the red hackle, lamented the loss of their 267-year-old regiment, serving soldiers wore the cap and badge of the new Royal Regiment of Scotland for the first time.

Ceremonies were held in Perth, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cyprus and Basra to mark the disappearance of the Black Watch, the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Scots, the Royal Highland Fusiliers, the Highlanders and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.


The Black Watch, or "Royal Highland Regiment", the oldest of the Highland units, wear the "Universal" tartan. Sometimes called the "Black Watch" or "42nd" tartan, it is claimed to be a Campbell tartan and is worn as such , when woven in brighter color shades, by the Duke of Argyll. The pipers of the Regiment, however, wear a different tartan, the "Royal Stewart", as is the custom in certain of the Scottish regiments.


In 1726, General George Wade, an Irishman, was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, with a brief to pacify the Highlands. Wade revived the idea of using Highlanders with proven loyalty to the Crown. He raised them in 1725 at Aberfeldy when six companies of some 500 men were drawn from the clans Campbell, Grant, Fraser and Munro. The Black Watch also policed the Highlands. They were authorized to disarm clansmen, prevent cattle stealing and act as guides for Hanoverian redcoats and dragoons. Believing it to be in the government's interest that the men of the Watch be kept happy in their remote camps, Wade established breweries for his men. In 1739, a year after the major road-building program was finished, the six companies were increased to ten and the Black Watch Regiment was formally constituted.

In May 1740, 1000 men of the Black Watch...were called to muster near Aberfeldy on the pretext that King George II wished to inspect them in London. Although the men had been promised they would never be asked to leave Scotland, the government had secretly decided to send them to Flanders. When the Black Watch reached London, they were reviewed by General Wade and about a hundred met on Finchley Common on 17 May 1743 and decided to make for home. The deserters were captured at Oundle in Northamptonshire, seventy miles from London, and imprisoned in the Tower. They were persuaded to plead guilty; but the government showed no mercy. Corporal Samuel MacPherson and Corporal Malcolm MacPherson from Badenoch were shot, along with Private Farquhar Shaw of Rothiemurchus. The other deserters were drafted into regiments serving overseas in Gibraltar, Minorca, Georgia and the Leeward Islands. Few saw Scotland again. Of the Black Watch mutineers sent into exile, nine were Camerons and four Stewarts. Perhaps it was no accident that the chiefs of the MacPhersons and the Stewarts of Appin, together with Cameron of Lochiel were to answer Prince Charles Edward's call to rebellion in 1745.

from "Scotland's story: a new perspective" by Tom Steel.


The War of the Austrian Succession brought the Regiment its first Battle Honor, at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. Shortly afterward, it distinguished itself at the Battle of Ticonderoga during the French and Indian War.

Although the Black Watch participated in many battles during the Revolutionary War, it claims no honors for these engagements against its American cousins. The red hackle or plume, which the Regiment considers a Battle Honor, was awarded in 1795. Legend claims it was awarded for service at the Battle of Geldermalsen. However, it was more likely an award for many years of service in North America

During the 19th century, the Black Watch served all over the world. In the Napoleonic Wars, it comprised part of the British Army at the battles of Corunna, Toulouse, the Peninsula Campaign and Waterloo. In 1801 at the Battle of Alexandria in Egypt, the 42nd won the honor of bearing the Sphinx with the word "Egypt" on its Colors after holding out against superior odds and repelling Napoleon's invincible forces. It also fought against Russians in the Crimean War, quelled mutineers during the Sepoy Rebellion in India, fought against Colonel Arabi Pasha in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 and the Dutch South Africans in the Boer War.

The Regiment raised 27 battalions for service on all fronts during World War I. Battle Honors for the Great War include the Marne, Ypres and the Somme.

In the Second World War, the Black Watch fought the Axis in theaters as far away as France, Greece and North Africa. Notable engagements included Crete, Tobruk and El Alamein.

The Regiment's service since World War II has sent it to Borneo and Korea (where it fought with the U.S. Marine Corps at "The Hook"), on several tours in Germany and, most recently, to Hong Kong.

Today, the Black Watch continues to serve as a fully operational Battalion in the modern British Army. The Black Watch was spared during defense cuts of the 1990's, which caused the amalgamation of many historic regiments.

The Black Watch has always been closely connected to the Royal Family. Earlier this century, George V was the Colonel-in-Chief. In 1937, the Queen Mother assumed this title and in 1997 celebrated 60 years of service.


Peter, the Regimental Mascot of the Black Watch

by George Robinson. "The Highlander", Mar./Apr., 1999.

In 1836, hundreds of spectators traveled down to Leith docks on the Firth of Forth to welcome home the soldiers of the Black Watch. The Highland Regiment had been away from Scotland for 19 years and was now returning from the island of Corfu in the Mediterranean.

As the kilted soldiers disembarked from the troop transport and formed a long, red line along the quay before marching to the barracks at Edinburgh Castle, a Newfoundland dog trotted down the gangway, cheered on by the crowds, and took his place with the Regimental band. The dog's name was Peter, and he had joined the 42nd Highlanders four years earlier at the fortress of St. Elmo on the island of Malta.

Peter had originally belonged to an officer of the Royal Navy who had received an invitation from the 42nd's colonel to dine at the regimental mess when his ship had called at the island. The officer had taken his dog along to the barracks where the Newfoundland had instantly made friends with the soldiers. At the end of the evening's entertainment when it was time to return to his ship, the naval officer had tried to get his pet to go back with him. But the dog had thoroughly enjoyed the Highlanders' company and refused to leave. Seeing that the Newfoundland would be well looked after, the officer decided to leave the dog at the barracks.

The officers and men of the 42nd were pleased that the Newfoundland had decided to stay with them instead of going back to sea and christened their new regimental mascot "Peter". A collection was taken up and the soldiers purchased a collar for the Newfoundland which was inscribed with the words "Regimental Dog, Forty-Second Highlanders".

The Highland Regiment also had a deer which had been presented by a friend of one of the officers, and as soon as the dog and the stag met, they became close companions. Although both animals were popular with nearly all of the Highlanders, they preferred to stick with the regimental musicians who fed them biscuits. When the bugler sounded assembly, the two mascots always fell in with the band as the soldiers of Black Watch prepared to go on parade or on a route march.

Peter reported daily to the cookhouse for his meals and any bones that might be available. In addition to these rations, Peter generally received a pat on the head and a kind word from all of the cooks, except for one surly individual who had taken a disliking to the Newfoundland. When the crabbit cook was on duty, he not only refused to give the dog his meal, but also tried to kick him whenever he appeared at the cookhouse door. Peter bided his time, keeping out of the bully's way, but treating him with contempt whenever their paths crossed on the barrack square.

Peter, who had appointed himself regimental lifeguard, always accompanied the military bathing parties when they marched down to the beach to take a swim in the Mediterranean. The dog was a first-class swimmer and was always first to plunge into the sea and last to leave after the regimental bathers had finished their dip.

One day Peter spotted the cook going down to the beach for a swim. Realizing that this was the moment he had been waiting for, the Newfoundland swam toward the bully and dragged the struggling soldier beneath the surface. Fortunately for the drowning cook, his cries for help were heard by the rest of the party who swam to his rescue, reaching him just as Peter began to drag him beneath the waves for the third and final time.

In 1834, the Black Watch sailed to the beautiful island of Corfu where the soldiers were garrisoned at Fort Neuf. A long subterranean passage led to the fort's entrance, and only soldiers who had been issued a pass were permitted to go beyond the Fort's boundary line, which lay 32 yards from the tunnel's mouth. Peter must have figured that the regulation also applied to him because he would trot right up to the line and sit waiting for the soldiers to return from the town. And as soon as the bugler sounded recall, he would quickly wheel around and bound back through the tunnel to the Fort at breakneck speed.

During the warm weather the police regularly patrolled the town in a horse-drawn cart, rounding up any unfortunate strays who wandered into their path. The police wagon was fitted with a gruesome wooden-framed contraption which had butcher's hooks suspended from it. When the constabulary captured a dog, the poor beast was dragged back to the wagon and hung up on the grisly scaffold. Peter kept well away from the ghastly vehicle and the Highlanders made every effort to ensure that the Newfoundland did not fall into the hands of the dogcatchers. Peter also was always inspected to make sure that he was wearing his collar when he went on trips into the town. But, despite these precautions, the Newfoundland had many a narrow escape from the dog patrol...even when he was wearing his regimental insignia.

Peter was definitely a military dog. On one occasion when he was attacked by a huge mastiff, the Newfoundland made a tactical withdrawal for a distance of over a mile, all the while pursued by his assailant. Reaching the walls of Fort Neuf, Peter abruptly stopped, turned around and launched into a counterattack that put his enemy to flight.

One day while his friend the deer was grazing near the Fort, a cat approached the animal. Frightened by the cat's sudden appearance, the stag panicked, and thinking it was about to be attacked, jumped over a cliff, falling 200 feet to its death. Peter was inside the walls of Fort Neuf, but instinct warned the dog that the deer had met with an accident. Bounding up the steps to the battlements, the Newfoundland signaled the news of the disaster to the soldiers by barking loudly.

Back in Scotland, a young deer had been acquired by the depot company garrisoned at Fort George to replace the stag which had been killed in the tragic accident. In 1836 the soldiers of the home-based company were given orders to travel to the Scottish capital to prepare the barracks at Edinburgh Castle for the regiment's return from Corfu. The stag, which had been christened Donald, stood waiting with the welcoming party as the Black Watch, headed by Peter and the Regimental band, marched onto shore.

The Newfoundland got on well with the new recruit, and Donald, like his predecessor, took his place with the band as the musicians, dressed in feather bonnets decorated with a red hackle, white jackets and Royal Stewart tartan kilts, marched through the streets of the capital to the cheers of the crowd.

Queen Victoria began her long and glorious reign in 1837. But the year which marked her accession to the throne also saw the end of Peter's military service. An officer had mistreated the Newfoundland, and the dog made the mistake of snarling at him one day as he passed by. This was the excuse the officer had been waiting for and he immediately gave orders that Peter was to be marched away and shot. The faithful Newfoundland was sentenced to be executed by one of his own officers, much to the dismay of Donald and the soldiers of the Black Watch.

The year after Peter's death, Donald accompanied the 42nd Highlanders to Ireland, where the regiment was garrisoned at Dublin's Royal Barracks. In 1839, when the Highlanders were ordered overseas again, the colonel reluctantly decided that the regimental mascot would have to be left behind, and Donald the deer, who had marched with the band of the Black Watch along with Peter the Newfoundland dog, was put out to grass at Bandon Castle in the Emerald Isle.

Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe
from Parkman's "Montcalm and Wolfe"

The ancient castle of Inverawe stands by the banks of the Awe, in the midst of the wild and picturesque scenery of the Western Highlands. Late one evening, before the middle of the last century, as the laird, Duncan Campbell, sat alone in the old hall, there was a loud knocking at the gate; and, opening it, he saw a stranger, with torn clothing and kilt besmeared with blood. who in a breathless voice begged for asylum. He went on to say that he had killed a man in a fray, and that the pursuers were at his heels. Campbell promised to shelter him. "Swear on your dirk!" said the stranger; and Campbell swore. He then led him to a secret recess in the depths of the castle. Scarcely was he hidden when again there was a loud knocking at the gate, and two armed men appeared. "Your cousin Donald has been murdered, and we are looking for the murderer!" Campbell, remembering his oath, professed to have no knowledge of the fugitive; and the men went on their way. The laird, in great agitation, lay down to rest in a large dark room where at length he fell asleep. Waking suddenly in bewilderment and terror, he saw the ghost of the murdered Donald standing by his bedside, and heard a hollow voice pronounce the words: "Inverawe! Inverawe! blood has been shed. Shield not the murderer!" In the morning Campbell went to the hiding place of the guilty man and told him that he could harbor him no longer. "You have sworn on your dirk", he replied and the laird of Inverawe. greatly perplexed and troubled, made a compromise between conflicting duties, promised not to betray his guest, led him to the neighboring mountain (Ben Cruachan) and hid him in a cave.

In the next night, as he lay tossing in feverish slumbers,the same stern voice awoke him, the ghost of his cousin Donald stood again at his bedside, and again he heard the same appalling words: "Inverawe! Inverawe! blood has been shed. Shield not the murderer!" At break of day he hastened, in strange agitation, to the cave; but it was empty, the stranger had gone. At night, as he strove in vain to sleep, the vision appeared once more. "Farewell, Inverawe!", it said; "Farewell, till we meet at TICONDEROGA!"

The strange name dwelt in Campbell's memory. He had joined the Black Watch, or 42nd Regiment, then employed in keeping order in the turbulent Highlands. In time he became its major; and a year or two after the war broke out, he went with it to America. Here, to his horror, he learned that it was ordered to the attack of Ticonderoga. His story was well known among his brother officers. They combined amomg themselves to disarm his fears; and when they reached the fatal spot they told him on the eve of the battle, "This is not Ticonderoga; we are not there yet; this is Fort George." But in the morning he came to them with haggard looks. "I have seen him! You have deceived me! He came to my tent last night! This is Ticonderoga! I shall die today!" and his prediction was fulfilled.

The story of the "Red Heckle"

from "Electric Scotland"

Since 1795 the soldiers of the 42nd have worn a red feather or "heckle" in their bonnets, being in this respect distinguished from all the other Highland regiments. The following is the story of the "glorious old red heckle", as told by Lieutenant-Colonel Wheatley, who, we believe, had his information directly from those who took part in the exploit on account of which the Black Watch is entitled to wear the plume.

In December 1794, when the 42nd were quartered at Thuyl ... they received orders for the night of the 31st to mark upon Bommell, distant some miles on the opposite side of the river Waal, which they reached by 4:00 on the morning of 1st January 1795. Here they were joined by a number of other regiments, and lay on their arms until daybreak, when they attacked the French army, and drove them acrosss the river on the ice. The British held their position on the banks of the river until the evening of the 3rd, when (the French having been reinforced) a partial retreat took place early on the morning of the 4th. The British retired upon the village of Guildermalson, where the 42nd, with a number of other regiments, halted, and formed up to cover the retreat through the village. The French cavalry, however, cut through the retreating piquets, and made their way up to the regiments stationed at the village, where they were met and repulsed, and a number of them taken prisoners. Two field-pieces were placed in front of the village to protect the retreat of the piquets; but instead of resisting the charge of cavalry, they (the piquets) retreated to the rear of the village, leaving their guns in possession of the French, who commenced dragging them off. An A.D.C. (Major Rose) ordered Major Dalrymple, commanding the 42nd, to charge with his regiment and retake the guns; which was immediately done, with the loss of one man killed and 3 wounded. The guns were thus rescued and dragged in by the 42nd, the horses having been disabled and the harness cut.

There was little or no notice taken of this affair at the time, as all was bustle; but after their arrival in England, it was rumored that the 42nd were to get some distinctive badge for their conduct in retaking the guns on the 4th of January; but the nature of the honor was kept a profound secret. On the 4th of June 1795, as the regiment, then quartered at Royston, Cambridgeshire, was out on parade to fire three rounds in honor of his Majesty's birthday, the men were surprised and delighted when a large box was brought on to the field, and a red feather distributed to each soldier. This distinctive ornament has ever since adorned the otherwise funereal headdress of the old Black Watch.

In 1822, from a mistaken direction in a book of dress for the guidance of the army, some of the other Highland regiments concluded that they also had a right to wear "a red vulture feather". The 42nd, however, remonstrated, and their representations at headquarters called forth the following memorandum:

For Officers commanding Highland Regiments.

"Horse Guards, 20th Aug., 1822.

"The red vulture feather prescribed by the recent regulations for Highland regiments is intended to be used exclusively by the Forty-Second Regiment: other Highland corps will be allowed to continue to wear the same decription of feather that may have been hitherto in use.

"H. Torrens, Adjutant-General".


The Black Watch arrived in the Crimea on 15th September, 1854, as part of the Sir Colin Campbell's Highland Brigade. According to legend, on the night of November 14th, the Brigade Officers had an evening dinner party, and a merry time was had by all. The duty piquet officer returned to his place of duty and fell asleep at his post. On the next morning, November 15th, another freezing day broke over the entrenchments.

A lone piper saw a large body of troops advancing towards the piquet officer's position, already in line and ready for the attack. He instinctively grabbed his pipes and started to play the only tunes he knew. Other pipers heard his call , and all along the Brigade pipers started to join in. As a result, the Brigade was quickly roused and the Russian attack repelled. To this day, circumstances permitting, the officers junior to the Adjutant parade on the 15th of every month and watch the Long Reveille ceremony by the Pipes and Drums at 0630 hrs. that morning. The Argylls, who were also part of the Highland Brigade on that day, have a similar ceremony.

The tunes, some of them quite obscure today, remain the same, and are played in the same order. They are:

1. The soldier's return

2. Grannie Duncan

3. Sae wull we yet

4. Miss Girdle

5. Chisholm Castle

6. Johnnie Cope.

How the West was won (by the Black Watch)
by Joan Brittaine
"The Highlander", Mar/Apr 2000

Celebrating National Tartan Day throughout the United States on April 6 is a great compliment to Scots. It recognizes their many contributions to the country, from science and education to the arts and engineering. But what is s ss well-known is the vital role the Highland regiments played in the mid-1750s in ending the Indian rebellions in North America, and paving the way westward for the white man.

The Black Watch and the 77th Highlanders emerged as heroes in the ferocious battles which took place during this period, and some would argue that without this Scottish influence, America could possibly be quite a different place today. Ironically, the Scots were often regarded as "cousins" of the Indians, who initially received them with open arms. They were highly respected as great warriors by the Indians, and there were some remarkable similarities between the two. The Indians had tribes; the Scots had clans. The Highland soldiers' kilts were not dissimilar to the Indians' leather outfits. And both the Indians and Scots had chiefs. More important than this, however, they were both fierce fighters and neither gave an inch when pitched against an enemy in battle.

The Black Watch were first sent to America in 1756 to fight the French and Indians who were threatening the British colonial settlements. One of the first battles in which the pipes were heard was at Fort Ticonderoga. In July 1758 Scots attacked this strongly fortified French position. The battle was launched without artillery support and the Highlanders suffered terrible casualties as they charged forward under murderous fire. They hacked their way with broadswords over ground which had been booby-trapped; bags of sand, first covered with overlapping boughs of trees piled as high as a man then topped with sharp pointed branches and brushwood, tore at their faces. Yet still they thrust toward the 10-foot-high breastwork of the fort where the enemy was waiting with bayonets. The maniacal struggle went on for four hours. The Scots steadfastly refused to leave their killed and wounded behind, until finally a third retreat order was given and the soldiers complied.

When news of this reached the Scots back home, there was an outcry. The slaughter of so many of their comrades and kinsmen at first bordered on disbelief, then it turned to fury. But because recruits continued to join the Black Watch - even from the remotest glens in Scotland - the casualties were quickly replaced, and the extra soldiers were used to form a second battalion for the 42nd Foot, which eventually became the Perthshire Regiment. The British Prime Minister at the time, William Pitt, said of the bloodbath, "Never was there such a hardy and intrepid race of men so determined to fight to conquer.

The next battle in this evenful year took place at Fort Duquesne when an advance force of Highlanders under Major James Grant set out to reconnoiter the fort. During the operation, some soldiers became detatched from the company and an order was given to play the bagpipes in order to regroup. This was the first time the pipes had been heard in the Ohio Valley, so obviously the sound was not recognized. Thus, with no reaction from the fort, Major Grant and his soldiers advanced with confidence.

But this was a miscalculation. Though they did not react to the pipes, the French and Indians had certainly heard the sound, and had put themselves in a state of readiness. So as the Highlanders marched into the plain with pipes playing and drums beating as if entering a friendly town, they were ambushed. More than 300 Scots were massacred as deadly fire poured on them from under cover. The bayonet, ax and scalping knife speedily disposed of those the gunfire missed. When the main British force captured the fort two months later, the Scots' scalps and kilts were discovered hanging on the walls.

There were many more battles in the following years, with the balance of power changing from France to Britain, and the Indians becoming increasingly disenchanted about their territories being exchanged between white nations without their approval.

Up to the Seven Years War and beyond, white traders had been edging into territory the Indians regarded as their own. The more ambitious traders, one of whom was a young George Washington, had formed what was known as the Ohio Company. Thus with trading well established and thriving, other Americans, with their own ideas about owning and setting up a business in the wilderness, entered the region. And when this happened, the unrest among the Indians began to fester.

Colonel Henry Bouquet, who was in charge of the Highlanders, actually supported the westerner's hatred for the Indians. However, he nevertheless tried to restrain the American advance (which, not surprisingly, won the support and confidence of the Indian superintendents). Despite this and other attempts to bring a stop to encroachment on Indian lands, the white settlers continued to infiltrate. Apart from Bouquet's efforts, the Indians knew of no outside attempts to halt the progress of white traders. In fact, as time passed they even began to suspect Bouquet's motives. All the Indians were aware of was that they were being defrauded by the white traders, and so the old practice of exchanging Indian possessions for blankets, cloth, trinkets and tools came to an abrupt end. Then, under the brilliant rebel Indian chief known as Pontiac, who had been in the process of forming a great confederation of Indian tribes, war began in the spring of 1763.

Pontiac's progress was spectacular. Within months the Indians had cut through frontier settlements in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and (apart from Detroit) had captured all British military posts west of Fort Duquesne, which was now known as Fort Pitt. The forts at this time were lightly garrisoned, and at Fort Pitt, a British stronghold, starving frontier families were packed in with few weapons to defend themselves.

At one time an attempt had been made to quell the Indian attacks and to cut their numbers by giving them blankets infected with smallpox. Many of the Indians did, in fact, succumb to the disease, but Pontiac's force of warriors was vast, and they continued to lay siege to the forts, keeping pressure on Fort Pitt in particular.

News about the beleaguered fort quickly reached Col. Bouquet who was 250 miles away. He set off with a force of 500 Highlanders, a few cattle and 350 packhorses laden with supplies (including bags of flour that were to be put to a use not originally intended!). The soldiers marched for three weeks and within a few miles of the remote outpost of Bushy Run, a creek 15 miles from Fort Pitt, the advance party was met by hostile Indians. Heavy casualties were taken on both sides.

Bouquet immediately recalled his men and formed a protective ring around the packhorses, whereupon the Indians came at them from all sides, charging again and again. For seven hours, the fight raged. Volleys from the Highlanders drove the Indians back initially, but then they attacked from high ground, fighting hand-to-hand up and down the slopes. At one point a bayonet charge by the Highlanders drove the Indians back out of sight, which gave Col. Bouquet a chance to recall his men. The Indians then reappeared, charging, whooping and screaming, until the Highlanders made a dramatic bayonet charge and the Indians fell back in disorder.

Nightfall brought a welcome respite. This gave the Highlanders a chance to assess their position as they listened to occasional whoops throughout the night, which reminded them the enemy was still nearby. Wary of a surprise night attack and wondering how he could turn the situation in his favor, Bouquet decided to place numerous outposts in the forest. At the center of these outposts, he made a sturdy ring of flour bags as a shelter for the wounded and dying.

At dawn, with wild Geronimo whoops, the Indian attack was renewed. With his Black Watch force dwindling, Col. Bouquet brought his front and rear companies back under the cover of his flimsy defenses in the center of his position. He then drew together his flank companies, but left part of them out in position. Some newly arrived reinforcements were ready to wheel around to attack Pontiac's men from behind.

Seeing this opening in the ring of battling Scots, the Indians believed they had them on the run and charged through. They were met with fire from three sides, and were quickly shot to pieces. Then the Scots, carrying swords and their native weapon, the terrible Lochaber ax, made a fierce rush. The Indians either fled or perished under the sword. It took four days for the Scots to continue on to Fort Pitt. When they finally arrived they still had a few remaining bags of flour to hand over to the refugee families!

The immediate effect of this conquest was an easing of the pressure around Fort Pitt. For the first time, the white man had taken on the red man in the wilderness and won. At last the great Indian rebellion which had cost so many lives had ended, and the way westward over the Allegheny was open for the white man.

But there was still much to be done. Fighting continued sporadically, although not under Pontiac's influence. He had agreed to peace terms in 1765. By this time Pontiac also had made enemies within the Illinois tribes, and in the spring of 1769, at the age of 49, he was assassinated by a warrior at Cahokia. Why and how this happened is unknown, and where he was buried also remains a mystery. He was always regarded as a great leader and warrior - as were the men of the Black Watch who had been regarded as "cousins" and against whom he'd met his match.

by James Gracie
"The Highlander", May/June 2001

Of all the Scottish Regiments, none is more famous than the Black Watch. It is the senior and oldest of the Highland (as opposed to Lowland) regiments, and sums up everything about the Scottish soldier: the kilt, the sporran, the white spats, the bearskin helmet, the pipes and drums and the tartan plaid.

But the regiment is an enigma. The Black Watch may epitomize the Highlander and his fighting prowess, but it was [founded] with the sole purpose of keeping that self-same Highlander in his place.

After the Jacobite Uprising of 1715, Highlanders were forbidden to carry arms of any kind. Nobody paid much attention to it, however, and an Irishman named General George Wade was sent north in 1724 to quell the unrest that was brewing. In 1725 he revived the old idea of "Highland Watches," companies of men who would patrol and police the region to enforce the ban, as well as try to keep down smuggling and theft.

Six independent companies were raised, the recruits coming from Highlanders loyal to the House of Hanover. Later companies were formed as well, and in 1739 George II suggested that they should all be amalgamated into a single regiment. Thus the 43rd Highland Regiment of Foot was formed under the command of the Earl of Crawford. It paraded for the first time at Aberfeldy in May 1740.

Right from the start, the regiment earned the nickname of "The Black Watch", or, in Gaelic, "Am Freiceadan Dubh". No one really knows how this nickname originated. It may be that they earned the name to distinguish them from the other government troops in the Highlands - the "Saighdearan Dearg", or "Redcoats". And the black may have come from the dark tartan they wore; the famous "Government" or "Black Watch" tartan.

Before the formation of the regiment, the tartans worn by the independent watch companies would have varied, not just from company to company, but from man to man. In those days, there were no recognized "family" tartans as such.

Rather, the area where a Highlander came from decided the tartan he would wear, the colors being determined by the plants available locally to produce dyes. Therefore, Highlanders from different clans might wear the same tartan if their clan lands were close to each other. It could be said the Black Watch tartan was the first ever in Scotland to be associated with a "family" rather than an area, even if this family was a Highland regiment.

In 1743, the regiment was ordered to march to London, something which filled the soldiers with fear and suspicion. Most of them had probably never left their native glens before joining up, and to them London was a far off, foreign place. Besides, they might all be shipped off to the West Indies, or some other place with an evil reputation for disease and death.

Therefore, upon arrival in London, some of the men immediately mutinied. It would have been an easy matter to reassure the soldiers and regain their loyalty, but the government took the unnecessary and cruel step of shooting the three ringleaders. Then they shipped the rest of the mutineers, 102 in all, off to the Mediterranean, the West Indies and a place called Georgia in what was to become the USA.

It was a bad start for the regiment. The government didn't understand the mentality of the Highland soldiers, nor indeed did they want to, and it stretched regimental loyalty almost to the breaking point.

Meanwhile, the remaining men embarked for Flanders, where they fought bravely at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. In 1751 the regiment was renumbered as the 42nd Regiment of Foot, and in 1756 landed at New York to fight the French and the Indians. It was in action at Ticonderoga in 1758 under General Abercrombie that the regiment attacked the fort without waiting for orders. For this, they suffered many casualties - 314 dead and 333 wounded out of a total of 1,100 men.

In the same year the unit was given the title "royal", and became the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment. A second battalion also was raised and both took part in a second attack on Fort Ticonderoga which this time was successful. In 1760 they were present at the surrender of Montreal, when the French finally lost their hold on North America.

In 1763, the 2nd battalion was disbanded and the regiment found itself in North America once more, this time fighting in the American War of Independence. The unit saw action in Brooklyn, Fort Washington, Yorktown and Brandy Wine Creek, to name a few. It was during this campaign that the regiment started wearing the distinctive red hackle (made of vulture feathers) in its bonnet, a custom that wasn't officially sanctioned until 1795.

By 1779, the 2nd battalion had been reformed, and in 1786 it was elevated to the status of a separate regiment called the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot.

After a short period back in Great Britain, the 42nd went to the West Indies - a posting that was never looked forward to by British soldiers. The regiment also fought in the Napoleonic wars and distinguished itself at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801, where it captured the standard of a French legion (the "Invincible Legion"), who were considered unbeatable. The 42nd was also at Waterloo in 1815.

The Crimean War took place between 1854 and 1856, when Britain, France and Sardinia took the side of Turkey, which had declared war on Russia. This was a war of incompetence. About 19,500 British troops lost their lives, with 15,700 of this number dying not of war wounds, but disease. The Black Watch was one of the first regiments to go there, and formed part of what was called "The Highland Brigade", under Sir Colin Campbell. The men fought bravely, and when they returned home they found they were famous because of their conduct during the campaign.

When the war ended, the men were only back in Britain for a short while before being immediately sent to India to help quell the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58. This was an arduous campaign, fought in humid heat, dust and hostile terrain. Eight soldiers of the 42nd won Victoria Crosses for their bravery.

1861 was a special year for the regiment. It officially became the 42nd or The Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch). At last the regimen's nickname had been given official status.

In 1873 it sailed for Africa to take part in the Ashanti campaign against "King Coffee" (the Ashanti king's nickname) in the Gold Coast. The regiment marched inland and captured the Ashanti capital, Kumasi, which they razed to the ground.

But there were rumblings from the War Office in London at this time. Changes were afoot in the British Army yet again. The Black Watch, however, came out of the changes remarkably well. The unit was to merge with its old 2nd battalion, which in 1786 had been elevated to the status of a separate regiment called the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot.

Since 1786, the 73rd had had a distinguished record, although in 1809 it had lost its "Highland" status, becoming the 73rd Regiment of Foot. There were just too few Scotsmen willing to enlist in the army, and the regiment had to look to England for recruits. The result was that there were more Englishmen in the regiment than there were Scots.

The 73rd served in Australia (where its duties were more to do with civil engineering than soldiering), Argentina, Souh Africa (where it fought the Kaffirs) and India. Later, in 1869, it had been renamed the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment.

If the Black Watch did well out of the merger of the two regiments, the 73rd didn't. In fact the merger was more like a takeover. The 73rd lost most of its great traditions, adopting instead those of the Black Watch. It was rumored at the time [that] this was because some of the 73rd's officers had sympathy for the Irish freedom movement.

The new regiment was called The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), with the old 42nd becoming its first Battalion, and the old 73rd becoming its 2nd Battalion. Its first tour of duty was in Egypt and the Sudan, where the 1st Battalion distinguished itself at the Battle of Tel el Kebir. With bayonets fixed, it attacked the enemy - who had dug in along a deep trench - suffering many casualties.

At Tamaai in the Sudan the same battalion, in the confusion of battle, didn't do so well. It had formed into a defensive squre, one side of which (facing the enemy) began to advance for no apparen reason. This left the rest of the square exposed to enemy fire, and they had to turn to defend themselves, which meant that they were facing inward and therefore defenseless if there was an attack from the rear or the flanks.

The regiment then served in the Boer War in South Africa. During one encounter at Magersfontein it suffered more than 300 casualties.

Like most Scottish regiments, the Black Watch's numbers were increased by conscription during the First World War. Twenty-five battalions saw service, and the 1st Battalion was among the first to land in France. They fought at Ypres, Mons and Aisne, trying to prevent the Germans from breaking through to the coast. Many men were killed or wounded, and of the men who originally left England in 1914, only 39 were left by the time the war ended.

In 1920 the regiment changed its name yet again, becoming The Black Watch (The Royal Highland Regiment). At the outbreak of the Second World War, the ranks of the regiment were again swelled by conscription. It became part of the 51st Highland Division, and six battalions saw active service in France, Crete, North Africa (where it fought at El Alamein) and Italy.

In 1948 the two full-time battalions amalgamated and the regiment has remained with one battalion to this day. It was part of the Commonwealth Brigade in Korea and also saw service in Kenya, Cyprus and Northern Ireland. In 1963 the regimental pipes and drums had the honor of playing at President Kennedy's funeral.

The Black Watch tartan is famous, although over the years the size of the sett (the pattern of vertical and horizontal stripes) has changed. It forms the basis of many regimental tartans, and indeed there has been so much standardization within the British army that some regimental tartans - notably the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders - are identical. However, the pipers of the regiment don't wear the Black Watch tartan. Instead they wear the Royal Stuart.

The Black Watch is associated with many Scottish Clans. Having been raised originally to combat Jacobitism, the most prominent are the Campbells and the Grants, because two of the original 1725 watch companies were raised by Campbell of Lochnell and Grant of Ballindalloch, both anti-Jacobite.

The regiment is also associated with the Lindsays and the MacLeods. Lindsay was the family name of John, 20th Earl of Crawford, who was appointed their first colonel. And it was Lieutenant-Colonel Norman MacLeod who was the first commander of the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot.

The Black Watch has a proud tradition of family loyalty. Sons follow fathers and grandfathers into the ranks, and even today many members of the regiment are related. It has a special affinity with North America through the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada).

It seems strange that a regiment which was originally raised to keep the Highlanders - particularly Jacobites - in their place and subservient to the government in London is now so highly regarded in Scotland and abroad. But The Black Watch has distinguished itself over the years and it can claim a proud place in Scotland's history.

by Brian D. Osborne
On Trial for Murder

Glengarry's most notorious collision with the law came in 1798 when he was tried at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh at age 25 for the murder of Lieutenant Norman MacLeod of the 42nd Foot (later the Black Watch). MacLeod was a grandson of Flora MacDonald, Prince Charles Edward Stuart's rescuer. The case was controversial and the decision to try it in Edinburgh, rather than wait for the autumn sitting of the Justiciary Circuit Court at Inverness in September, was presumably made to remove the trial from the partisan atmosphere of the Highlands. However, even in Edinburgh the cse generated much attention as the "Evening Courant" noted: "The Court was crowded through the whole day. A great number of Ladies, and persons of rank and fashion, were present."
The trouble between Glengarry and MacLeod started at a ball at Fort George, near Inverness, on May 1. Glengarry had reminded the beautiful Miss Sarah Forbes of Culloden that she had promised him the last dance. Miss Forbes excused herself by saying that she did not recollect this and had, in any case, promised the last dance to Ranald McDonald. Glengarry went away, but returned with the news that Ranald McDonald had relinquished to him the right to the last dance with Miss Forbes. At this, Miss Forbes, understandably enough, refused to dance with either McDonald or Glengarry, and Lieutenant MacLeod, who had witnessed the exchange, reproached Glengarry: "Why do you tease the lady? Can't you allow her to choose for herself?"
Glengarry replied, "It's no business for yours, you should not interfere."
Matters did not end there, and Ranald McDonald said afterward in the officer's mess of the 79th Foot he saw Glengarry strike McLeon with his stick. He went on to tell the Court: "They then came down the room, a long table separating them, still abusing one another; at the bottom of the table Glengarry struck Lieut. MacLeod on the face, and gave him a kick, upon which Lieut. MacLeod drew his dirk."
The parties were separated, but Lieutenant MacLeod was outraged by this behavior and challenged Glengarry to a duel.
The first attempt to duel was frustrated by the arrival of an Inverness magistrate. Attempts were then made to reach some compromise. Glengarry was asked by MacLeod to make a written apology, to be dictated before the officers of the 79th, and to "deliver up his stick, to be used by him as he should think fit."
The apology was agreed to. However, the demand to surrender his stick proved unacceptable to Glengarry; and his second, a Major McDonald, flatly stated he had "never heard of a British officer making such a concession."
Thus the two men, their seconds and a doctor met at Campbeltown between Fort George and Ardesier on Thursday, May 3, to settle matters with pistols at eleven paces. Both fired, and MacLeod was slightly woulded in the right armpit; Glengarry escaped injury. The duelists shook hands, honor was satisfied and each expressed regret at their conduct. With luck, matters might have ended there.
Lieutenant MacLeod was taken back to Fort George, where the regimental surgeon extracted the pistol ball from below the left shoulder blade. The surgeon stated in court, "Lieut. MacLeod seemed to recover for the first 14 days, buton the 15th he grew worse, and died on the 3rd of June, being 31 days after receiving the wound."
This explains why Glengarry ended up on trial for his life in Edinburgh on August 7, 1798. The session opened with legal arguments concluding that killing in a duel was murder in Scots Law, and the question of a lesser charge of culpable homicide did not arise. Having heard evidence from the former Miss Forbes, Ranald McDonald and various officers who had witnessed events, both sides summed up their cases - the Lord Advocate, Robert Dundas, arguing for the Crown and Henry Erskine arguing for the defendant. Lord Eskgrove, presiding in the absence of Lord Braxfield, the Lord Justice-Clerk, then summed up.
The jury retired to consider the evidence and found Glengarry not guilty, a somewhat surprising verdict in the light of the uncontested evidence of Glengarry's firing the fatal shot. But the jury took the unusual step of stating their reason for reaching the verdict. They felt because Glengarry and his second had attempted to settle matters peacefully by making an apology, MacLeod's demand that Glengarry surrendder his stick was unreasonable. The Chancellor of the Jury stated: "The jury highly disapproved of the panel's (Glengarry's) conduct at the beginning of the unhappy dispute; and it was fortunate for him that the duel did not take place so soon as was intended, before any attempt was made to apologise, as in that case it was highly probable that they would have returned a very different verdict."
Lord Eskgrove "declared his approbation of the sentiments expressed by the jury," and warned the accused and all others to "avoid so illegal and dangerous a practice as that of dueling."
The verdict provided a lucky escape for Glengarry from a capital charge arising out of what - with all due respect to the officers and gentlemen involved - was little more than a dance-hall braw. It was hardly the sort of behavior expected of colonels or clan chiefs in the late 18th century, the Age of Reason. However, as [Sir Walter] Scott suggested, Glengarry was a man born out of his time. Indeed, he was to become known as "The Last of the Chiefs."

In "The Highlander", July/August 2001.


The Late Lieut. Haldane, of the Black Watch
The Times of London, 28 June, 1915

A lance-corporal of the Black Watch writes: -
I noticed with much regret the announcement of the death of Lieutenant R.P. Haldane, of the Black Watch, in your list of casualties in Monday's issue of The Times, and I venture to think it may possibly interest some of his relatives and friends to know a few of the many heroic deeds performed by him at the front. Of shot and shell he was fearless, and would think nothing of walking over to the enemy's trenches, listening to their conversations, throwing a few bombs, and returning. He appeared to delight in firing trench mortars and watching results through a periscope, and would exclaim, "That's fine. That's excellent. They all went in" (meaning in the enemy's trench), and apparently it was so in most cases, the enemy retaliating with a vengeance with what are termed by the men "pip-squeaks" (high explosives). The enemy's range, however, I am glad to say, was not so accurate and generally fell wide of the mark. While their retaliation was proceeding, Lieutenant Haldane would be firing more trench mortars from another part of our trenches. He always appeard cool, calm, and collected, and undoubtedly possessed a wonderful nerve. I can tell of many incidents, some of which were related to me by his men, many of whom have since lost their lives in the common cause of liberty and justice which every British soldier has at heart.
I believe it was on May 11 that the lieutenant received those wounds which have proved fatal. The regiment was in a charge and lost heavily through the machine-gun fire of the enemy. He received many bullet wounds, but not before he had accounted for many Germans.
Both officers and men of this famous regiment have performed admirable work at the front. "Esprit de corps" exists among them to a marked degree. One cannot wonder at the enemy styling them "The Women from Hell."

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