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the south, they sometimes attacked, with an intention of stripping them of their booty, either on their own account, or for the purpose of restoring it to the owners.
The borderers, being thus placed in the centre of agitation, and having arms always ready, were prepared to turn out whenever their services might be required. The clan Farquharson, and the Highlanders of Braemar, placed in the same circumstances with regard to the Lowlands of the counties of Banff, Aberdeen, and Kincardine, as the Athole Highlanders were in regard to those of Perth, Stirling, and Angus, acquired similar habits; and both of them being actuated by similar political principles, they generally took the field together on all important occasions. An instance of the warlike disposition thus cherished, appeared in the rebellion during the reign of Charles I., when the Marquis of Montrose always found " his brave Atholemen" his never-failing support, both in his numerous victories, and under his greatest reverses. At his call they were always ready. On one occasion, being dressed in the common Highland garb, and attended only by the Laird of Inchbrakie and one servant, he came among them so unexpectedly, that some Irish soldiers who had been sent over by the Earl of Antrim, under Macdonnell, * (or Alister M'Colla, as he was called by the Highlanders,) "could hardly be persuaded the man they saw was the Marquis of Montrose, till he was saluted by the Atholemen, who knew him perfectly, and almost paid him the honours of a guardian angel;" f and the following day, "the Atholemen, to the number of eight hundred, put themselves in arms, and offered their services most cheerfully to Montrose." In the same manner we find, (as will be afterwards noticed,) that " fifteen hundred men of Athole, as reputable for arms as any in the kingdom," • joined Lord Dundee to support King James. The storming of the town of Dundee, and the skilful and masterly retreat effected by Montrose and his Atholemen in the face of a greatly superior force, affords another instance in point, and is the only further example of the same kind which I shall adduce. In the year 1645, Montrose, being deceived by false information from his spies, mistook the motions of the enemy, and resolving to punish the town of Dundee, " a most seditious town, being the securest haunt and receptacle of the rebels in those parts, and a place that had contributed as much as any other towards the rebellion," marched from Dunkeld, at twelve o'clock at night, with one hundred and fifty horse, and six hundred Atholemen, and reaching Dundee at ten o'clock next morning, instantly stormed and carried the town; but had scarcely taken possession, when he received information that General Baillie and Colonel Hurry, two veteran and experienced officers, with eight hundred horse, and three thousand infantry, were on their march towards him, and within little more than a mile of the town. Montrose immediately recalled his men, and marched off pursued by the enemy, who dividing their force, sent one part to intercept, and the other to pursue him. During the retreat he occasionally halted, and opposed their successive attacks, and by a circuitous route regained the Grampians through the pass of Glen Esk with a trifling loss.—" And this was that so much talked-of expedition to Dundee, infamous indeed for the mistakes of the scouts, but as renowned as any for the valour, constancy, and undaunted resolution of the General; and admirable for the hardiness of the soldiers in encountering all extremities with patience: for threescore miles together, (Scotch miles, equal to ninety English,) they had been often in fight, always
* This brave loyalist, and able partisan, was a native of the county of Antrim. The Marquis of Montrose placed the utmost confidence in his talents and intrepidity, intrusting to his command the most difficult enterprises. To this day his memory is held in the highest veneration by the Highlanders, who retain many traditional anecdotes of him.
f Bishop VVishart's Memoirs of Montrose.
upon their march, without either meat or sleep, or intermission, or the least refreshment; which, whether foreign nations or aftertimes will believe, I cannot tell; but, I am sure, I deliver nothing but what is most certain of my own knowledge: And truly, amongst expert soldiers, and those of eminent note, both of England, Germany, and France, I have not seldom heard this expedition of Montrose preferred to his greatest victory." *
The endless feuds between the Argyle and Atholemen assisted in preserving the military spirit and the use of arms. In the charter-chest of Stewart of Ballechin there is a commission to his ancestor, the Laird of Ballechin, from the Marquis of Atholl, dated in 1685, authorising him to march with a strong body of Atholemen into Argyleshire, and to take and keep possession of the property of their rivals. In what spirit these orders were carried into effect, will appear from the circumstance that eighteen gentlemen, of the name of Campbell, were executed at Inverary. f The commission granted to Ballechin is highly characteristic of the times. It prescribes all the intended operations and proposed conquests, with an air of authority resembling the solemnity of a royal mandate.
How little the Highlanders were accustomed to attach any ideas of moral turpitude to such exploits may be learn
• Dr Wishart, Bishop of Edinburgh's Memoirs of the Marquis of Montrose.
.f- This melancholy instance of the fierceness of feudal animosities is said to have been occasioned by the accidental discovery of a counterplot or conspiracy, to destroy the invaders, whose indignation, on the disclosure, was not to be controlled. From whatever cause this outrage on humanity proceeded, it shows, in a strong light, the fatal consequences of weak and inefficient laws, when one neighbouring tribe was sent to punish another. When the laws and the government were weak and inefficient, men had no support except what they drew from their personal or combined force. The feelings consequent on the remembrance of former rivalry, thus rekindled and inflamed, were checked by the prudence and authority of Ballechin, Flemyng of Moness, Steuart of Dalguise, and other commanders of the expedition, otherwise many more lives would have been lost.
ed from the conduct and sentiments of several of those freebooters, who, at no very distant period, became the victims of a more regular administration of the laws, and who were unable to comprehend in what their criminality consisted. After the troubles of 1745, many who had been engaged in them, afraid to return to their own country, over which the king's troops were dispersed, and having no settled residence or means of support, formed several associations of freebooters, which laid the borders of the Highlands under contribution.
An active leader among these banditti, Donald Cameron, or Donald Bane Leane, was tried in Perth for cattle stealing, and executed at Kinloch Rannoch in 1752, in order to strike terror into his band in that district. At his execution he dwelt with surprise and indignation on his fate. He had never committed murder, nor robbed man or house, or taken any thing but cattle off the grass of those with whom he was at feud, and therefore why punish him for doing that which was a common prey to all? Another freebooter, Alexander Stewart, (commonly called A lister Breac, from his being marked with the small pox,) was executed in 1753. He was despised as a pitiful thief, who deserved his fate, because he committed such acts as would have degraded a genuine cearnach. But it was not the actors alone who attached no criminality, or at least disgrace, to the " lifting of cattle," as we find from a letter of Field Marshall Wade to Mr Forbes of Culloden, then Lord Advocate, dated October 1729, describing an entertainment given him on a visit to a party of cearnachs. The Marshall says, " The Knight and I travelled in my carriage with great ease and pleasure to the feast of oxen which the highwaymen had prepared for us, opposite Lochgarry, where we found four oxen roasting at the same time, in great order and solemnity. We dined in a tent pitched for that purpose. The beef was excellent; and we had plenty of bumpers, not forgetting your Lordship's and Culloden's health; and, after three hours' stay, took leave of our benefactors, the highwaymen, * and arrived at the hut at Dalnachardoch before it was dark." t
The constant state of warfare, aggression, and rapine, in which the clans lived, certainly tended to improve their ingenuity, and inured them to hardships and privations which, indeed, their abstemious mode of living, and their constant exposure to all varieties of weather in their loose and light dress, enabled them to bear without inconvenience. % On the other hand, this incessant state of warfare
• The Marshal had not at this period been long enough in the Highlands to distinguish a cearnach, or " lifter of cattle," from a highwayman. No such character as the latter then existed in the country; and it may be presumed he did not consider these men in the light which the word would indicate,—for certainly the Commander-in-Chief would neither have associated with men whom he supposed to be really highwaymen, nor partaken of their hospitality.
f Culloden Papers.
J Habituated as the people were, from the nature of the country, and their pastoral employment, to traverse extensive tracts exposed to tempests and floods, and to cross rapid torrents, and dangerous precipices, the young Highlander acquired a presence of mind which prepared him for becoming an active and intelligent soldier, particularly in that independent species of warfare practised in the woods of America, and lately so much in use with our light troops, in which men must depend upon their own resources and personal exertions. These habits are not so readily acquired in a level country, where there are few natural obstructions or difficulties, and these few easily surmountable by art.
In Mr Jamieson's excellent edition of Burt's Letters, the following instance is given of presence of mind in a Highland lad, who, with a Lowland farmer, was crossing a mountain stream, in a glen, at the upper end of which a water-spout had fallen. The Highlander had reached the opposite bank, but the farmer was looking about and loitering on the stones over which he was stepping, wondering at a sudden noise he heard, when the Highlander cried out, " Help, help, or I am a dead man," and fell to the ground. The farmer sprung to his assistance, and had hardly reached him when the torrent came down, sweeping over the stones, with a fury which no human force could have withstood. The lad had heard the roaring of the stream behind the rocks, which intercepted its view from the farmer, and fearing that he might be panic struck if he told him of his danger, took this expedient to save him. A young man like this might have been trusted on an out-post in front of an enemy; and, possessing such presence of mind, would have been equally capable of executing his own duties,and of observing the movements and intentions of the enemy.