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The 42d regiment had now reached the conclusion of an active war, in the course of which its conduct, both individually and collectively, may, in many respects, bear a comparison with that for which the corps had, at an earlier period, been distinguished. At different times, however, during this war, a laxity of principle interfered with that general correctness and sobriety for which the men had been so remarkable. But however irregular they may have occasionally been, so far as regarded a love of liquor, unknown in those times when the soldiers had their spirits served out to them only twice a-week, yet much moral principle remained, and there were but few instances of confirmed depravity. At the same time, it must be lamented that there were among them several poor creatures totally unfit for being soldiers, and with whom the ranks had been completed, from too great a desire to have numbers without paying a due regard to quality. It should have been recollected that such men are an incumbrance to an active and spirited corps, and that the conduct and appearance of a few individuals may affect the general character and estimation of a whole regiment. Instances of this must be familiar to military men, who will be aware how much more confidence a commanding officer in a campaign must feel, if at the head of 600 men of good principles, tried courage, and constitutional strength, than if commanding 800, of whom one-fourth, deficient in character and health, cannot be trusted when their services are most required.
The regiment had been only a short time at Winchester, when the men caught a contagious fever, supposed to have proceeded from the prisoners over whom they stood sentinels at the jail. Captain Lamont and several of the men died of the fever. *
* Captain Lamont was an excellent man; he had a considerable dash of eccentricity, combined with the warmest zeal for his profession, and affection for his brother officers and soldiers. Indeed, he fell a sacrifice to his kind attachment to his men; for when the fever was at its height,
At this period a circumstance occurred which caused some conversation, and to which I have alluded in a note on the French standard taken at Alexandria. The Highland Society of London, much gratified with the accounts given of the conduct of their countrymen in Egypt, resolved to bestow on them some mark of their esteem and approbation. This society being composed of men of the first rank and character in Scotland, and including several of the Royal Family as members, it was considered that such an act would be honourable to the corps and agreeable to all. It was proposed to commence with the 42d as the oldest of the Highland regiments, and with the others in succession, as their service offered an opportunity of distinguishing themselves. Fifteen hundred pounds were immediately subscribed for this purpose. Medals were struck with a head of Sir Ralph Abercromby, and some emblematical figures on the reverse. A superb piece of plate was likewise ordered. While these were in preparation, the society held a meeting, when Sir John Sinclair, with the warmth of a clansman, mentioned his namesake, Serjeant Sinclair, as having taken or having got possession of the French standard, which had been brought home. Sir John being at that time ignorant of the circumstances, made no mention of
although he knew its contagious nature, he could not be kept away from the sick. He was always anxious, and always imagining that they were in want of some comfort or cordial. He caught the fever, which carried him off in a few days, lamented by all who knew his worth; and as none knew his value more than his regiment, his loss was proportionally, regretted by every individual. His own hopes and happiness seemed to be centered in his corps, from whom he never wished to be absent. Although he had an estate in Argyleshirc, and was often offered leave of absence, he would not quit the regiment; and in the year 1795 declined a step of promotion, to which he was appointed, in another corps, preferring an inferior commission among his old friends. He lamented, when dying, that he should go out of the world like a manufacturer, quietly in his bed, when he might so frequently have died a soldier's death. He had served in the 76th, or M'Oonald's Highlanders, in America, and was put on the full pay of the 43d in 1787.
the loss of the ensign which theserjeant had gotten in charge. This called forth the claim of Lutz, a soldier of Stuart's regiment, accompanied with some strong remarks by Cobbett, the editor of the work in which the elaim appeared. The society then asked an explanation from the officers of the 42d regiment. To this very proper request a reply was given by the officers who were then present with the regiment. The majority of these happened to be young men, who expressed, in warm terms, their surprise that the society should imagine them capable of countenancing any statement implying that they had laid claim to a trophy to which they had no right. This misapprehension of the society's meaning brought on a correspondence, which ended in an interruption of farther communication for many years. By this unfortunate misunderstanding, a check was given to the intention of the society to present marks of their esteem to those of their countrymen who, either in collected bodies as regiments, or individually, had distinguished themselves, and contributed by their actions to support the military character of Scotland. The approbation of such a body as the Highland Society of London, composed of men of the first rank and talent, and every way competent to appreciate the character and actions of our national corps, would, unquestionably, have acted as an incitement to the youth of the North, to establish future claims to their notice. That a purpose so well intended should have suffered a temporary interruption, was therefore a matter of regret.
However, as a prelude to a fresh correspondence and intimacy between the society and the Highland regiments, the communication with the 42d was again renewed in 1816. I was then one of the vice-presidents of the society; and being in the full knowledge of the circumstances, although absent from the regiment when the first correspondence took place, and knowing that the whole originated in mistake and misapprehension, I was requested, by the society, to open a communication with the regiment. This ended in a complete understanding; and, on the anniversary of the battle of Alexandria, the 21st of March 1817, his Royal Highness the Duke of York, then President of the Highland Society, in the chair, presented the Marquis of Huntly, on behalf of the 42d regiment, with a superb piece of plate, in token of the respect of the society for a corps which, for more than seventy years, had contributed to uphold the martial character of their country. This his Royal Highness accompanied with an impressive speech, in which he recapitulated the various services of the corps from the battle of Fontenoy, down to those of Quatre Bras and Waterloo.
The intention of granting medals was abandoned by the society, as it was stated that military men could receive honorary medals from the Sovereign alone. When the Prince Regent became Chief of the Highland Society, one of the gold medals which had been prepared, was presented, with an address, to his Royal Highness, by Sir Archibald Macdonald, late Chief Baron, accompanied by a deputation, and most graciously received. As those medals commemorate the honourable death of Sir Ralph Abercromby, one was presented to each of his four sons.
The king having expressed a wish to see the 42d regiment, they marched to Ashford, and were reviewed there by his Majesty, in May 1802, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. A great concourse of people collected from London and the adjacent country. His Majesty was graciously pleased to express himself satisfied with the appearance of the regiment, but I believe many of the spectators were disappointed. There is no reason to suppose that good-looking men, more than others, suffer from the dangers and fatigues of a soldier's life. In the instance of the 42d regiment, however, this was certainly the case; and although the men looked like soldiers, and wore their bonnets and every part of their dress, with a military air, and much in the manner of the ancient Highlanders, they had a diminutive appearance, and complexions nowise improved by several years' service in hot climates. Some of their countrymen who were present participated in the general disappointment. They had formed their notions of what the 42d should be from what they had heard of the Black Watch.
It is a commonly received opinion, that the Highlanders have harsh features, high cheek bones, and, as we see in allegorical paintings and engravings of them, a fierce and melancholy aspect. It is not easy to define exactly the characteristic of the Highland features; but that which is generally given is by no means appropriate, either as to features or expression. In all parts of the country, men are seen with swarthy faces, and countenances more characteristic of a Spaniard or an Italian, than of men born in the cold climate of the Scottish mountains; and it is a singular circumstance worthy of investigation, that the women do not display the same difference of hue, till affected by much exposure to weather, or by age: they are generally fair and clear in the skin, few even being brunettes. People who are in the habit of seeing Highland regiments, (those that are really such,) must have observed the fresh complexion and regular features of a great proportion of the young men. In their own country, both sexes lose their juvenile looks at an early period of life. This is probably owing to their food. Vegetable diet seems healthy and nourishing to the youthful, enabling them to go through much hard labour. But judging from the Highlanders, a hard-working man of forty requires more than potatoes and milk, with the addition sometimes of a little bread, and very rarely animal food. While the gentry in the Highlands increase in size and weight, agreeably to their constitutions, as well-fed men do in other countries; I never saw but one individual of the lower orders, in the Highlands, either fat or bulky, (he was rich, and could afford a portion of butcher meat daily:) and although the gentry of the Highlands are tormented with the gout, in the same manner as people in their stations in different climates, I have never seen, nor have I