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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] THE HIGHLAND MUTINEERS ON THE SHORE. 195 - . the battery guns facing the city-which was filled with consternation-while a rather helpless force of cavalry took possession of the Castle HilL The crisis was, indeed, a perilous one, as the vaults of the fortress were full of French and Spanish prisoners of war, while a French squadron was cruising off the mouth of the Forth, and had already captured some vessels. Next day the company capitulated, all save one, who, with his claymore, assailed an officer of the Ioth, who struck him down and had him made a prisoner. The cavalry occupied the fortress until the arrival of Lord Lennox?s regiment, the 26th or Cameronians, when?a court-martial was held. One Highlander was sentenced to be shot, and another to receive a thousand lashes ; but both were forgiven on condition of serving beyond the seas in a battalion of the line. Another mutiny occurred in the April of the following year. Seventy Highlanders enlisted for the 42nd and 71st (then known as the Master of Lovat?s Regiment) when marched to Leith, refused to embark, a mischievous report having been spread that they were to be draughted into a Lowland corps, and thus deprived of the kilt; and so much did they resent this, that they resolved to resist to death. On the evening they reached Leith the following despatch was delivered at Edinburgh Castle by a mounted dragoon :- (? To Governor Wemyss, or the Commanding Officer of the South Fencible Regiment. 7 ? Headquarters, Apri!, I 7 79. ? SrR,-The draughts of the 71st Regiment having refused to embark, you will order 200 men of the South Fencibles to march immediately to Leith to seize these mutineers and march them prisoners to the castle of Edinburgh, to be detained there until further orders.-I am, &c., ? JA. AmLPnus OUGHTON.? In obedience to this order from the General Commanding, three captains, six subalterns, and zoo of the Fencibles under Major Sir James Johnstone, Bart., of Westerhall, marched to Leith on this most unpleasant duty, and found the seventy Highlanders on the Shore, drawn up in line with their backs to the houses, their bayoiiets fixed, and muskets loaded. Sir James drew up his detachment in such a manner as to render escape impossible, and then stated the positive orders he would be compelled to obey. His words were translated into Gaelic by Sergeant Ross, who acted as interpreter, and who, after some expostulation, turned to Sir James, saying that all was over-his countrymen would neither surrender nor lay down their arms. On this Johnston?e gave the order to prepare for firing -but added, ?Recover ams.? A Bighlander at that moment attempted to escape, but was seized by a sergeant, who was instantly bayoneted, while another, coming to the rescue with his pike, was shot. The blood of the Fencibles was roused now, and they poured in more than one volley upon the Highlanders, of whom twelve were shot dead, and many mortally wounded. The fire was returned promptly enough, but with feeble effect, as the Highlanders had only a few charges given to them by a Leith porter; thus only two Fencibles were killed and one wounded ; but Captain James Mansfield (formerly of the 7th or Queen?s Dragoons), while attempting to save the latter, was bayoneted by a furious Celt, whose charge he vainly sought to parry with his sword. A corporal shot the mutineer through the head: the Fencibles-while a vast crowd of Leith people looked on: appalled by a scene so unusual- now closed up with charged bayonets, disarmed the whole, and leaving the Shore strewn with dead and dying, returned to the Castle with twenty-five prisoners, and the body of Captain Mansfield, who left a widow with six children, and was interred in the Greyfriars churchyard. The scene of this tragedy was in front of the old Ship Tavern and the tenement known as the Britannia Inn. After a court-martial was held, on the 29th ot May, the garrison, consisting of the South and West Fencibles and the cavalry, paraded on the Castle Hill, in three sides of a hollow square, facing inwards. With a band playing the dead march, and the drums muffled and craped, three of these Highland recruits, who had been sentenced to death, each stepping slowly behind his open coffin, were brought by an escort down the winding pathway, under the great wall of the Half-moon Battery, and placed in the open face of the square by the Provost-marshal. They were then desired to kneel, while their sentence was read to them-Privates Williamson and MacIvor of the Black Watch, and Budge of the 7 1st-to be shof fo death f The summer morning was bright and beautiful ; but a dark cloud rested on every face while the poor prisoners remained on their knees, each man in his coffin, and a Highland officer interpreted the sentence in Gaelic. They were pale and composed, save Budge, who was suffering severely from wounds received at Leith, and looked emaciated and ghastly. Their eyes were now bound up, and the firing party were in the act of taking aim at the .
Volume 6 Page 195
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