The Highland regiments made up a very distinctive part of the British Army, but many were first raised as something of an emergency measure - an attempt to use the remaining influence of the Highland chiefs to raise desperately needed troops, first during the American War of Independence and in larger numbers during the French Revolutionary Wars. They would make their name during the struggle against Napoleon, serving with Wellington in Spain and Portugal, and at the battle of Waterloo.
Reid begins by looking at the raising of the first Highland regiments, starting with the Black Watch, originally created as a militia for service in Scotland. The rest of the first half of the book looks at the conversion of the Black Watch into a regular regiment and the raising of the remaining Highland regiments, a fascinating tale of aristocratic rivalry and the fading influence of former Highland chiefs, deliberately broken in the aftermath of the '45.
The second half of the book follows the regiments to war, in Ireland, India, Spain and Portugal and at Waterloo. The chapter on the Peninsula War is of particular interest, looking at one of the best contemporary sources for life in a Highland Regiment, the Journal of a Soldier of the 71st of Glasgow Regiment, Highland Light Infantry from 1806-1815. Reid traces the service career of the soldier described in the Journal and suggests an identity for the original author, while using the account as a framework to examine the regiment's role in the wars.
Reid has taken an unusual approach to this topic with the heavy focus on the raising of the regiments, and as a result has unearthed some rarely told tales that shed an interesting light on the changing nature of Highland society in the second half of the eighteenth century. At the same time he has produced a useful history of the earliest days of the Highland Regiments of the British Army.
1 - Brave Highland Men - A Prologue
2 - The Black Watch and Mr Pitt's Army
3 - The Highland War Begins: The Cameron Highlanders
4 - High Jinks and Whisky: The Gordons
5 - Mutiny: The Stathspey Fencibles
6 - Castlebar Races: The Fencibles at War
7 - The Tiger and the Elephant
8 - The Glasgow Highlanders and the Corsican Ogre
9 - Scotland Forever
Appendix 1: The Beautiful Highland Regiments
Appendix 2: The Gordons at Waterloo
Author: Stuart Reid