Saturday, 12 February 2011

Who's Who in Scottish Military History - John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudon

John Campbell, the Fourth Earl of Loudon was a Scottish soldier in the British Army who was involved in the later stages of the Jacobite Rebellion. Described as incompetent, arrogant and tyrannical he nevertheless managed to make a career as a soldier and rose to the rank of Major General. His name will crop in several 'On this Day' posts on the blog over the next few weeks so it's worth giving some background to the man here.

Born in 1705 in Loudon Castle in Ayrshire. At 22 he joined the Royal Scots Greys and by 1737 he had purchased his way up to Captain. By then his father had died and he had become 4th Earl. 1741 saw him in the important post of governor of Stirling Castle and only a couple of years later he followed the army to Flanders. After service at Dettingen in 1743 he was appointed Aide-de-Camp to George II.

In 1745 Britain was at war with France. Extra troops were needed to fight in Flanders and the Independent Companies of the 43rd Highlanders of the Black Watch were assembled for overseas service. Their gendarme role in the highlands was to be filled with a new regiment raised by Loudon.

Twelve companies of highlanders were raised in June 1745 but unfortunately for Loudon his regiment was to be put to the test sooner than he hoped.
The first blow came at Prestonpans in September 1745 when three companies were lost in the rout of Cope's army. Loudoun was serving as adjutant-general to Sir John Cope and was also at Prestonpans. He managed to escape capture and in October 1745 he was sent to Inverness to take comand of the remaining companies of his 64th Highlanders scattered in barracks across the Highlands.

By early 1746 the Jacobites had retreated from Derby and were heading north to rendezvous at Inverness, which just happened to be Loudon's base.

Loudon gathered together his remaining companies of the 64th Highlanders at Inverness except for garrisons at Ruthven, Fort Augustus and Fort William. He also gathered some companies of loyal clans from the Northwest of Scotland. In all he had about 2,000 men under his command.

He failed in a disastrous attempt to intercept Prince Charles Edward south of Inverness where his large force was routed by a small number of determined Jacobites. He realised his force of untrained regulars and hastily raised loyal clansmen were no match for the Jacobites. The clansmen who had seen off government forces at Prestonpans and Falkirk were left to march into Inverness virtually unopposed as Loudon retreated further north.

He was then outflanked at Dornoch by an amphibious landing of Jacobites and decided the North was too hot for him. He scattered his force and headed west, away from Cumberland's army. He saw the end of the Jacobite Rebellion whilst in Skye.

Although he had failed to stop any Jacobite force sent against him during his time in the North he had distracted large numbers of Jacobites away from the main force opposing Cumberland, and his presence at Inverness between October 1745 and February 1746 impeded Jacobites attempts to raise new recruits for their army.

After Culloden he was involved in pacifying the Highlands. Unlike the harsh treatement generally meted out by the Hanoverians, Loudon seems to have been realtively fair to his fellow countrymen.

His regiment was disbanded in 1748 after service in France, and in 1749 took command of the 30th Foot. In 1755 he was promoted to Major General.

His next major command was in North America where in 1756 he was sent to take over as Governor General of Virginia. Loudon had loyally served the Duke of Cumberland for many years and Cumberland repayed his loyalty with this important command.
This was during the Seven Years War against France and he was also given command of British forces in North America. Unfortunately for Loudon he often ignored the advice of local soldiers such as George Washington. He was outwitted by the French, and whilst his troops failed in their attack on the French-Canadian fort and town of Louisburg, it allowed Montcalm to take his army to capture the strategic British position of Fort William Henry.

Although Loudon was a good administrator and put in place many of the logistics needed to fight a war in such harsh conditions, he had overseen a string of reverses and was replaced by another Scot, James Abercrombie.

Britain was at war with France and Spain, and Major Generals were still needed so he was entrusted to garrisoning the captured French island of Belle Île. France had pretty much given up on recapturing the island so it should have been a safe posting for Loudon.

Events overtook the best plans of the War Office to keep Loudon out of trouble. In 1762 Spain invaded Portugal. Loudon was the nearest spare British commander and he was sent from Belle Île. Luckily a more senior officer was there to take command of the combined Portuguese and British Army. William, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe who just happened to be one of the best commanders on either side during the war, repeatedly beat off Spanish attacks and eventually forced the Spanish back.
Loudon acted in Lippe's shadow until the Spanish were beaten, and once the Portuguese Army was rebuilt Lippe felt it safe to leave and Loudon took over as Commander in 1763.

That was pretty much the end of Loudon's less than glittering military career. The Seven Years War came to an end shortly after Loudon's promotion to Commander in Portugal. He returned home to the postion of Governor of Edinburgh Castle and was made Colonel of the Scots Guards. He retired as General in 1770 and went home to improve his estate in Ayrshire where he took a notion to plant lots of willow trees.

He died unmarried aged 76 in 1782. He lived long enough to see some of his former Jacobite foes back in the fold raising regiments to fight against rebellious Americans. I wonder what he thought of his former enemies, now Hanoverians, fighting his former friends, now rebels.

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