Wednesday, 20 April 2011

John Mackenzie, Count of Cromarty - Who’s Who in Scottish Military History.

Today’s Who’s Who is about one of several Scots who fought for the Jacobites during the ’45 Rebellion and ended their military career in the British Army.

John Mackenzie, Lord MacLeod was the eldest son of the 3rd Earl of Cromartie. He was born in the family seat of Castle Leod near Strathpeffer in 1727. At the age of four he was first styled Lord Macleod and that was how he was best known for the rest of his life.

For the next fourteen years he had an uneventful life; then in 1745 his life changed forever. In December 1745 his father came out for the Jacobite cause and raised a Clan Regiment for Prince Charles’s army.

By the time they mustered the Jacobites had turned back at Derby and were now marching north. Cromartie and his son took their men south to meet and join the army.

Cromartie’s regiment joined the Jacobite host outside Stirling and it was near there at the Battle of Falkirk where Lord Macleod fought in his first battle. After the Jacobite’s reached Inverness Cromartie and his men were included in the Duke of Perth’s force which routed Loudon from Sutherland March 1746. Cromartie moved into Dunrobin Castle and sent his son further north in his first independent command.

He was only eighteen but Lord Macleod was given 300 men to go to Caithness and Orkney to find Jacobite recruits and plunder Hanoverian sympathisers’ lands for supplies and arms.

After three weeks without much success he returned to Dunrobin and was captured there on the day before the battle of Culloden by Highlanders loyal to the government.

He was taken to London with other Jacobite officers to be tried before the Commissioners. He pleaded guilty to high treason, but his youth and the limited part he played in the Rebellion may have counted in his favour. He was spared, death or slavery and pardoned. A condition of his pardon was the forfeiture of his title and he was sent into exile, but at least by 1748 he was alive and free.

He ended up under the wing of one of many Scots serving in European armies. Field Marshal James Keith. In 1750 Keith arranged MacLeod’s commission into the Swedish Army through the wife of the Swedish King – who also happened to be the sister of the Prussian King who was a friend of Keith.

Pomerania is in North Germany and Poland, opposite Sweden, and in the 1750s part of it was Swedish territory. Sweden coveted the parts of Pomerania they had ceded to Prussia in 1720 and the spread of the Seven Years War across Europe gave Sweden an excuse to attack Prussia in 1757. For the next five years Sweden and Prussia were at war over Pomerania and Macleod was involved in the fighting.

In 1762 Sweden ended the war after it had recovered no territory for the cost of 40,000 lives and vast sums of money it couldn’t afford to spend. Improbably Macleod then joined the army of his former enemy, Prussia, and fought alongside them against Russia.

Prussia and Russia ended their war in 1763 and Macleod returned to Swedish service. For the next few years he gave loyal service to Sweden; becoming an ADC to King Adolf Frederick and a earning a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. Amongst his honours he was given the Order of the Sword of Sweden and was made a Swedish count. The title he took was Count of Cromarty.

In 1777 he returned to Scotland. The War against the American States was draining the resources of the army and at the same time trouble was brewing in India. New regiments were needed for both theatres of war. Many former Jacobites or their families saw this as a way to help pave the way for the restoration of their lands and titles if they raised or served as soldiers in the British Army. In all eleven regular battalions were raised in Scotland in 1777 and 1778.

Macleod set to work immediately. In the 1770s there was no set recruiting areas in Scotland and any new regiment could send out recruiting parties across the country. The reputation of Lord MacLeod preceded him and he had no difficulty finding recruits. 840 men from the Highlands and 236 from the Lowlands. He had so much success at recruiting that a second battalion of the 73rd was authorised and that started recruiting as well shortly after the first had reached its establishment. The 2nd Bn 73rd was commanded by the Honourable George Mackenzie, Lord Macleod’s brother.

In late 1777 the 1/73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot (MacLeod's Highlanders) first mustered at Elgin under their colonel, John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod. A year later George II recognised Macleod’s Swedish title and the Count of Cromarty led his regiment to embark for India a month later in January 1779. (In the peerage a count and an earl are the same rank so in effect, though not in name and lands, he was the fourth Earl of Cromartie).

The regiment stopped off in West Africa for a short time and didn’t arrive in India until a year after it had left the UK. It landed in Madras in January 1780.

In September 1780 several companies were despatched to join a British force under the Scot Major General Sir Hector Munro, which was fighting the Indian army of Hyder Ali. The Companies were soon lost in an action against the Mysore Army at the Battle of Pollilur and the captured troops imprisoned at Seringapatam. They included a young officer called David Baird who would later lead a British force back to Seringapatam nearly twenty years later to take revenge on his former captors.

By this time McLeod had been promoted to Major General. He soon made it clear to Munro he was unhappy with the way his detached troops from the 73rd had been used. They were the same rank and about the same age but Munro had been in the British Army for many years and had served in India for most of that time and there may have been a clash of personalities.

By this time Macleod was over fifty and after many years service in Scandinavia he may not have taken to the tropical heat of Southern India. Whatever the reasons: age, temperature or arguments with his superiors; the old soldier left his regiment to return home before he had a chance to lead them into action.

He retired from army life on half pay and in 1782 he was promoted to Major General. In the mean time he decided on a political path and entered parliament as the MP for Ross-shire.

A final act of rehabilitation took place in 1784 when he purchased his family estate for £19,000 on the back of an Act of Parliament. The Count of Cromarty gave up his constituency and became a laird (His replacement at Westminster would later raise the 78th Highlanders).

He moved into a home at Tarbet on the Black Isle and stayed there for the next five years, spending his time rebuilding and improving his estate.

He was in Edinburgh in 1789 when he died; and probably fitting for a man who was in exile for so many years, he was buried in the kirkyard in the Canongate rather than his family lands in Ross-shire.

Macleod had returned from India in 1780 but remained the Colonel of his regiment until his death. Before he died he saw his regiment survive a reduction of the army and its renumbering as the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (MacLeod's Highlanders). As the 71st it would later achieve more fame as the Highland Light Infantry.

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