Clan Donald Magazine No13 (1995) Online
Reflections on the Battle
of Savannah by James A. McDonald
fog shrouded October morning in 1779 Major Alexander MacDonald,
Commander of the 2nd Bn. Fraser's Highlanders, climbed to the top of
the Great Redoubt, peered into the mist, and immediately called for
two pipers to come to him and play for all their worth.
in the swamps, Charles MacDonald, an officer in Dillon's French
regiment, along with his fellow Scots and Irish companions, heard
and knew exactly the kind of fight which was to take place.
the line, Sgt. Alexander MacDonald, in a South Carolina regiment,
also heard. He too understood.
Somewhere near the South Carolina Regulars was a body of up-country
militia which included John McDaniel and James McConnell. If they
heard, there may have been some ancestral remembrance, but more than
likely, the years that separated them from their Islay, Kintyre and
Antrim ancestors was too much to overcome.
began the Battle of Savannah.
the end of the slaughter a truce was called in order to give succour
to the wounded and to carry off the dead.
Alexander MacDonald of Kinloch-Moidart
advanced from the British lines, spotted a familiar figure, ran, and
embraced his brother, Charles MacDonald of Dillon's. It is not known
whether Sgt. Alexander MacDonald ever saw his cousins. It would be
very surprising if McDaniel or McConnell would have recognised these
first three as their distant cousins.
in these five men is tied up all the tragedy and triumph of the
Scot, the Gael, and the Celt.
study their genealogy alone will not suffice. This leads only to dry
lists of "Begats" which by themselves are mere academic exercises.
It is the WHY a particular person was born to a particular mother
and father in a particular place, and at a particular time that adds
flesh and meaning to the study.
History and genealogy are inseparable. This is certainly so with the
I would suspect it is so with all other national groups.
1729 some Highlanders were located in the Cape Fear Valley of North
Carolina. These first few became a flood until on the eve of the
Revolution there were as many Gaels in the Carolinas as there were
in the Hebrides. By 1770 the tacksmen (or primary land renters) of
the Hebrides along with their sub-tenants, faced with ever
increasing rentals imposed by their continually in-debt clan chiefs,
were coming over in mass. Before leaving Scotland they were forced
to swear a renewed oath of allegiance to the British Crown. This
caused many of them to support the Crown when the revolution
started. By the end of the conflict many had gone to Canada, several
more back to Scotland, but luckily for America, the majority stayed,
they and their
descendants playing a major role in the development of the Carolinas
and the whole South.
1735 James Oglethorpe, looking for a barrier against Spanish
Florida, recruited several hundred Highlanders to kill Spaniards and
by 1742 they finished the job by eliminating the Spanish advance at
Bloody Marsh on St. Simons Island. The survivors got on their ships
and sailed back to Havana. Though insignificant in numbers, it was
one of America's
most decisive battles. Spain's prior (and legal) claim to our
eastern seaboard was gone forever. Today the descendants of these
warriors, in their thousands, are spread throughout the South;
hundreds of them here in Savannah.
1738 Capt. Lauchlan Campbell brought the first of three shiploads of
Highlanders from Islay to New York to settle the 100,000 acre Argyll
patent above Albany. Though the royal governor of New York absconded
with their land payment, they stuck it out and by the 1760s finally
got their land, successfully fighting for it with a gang of New
England outlaws, led by one Ethan Allen. This colony split during
the Revolution, the Tories ending up in Canada. Today descendants of
these people are found all over North America.
During the protracted French and Indian wars, the great commoner,
William Pitt, saw a vast, unused, pool of fighting men in the
Highlands, appealed to their martial ardour, and recruited them for
the glory of Empire. The 42nd - the Black Watch, 78th Fraser's, and
the 77th Montgomery's, were sent to America. They were the shock
troops of the British Army, suffering enormous casualties (it is not
for nothing, the old cry - "England will fight to its last
Scotsman"), but leading Britain to the conquest of French Canada and
the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. Upon termination of the
conflict, the surviving Highland veterans were offered land in
America. Most of them stayed. They had split loyalties during the
Revolution, most of the officers rejoining the British Army but many
of the private soldiers fighting for America. The thousands of
descendants of these men are also found today all over North
last major Highland settlement before the Revolution was in 1773
when Sir William Johnson brought over a large group of Highlanders
from the Inverness area to settle his lands in the Mohawk Valley
west of Albany, NY. As Sir William and his family were the leading
New York Tories, these men naturally joined with him in fighting the
Colonists. Upon termination of the war they went in mass to Canada,
most of them to Glengarry Co. in Ontario where in 1786 they were
joined by a whole regiment of Scottish Glengarry militia for whom
their chaplain had got land and led to Canada. The Ontario counties
of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry became the center of Highland
culture in Canada. Along with Nova Scotia, it still is today. Their
descendants have carried our magnificent history and culture all
over North America.
the eve of the Revolution there was estimated to be over half a
million Scots and Scots-Irish in America. By 1783 many of them,
their descendants now proud to call themselves United Empire
Loyalists, were in Canada. But enough were left to today give the
United States approximately 25 million of Scots ancestry.
more migration was to come, and it the saddest of all.
It is the Time of
saw the first clearances on Glengarry land and in 1790, the great
Cheviot sheep was brought to Ross and Caithness. It now all went
with a rush as from 1782 till 1854 Ross, Sutherland, Caithness,
Assynt, Strathnaver, Glenelg, North Uist,
Strathconon, South Uist, Barra, Skye, and Knoydart, along with wide
areas of other Highland districts, lost a substantial part of their
Highlanders who didn't end up in the slums of Glasgow, migrated to
Australia, New Zealand and Canada, many thousands of their
descendants now living in America.
of the Crimean War,
officers in Whitehall turned
the Highlands for recruits. From 1793 to 1837 the
Isle of Skye alone had
furnished over 10,000 men to the British Army. A
Otter now went there
as recruiting officer.
got only one Skyeman to enlist.
your deer, your roes, your rams to fight."
John Prebble: "At Culloden, and during the military occupation of
the glens, the British government first defeated a tribal uprising
and then destroyed the society that had made it possible. The exploitation
of the country during the next hundred years was within the same
pattern of colonial development - new economies introduced for the
greater wealth of the few, and the unproductive obstacle of a native
population removed or reduced. In the beginning the men who imposed
the change were of the same blood, tongue and family as the people.
They used the advantages given them by the old society to profit
from the new, but in the end they were gone with their clans. The
Lowlander has inherited the hills, and the tartan is a shroud." From
the Canadian Boat Song:
the lone shieling on the misty island. Mountains divide us, and a
waste of seas, But still the blood is strong, the heart is highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides."
the green saucer of Glenaladale, dipping down to Loch Shiel,
Alexander Macdonald had taken one hundred and fifty men to serve in
Clanranald's regiment. Within a century there was nothing there but
the lone shieling of the song."
yes, I almost forgot our five MacDonalds who have been waiting all
this time in the mud and the blood down on West Broad.
McDaniel lived to sire a very large family whose name has alternated
over the years from McDaniel to McDonald and back. John's
grandfather Daniel, was out in 1715 supporting the exiled James
Stewart. He was captured at Preston and transported from Liverpool
to Antigua on the Scipio, 30 March 1716. But by mistake the Scipio
put into Charleston and Daniel escaped.
McConnell (the spelling being the same as the Gaelic pronunciation
of McDonald) was a descendant of Islay refugees to Galloway who
later moved to the Ulster plantations, then came with the great
Scots-Irish migration to Pennsylvania, and finally to the Carolinas
where the McConnells in their thousands thrive today.
Alexander MacDonald lived to become Francis Marion's chief scout,
his exploits are legend. He was killed at the American siege of Ft.
Motte, SC, right at the end of the Revolution. He left no known
descendants. Alexander's father was Gen. Donald MacDonald, commander
of the Tory forces at the Battle of Moore's Creek, NC in 1776. Gen.
Donald came over from Skye in 1773, bringing many of his tenants. He
was 5th and last of the line of the MacDonalds of Totamurich and
Knock who had descended from Roderick, 5th son of Sir
James-MacDonald of Sleat, chief of Clan Donald North.
Alexander MacDonald and his brother Charles were sons of Donald
MacDonald, 4th of Kinlochmoidart, a descendant of John, younger son
of Allan, 9th of Clanranald. Donald was the first to join Prince
Charles on his landing at Borrodale in July 1745. Donald was
captured in Nov 1745 while carrying dispatches. On 18 Oct 1746 he
was executed at Carlisle by the English method of hanging, drawing
and quartering which they used on people they considered traitors.
His head was stuck over the Scottish gate there, where it remained
for many years.
Donald's young sons Alexander and Charles escaped to France where
they were educated in the Scots College in Paris.
Charles joined the French Army, became a general and was made a
Count. Loyal to the French Kings who had given him sanctuary after
Culloden, Charles was guillotined early in the French Revolution. He
Alexander, his family eventually receiving amnesty, went back to
Scotland, raised a company for Fraser's Highlanders, and became Lt.
Col. He was invalided home in 1780. His large family have carried on
the traditions of the Gael.
1984 we met David MacDonald, 15th of Kinloch-Moidart and G-G-G-G
grandson of Maj.
is the owner of the Clanranald pipes which were played by a
Maclntyre - hereditary pipers to the Clanranalds at Culloden. This
Maclntyre escaped the field with the pipes and years later, upon his
immigration to Canada, gave them to the then Kinlochmoidart, our
Maj. Alex. Though not confirmed, these pipes may have been played at
the Battle of Savannah.
May of 1984, a descendant of that old piper, Archie Maclntyre,
played the Culloden pipes at the Clanranald Castle Tioram and at
Armadale on Skye, the World Centre of Clan Donald, before a
gathering of over 1200 clansmen and women from all over the world -
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Rhodesia; United States,
Canada and Mexico; Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Finland;
England, Ireland and Scotland.
had come full circle, the children had come home.
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