In the Service of the King
The Story:(Click on images to enlarge)
It is 1760 and British forces move towards the French city of Montreal. Along with Provincial Rangers and their Indian allies, the Highland Scots act as “spies” and skirmishers, ferreting out their French counterparts in countless hit-and-run scouts and ambushes – guerrilla tactics in what historians would refer to as America’s first world war. During the French and Indian War, three regiments of Highland Scots fought for England in North America against the French. First arriving in 1756, the 42nd Royal Highlanders, then a year later the 77th Montgomery’s Highlanders and the 78th Fraser’s Highlanders, served in the British army until the end of hostilities in 1763 when the 77th and 78th were disbanded.
Seeing the kilted Scots disembark in New York, the Iroquois, allies to the British, were pleased and surprised to see European soldiers who were dressed in a manner they could relate to. An eyewitness wrote, “…on the march to Albany, the Indians flocked from all quarters to see the strangers who, they believed, were of the same extraction as them, and therefore received them as brothers.” Unlike the average British soldier, the Highland Scots were expert woodsmen and familiar with all manner of firearms and edged weapons. In a letter to his family in England, a British officer wrote, “The Highlanders seem particularly calculated for this country and species of warfare…Their bravery, their agility, and their dress…render them formidable to the enemy.”
A scouting party of Scots and their Mohawk allies has captured two French couriers – a lieutenant and a marine. The Highland sergeant has brought his prisoners deep into a grove of hemlock trees on a ridge for interrogation. Guards keep watch through the woods. The sergeant, who is familiar with French, probably had served in the Royal E’cossois, a regiment of Scottish mercenaries in the service of France, who fought with Bonnie Prince Charlie during the “’45 Rising” against the English king he now serves. The French marine doubles over in pain with an arrow through his shoulder, glaring up at the only member of the enemy who carries a bow and arrows. The lieutenant, his wig askew, struggles to hold onto what dignity he has left, to the amusement of the Highland guard behind him. The couriers’ document case and its contents lay at the feet of the Scottish sergeant. The French papers have mystified him, so he inquires of his friend. The Mohawk answers by pointing off into the distance. The Highlander pauses, stares, and frowns as he mulls over what his next action will be.
The Sergeant wears the short uniform coat of the British Highland troops, as well as a blue bonnet, waistcoat, and, of course, a kilt. He wears a sporran for his personal items, and carries his dirk, a Government-issue basket-hilt sword, and a first pattern Brown Bess musket. He also has a privately purchased, all metal highland pistol. Instead of the red and white plaid, or diced, bag hose typical of his regiment, he has decided to wear the leggings of his native allies, held up by garters decorated with porcupine-quill embroidery.
His friend, the Mohawk, is tattooed with traditional Iroquois designs. He wears a neck knife with a bone handle, the pommel carved into the shape of a heart. it resides in a porcupine-quilled knife sheath about his neck, along with a silver disk gorget and a small tobacco pipe. From his side hangs an artfully carved powder horn and quilled shooting bag. He wears a woven sash in the arrowhead pattern. In his scalp lock, he wears two eagle feathers as well as the feathers and head of a woodcock. A braid of his hair is plaited with silver ring brooches and a silver trade cross. His split earlobes dangle with silver ear bobs and in his right ear hangs a “vermillion spoon” – a small silver locket holding enough pigment to touch up his face paint. A small, but vicious spike tomahawk dangles from his right arm. He also wears diced bag hose instead of leggings, probably a gift from one of his Highland brothers.
The portal is bordered by a woven Celtic circle flanked at top and bottom by shell wampum belts, spelling out the friendship between the two cultures through peace and war. Another symbol of the camaraderie between the Scots and the Iroquois is the thistle and the eagle feather plaited with porcupine quills, all on a background of red and white diced hose material trimmed with silver trade brooches. The slashed pattern of the green border represents both Highland tartan designs and the zigzag facial tattoos of an Iroquois warrior.
The Iroquois and the Scottish Highlanders found much in common with each other. Both had issues with the English for whom they fought, but were honor-bound to remain in the service of the King.
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