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Notes and Documents Reply

I wish to thank Mr. Timoney for adding to the knowledge of Major-General Small. The additional historical background of his service in the Seven Years War (French and Indian War) is most welcome. I omitted some minute details in my short article for brevity. During the action at Bunker's Hill (Breeds), Small was in fact wounded in the arm. In agreement with Mr. Timoney, Small still lead a charmed life. Also participating in the Battle were other officers of the newly raised Royal Highland Emigrants (A.K.A.Young Royal Highlanders). With him were Captain Ranald MacDonald, Captain Alexander Campbell, Captain Donald McLeod (who was recovering from wounds taken at Lexington), Volunteer William Walker, Sergeant Allan MacArthur, and a small contingent of men.

That the attack was ill planned and very costly is well known. Rebel General Israel Putnam (an old friend of Small's) saved him from a bullet in the back as Small was slowly walking down hill, prepared for death, holding his wounded arm, behind his troops as they retreated from the second attack. Small related his experience to the artist John Trumbull in the summer of 1786, while they were discussing Trumbull's unfinished painting "The Battle of Bunker's Hill." Trumbull recorded the following reminiscence:

I do not like the situation in which you have placed my old friend Putnam; you have not done him justice. I wish you would alter that part of your picture, and introduce a circumstance which actually happened, and I could never forget. When the British troops advanced the second time to the attack of the redoubt, I, with other officers, was in the front of the line to encourage the men; we had advanced very near the works undisturbed, when an irregular fire like a fue-de-joic was poured in upon us; it was cruelly fatal. The troops fell back, and when I looked to the right and left, I saw not one officer standing; I glanced my eye to the enemy and saw several young men leveling their pieces at me; I knew their excellence as marksmen, and considered myself gone. At that moment my old friend Putnam rushed forward, and striking up the muzzles of their pieces with his sword cried out 'for God's sakes, my lads, don't fire at that man - I love him as I do my brother.' We were so near each other that I heard his words distinctly. He was obeyed; I bowed, thanked him, and walked away unmolested.

Small and his soldiers were successful on the third attack. The rebels were in a panicked retreat and the slower rebels were being put to the bayonet by the irate survivors of the previous two assaults. The King's men were in a foul mood and not mindful of giving quarter to the criminals who murdered so many of their comrades. Small saved the famous rebel, Dr. Joseph Warren (another old friend) from being bayoneted as he laid wounded on the ground. Small related to Trumbull of the demise of Doctor Warren:

At the moment when the troops succeeded in carrying the redoubt, and the Americans were in full retreat, General Howe (who had been hurt by a spent ball which bruised his ankle) was leaning on my arm. He called suddenly to me: 'Do you see that young man who has just fallen? Do you know him?' I looked to the spot towards which he pointed - 'Good God, Sir, I believe it is my friend Warren.' 'Leave me then instantly - run - keep off the troops, save him if possible.' I flew to the spot, 'My dear friend,' I said to him, 'I hope you are not badly hurt.' - he looked up, seemed to recollect me, smiled and died! A musket ball had passed through the upper part of his head.(1)

Although the things of legend, this fits both men.(2)

The cost to the Crown was 226 killed and 828 wounded. The rebels took 140 killed and 271 wounded. Small took a ball through the arm, a wound that bothered him for many years. Captains MacDonald, Campbell, and McLeod (who would be killed leading a charge at Moore's Creek Bridge) were all three wounded.

Mr. Timoney's speculation that Small was involved in the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, February 27, 1776, is in error. After having time tabled all of the known regimental correspondence to and from Small, I can conclusively state that he was north preparing his new corp for war, recruiting, and acting as brigade major. In March of 1776, Small is with his corp when it relocated to Halifax. The irregular soldiers who participated in the Moore's Creek debacle where not embodied although intended for the Royal Highland Emigrants much to Governor Martins disappointment since he wished to have his own corp embodied on the Provincial establishment and was told in no uncertain terms not to interfere with the recruitment of the Royal Highland Emigrants. But that is a bit of history for another time. The men at Moore's Creek were self armed and did not draw swords from any of the armories. There are plenty of references to new settlers bringing their swords and dirk with them to the New World.

The Battle for Moore's Creek Bridge was recorded in Royal Highland Emigrant documents as well as rebel documents. Below is a short summary of the battle from a compilation of R.H.E. and rebel documents.

In direct conflict with MacLean's Royal authority, Governor Martin commissioned all of the Royal Highland Emigrant officers with superior ranks and made them officers in his North Carolina Highlanders.(3) This illegal commissioning and the organization of the North Carolina Provincials was not permitted, and after the disaster at Moore's Creek Bridge, the officers reverted to their original rank and positions. These officers, however, would not have felt any remorse at accepting two commissions; they would draw double pay which was not an uncommon occurrence in the army.

Sixteen hundred men, of which 1,300 were Scots, assembled at Cross Creek and attempted to march to Cape Fear. This force, led by the above officers, had only 300-odd firearms. Most of these men were armed only with broadswords and dirks. To oppose this dangerous force, the rebels had assembled militia and the North Carolina Continental Regiment totaling over 9,000 men, of which 1,100 men and five guns were able to intercept the Loyalists.

The Loyalist forces had put fear into the rebel militia and regulars. The Scots outmaneuvered the rebels on two occasions, forcing them to withdraw. The rebels finally withdrew to Moore's Creek Bridge, placed fortifications on both banks and prayed for reinforcements. Even with reinforcements and two guns, the rebels feared that they could not hold the west bank. They pulled back over the bridge, reinforced the fortification there, and removed the planks from the bridge. In addition, they greased the rails to make passage over them very difficult.

The Scots, having full intelligence as to the numbers, guns, and fortifications of the rebels, chose to attack instead of, once again, outmaneuvering the enemy. They even knew of a ford a few miles down the river closer to their final destination. Donald McLeod, when learning of the ford from Lieutenant MacLean, counseled a flanking move instead of a frontal assault. Lieutenant MacLean insulted McLeod and inferred that he was a coward, to which he replied: "Well, at dawn tomorrow, we will prove who is the coward." After a heated meeting, the officers moved the 300 men armed with firearms to the rear and brought up 50 hand-picked men armed with swords as a shock-force, led by brave Captain Donald McLeod.(4)

The hand picked Highlanders, armed only with sword, shield and dirk, advanced as the rebels cowered down below their earthworks. The first fortification was quickly overrun (it had been abandoned). The men reformed and, amid the whirl of plaids and flash of broadswords, yelled, "King George and the broadsword!" and charged across the bridge to attack the next set of fortifications. The men ran to the bridge and, much to their surprise, found that the planks were gone and the rails greased. They rammed the points of their swords into the wood to keep their balance. When the men were on the bridge or massed awaiting their turn, the rebels opened fire with the two cannons and a volley of musket fire. According to rebel sources, the canister and musket balls claimed:

From the best account we have been able to learn, is about thirty killed and wounded; but as numbers of them must have falled into the creek, besides many more that were carried off, I suppose their loss may be estimated at about fifty. We had only two wounded, one of which died this day... Captain McLeod and Captain Campbell fell with a few paces of the breast works, the former of whom received upwards of twenty balls through his body; in a very few minutes their whole army was put to flight and most shamefully abandoned their general, who was the next day taken prisoner.

We can infer from the above quotation that at least one suicidal berserker made it over the bridge and the parapet to skewer and hack two rebels. With the capture of most of the officers and the disbursement of the army, the Loyalist efforts to support the Crown were effectively crushed for the rest of the rebellion. Most of the officers who were made prisoners were eventually exchanged. Some of the attested men and noncommissioned officers who escaped capture made their way to New York and the Regiment.

To clear up a few stray points of history -- The Loyalist army was, in reality, not very well led. Many of the officers were self-seeking and many of the men were impressed under the clan system much the same as their fathers may have been in 1745. The clan system was still holding on here in America. There were fights over commissions, fights over unit organization, and fights between the "New Scots" and the "American Scots". Desertion was high. The army moved before it was time to meet the ships, which were not due until May 3d. They were safe in their own territory, where the Loyalists outnumbered the rebel forces. The army left before all of the units joined up. In short, the officers made it easy for the rebels to defeat them piecemeal, and Major (General) MacDonald violated just about every rule of warfare and common sense. This blundering caused the Crown irreparable damage and contributed significantly to the loss of America.

As for Small's's role in starting the Highland mania, nothing starts in a vacuum. This would be an excellent topic for further study. In North America, the Highland mania has taken on quasi-religious status. I do find it interesting that Small is pushing the mania in 1789 as where Garth is publishing his monumental book in 1822. It would be grand to identify the primary culprit responsible!


1. This reminiscence of Small's kept by Trumbull appears in the History of the Battle of Breed's Hill, by Major-Generals William Heath, Henry Lee, James Wilkinson and Henry Dearborn. Compiled by Charles Coffen in 1831. Coffen's small pamphlet appears in the back of Arno Press's 1968 reprint of the Memoirs of Major General William Heath, by himself. It was edited by William Abbatt, and printed by William Abbatt in New York in 1901. Coffen's pamphlet tries to discredit Small's reminiscence as stated by Trumbull. However, this author finds Coffen's text contradictory in and of itself and fails to repudiate Small's (abet modified memory) claim, in the light of the post War of 1812 climate and that the rebuttals from Americans who fought in the battle gave their reminiscences in 1818 as where Small's was given in 1786.

2. There are a massive amount of books written on this topic. The most fun being journalist Thomas J. Fleming's amusing book Now We are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill, 1960. However, for those of a studious mind, Samuel Adams Drake's Bunker Hill Story in Letters from the Battle Field by British Officers Engaged, 1875, and General Israel Putnam, The Commander at Bunker Hill, 1875, are excellent. Also George Edward Ellis' History of the Battle of Bunker Hill from Authentic Sources, 1875.

3. Most of Governor Josiah Martin's correspondence has survived and was transcribed in William L Saunder's, ed., The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh, 1890). Some of the documents from the Regiment are found in W.O. 28. 3/4

4. Most books state that the number of men in the attack to have been 80. This is from rebel estimations. Memorials in Royal Highland Emigrant manuscripts clearly states 50 men.

Kim R. Stacy