[There is a strong presence of Scottish ancestors in Alabama. This is probably the reason why]
THE HIGHLAND SCOTS ELEMENT IN THE EARLY
SETTLEMENT OF ALABAMA
By THOMAS CHALMERS McCORVEY, LL.D.
(Transcribed from The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 01, No. 01, Spring Issue 1930 – photographs added by transcriber D. Causey)
There are perhaps few regions of the world, outside of the motherland of Scotland, where there can be found a larger proportion of population bearing the family names of the great Highland clans than in Alabama—especially in the southern and eastern parts of the State.
There is scarcely a county, or even a neighborhood, where one cannot find either Camerons, Campbells, Fergusons, Frasers, Gordons, Grahams, McDonalds, McKenzies, Mclntoshes, McLeans, McLeods, McNeills, McPhersons, McMillans, Stewarts or others with distinctly Highland names; for the names of the septs and dependents of the various clans were well nigh innumerable.
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Difference between Scot Lowlanders and Highlanders
First, it may be well to indicate the main line of racial cleavage in the Scottish people—the difference between the mixed Lowlanders of the southern and eastern parts of the country, largely Saxon in blood, with a small later strain of the Norman feudal aristocracy; and the Highlanders of the western and northern parts who are chiefly Celtic in origin, with more or less of a Norse infusion.
As every one knows ethnology is still anything but an exact science, and with the constant flow and admixture of peoples no hard and fast racial lines can be laid down in this case; but for all practical purposes we can very well differentiate the thirfty (sic) Saxon Lowlander—who in business sagacity rivals even the Semite—from the romantic, chivalric Highlander who has been sometimes acclaimed the world’s best fighting man. It is the good fortune of the Highlanders that their clan and septal names enable them to keep track, in most cases, of their racial origin, while the Lowlanders frequently share their Saxon or mixed names with their English cousins across the border.
Hard Economic times sent Scots seeking new land
Hard economic conditions, as well as political and religious disturbances, have sent the Scots of every breed among the pioneers into many of the newer lands of the world: just as they were in a sense the path-breakers across the Isthmus—where now flows the great artificial channel of the world’s commerce—in the ill-starred “Darien Scheme”.
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But there is one notable characteristic in their seeking new homes wherever they go. They do not segregate themselves from other peoples; but mingle their blood with earlier inhabitants, as they ultimately did after the plantation of Ulster. There are few if any Scotch “quarters” to be found in any of the world’s great cities; but whether as shrewd traders among savage tribes-as they first came ..to what is now Alabama—or as great captains of industry in an age of ‘steel, they cut a wide swath as individuals, and make their influence felt alike in frontier communities and in the centers of the world’s “big business “
McGillivray and Weatherford settled in area of Coosa and Tallapoosa
The story has been fully told in that classic of State histories Pickett’s “Alabama”, how the daring youth, Lachlan McGillivray’ Charles Weatherford and other Scotch traders and adventurers pushed from the South Atlantic ports of Charleston and Savannah into the Creek Indian territory and established themselves in the region about the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers—a story which will not be repeated here. However, it may be well to mention that McGilhvray in due time took to wife the French-Indian “princess” Sehoy Marchand, and his example was followed by others of his countrymen so that they have left to our own time many descendants, who have a dash of aboriginal blood, among the more substantial people of the State.
However, it may be well to mention that McGillivray in due time took to wife the French-Indian “princess” Sehoy Marchand, and his example was followed by others of his countrymen so that they have left to our own time many descendants, who have a dash of aboriginal blood, among the more substantial people of the State.
The Rebellion of 1745-6
But it was not trade or adventure, but a great political upheaval in the motherland that sent here-chiefly by way of North Carolina—the forbears of most of the numerous citizenry of Alabama who bear Highland names and of many others who, as a result of intermarriages, bear English or other names but have strains of the Highland blood That upheaval was the last serious attempt to restore to the British throne the exiled line of Stuart Kings and is known in English history as the “Rebellion of 1745-6,” or briefly “The Forty-five.”
In that memorable year Prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as The Young Pretender,” a grandson of James II who had been driven from the throne in the so-called “Bloodless Revolution of 1688 ” embarked from the coast of France in the hazardous attempt to gain for his father, James Stuart, “The Old Pretender,” his ancestral crown.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart
The French had promised aid; but great storms fought for the reigning House of Hanover (now the House of Windsor) and scattered the fleet that was to carry across the sea the French force of fifteen thousand men. But nothing daunted Prince Charles set out upon his mad adventure with only seven companions, trusting only to his personal charm and the magic of his family name to rouse the western Highlanders.
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He finally landed on the shores of Moidart July 25, 1745. Among the first to espouse the venture was the young Chieftan of the Clan Ranald McDonalds, who overcome by the magnetism of the prince threw himself into his arms in a passionate offer of his life for the cause.
On the 19th of August the Stuart standard was raised in the vale of Glenfinnan and clan after clan rallied around it with all the devotion and enthusiasm portrayed in Thomas Campbell’s famous poem, “Lochiel’s Warning” With his Highland army the prince marched practically unresisted to Edinburgh which he entered in triumph.He occupied the old Holy Rood Palace; and proclaimed his father, “The Old Pretender,” King of Great Britain with the title of “James III.”
He then marched out and at Prestonpans cut to pieces the army of General Cope who had been sent against him. After a delay, unfortunate for his cause, he started south to arouse and enlist the Lowlander and English “Jacobites,” as the adherents of the Stuart cause were known; but he met with a similar experience to that of General Lee in his Maryland Campaign of 1862—cheers, good wishes and patriotic songs, but few enlistments.
He pushed on to Derby, within a hundred and twenty-five miles of London; but was there forced to begin a disastrous retreat back through the border lands into the Highlands, where he was finally brought to bay at Culloden Moor, near Inverness, April 16, 1746.
There his little half-starved army of five thousand men was overwhelmingly defeated by the well-armed and well-fed English army of nine thousand men under the command of the Duke of Cumberland whose savagery in victory justly earned him the odious epithet of “The Butcher”.
An incident of the battle of Culloden well illustrates the prominent Celtic characteristics of pride and courage. Since the days of Bannockburn the McDonalds had always been given what was considered the post of honor in battle—the right wing of the Scottish army; but in planning his battle the prince had transferred the three McDonald regiments to the left wing. In resentment of what they considered an indignity offered their clan, they refused either to advance or retreat; but kept their ground, hewing with their claymores the heather at their feet and falling in their ranks from the enemy’s fire which they did not return.
After Culloden Prince Charles was hunted with bloodhound and bugle; but there was no Highlander base enough to betray him, in spite of an enormous reward offered for his capture. He finally made his way, after many thrilling adventures, back to France; but a fearful vengeance was wreaked upon his followers with indescribable barbarities.
After the sword and the torch and the gibbet had done their worst, Parliament passed an act, effective August 1, 1746, breaking up the clan system—disarming the Highlanders; forbidding them to wear the national garb except as soldiers in the British army; and establishing parochial schools with a view to rooting out the Gaelic language.
The hardest part was that no distinction was made between the clans which had fought or Prince Charles and those which had remained loyal to the House of Hanover. For instance the great Covenanting clan of the Campbells, which had supported George II, fell under the ban along with those who had rallied under the banner of the Catholic Stuarts. Here we have another parallel from our Civil War history. The Union slave-owners of the border States, who had enlisted in the Federal army and fought “to save the Union,” found at the close of the war that they had been fighting to destroy their own property in slaves, for which they never received any remuneration.
Under the proscriptions of Parliament many of the bravest and best of the Highlanders, whether they had been “out with Prince Charlie” or not felt that Scotland was no longer their home, and sought refuge beyond the seas. Permission was given them to settle in the American colonies upon the conditions of first taking an oath of allegiance to the reigning House of Hanover.