- Author: David Black
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By My Sword Alone
First published in 2021 by Lume Books.
Copyright © David Black 2021
The right of David Black to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
Table of Contents
1 - The Battle of Glenshiel, 1719
2 - Pushed to Flight
3 - A Foreign Land
4 - Paris: An Apprenticeship in Calculation
5 - The Polish Princess
6 - The Palazzo del Re
7 - The Road to Poland
8 - The Retreat from Warsaw
9 - The Siege of Danzig, Part One
10 - The French Squadron
11 - Encounters with Russian Generals
12 - The Tsarina’s Emissary
13 - The Siege of Danzig, Part Two
14 - The Battle of Westerplatte
15 - A Future of Learning and Wisdom
The Battle of Glenshiel, 1719
From all the gold lace, and the feathers in his hat, even from a distance you could not help but assume the red-coated man on his white charger must be a general. Even against the solid ranks of the other red-coated soldiers he stood out, as he cantered to the head of their column, to where another officer was conferring with the troop of light horse who’d been riding picket. It was a beautiful late spring day; bright, crisp and fresh as only the West Highlands could display. And not for the first time this man, so finely accoutred, ruminated on how a just God could have suffered such beauty to be squandered on such a benighted people as the Scots.
And even though you were viewing from a distance, you could not help but see why the general didn’t need to be told why he’d been summoned, or why his column of troops had halted. Ahead of this mass of redcoats was the drovers’ road to Loch Duich, curving gently to the right, following the contour of a hill. Where it emerged from shadow, the mouth of a glen opened up on a splendid vista of bald, grey rock and heather scrub; treeless and rugged.
Strung across that mouth, from the deep-sided scar of the River Shiel on one side, over broken ground to a steep, scree-covered escarpment on the other, was a defensive line of troops. It appeared that the rebels this general had been sent to hunt down, had decided to present themselves to him instead.
The general pulled a long telescope from his saddle and in an un-hurried pan of the valley mouth, took in the enemy dispositions. If the force facing him had been a modern European army, his professional eye – sharpened by many, many years of campaigning – would have told him their line was unassailable.
Their left, on the river, was not only anchored on the deep gorge that channelled the fast running water, but on a steep, trackless precipice that even a Barbary ape would have trouble traversing, which rose from its far bank. No way around that.
Their right clung to the rise of that scree escarpment, a position the enemy had fortified further by erecting a series of stone dykes as cover for their marksmen, allowing them to fire down on any advancing foe, while remaining impervious to any return fire behind slabs of slate and whinstone.
The general’s name was Joseph Wightman and he had faced men like these before, however; not least four years prior at Sheriffmuir, where he had helped fight a vastly superior Highland army to a standstill. So he was not unduly perturbed. He knew this rabble was no modern European army. And despite the formidable nature of their position, they would be eminently beatable.
The white coats and yellow facings of the immaculate ranks barring the broken ground in the middle, however – they were another matter. These must be the Spanish he’d been warned about. Regular line infantry. And rather a lot of them, lent by the King of Spain to fight in the Stuart cause. He lowered his telescope to scratch his chin. On this terrain, they would be formidable. But a plan was already forming. He ordered his aides to his side, and began to make his dispositions.
Even with all the energy of his tender years, and pumped by all those dreams of impending glory the young fool feels before his first battle, James Lindsay was starting to flag. For three days now he’d been seldom out of his saddle. Riding to and fro, galloping with written orders, folded safe, close to his breast; sheet upon sheet of them, issuing from the army’s general. Orders of march for the entire host; orders specific to each and every detachment and then once considered, refinements to those orders, then revisions. Orders affecting the assembling of the army; then the army’s ten-mile march from the castle, down the north shore of the loch and to the far end of the glen. The building of the fortifications upon which the Hanoverian usurper’s troops were to be encouraged to impale themselves, and then further orders, a constant stream of orders, back and forth, regarding the troops’ dispositions and what was to be their conduct in each and every sundry scenario the general and his staff could conceive. And then the notes returning from all those officers commanding lesser formations, some concurring, some disputing. To and fro, back and forward; gallop, gallop, gallop. Even for a lad so deep in the thrall of events, he couldn’t help but feel his generals were a chatty crowd for supposed men of decision.
James was galloping now, behind three lines of Spanish infantry, on their feet since the enemy column had suddenly marched into