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June 09, 2008


Robert G. Carroon


I am the author of Broadswords and Bayonets which is the history of the expedition commanded by Thomas Sterling to occupy Fort de Chartres and you may be familiar with it. Of course it was publshed in 1984 so some of the information which has now surfaced was not available to me at the time I edited the manuscrips which I saw at the Black Watch HQ at Balousie Castle and at the Scottish Record Office.
Thanks so much for your continued interest in Thomas Sterling whose portrait (from Balhousie) hangs on my wall as I write this note to you.
Robert G. Carroon

victoria schofield

Paul.. I am back on walking the berkshire website again. Sorry I got busy and forgot that I had posted this message !! admittedly some years ago now... again wondering if you book is out. I want to put it in my bibliography because yours is the best account of Stirling I have seen with details of him not wanting to have his leg amputated. I have also seen the letters he wrote in the National Archives of Scotland.. Victoria

Tim Abbott

Dear Paul; I am delighted by your generosity and all the fine historical details you have shared. I'd be very grateful to be able to use an image of General Stirling, property credited, if you would like to provide one at the e-mail address of this blog.

Paul Pace

I have Portrait of Maj. Gen. Sir Thomas Stirling from the Black Watch Museum if the list owner will contact me to get it posted.

Paul Pace

Stirling Bio from manuscript of Kilts & Courage, Vol. II by Paul Pace:

Stirling Younger of Ardoch, Maj. Gen. Thomas. Born Oct. 8, 1731 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thomas Stirling was the second son to Sir Henry Stirling, 3rd Baronet of Ardoch (Perthshire) and his wife, Anne Gordon (daughter of Admiral Thomas Gordon, a native of Aberdeen, Admiral of the Russian Baltic Squadron and Governor of Cronstadt, Russia.) Adm. Gordon, a former Capt. in the Royal Navy, was engaged in the service of the Czar of Russia in 1717. He was the intermediary between the Emperor of Russia and “The Old Pretender,” James Stuart, who unsuccessfully tried to get the Russians to restore him to the throne by force of arms.

In 1737 at about the age of six, Stirling left Russia with his older brother William (later a lieutenant in the Dutch Scots Brigade) and returned to the estate of Ardoch where they were joined by their parents after the death of Adm. Gordon in 1741. Stirling was initially commissioned as an Ensign in the 1st Battalion, Gen. Maj. Marjoribanks’ Regt. in the Scots Brigade in Dutch service on Sept. 30, 1747 and later placed on half-pay in 1752. He was ordered to active duty again as an Ensign in the 1st Battalion of the same regiment Oct. 31, 1756, but by the summer of 1757 he was in Scotland since promotion in the British Army offered better opportunities.

When three additional companies were raised for the 42nd Regt. for the French & Indian War in America, the Duke of Atholl recommended Stirling to the Duke of Argyle for one of the companies. Stirling raised the required number of soldiers and joined the regiment as a Captain in July 1757. Stirling sailed for North America in November 1757, but his transport ship was blown so far off its intended course for New York, it ended up off the island of Antigua in the Caribbean. Accordingly Stirling did not join the regiment in late summer of 1758, thereby missing the bloody Battle of Ticonderoga. He did participate in Amherst’s 1759 expedition against Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and the 1760 campaign against Montreal. He was wounded in the campaign for Martinique in January 1762, but was able to take part in the capture of Havana later that year, where he fell ill with fever and returned to Scotland to recover, not returning until around 1765. In August that year Stirling gained considerable notoriety, when he was ordered to take his company from Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvania down the Ohio River to the Illinois country to accept the transfer of Fort DeChartes from the French. After being relieved several months later by the permanent British garrison, Stirling and his company went down the Mississippi River by boat to New Orleans and Pensacola before catching a ship back to New York and arriving in June 1766 after a trip of over 3000 miles. In 1767, he returned with the regiment for garrison duty in Ireland and became Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment in 1771 in place of Lt. Col. Gordon Graham of Drynie (father of Capt. Charles Graham) who retired.

In July 1775, Stirling and the regiment returned from Ireland to Scotland to augment the regiment’s strength up from 346 sergeants, corporals, drummers and soldiers to 1075 men and then to sail to America to join Sir William Howe’s army against the rebelling American colonists. Things did not go smoothly during this period between Stirling and Gen. Lord John Murray, Colonel of the regiment. In Feb. 1776, Stirling wrote to Col. James Murray that “...Lord John I find is very keen for a 2d Battn, ... if he arranges his Officers as ill for it as he did for the Augmentation, it will go but poorly on, I have nothing but a paper War with him since I came here, which with a neglect & want of Countenance from above has made me Sick of my profession, and I do think will give it up when the service we are going on is over...”

With the regiment up to its new larger strength, Stirling departed for America on April 29, 1776 under convoy of H.M.S. Flora with the 71st Regt., but the convoy was broken up soon after departure by severe storms. Stirling traveled on the Brilliant arriving initially with only three of the regiment’s transports around July 8. After the arrival of the remainder of the regiment at Staten Island by early August, General Orders issued on Aug. 6, 1776 directed the “…42d Regiment to be formed into two battalions under the command of Lt. Col. Stirling.” Stirling commanded the regiment in the New York/New Jersey campaign of 1776-1777. He and the regiment were specifically thanked in General Orders for their role in the successful attack on Fort Washington on Nov. 16, 1776, which stated “The General is extremely sensible of the Universal Spirit and Alacrity which evidently animated all the Troops that were Yesterday engaged, and desires his particular thanks may be given ... To Lieut.-Col. Sterling, and the 42d. Regiment...”

On June 13, 1777, Lt. Col. Stirling received his first Brigade command for the New Jersey campaign “...composed of the 33d and 2 battalions of the 42d.” For the Philadelphia campaign of 1777-1778 the 42nd Regt. was placed in the 3rd British Brigade under Maj. Gen. Charles Grey, but Stirling received a separate command on Sept. 28, 1777 consisting of the 42nd and 10th Regts., which was ordered to seize the rebel fort at Billingsport, New Jersey in order to clear the shipping route to Philadelphia.

After returning to New York with the army from Philadelphia and the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, Stirling commanded a brigade made up of the 15th and 42nd Regiments for Maj. Gen. Grey’s raid on Bedford, Massachusetts in Sept. 1778 and on Sept. 11 commanded a 1200-man detachment, consisting of 150 men from each battalion, (including 300 of the 42nd Regt.) that landed on Martha’s Vineyard to collect stock for the army.

In Feb. 1779, Stirling commanded a separate detachment of the 42nd, 33rd Regts. and the Light Companies of the Guards in a raid on Elizabethtown, New Jersey. The rebel New Jersey Journal actually complimented Stirling on this expedition saying: “Colonel Stirling who commanded the detachment shewed himself throughout the whole expedition not only the officer, but the well bred gentlemen...” In May of that year Stirling commanded a brigade consisting of the 42nd Regt. and the 15th Regt. during the raid on Portsmouth, Virginia and led a separate detachment of the 42nd Regt. to Kemp’s Landing, where a number of rebel ships were burnt and a large amount of supplies were captured.

As the 42nd Regt. was waiting to sail to Virginia, the residents of Newtown on Long Island, had paid a high compliment to Stirling and the men of his regiment writing in the newspaper “THE inhabitants of Newtown beg leave to make their hearty and grateful acknowledgement to Colonel Stirling, and the officers of the 42d regiment, for their equitable, polite, and friendly conduct, during their winter’s stay among them. They will ever retain an affectionate esteem and regard for them; and will never forget that they have been treated with all the justice and cordiality due to fellow citizens and subjects...” Stirling wrote in reply “IT gives Colonel Stirling a very sensible pleasure to find the orderly and good behavior of the 42d or Royal Highland regiment, under his command, during their winter quarters in Newtown, has drawn so honourable acknowledgement from the inhabitants of that district...”

General Orders for May 1, 1779 announced Lt. Col. Stirling had appointed the honorary position as Aide-de-Camp to the King effective Feb. 19, 1779 in place of John Douglass. This position was considered equivalent in rank as Colonel of the army. A few months later on June 16, 1779, Gen. Clinton announced Stirling’s promotion to be a Brigadier General while in America and assigned him to assume command of a brigade nicknamed by Capt. Peebles as the “Royal Brigade” consisting of the Royal Fusiliers (7th Regt.), Royal Welsh Fusiliers (23rd Regt.), and Royal Highlanders at Phillipsburg, New York. The “Royal Brigade” only lasted until July 30, when the 7th and 23rd Regiments were replaced with the 63rd and 64th Regiments. After the rebel’s seizure of Stoney Point in July 1779, Brig. Gen. Stirling led his new brigade to retake the forts. The Edinburgh Advertiser described the event saying “Brigadier-General Stirling was in the mean time embarked with the 42d, 63d, and 64th regiments, for the relief of Verplanks, or the recovery of Stoney Point. The northerly winds, rather uncommon at this season, opposed Brigadier-General Stirling’s progress till the 19th, when, upon arriving within sight of Stoney Point, the enemy abandoned it with precipitation, and some circumstances of disgrace...”

The rebels did not give up on retaking these posts as described on the Royal Gazette for Aug. 14, 1779 “Last Saturday night a detachment from Mr. Washington’s army attempted a Coup de main upon General Stirling’s picquet at Stoney Point, but their intentions were instantly counteracted by the General’s dispositions, and they retired...”

In October 1779, Brig. Gen. Stirling was ordered to take a brigade consisting of the 57th Regt., the Volunteers of Ireland, four companies of the 80th Regt. and one company of the Royal Highland Emigrants to defend against an anticipated French fleet attack on Halifax, Nova Scotia and then to return when that post was no longer considered threatened. Before he was to leave New York for Halifax Maj. Graham and the captains of the regiment were concerned about the security of some regimental money still in Stirling’s hands and sent him a petition by way of Maj. Graham to obtain a bond for the money., an action resented by Stirling. The expedition was, however, cancelled by Gen. Clinton, after being advised by the Navy that the French fleet would not be able to make an attack because “the season is too advanced...”

Stirling’s brigade assignment changed the next month as General Orders dated at New York on Nov. 18, 1779 directed the 17th, 42d, 44th and 64th Regiments to send returns to Brigade Major Mackenzie at Maj. Gen. Stirling’s quarters.

Brig. Gen. Stirling later commanded a brigade on Staten Island under the command of Lt. Gen. Wilhelm Knyphausen and was successful in defeating an attack on that island by rebel Gen. Lord Stirling in Jan. 1780. Brig. Gen. Stirling remained in the New York area during the 1780 Charleston Campaign, and while leading his brigade he was badly wounded by a musket ball in the leg in a skirmish near the Connecticut Farms in New Jersey on June 18, 1780. Capt. Peebles described the wound, which prevented further active service during the war, saying: “Br. Genl. Stirling was wounded near Elizabeth Town at their first going over by some skulking rascal from behind a house; his thigh bone broke, & very ill...” A statute placed by the state of New Jersey in Union Square in Elizabethtown marks the site of the attack on Stirling citing “On this spot, at daybreak, June 7, 1780, began the fighting against the British forces moving toward Springfield. Here fell General Stirling at the head of the advancing column.... Erected by the State of New Jersey, A. D. 1905.”

Capt. and Lt. Col. James Stewart of the 1st Regt. of Foot Guards wrote to his father on Sept. 23, 1780 that “I was yesterday in [New] York to see Poor General Stirling whose wound is healing, but notwithstanding the Surgeons are afraid that he will not have strength enough of constitution to get through. He has already suffered beyond description, having lain 4 months in one position without having been able to move, and that too in the very hottest weather, which has reduced him so low, that his Life is now in Danger from Weakness…”

Maj. Archibald Erskine, former Capt. in the 42nd Regt. and brother of Stirling’s sister-in-law, wrote to Stirling’s brother on Oct. 9, 1780 to break the news that Stirling was not likely to survive his leg wound saying “...the Surgeons told me yesterday that they think his cure almost impracticable unless he suffers amputation & that he still has strength sufficient for undergoing it, & therefore begd of Majr [John] Small [84th Regt.] & me to speak to him on this head ...but this he would by no means consent to & gave us to understand that nothing could alter the determined resolution he had taken from the first, of never suffering an operation to be performed on him, let the Surgeons opinion be what it would...”

A year later Stirling wrote to his Sister, Mrs. Anne Graham of his status “New York June 6th 1781 this fatal day 12 months I got my Wound...Your prayers & good wishes for my recovery have been heard, as I am now quite well in my health and my wounds closed without any appearance of more bones coming away, and was it not for the pain in my knee when it is the least improperly moved which prevents my bearing the fatigue of a sea voyage and the jolting of a carriage, I should I believe have been tempted to have gone home in a fleet now under orders for sailing, I hop about on crutches in the house & back yard but have not ventured on the Street yet” Three years after being wounded (Oct. 27, 1783) Stirling again wrote his sister with the status of his wound: “P.S. the leg is in an indifferent state the wound still open but I can walk a little way wt the assistance of a Staff & hope in time to get more strength in it”

Despite his wound, Stirling was recommended for promotion by Sir Henry Clinton to Major General in America in Dec. 1780 in a letter to Lord George Germain which indicated “The general begs leave to represent the necessity of giving additional rank to the superior officers of the British in order to prevent the German officers of younger dates arriving at higher situations, their promotions being more rapid. He humbly proposes that the major-generals Robertson and Philips be employed as lieutenant-generals and that the brigadiers including Sterling be employed as major-generals...” Accordingly Stirling was promoted to be a Maj. General in America by Orders dated May 27, 1781.

After Yorktown, Stirling was well enough to travel and returned to Britain in December. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton recommended to Lord George Germain, writing on Dec. 5, 1781 “Major General Stirling, who will have the honor the deliver this Letter to your Lordship, being now so much recovered of the very severe Wounds he received in Jersey, previous to my return from Charlestown in June 1780, as to take Advantage of the present Opportunity of returning to Europe, in the hopes of deriving benefit from the Bath Waters, and his native Air; I cannot suffer an Officer of his Merit to leave this Country without expressing to your Lordship my entire Approbation of his Services since I have had the honor to Command this Army, and the sincere regret I feel for the Occasion which deprives me of his very able Assistance.”

British General Orders dated at New York on Aug. 12, 1782 announced promotions in the 71st Regt. saying “Col. Thomas Sterling from 42d Foot to be Col. vice Simon Fraser decesed [sic] 13th Feby 82”
(A separate regiment titled “2d 71st Regt.” was formed with some of the officers in America and the recruits in Scotland and Col. Lord Balcarras was made its commander.) Stirling was promoted to Major General “in the Army” on Nov. 26, 1782 and in mid Dec. 1783 Stirling ordered the 71st Regt. to assemble at Glasgow, and the regiment was reduced in early 1784. Stirling documented his long service in a “Memorandum of Sir Thomas Stirling’s services” which was presented to the Secretary of State for War in 1784 and preserved in the Strowan Charter chest as of 1908.

Maj. Gen. Stirling’s military service was not, however, over as he was promoted to Colonel of the 41st Regt. in Ireland on Jan. 13, 1790. The 41st Regt. had previously been an invalids regiment, but it was ordered to “...be discontinued on the establishment as a corps of Invalids from the 25th... [Dec. 1787]...” Stirling served as Colonel of the 41st Regt. for 18 years and, coincidently, was replaced as Colonel by Lt. Gen. Hay Macdowall, former Capt. of the 42nd Regt.

In 1794 Stirling bought the estate of Strowan, Perthshire and as “Strowan House” was being built, General Stirling, lived in the house of Lochlane, adjoining his estate. Stirling’s older brother, Sir William Stirling of Ardoch, died on July 26, 1799 and Stirling assumed the title of 5th Baronet of Ardoch. He became a Lt. General May 3, 1796 and General on Jan. 1, 1801.

The Edinburgh Annual Register recorded his death in 1808 writing: “May...9. General Sir T. Stirling of Strowan Bart...” Stirling had not married and therefore had no direct heirs. His “trust-disposition” or will dated Aug. 13, 1804, conveyed his estate of Strowan (and lesser estates of Little Cowden” in York County, “Dalginross” in Perthshire, and “Glentarff”) to trustees which general directions to manage it and convey it to Graham of Airth’s “second son.” The trustees were later sued in 1838 by Thomas James Stirling of Strowan concerning the details of the execution of the will.

Commissions: Ens. Sept. 30, 1747 (1st Battalion, Gen.-Major Marjoribank’s Regiment Dutch Scots Brigade); Ens. on Half pay 1752 (1st Battalion, Col. Marjoribank’s Regiment); Ens. Oct. 31, 1756 (1st Battalion, Col. Marjoribank’s Regiment); Capt. (42nd Regt.) July 24, 1757; Maj. Dec. 12, 1770; Lt. Col. Sept. 7, 1771; Aide de Camp to the King Feb. 19, 1779; Brevet Brig. Gen. June 15, 1779; Col. “in the Army” Aug. 19, 1779; Brevet Maj. Gen. July 27, 1781, Col. Feb. 13, 1782 (71st Regt.), Maj. Gen. Nov. 26, 1782; Maj. Gen and Col. Jan. 13, 1790 (41st Regt.); Lt. Gen. May 3, 1796; Gen. Jan. 1, 1801.

Paul Pace

Stewart and Victoria - I'd love to chat about the 42nd - how do I contact you.



hi all- i am interested in what you have written.
Paul - is your book out?
Stuart - who is the subordinate you are writing about?

have you all seen Ian McCulloch's 'Sons of the Mountains' vol. II - there is a bio. with photograph of Thomas Stirling. But the date for Stirling's wound is put at 1779 which is obviously wrong.
There is also Peebles' American War ed. by Ira Grubner which is a contemporary account and he makes a number of references to Stirling.


Thank you for such a informative piece. I do historical reenacting and we portray Captain Stirlings company. Our main events are at Fort Massac and Fort Dechartres. I would love to chat about what we do. Again I thank you for all the information.

Stuart McDowall

Hi paul can you email me for a chat on the 42nd

Stuart McDowall

yes he did exist and was hard headed, i am currently working on a biography of one of his subordinates, and it is testfible that he was a hard nut to crack.

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