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Thursday, August 29, 2013

James Gardiner.......

was born in Scotland in 1688, the same year that the Glorious Revolution took place. He joined the British Army at age 12 and saw active fighting by age 14. During the Battle of Ramillies in the War of Spanish Succession, he was almost killed when a musket ball flew into his mouth and pierced through the back of his neck. Oddly enough, he felt numb to pain and thought he might have swallowed the ball, until traced the bullet’s path through his neck with his finger and fainted from loss of blood. Concerned about his money almost more than his life, Gardiner put his gold pieces in his hand, spit up some blood on them, and clenched them in a fist to hide them from plunderers. He was almost robbed and killed where he lay by a French soldier, but the Frenchman mistook him for a compatriot and let him alone. He was eventually rescued and recovered from his serious injury in England.

    Gardiner was chosen to accompany the Earl of Stair to France on a diplomatic mission in 1719, and relished in the morally depraved climate of Parisian night life. He was young, rakish, daring, and handsome, and he filled his days with romantic misadventures and illicit affairs. One hot summer evening in July, he prepared to rendezvous with a married woman for a midnight fling. Having left a drinking party at 11 p.m., he had an hour to wait for more hedonistic pleasure to come his way. So he decided to read. His mother and aunt were very pious, and had slipped a religious book entitled The Christian Soldier by the Puritan author Thomas Watson into his baggage. With nothing else on hand, Gardiner decided to breeze through it just to pass the time. He took little notice of the contents, being bored, distracted, and not in the mood for a long sermon. But then he noticed a bright light fall across the open book. He turned towards the candle beside him, assuming that it was the cause of the sudden illumination, and then froze.
    There, before his eyes, was a vision of Christ outstretched on the cross, ablaze with radiance and contorted with pain. A voice seemed to come from the image and pierce Gardiner’s soul: “O sinner, did I suffer all this for thee, and are these the returns?” With that, the terrified soldier fainted in an armchair. When he regained his senses, he was filled with horror, not so much because he feared Hell as because he realized the excruciating pain he had caused to the man hanging on the cross. For two months, he struggled with inner turmoil, not sure what he should do next. Then he came to read Roman 3:25-26:  “Christ Jesus: whom God hath sent forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” He abandoned his sinful lifestyle and became a devout Christian, so much so that some of his friends questioned his sanity. When he returned to England, he arranged for some of his friends in high society to host a dinner party for him and his friends. Then, to prove that he was indeed in possession of his senses, he told them the story of his conversion and won their grudging acceptance of his newly reformed lifestyle.

    In 1745, Colonel James Gardiner commanded a dragoon regiment known as the 13th Hussars and was made the second in command of Sir John Cope’s expedition to destroy "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and his Jacobite Army outside of Edinburgh. As the British army moved on to Aberdeen and from thence to the East Lothian Coast, the Jacobite force marched out of Edinburgh and headed south.  Determined not be intercepted by Charles, General Cope advanced from Dunbar to intercept the Jacobites first. He halted at the town of Haddinton and sent out the two Edinburgh Volunteers to act as scouts and ascertain the enemy’s position. Unfortunately for the government general, his ever-reliable “eyes and ears” stopped off at a nearby tavern, settled down to a refreshing meal of oysters and sherry (emphasis on the latter!), drank themselves into a state of unwarranted euphoria, and were subsequently captured by a young attorney’s clerk with Jacobite sympathies. Still in the dark as to the location of the Royal Stuart army, Copes’ forces made camp outside the castle at the village of Prestonpans.

    Cope, always cautious and a bit jumpy, waited impatiently for reinforcement from England. But the Duke of Cumberland was preoccupied fighting the French on the Continent, and the Jacobites didn’t wait docilely for more government troops to make their appearance. Instead Prince Charles and his army marched on Prestonpans, declaring to his soldiers, “Gentlemen, I have flung away the scabbard!” His men let out a hearty cheer in response. They were then guided through the fens surrounding the castle under the cover of night by a local Jacobite and crept up on the Hanoverian troops while they slept. Just before the crack of dawn on September 21, Lord Murray led his troops around the south side of the castle. As the first rays of the sun pierced through the through a dense hanging fog, the Jacobites attacked from the rear.

    Barking dogs had already roused the government soldiers, but they were still bleary from sleepiness and the morning mist when they had heard the eerie sound the enemy rustling through a nearby cornfield.  Now that the sun had risen, they came face to face with the horror of a Highland Charge, complete with hacking broadswords and blood-curdling screams from the attackers. The weaker flanks collapsed immediately. Cope’s Dragoons didn’t even try to withstand the first assault, but broke ranks and ran like frightened rabbits. It was such a sudden withdrawal, the Jacobite officers were sure the move must be a feint.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Whitefoord’s artillery fired five hast rounds before being overwhelmed by the charging Camerons and Stewarts of Appin. The Hanoverian guard then made a brief attempt to hold the position behind the cannon, but soon they too dispelled with ceremony and ran for their lives. Whitefoord himself, along with Master Gunner Major Griffith, boldly fought on side by side until Griffith was severely wounded and taken prisoner. The lone Whitefoord was then approached by a Jacobite officer, Stewart of Invernahyle, who ordered him to surrender. Whitefoord lunged at Invernahyle with his sword in response, but the Jacobite managed to defer the point of the blade with his targe.

    One of Invernahyle’s clansmen prepared to bash in Whitefoord’s head with a battle-axe, but Invernahyle interposed and offered to make the Hanoverian officer his personal prisoner and protect his belongings, in recognition of his steely courage. Whitefoord, realizing that further resistance would be futile, finally surrendered. Invernahyle kept his word and treated him with the greatest courtesy, later securing his parole, and visiting him at Ayrshire when the war was still in effect. Later, after the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden, Whitefoord would go to the Duke of Cumberland personally and plead for a pardon for Inverhayle. He even threaten to resign his commission unless the Jacobite's family and property were granted government protection.

    Meanwhile, General Cope and his fellow officers tried their best to rally the fleeing men, crying out, “For shame, gentlemen, behave like Britons!” But it was all in vain. After fifteen bloody minutes, the route was complete. Realizing that nothing further could be done, Cope fled the field while the courageous Colonel Gardiner led the remaining seventeen government soldiers in a pathetic last-ditch effort to hold ground. Receiving up to five wounds but still refusing to get off the field, Gardiner was finally dragged from his horse by a Farguhar McGillevrey, a Catholic servant of the Duke of Perth and later baron officer of the Earle of Nithsdale, who struck him in the back of the head with his Lochaber axe. Without Gardiner’s tenacious leadership, this last burst of Hanoverian resistance dissipated.

     The gallant Colonel was later found lying in agony under a thorn tree. His servant placed him in a cart and had him taken to the nearby Tranent Church manse where he was cared for by none other than Beatrix and Mary Jenkinson, two young ladies whom Prince Charlie had called "the bonniest lasses I have seen in Scotland" when he met them on his march to meet the Hanoverians in battle. While victorious Highlanders poured into the downstairs rooms of the manse seeking shelter and provisions, the Jenkinson sisters nursed Gardiner upstairs until he died of his wounds the following morning, leaving behind a wife and five surviving children.

    Ironically, at the same time, Gardiner’s own nearby home, Bankton, was being used as the general field hospital for the wounded of both sides. From the time of his vision of Christ to his death, Gardiner had kept up the practice of praying and reading his Bible for 4 to 6 o’clock in the morning, even during military campaigns. He also was known for taking to task those who took the Lord’s name in vain, whether they were lowly privates or high-ranking nobles. He deeply believed that the Christian should not fear danger or death but rather focus their sights on a heavenly crown. Perhaps this goes far in explaining his valiance on the field of Prestonpans.

Colonel James Gardiner, RIP

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