Cameron, Alan (DNB00)

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CAMERON, Sir ALAN (1753–1828), general, the head of a branch of the great clan Cameron, was born at Errach, Inverness-shire, in 1753. He won a great athletic reputation in his native glens, and on the outbreak of the war of the American revolution volunteered for service in America,' and received a commission in one of the provincial regiments. In 1782 he was taken prisoner when on a mission to organise a force out of the Indian tribes, and was imprisoned for two years in the common gaol at Philadelphia as an abettor of Indian atrocities. In an attempt to escape he broke both his ankles. In 1784 he was released and returned to Errach, and was put upon half-pay. On 17 Aug. 1793 letters of service were issued to him to raise a corps of highlanders, of which he was appointed major-commandant. His immense popularity in the highlands made this an easy task, although he had no bounty to grant. In January 1794 a fine body of a thousand men, raised by him and officered by old half-pay officers of the American war, was inspected at Glasgow and named the 79th, or Cameron Highlanders; Cameron was nominated lieutenant-colonel commandant. From 1794 to 1795 the new regiment served in Flanders, and in 1796, in which year he was gazetted a lieutenant-colonel in the army, it was ordered to the West Indies and engaged at the recapture of Martinique. In 1797 the men of the regiment, which had been decimated by disease, were drafted into the 42nd Highlanders, and Cameron and the officers returned to Scotland, where in a few months they had raised a new regiment under the same designation, fit to be ordered on active service. Accordingly, in 1799, the new 79th regiment was ordered to form part of the expedition to the Helder; it was one of the regiments in Moore's brigade, and particularly distinguished itself in the battle of 2 Oct., in which Cameron was wounded. After recruiting to supply its losses, the 79th was ordered to form part of Sir James Pulteney's expedition to Ferrol, and then to join Sir Ralph Abercromby in the Mediterranean. In the army which landed at Aboukir Bay on 8 March 1801 and won the battle of Alex'andria the 79th formed part of Lord Cavan's brigade, and was not much engaged. In 1804 Cameron was permitted to raise a second battalion, which he did in six months, and on 1 Jan. 1804 he was gazetted a colonel in the army and colonel of the 79th. He commanded both battalions in Lord Cathcart's expedition to Denmark in 1807, and was appointed to take military possession of Copenhagen after the siege. In the following year he was, at Sir John Moore's especial request, made a brigadier-general, with the command of one of the brigades in Moore's army. He accompanied Moore to Sweden and then to Portugal, where he arrived just after the battle of Vimeiro. When Sir John Moore made his famous advance to Salamanca, Cameron was left behind with his brigade to command in Lisbon, but when he was superseded in that capacity by the arrival of Major-general Cradock, he at once moved forward by that general's order to join Moore. On reaching Almeida he heard of Moore's retreat, and occupied himself in collecting the stragglers; these he formed into two battalions, each a thousand strong, which did good service at the battle of Talavera, and were known as the 1st and 2nd battalion of Detachments. He then fell back on Santarem, and made every preparation for covering Lisbon under the direction of Major-general Cradock. When Wellesley landed to supersede Cradock, he told off Cameron's strong brigade to cover the passes into Portugal from the east, while he drove Soult from Oporto, and then coming south ordered Cameron to lead the advance of the army into Spain. At the battle of Talavera Cameron's brigade was posted on the left of the first line and was hotly engaged, and the general had two horses shot under him, but he continued to command his brigade until after the battle of Busaco, when he was promoted major-general on 25 July 1810, and obliged to come home from ill-health. He saw no more service. His regiment served at Fuentes de Onoro, where his eldest son, Lieutenant-colonel Philip Cameron, was killed at its head, and throughout the Peninsular war. In 1814 he received a gold medal and clasp for the battles of Talavera and Buaaco, and in January 1815 was made a K.C.B. on the extension of the order of the Bath. On 12 Aug. 1819 he was promoted lieutenant-general. He died at Fulham on 9 March 1828.

[Sketches of the Manners, Character, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland, with details of the Military Services of the Highland Regiments, by Colonel David Stewart, 2 vols. 1822; and Gent. Mag. April 1828.]

H. M. S.