Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gardiner, James (1688-1745)

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GARDINER, JAMES (1688–1745), colonel of dragoons, eldest son of Captain Patrick Gardiner, of the family of Torwoodhead, by his wife, Mary Hodge of Gladsmuir, was born 11 Jan. 1687-8, at Carriden, Linlithgowshire. He was educated at the grammar school of Linlithgow, and having served very early as a cadet became ensign, at the age of fourteen, in a Scotch regiment in the service of Holland. In 1702 he exchanged into the service of Queen Anne, and he took part with distinction in the campaigns of Marlborough. At the battle of Ramillies, 23 May 1706, he was one of a forlorn hope sent to dispossess the French of the churchyard, and after planting the colours was disabled by a shot in the mouth. While lying helpless, after the battle, he saved himself from death by stating that he was a nephew of the governor of the neutral town of Huy. He was conveyed to a neighbouring convent, and on his recovery was exchanged. On 31 Jan. 1714-15 he was made lieutenant in Colonel Kerr's dragoons, now the 1st hussars; and on 22 July following captain in Colonel Stanhope's dragoons, disbanded in 1718. He was in this regiment at the battle of Preston, Lancashire, heading a small storming party, who in the midst of a hail of musketry, by which the majority of them were killed, advanced to the barricades and set them on fire. On 14 Jan. 1717–18 he was promoted major. His skill as a horseman attracted the attention of John Dalrymple, second earl of Stair [q. v.], to whom he became aide-de-camp. Stair's grand ceremonial entry into Paris as ambassador, in 1719, was arranged under the direction of Gardiner, who acted as master of the horse. On 20 July 1724 he was made major of the Earl of Stair's dragoons, now the 6th Inniskillings. Wodrow's statement, that he was made major of Stair's grey horse (Analecta, iii. 198), now called the Scots Greys, arose from the fact that Stair was colonel of the Greys both previously and subsequently (24 April 1706 to 20 April 1714, and 28 May 1745 to 27 May 1747); but from March 1715 to March 1734 he was colonel of the 6th dragoons, and it was only while he was colonel of this regiment that Gardiner served under him (information kindly supplied by Lieutenant-colonel Fergusson of Edinburgh from the war office). On 24 Jan. 1729–30 Gardiner was made lieutenant-colonel of the Inniskillings. According to his own statement, Gardiner in his early years was noted, even in Paris, for his dissolute life. While waiting for an assignation he happened to take up a book, according to Doddridge, Watson's ‘The Christian Soldier,’ or, according to Alexander Carlyle, Gurnall's ‘Christian Armour.’ Looking up during its perusal he saw what he ever afterwards regarded as a vision of Jesus Christ, and was immediately and permanently ‘converted.’ Alexander Carlyle, who states that he was ‘very ostentatious’ in his references to his conversion, describes him as ‘a noted enthusiast, a very weak, honest, and brave man’ (Autobiography, p. 16).

On 19 April 1743 Gardiner succeeded General Humphry Bland [q. v.] as colonel of the regiment of light dragoons now known as the 13th hussars, then quartered in East Lothian, in which district Gardiner had lately purchased a residence at Bankton, near Prestonpans. On the outbreak of the rebellion in 1745 Gardiner's and Hamilton's dragoons were retained in the low country, while Cope set out to oppose the Pretender in the highlands. On 14 Aug. four troops of Gardiner's dragoons marched to Perth by the ford of Dalreoch (Kington, Lairds of Gask, p. 104). He evacuated Perth on the approach of the Pretender's forces, and concentrated his dragoons in Stirling. He was confident that if they came to Stirling he would be able to ‘give them a warm reception’ (‘Letters on the Suppression of the Rebellion,’ in Jesse, Pretenders and their Adherents, ii. 345), but asked in vain to be reinforced by Hamilton's dragoons from Edinburgh. The insurgents, learning that Stirling was held by Gardiner, resolved to cross the Forth by the fords of Frew, eight miles to the west. Gardiner set out to dispute the passage; but his numbers were much inferior to those of the enemy, and he could not depend on the temper of his men. He therefore, after making a reconnaissance, retreated on Edinburgh. Partly infected by the supineness and irresolution of Cope, and partly influenced by the tales of highland prowess at Killiecrankie in 1689, the dragoons both of Gardiner and Hamilton, when the Pretender's forces began to approach Edinburgh, left the city, and, notwithstanding the remonstrances of Gardiner and other officers, galloped eastwards in wild panic. They halted for the night in a field at Prestonpans, and Gardiner, ‘quite worn out,’ went to bed in his own house. Next morning they continued their march to Dunbar, where Cope was making his debarkation. Alexander Carlyle, then a young man, visited the camp and dined with Gardiner. On Carlyle referring to the retreat from Edinburgh—‘A foul flight,’ said he, ‘Sandie, and they have not recovered from their panic; and I'll tell you, in confidence, that I have not above ten men in my regiment whom I am certain will follow me. But we must give them battle now, and God's will be done’ (Autobiog. p. 132). On 20 Sept. the two armies came in sight of each other at Prestonpans, in the neighbourhood of Gardiner's own residence. When Cope took up his final position for the night, he had his rear to the high enclosing walls of Gardiner's residence and the Preston pleasure-grounds. Carlyle had another and his last interview with Gardiner in the evening. He found him ‘grave, but serene and resigned; and he concluded by praying God to bless me, and that he could not wish for a better night to lie on the field.’ He added that he expected they would be ‘awaked early enough in the morning’ (ib. p. 140). Gardiner's dragoons were posted on Cope's right wing, and after the discomfiture of Whitney's dragoons were ordered to charge the enemy, but after a faint fire only eleven, including Cornet Kerr (ib. p. 143), obeyed the word of command, the others wheeling round and galloping from the field. The battle was irretrievably lost, but Gardiner would not leave the infantry in the desperate plight in which they were now placed. At the beginning of the action he had received a bullet wound in his right breast, and soon afterwards a shot struck his right thigh. The officer in command of the foot was struck down, when ‘the colonel immediately quitted his horse and snatched up the half-pike; and took upon him the command of the foot, at whose head he fought till he was brought down by three wounds, one in his shoulder by a ball, another in his forearm by a broad sword, and the third, which was the mortal stroke, in the hinder part of his head by a Lochaber axe. This wound was given him by a highlander, who came behind him while he was reaching a stroke at an officer with whom he was engaged' (Gent. Mag. xv. 530). He was carried, in a very weak condition, to the manse of Tranent, but lived till the forenoon of the following day. On the 24th he was buried in the north-west corner of Tranent Church, which he had been in the habit of attending. The mansion-house of Gardiner was destroyed by fire 27 Nov. 1852. By his wife, Lady Frances Erskine, daughter of the fourth Earl of Buchan, whom he married 11 July 1726, he had thirteen children, only five of whom, two sons and three daughters, survived him. Gardiner's daughter Richmond was the 'Fanny Fair' of the song ''T was at the Hour of Dark Midnight,' written in commemoration of Gardiner by Sir Gilbert Elliot [q. v.], third baronet (1722-1777).

[Doddridge's Life of Colonel Gardiner, frequently printed; Doddridge's Sermon on the Death of Colonel Gardiner, 1745; Poem on the Death of Colonel Gardiner, 1746; Gent. Mag. xv. 530; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Cannon's Historical Records, 13th dragoons; Alexander Carlyle's Autobiography; Chambers's Hist. of the Rebellion; Burton's Hist. of Scotland; information kindly supplied by Lieutenant-colonel Fergusson of Edinburgh.]

T. F. H.