Roderick Innes, 78th Foot, Tain.

icon Back to all articles

Extract from The Life of Roderick Innes, Lately of H.M. Seventy-Eighth Regiment, written by Roderick Innes from Tain.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, thousands of men from Easter-Ross enlisted into Highland Regiments serving in the British Army. Soldiers from Easter-Ross played a part in many famous sieges and battles and would see action at almost every corner of the globe. The pension records of these men sometimes give us a fascinating insight into the military service of the ordinary soldier.

The pension papers of Roderick Innes contain nothing remarkable, although being a drummer for 20 years with red hair in India must have been challenging. Roderick enlisted in the 78th Highlanders at the age of seventeen on 21st April 1793 and served with the regiment until 1817. A look at the medal record and we see that Roderick was awarded the Army of India Medal and was with the regiment at the battles of Assaye, Argaum, Gawilghur and also the Military General Service medal for the Siege of Java. 

The pension papers may not reveal much about Roderick’s service but fortunately for us, he left a detailed account in his book, ‘The Life of Roderick Innes, Lately of H.M. Seventy-Eighth Regiment’. The book not only contains details of the battles and sieges but also of Roderick’s life growing up in Tain.

“It so happened that from my childhood I had a strong inclination for the army, and, like the great man Napoleon, I took much delight in drilling my youthful companions to the use of arms. For this purpose I got from 30 to 40 boys formed into a regiment, and having got ourselves armed with sticks, we assembled in a park in the neighbourhood of Tain, where I one day put them through their manoeuvres, when who made his appearance but General Ross, who stood and eyed us very attentively. At last, he called upon me, being acting commander, and I was very much abashed to approach a General dressed in full regimentals, but at last summoning up resolution, I went to him, and making a low bow to my superior officer, he asked me who I was, and what I was doing. I told him I was making soldiers. Having asked me if we always did that, I told him we did, but that some of them were so awkward I could not get them drilled at all. At this the General and another gentleman who was with him laughed heartily, and putting his hand into his pocket he gave me ten shillings, saying, " take that, my good little fellow, keep two shillings of it to yourself, and divide the rest of it among your companions," which I did, and I believe there never was such a proud little army in Britain as ours on getting home to our mothers with our baubees in our hands.”

The following extract is from Roderick account of the Battle of Assaye, in 1803, described by Lord Wellington as, 'the bloodiest for the numbers that I ever saw'.

“As there was no time to lose, we received orders to fire a volley and prepare for charging. A fierce and bloody battle ensued, for they stood to their guns, until they were shivered on the point of the bayonet. So desperate were they, that n0 sooner had one company of men been cut off, than another took up their room, so that in course of action we fought six times our number of fresh men, until at last we fired a volley and charged. We all gave one cheer and on we rushed double quick, and drove them from their guns with great slaughter on both sides. They then began to give way, and we followed close up, until we made them retreat. We heard the cavalry sounding the advance, and we opened to let them pass. They galloped on and cut them down like grass. It was the most dreadful sight I ever beheld. The groans of the living, and the mangled bodies of the dead sufficed to fill the mind with terror. In fact, I am of opinion, that historians do not overdraw the harassing picture of a battle-field. Some men are so hardened from their being frequently in battle, that they never esteem it a cruelty; but did they for a moment look upon it as I do, their opinions would be changed.”

You can read Roderick’s book free here;