"THE BRAVE SONS OF SKYE" by Lieut. Col. John MacInnes. 1899.
about ISLE of SKYE
THE ELDERS OF ISLEORNSAY AND KNOCK IN THE PARISH OF SLEAT
"These men had the fear of God in their hearts, and were upright and honourable in their lives."
--A Friend's Loving Tribute.
MAJOR-GENERAL SIR GEORGE ELDER, K.C.B.
[Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath]
Although Sir George Elder was not born in "Eilean a Cheo," he is claimed as a Skye soldier, because of the long and honourable connection of his family with the parish of Sleat, and because it was from Skye he joined the army, his inherent military genius having doubtless received not a little stimulus from the warlike spirit which prevailed in the island at that time.
The Elders had fighting blood in their veins from both sides of the house, ancestors of theirs (Stuart and Elder) having fought at Culloden on the side of the Prince.
Sir George Elder was a soldier born, and efforts which were made to prevent his going to the army were in vain.
He was appointed as an Ensign in the 46th Foot on the 27th of November, 1799;
Second Lieutenant in the 95th Foot on the 5th of November, 1800; Lieutenant on the 24th of March, 1803; Captain on the 23rd of May, 1805; Major in the Portuguese army on the 13th of April, 1809; Major, half-pay, in the same army, on the 25th of December, 1816; Lieutenant-Colonel, Brevet, on the 30th of May, 1811; Colonel, Brevet, on the 19th of July, 1821; Major-General on the 22nd of July, 1830; Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland on the 4th of October, 1826; and Commander-in-Chief in Madras in August, 1836. [1. War Office Records]
While stationed at Shorncliffe in 1805, under the command of Sir John Moore, Lieutenant Elder's assiduity in the performance of his duties, and the excellent state of discipline to which he had brought his company, so attracted the notice of that distinguished General that, on the occasion of the Militia being allowed to volunteer for the line, he was pleased to say he would recommend Lieutenant Elder to the Commander-in-Chief for a company, if he were successful in obtaining men (for which duty he was detached), and on his return with the prescribed number he was promoted to a company in the 2nd Battalion of the 95th Foot.
Captain Elder's company formed part of the detachment from the Rifle Corps which was employed in the expedition that was sent to South America in 1806. 
[2. "Short Memoir of Major-General Sir George Elder, K.C.B." Kindly lent by
Miss Maggie M. Elder, late of Knock, Sleat, Skye.]
An interesting communication in the "Naval and
Military Gazette" alludes to Captain Elder's services at Monte Video in
the following terms:--"In 1806 he embarked with a detachment of three companies
on the secret expedition which terminated in the assault and capture of
Monte Video, the troops on which occasion were under the command of Brigadier-General
Achmuty. In this affair the conduct of Captain Elder was particularly
conspicuous, he having led his company to the breach, and established himself
on the ramparts, in defiance of a numerous body of the enemy then pressing
hard upon him. In the confusion the vigilant eye of Captain Elder
saw the importance of occupying the tower of the Cathedral, and he at once
took possession of it, and, by his flanking fire, succeeded in driving
the enemy from their guns, and enabling our troops to clear the ramparts.
For this eminent service he received the thanks of the officer commanding.
In 1807, on the arrival of the force under Brigadier-General Crawford,
Captain Elder moved on with his corps to the attack of Buenos Ayres, and
on the march, being with the advanced guard, he had an opportunity of distinguishing
himself by throwing a bridge across a small river in two hours, which enabled
the artillery to pass over rapidly, and which led to the total discomfiture
of a force of Spaniards consisting of 5,000 men, by the light brigade,
only amounting to fourteen companies of riflemen and artillery. On
this occasion eleven pieces of artillery were taken from the enemy, principally
owing to a charge of Captain Elder's company on the flank, aided by a bold
advance of the line." [War Office Records]
Captain Elder further had the good fortune to be most favourably noticed for his zeal and ability by Brigadier-General Robert Crawford, who, on the disembarkation of the troops in the Bay of Barragon, personally inspected the manner in which the sentries had been posted, and declared that he could not have done it better himself."
On the pursuit of the enemy by Brigadier-General Crawford, Captain Elder was requested to reconnoitre a position, and while engaged on this service a party of the enemy, who had concealed themselves in a trench, fired on Captain Elder and wounded him dangerously in the groin. He fell instantly, when the Brigadier-General, seeing it, and believing him killed, exclaimed, "There falls as brave and gallant a fellow as ever lived!" He was carried off the field, and for a considerable time doubts were entertained of his ever recovering. He had lost entirely the use of his limbs, but the strength of his iron constitution brought him through. The ball was never extracted, but was supposed to have lodged near the spine, from the effects of which he often suffered great pain.
In 1808 Captain Elder joined the army under Sir John Moore in the Peninsula and was almost daily engaged with the enemy while covering the retreat of the British troops upon Corunna. In the service his activity and the excessive fatigue he surmounted were remarkable.
He embarked for England after the battle of Corunna (in which he was engaged) with the remains of his corps, and in April, 1809, being one of the twenty officers originally chosen, he was promoted to a Majority, and appointed by Marshal Beresford to the command of the 3rd Battalion of Cacadores in the Portuguese army, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in that service.
On leaving his old corps (the 95th) the company he had commanded presented Major Elder with a silver-mounted sabre, suitably inscribed, as a memorial of their respect and gratitude.
Lieutenant-Colonel Elder was indefatigable in training and disciplining his battalion. Lord Wellington and His Excellency Marshal Beresford reviewed them, when his Lordship said;--"Colonel Elder, the Marshal and myself are under great obligations to you for the fine state of discipline to which you have brought your battalion, and to your country you have rendered a most essential service."
At the commencement of the Portuguese Campaign the 3rd Battalion of Cacadores was attached to the light division in advance of the Allied Army.
On the 18th of July, 1810, in the affair of Almeida, Lieutenant-Colonel Elder received the congratulations of Major-General Robert Crawford for the gallant conduct of his battalion in an attack of two squadrons of French cavalry who were nearly destroyed.
During this affair the remainder of the light division cheered the Cacadores from an eminence in the rear.
On the 24th of July, in the severe action of the Coa, the 3rd Battalion was particularly mentioned in orders by Marshal Beresford, who, in thanking the commanding officer and corps, observed that "their brilliant conduct on that occasion "was equal in every respect to that of British troops."
On the evening preceding the battle of Busaco Lieutenant-Colonel Elder had his horse shot under him in a sharp engagement with the enemy's advance in front of the position.
At the battle of Busaco, the 3rd Cacadores were engaged during the whole of the 27th and the morning of the 28th, and, incited by the energy and intrepidity of their commanding officer, behaved with a spirit worthy of older soldiers, and fully justified the encomiums passed on the Portuguese troops by Lord Wellington and by Marshal Beresford, the former of whom in his orders was pleased to say that "the 3rd Cacadores, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Elder, have added to their former reputation by their gallant behavior, which was admired not only by his Excellency, but by the army in general."
The 3rd Cacadores distinguished themselves particularly at Alenguer, where, owing to a heavy rain and thick fog, the enemy succeeded in taking the village unobserved. The Cacadores promptly formed on a height commanding the bridge, and held it against a division of the enemy until the part of the army occupying Alenguer had time to form and retreat to their respective stations.
From the arrival of the allied army in the lines of Torres Vedras, Lieutenant-Colonel Elder's corps occupied the outposts of the famous Light Divsion; and on Massena's retreat to the position of Santarem it covered the advance of the army, and was on several occasions closely engaged with the rear-guard of the enemy. ["Short memoirs"]
Whilst the French army were in the position of Santarem (upwards of three months),
Lieutenant-Colonel Elder was entrusted with the occupation of the bridge and two forts of Ponte Solario, the most advanced point of the allied army, and to which the greatest responsibility was attached. During this service the corps quite equalled the expectations that had been formed of it.
Continued to - PART 3 - Conclusion
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