Lieutenant-Colonel Hon. JOHN MAITLAND, MP,
Marines, and 71st Regiment,

Lieut-Col. John MaitlandThe eighth surviving son of Charles Maitland, 6th Earl of Lauderdale, and Lady Elizabeth Ogilvy, John Maitland had a varied career. He was commissioned Captain of Marines in 1757, and served in the Seven Years' War, losing his right arm in action. With peace in 1763, he went on half-pay, but returned to the 'active' list in 1770, and was promoted Major (commissions in the Marines, as part of the Navy, were not purchased) in 1775.

John stood for Parliament for Haddington Burghs in 1768, against Patrick Warrender. There was a double return, but he decided not to contest it. In 1769 he became Clerk of the Pipe of the Scottish Exchequer. He successfully stood for Parliament, again for Haddington Burghs, in 1774, defeating Sir Alexander Gilmour. He retained his seat when, c. 1777, he was sent to North America on active service with the Marines.

In May 1778, Major John Maitland commanded a detachment of Marines in action against Rebel vessels in the Delaware. In October that year, he transferred into the army when appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Battalion of the 71st Foot (Fraser's Highlanders). He served with distinction in South Carolina and Georgia, taking part in the capture of Savannah on 29 December 1778. In 1779, he took part in the battle at Stono Ferry (20 June), and was left in command at Beaufort.

In September-October 1779, Savannah, where General Augustus Prevost had his HQ, was threatened by the Comte d'Estaing's French forces from the river and by Rebel troops from land. On 16 September, Admiral d'Estaing demanded the city's surrender "to the arms of the King of France". Prevost was given 24 hrs to think it over - while reinforcements arrived, including Maitland, who had brought 800 men from Beaufort by a valiant march through the swamps. Prevost decided to fight, and so the French and the Rebels began a 2-week siege, culminating in a major attack on 9 October. The enemy were repelled with heavy losses - most of the casualties being among the French troops, and including the Polish adventurer Pulaski - but Maitland did not live to celebrate the victory. He had long been suffering from malaria, and died on 22 October, aged 47.

According to The Scots Magazine, 1779, pp. 684-5:

The saving this army, the destruction of D'Estaing, the annihilation of the rebel forces, and indeed the success of the whole, was owing to his bringing 800 men across the swamps deemed almost impossible, and forcing his army through the enemy troops to join General Prevost... Great and long fatigue had in the summer impaired the Colonel's health. During the siege, and at the attack, though his body was feeble the vigour of his mind was unabated; but alas! he lived only two days after the French embarkation.

St.Mary's Church, Haddington, East Lothian

St. Mary's Church, Haddington

Photo by Russell Darling, St. Mary's Church, Haddington, 2001

John Maitland was buried the day after his death in John Graham's vault in Savannah's Colonial cemetery. However, as John A. Morrow informs me, his fragmentary remains were returned from Georgia to Scotland in 1981. This project was instigated by a Savannah pathologist, Dr. H. Preston Russell, who identified him (presumably because of the missing arm), and Georgia Historical Society. What was left of John was reinterred, in a small box, in the family vault beneath the Lauderdale Aisle (an Episcopal Chapel within the Church of Scotland building) in St. Mary's Church, Haddington, and marked with a bronze plaque thanking the Georgians for his return. His name is inscribed on the board marking family burials, although his rank is given as Captain.

Maitland Aisle board

John Maitland's inscription

Photos by Russell Darling

With the exception of John André, returned from Tappan, NY, in 1821, John Maitland seems to be unique in being returned home. Unlike the US, the tradition in this country is generally that a soldier stays where he fell.

Return to Top