Hon. JOHN MAITLAND, MP,
Marines, and 71st Regiment,
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
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
St.Mary's Church, Haddington, East
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.
Photos by Russell
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.
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