Monday, February 4, 2013
Monarchist Profile: Major John Pitcairn
It was during that year that John Pitcairn received his commission as a lieutenant in the seventh marine regiment. That was, of course, during the Jacobite emergency where the Royal Marines were raided as a ready pool of qualified officers for the new units raised to deal with the crisis. Afterwards, many were disbanded but the Royal Marines was reformed as a permanent body in 1755 and Pitcairn had his old commission reconfirmed. Unlike the army where the purchase of commissions was common, in the Royal Marines (like the Royal Navy) this was not the case and promotions came more slowly. However, by 1756 Pitcairn earned the rank of captain and the following year saw service in the French and Indian War, participating in the British capture of Louisbourg in Canada. After returning home he moved his family from Edinburgh to Kent, met his second daughter for the first time and eventually he and his wife had two more daughters and six sons. Pitcairn showed himself a reliable officer but promotions came slowly and it was 1771, when he was 48-years old, before he made the rank of major.
Major Pitcairn was a regular attendee at church on Sunday, one day when he restrained his famously foul mouth. Even ardent revolutionaries had to admit that he was a good man and Major Pitcairn was quite fond of many of the locals even if he could never agree with them politically, being staunchly loyal to his King and country. Of course, it was in April of 1775 that his moment of greatest fame came when he was second-in-command of a column under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith that was to move to Concord, Massachusetts to destroy stockpiles of weapons reportedly being held by people of questionable loyalty. On April 19 they came face-to-face with the local Minutemen on the town green at Lexington. The rebels were ordered to disperse but someone fired “the shot heard round the world” and the Revolutionary War began. Major Pitcairn tried to restrain his men though his horse was wounded in the brief skirmish that ended with the rebels taking flight.
Pitcairn was carried back to town and died a few hours later. In his absence the Battle of Bunker Hill was won by the British who finally drove the rebels off though they suffered very high losses doing it. Eventually the British were forced to evacuate Boston after the emplacement of heavy guns captured from Fort Ticonderoga. Still, it was only the beginning of what would be a long conflict and Major John Pitcairn had already earned an honored place amongst those who, in the course of the war, would give their lives for the cause of their King and the British Empire. He was remembered even in America for his courage and humanity while at home his children would go on to add further luster to the Pitcairn family name.