Robert Kirk [actually Kirkwood] served with the 42nd and 77th Highland Regiments in North America during the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s Rebellion. From Niagara Falls to Newfoundland, from the Carolinas to the Mississippi, he covered some five thousand miles by foot, canoe, whaleboat and transport ship. By the time he returned home after ten years of “service truly critical,” our roguish hero had been captured and adopted by the Shawnee Indians, and was an accomplished marksman, hunter, and tracker, proficient in the use of canoes, snowshoes, and tumplines. In short, Kirkwood was the ultimate Light Infantryman of Britain’s “American Army,” and his Memoirs, reprinted here for the first time since 1775, bring his exciting story to life.
Personal narratives by private soldiers are the scarcest of all sources for the French and Indian War. By presenting the little-known tale of Robert Kirkwood, Ian McCulloch and Tim Todish have done much to amplify the voice of the man in the ranks and show the conflict from a different perspective. The editors have carefully verified the authenticity of Kirkwood’s account and provided annotations that clarify and broaden an exciting tale of military campaigns and Indian captivity. It is a pleasure to see this important source made accessible to a broad audience.
Brian Leigh Dunnigan
Curator of Maps and Head of Research and Publications, The William L. Clements Library
Robert Kirkwood’s long-lost, first-hand account tells us that this Highlander and erstwhile Ranger with Robert Rogers apparently was everywhere during the North American campaigns of the Seven Years’ War. Yes, the expert editors of Kirkwood’s published account reveal his multiple borrowings from other sources as a typical 18th-century Grub-Street pastiche. But, more importantly, they firmly identify the reportage of important, veritable, and fresh kernels of experience, if not authentically from Kirkwood himself, then surely “oral history” collected from his comrades-in-arms. Kirkwood’s narrative offers an uncommon window on the horrific experiences of the usually anonymous, everyday soldiers who shaped the destiny of North America.
Through So Many Dangers: The Memoirs and Adventures of Robert Kirk, Late of the Royal Highland Regiment. Edited by Timothy Todish and Ian McCulloch, with an Introduction by Stephen Brumwell and art by Robert Griffing.
Trade paperback, 8.5″ x 11″, 176 pp., Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, New York, 2004, $20.00