Blunderers, killers, conmen, scandalmongers, slave owners and more of Scotland’s ne’er do wells . . .
Between Daylight and Hell: Scots Who Left a Stain on America
Published by Whittles Publishing
The pioneer Scots who left their homes to settle in what were the New Lands of America faced challenges, dangers, and most of all, the perils of the unknown. They had to be intrepid, adventurous, and resourceful. This was the gamble of a lifetime and a spirit of rebelliousness was an essential part of the experience.
It’s well documented that many thousands of these people achieved astonishing feats – they were among the great and the good of American life. Others, however, took their ‘rebel’ side too far. Between Daylight and Hell: Scots who Left a Stain on American History tells the largely unknown stories of Scots who settled in America and left behind a legacy of disgrace. They used what talents they had to become rogues, charlatans, swindlers and, in some cases, killers.
Of the individual stories that are told in the book, there is one common thread: With one exception – the serial killer Thomas Cream who without doubt had multiple psychological and mental issues – none of these people had any need to behave the way they did. They have quite needlessly found themselves on a tablet of enduring shame for various reasons. Some were greedy, others brutalized their fellow human beings, while yet others allowed their bungling stupidity or hairstreak tempers to dominate their personalities.
There is nothing that attracts a rebel as much as a fight – and there was plenty of fighting and warfare in America’s early colonial days and beyond. Scots played a huge part in every conflict, from the French and Indian War through to the Revolution and the Civil War. In some cases, however, there must have been many who wished that certain of these men had stayed behind in Auld Scotia.
Adam Stephen was a highly successful Revolutionary War general, a friend of George Washington, and a son of the Aberdeenshire countryside who had carved out a respectable life for himself in colonial Virginia. When the Revolution came he fought alongside his new countrymen against the British. But Stephen’s wartime heroics came to an abrupt and embarrassing end.
He had developed a reputation for drinking heavily and his troops had noticed him consorting with “strumpets”. In October 1777, at the crucial Battle of Germantown, near Philadelphia, Stephen led his men into battle in such a drunken state that he ordered them to attack soldiers from his own side. Because of his disastrous actions, the battle was lost, and Stephen was cashiered from the army.
When the Civil War came along, another Scot, James Duff, was put in charge of a Confederate military unit known as Duff’s Partisan Rangers. His orders were to ‘persuade’ a group of German immigrants who were in no mood to fight against their adopted country that the Confederate cause was worth joining.
From being a businessman and part-time soldier, Duff became an absolute brute. He told his militia to kill and torture the Germans and burn and destroy their homes and possessions. Then, in one of the darkest events in Texas history, he ordered the killing of almost 40 fleeing Germans in what became known as the Nueces Massacre. He earned himself the moniker, ‘The Rebel Butcher of Western Texas’.
The slippery Charles Forbes swindled millions of dollars as head of the Veterans’ Bureau, a body created to provide aid to the soldiers returning from World War 1. He had been given a top job in the administration of President Warren Harding, yet he chose to defraud the US Government and paid for his misdeeds with a spell in prison.
David Jack also found himself in a position of responsibility in Monterey, California, shortly after America had taken control of the state from the Mexicans. He abused his position, evicted farmers and ranchers from their homes, and took possession of their lands. He had to travel with an armed escort because of threats on his life.
There are more stories, all in a similar vein: Mary Garden, the ungrateful and ungracious operatic diva who spurned her greatest benefactor; William Stewart, a bloodthirsty coward who butchered children to death during the shocking Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah; and William Dunbar, a well educated son of the Scottish aristocracy who meted out brutal treatment to his negro slaves in America’s Deep South.
Most of these people had positions in life, at least in the society that was emerging in the developing new nation. There was no need for them to behave in such an unseemly way. The bottom line is that these adventurous pioneers, for reasons known only to themselves, let down the good name of Scotland. And they most certainly left a stain on the history of America.
Between Daylight and Hell: Scots Who Left a Stain on America by Iain Lundy is published by Whittles Publishing, priced £18.99