Scottish military assistance to “Germany” has been documented by historians and poets “from time immortal.” After the Crusades ended in the 14th century, the Knights of Scotland, prepared to assist the Teutonic Knights for “a pious and warlike expedition.” Even Geoffrey Chaucer in his Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, uses the German word “reysa” which means a journey and/or expedition in his famed description of the Christian Knight.
It was another 200 years before anything was known of Scottish mercenaries in Germany, perhaps because wars in France and Holland drew potential mercenaries there.
The Thirty Years’ War from 1616 to 1648 spread across Europe. During this time Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden and “the lion and bulwark of the North”, fought to preserve Protestantism in Germany. As an “unusually brilliant general and strategist”, he commanded a great number of Scottish officers, many of them of noble rank, who received military training in Sweden. “Between 20,000 and 30,000 [Scots]men (i. e. mercenaries) made the cause of the Swedes and of German Protestantism their own.” Without his Scottish regiments, the King of Sweden would not have been able to help save German Protestantism.
There’s an old Scottish song that includes these verses:
He’s brave as brave can be;
He wad rather fa’ than flee;
But his life is dear to me,
Send him hame, send him hame.
Your love ne’er learnt to flee
But he fell in Germanie
Fighting brave for loyaltie:
Mournfu’ dame, mournfu’ dame!
And also these:
Oh, woe unto these cruell wars
That ever they began!
For they have reft my native isle
Of many a pretty man.
First they took my brothers twain
Then wiled my love frae me:
Oh, woe unto these cruell wars
In low Germanie!
The history of the Scotch brigades has been documented in German sources. The important role Scots played in the first half of the war is preserved by stories of heroes. The death of Gustavus Adolphus in 1632 diminished the role of Scottish soldiers in the Swedish Army.
My Note: It seems reasonable that some of the 20,000 to 30,000 Scottish troops stayed in “Germany” after the war.
The Army: The 18th and 19th Centuries
Frederic the Great of Prussia came to the throne in 1740. A Scot, James Keith, came to be close friends with and a confidant of Frederic the Great. They shared tastes and philosophy, plans for agricultural and industrial change. The Keith family was well-known in the court of Frederic the Great. Other Scottish officers also served in the army of Frederic.
Starting with the Three Partitions of Poland in 1772, 1792, and 1795, the land in which people with the Spurgat name lived, was divided among Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The part of the land that became known as New East Prussia from 1807 to 1815, belonged to Prussia.
During the first 15 years of the 19th century, Europe experienced the great struggle against Napoleon. This time the Germans fought side by side with the British. “But of Scottish soldiers fighting for a German cause, we hear no more.” The only exception is a battalion of Highlanders serving in the army of General Wolmoden in northern Germany in 1813.
In 1815 Congress Poland, where the Spurgats lived, came to be known as the Duchy of Warsaw, Protectorate of the Russian Empire.
The fourth post is The Church: The 16th and 17th Centuries