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The Darien Colony

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Darien , The Scottish Colony

The ships set sail from Leith harbor on 4th July 1698, under the command of Captain Robert Pennecuik. They made landfall at Darien, Panama on 2nd November, having lost only 70 people during the voyage. Full of optimism, they named the peninsula New Caledonia, and set to work building a settlement

Within the fort stockade, they began to erect the huts of New Edinburgh. However, they soon found that the land was unsuited to agriculture and the Indians were uninterested in the trinkets they had brought with them. Spring 1699 brought torrential rain, and with it disease. By March 1699, more than 200 colonists had died, and the death rate had risen to over 10 a day. To make matters worse, the ships sent out to trade for supplies returned with news that all English ships and colonies were forbidden to trade with the Scots by order of the King. One ship did not return at all. The Spanish captured the Dolphin and had its crew imprisoned.

'By March 1699, more than 200 colonists had died, and the death rate had risen to over 10 a day.'

They were the lucky ones. Roger Oswald, a young gentleman who had joined the venture full of hope and optimism, wrote a harrowing account of what life was like that Spring on the Darien Peninsula. They lived on less than a pound of moldy flour a week: 'When boiled with a little water, without anything else, big maggots and worms must be skimmed off the top Our bodies pined away and grew so macerated with such allowance that we were like so many skeletons.'

The final straw was news that the Spanish were planning an attack on the colony. The settlers took to the sea in panic, abandoning the settlement. Of the four ships that fled the colony, only the Caledonia made it back to Scotland, with less than 300 souls on board.

A second expedition left Scotland in August 1699, knowing nothing about the fate of the first colony. Three ships, led by The Rising Sun, carried a further 1,302 settlers, of which 160 died in the crossing. Finding the colony abandoned, they set about rebuilding it; but the second colony fared no better than the first. The men and women sent out to Darien were completely unprepared for the harshness of the territory in which they found themselves. On top of this, they faced the constant threat of attack from the Spanish, with absolutely no support from the English colonies, which had been ordered not to aid them.’ The men and women sent out to Darien were completely unprepared for the harshness of the territory in which they found themselves...'Seeing this, one newly-arrived young officer, Captain Alexander Campbell of Fonab, persuaded the colonists to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Spanish forces massing at Toubacanti on the mainland. The attack was outrageously successful, but only served to sting the Spanish into concerted action. Under the command of Governor-General Pimiento, a massive fleet and army besieged Fort St Andrew, which finally surrendered in March 1700. The surviving colonists were permitted to vacate the fort on board their remaining ships. Only a handful ever made it back to Scotland.

The Darien Venture was a complete disaster for Scotland. The blow to Scottish morale was incalculable. Those colonists who returned found themselves cast as pariahs in their own land. It was an economic disaster too. The company had lost over £232,884, made up of the life savings of many of the Scottish people. Scotland was now completely incapable of going it alone. Just 7 years after the failure at Darien, it was forced to concede to the Act of Union, joining Scotland with England as the junior partner in the united kingdom of Great Britain.

Archie McIntosh

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Army scout Archie McIntosh  Scots/Chippewa Archie McIntosh
Served as a cultural broker in quite another manner, both in the Pacific Northwest and in the desert Southwest. Born at Fort William, Michigan, of Scots/Chippewa ancestry, Archie’s father moved to the Fraser River with the HBC. During their stay there, the senior McIntosh taught Archie to spell and do elementary mathematics while the two of them canoed the lakes to check their traps. After his father’s murder by an unknown assailant (at the time believed to be a Native jealous of white trappers), Archie was sent to Vancouver for two years of school. At age twelve he was put on a ship to Edinburgh to live with relatives, and he received two more years of Scottish education. Upon his return to Vancouver he worked as a clerk with the HBC for about a year. In 1855 Archie McIntosh entered the service of the U.S. Army as a scout. Working with another Scoto-Indian, Donald McKay, he saved a band of U.S. soldiers from a number of Columbia River Native attacks. As one contemporary reporter observed, ‘The whole body of troopers would have been massacred had it not been for the strategy of those two cunning half breeds."

McIntosh’s reputation grew steadily, and he soon became General George Crook’s favorite scout. Crook trusted him implicitly, and McIntosh played a major role in the campaign against the Pitt River Indians and the Piutes of Northern California. The common soldiers also respected his skills. This respect grew to semi-mythical proportions in January 1867, when Archie McIntosh led General Crook and his men through a blinding blizzard to safety at Camp Warner in Oregon. In 1896 McIntosh confessed to a reporter how he did it:

"I knew there was going to be a blizzard and watched the course of the wind. When it [the blizzard] was upon us, General Crook asked if we had not better go into camp until it passed over, but I said "follow me and I will put you into Camp Warner by 4 o’clock p.m." So the General said no more but kept close behind me, and you bet I kept the wind on my right cheek for nine long hours, but had it changed its direction ten degrees my goose would have been cooked."

McIntosh battled a drinking problem all through his military career, but his skills were so admired that his commanders usually overlooked it. In 1871 he was again assigned to General Crook, who had recently been sent to Arizona Territory to battle the San Carlos and Tonto Apaches. There he fought in the 1874 clashes near florence and Globe and participated in Crook’s last campaign against Geronimo. McIntosh was present in Geronimo’s camp in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico when Crook had his famous interview with the Apache chief. The situation was so tense, McIntosh recalled later, that if a gun had accidentally discharged, all the whites would have been killed.

After the close of the Apache campaign McIntosh married a San Carlos woman (he seems to have had an earlier Pacific Northwest family as well) and settled on the San Carlos reservation in Arizona. There he gained a reputation as a great teller of stories. He later sent his son to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, and McIntosh descendants held important roles in San Carlos affairs well into the twentieth century. Praised at the time for his "gallant and invaluable service" as a scout, Archie McIntosh played an important broker’s role in both Oregon and Arizona.