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Highland Strength

Legends are told of Highland soldiers on maneuvers who marched overland carrying just a bag of oatmeal and a small stone on which to heat it at night. For rest, they rolled up tightly in their homespun wool plaids and stretched out on the bare ground. When the temperature dropped near freezing, they would occasionally dip their plaids into a stream to freeze them and sleep inside a coating of ice not unlike a snow cave. One clan chieftain was chaffed by his men as "soft" when he was seen making a pillow out of snow (sometimes out of a rock).

Sir John Sinclair, compiler of the first Statistical Account of Scotland in the 1790s, summarized this mood to perfection:

He [the Highlander] has felt from his early youth all the privations to which he can be exposed in almost any circumstances of war. He has been accustomed to scanty fare, to rude and often wet clothing, to cold and damp houses, to sleep often in the open air or in the most uncomfortable beds, to cross dangerous rivers, to march a number of miles without stopping and with but little nourishment, and to be perpetually exposed to the attacks of a stormy atmosphere. A warrior thus trained suffers no inconvenience from what others would consider to be the greatest possible hardships, and has an evident superiority over the native of a delicious climate, bred to every indulgence of food, dress and habitation and who is unaccustomed to marching and fatigue.



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