Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ferguson, James (d.1705)

FERGUSON, JAMES (d. 1705), of Balmakelly and Kirtonhill, Kincardineshire, major-general, colonel of the Cameronian regiment, was third son of William Ferguson, laird of Badifurrow, who represented Inverurie in the first Scottish parliament after the Restoration, remembered for its demonstrative loyalty as the ‘drunken parliament.’ James was a younger brother of Robert Ferguson ‘the Plotter’ [q. v.] He appears to have entered the Scots brigade in the pay of Holland, probably as a gentleman volunteer, some time during the reign of Charles II. His first commission, that of quartermaster in Colonel Macdonald's battalion of the brigade, was dated 12 June 1677. He became ensign in the battalion in September 1678, and lieutenant in February 1682. His battalion was one of those brought over to England in 1685 at the time of Monmouth's rebellion. He became captain in 1687, and in 1688 landed with William of Orange at Torbay. His regiment, then known as Balfour's, afterwards as Lauder's, was one of those first landed, and soon after despatched from London to Leith under Mackay. The fight at Killiecrankie, where he is said to have been taken prisoner, left him a regimental major; and in March 1690 he was despatched by General Mackay, who described him as ‘a resolute, well-affected officer,’ in whose discretion and diligence he had full reliance, at the head of six hundred men, to reduce the western isles, a service he accomplished satisfactorily with the aid of the Glasgow authorities and the co-operation of Captain Pottinger of the Dartmouth frigate (Ferguson, pp. 15–16). In 1692 he was back in the Low Countries, and was present with his regiment (Lauder's) at the battle of Steenkirk. A few days after, on 1 Aug. 1692, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of Monro's (late Angus's, now the 1st Cameronians, Scottish rifles), which at the time was in Dutch pay. Ferguson led the regiment at the battle of Landen and at the siege of Namur. On 25 Aug. 1693 he had been appointed to the colonelcy, which he held up to his death. Owing to the reductions after the peace of Ryswick the regiment was retained in Holland, but in December 1700 it was finally transferred to the British service, and was brought to Scotland. Ferguson had meanwhile married and been left a widower, and had acquired the estates of Balmakelly and Kirtonhill, on the Kincardineshire bank of the North Esk. Ferguson went with his regiment to Holland under Marlborough in 1702. In 1703 he was in command at Bois-le-Duc ('s-Hertogenbosch), with the rank of brigadier-general. In the campaign of 1704 he commanded a brigade which led the attack on the heights of Schellenberg, and at Blenheim shared with Row's brigade the protracted fighting round the strongest part of the enemy's position. About Christmas the same year Ferguson married his second wife. In the campaign of the year following he had a brigade at the forcing of the enemy's lines in Brabant, and afterwards commanded, with the rank of major-general, at Bois-le-Duc, where he died very suddenly—the family tradition says by poison—on 22 Oct. 1705. An old manuscript states that ‘he served in four reigns, still maintaining the character of a brave, valiant, and prudent officer, until, his fame raising envy in the breast of the then commanding officer, he was cut off by very sinister means’ (ib. p. 46). Contemporary writers are discreetly silent on this ugly story, but all agree in regretting his loss as a brave and experienced officer. He was buried in St. Jan's Kerk, Bois-le-Duc, where there is a small tablet to his memory.

Ferguson's first wife was Helen, daughter of James Drummond of Cultmalindie, Perthshire, by whom he had a son and daughter; his second, Hester Elizabeth, daughter of Abraham Hibelet, pastor of the Walloon Church, survived him and remarried Captain Hendrik Chombach. By her Ferguson had a daughter, who in 1730 married M. Gerard Vink, advocate, Bois-le-Duc. Ferguson's son James succeeded him, and died in 1777. He sold the estates of Balmakelly and Kirtonhill and bought those of Kinmundy and Coynach, Aberdeenshire (Burke, Landed Gentry, 1886, vol. i.), now held by his descendants.

The present representative of the family, Mr. Ferguson, F.R.S., of Kinmundy, has published a short biography of Major-general James Ferguson, from family sources (with portrait), which forms part of ‘Two Scottish Soldiers’ (Aberdeen, 1888).

[Burke's Landed Gentry, ed. 1886, under ‘Ferguson of Kinmundy;’ J. Ferguson's Two Scottish Soldiers (Aberdeen, 1888), pt. i. and Appendix; Thomas Carter's Historical Records of the 26th Cameronians. In the latter work and in Marlborough Despatches the notices of Ferguson are very few and imperfect.]

H. M. C.