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William Gunn was found first in Danish-Norwegian, then Swedish and Imperial service. Gunn transferred from Danish service into Swedish with Mackay's Regiment, along with many other Scottish officers and troops. He commanded his troops particularly well, if somewhat harshly for his foes. In 1634, with a force of 800 foot and 200 horse, he surprised the Imperialists (at Reutta) taking all the officers prisoner and putting the horsemen to the sword. He thereafter took command of the Swedish forces at Waldsee. By 18 May his force had grown to include 1000 foot, 400 horse and a battery of 10 field pieces with which he commanded the town of Bugghorn [Buchhorn, later part of Friedrichshafen, Lake Constance]. He constructed a fleet of small boats with which to patrol Lake Badensee [Lake Constance]. Just prior to the Swedish defeat at Nordlingen in 1634, Gunn was put in command of all the musketeers in the joint armies of generals Horn and Baner. In a pre-battle skirmish these men routed a section of the Imperialist army, catching them by surprise and chasing them for three English miles before dark stooped the chase. That night Gunn was ordered to make a night assault on a hill occupied by 3000 Spaniards. The fight raged for seven hours before Gunn saw them off. Half the Spaniards were killed, many officers taken and a further chase ensued till day break. On the day of the battle itself, "the Scots Brigade" in Horn's army, led by Gunn, were ordered to give the first charge to the enemies defences. These they captured but lost many men and officers in the process. The author of "The Modern History of the World" noted the bravery of Gunn in leading the charge himself and his men were said to have advanced further than any other branch of the army. When they had to retreat through a lack of support, he got the remnants of his regiment off the field in good order. In March 1636 four companies of Gunn's regiment were sent to General Johan Baner along with Colonel Alexander Gordon's [SSNE 2499] dragoon regiment. With these men he participated at the Batttle of Wittstock. At the end of July 1637 Patrick Ruthven [SSNE 3413] recommended Gunn, then noted as lieutenant colonel to be promoted major-general of the British troops. This must have annoyed General Baner as a month later Baner wrote to Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna on 10 August 1637 saying that Colonel Gunn was "an arch Catholic, on whom there is no reliance". Considering that several Scottish Catholics served successfully in the Swedish army, Baner's statement more probably reflected his personal irritation with the man rather than his religion. He is recorded in some sources as having defeated the Austrians at Weslock while in Swedish service. In any case his letter of pension from Sweden was dated 20 April 1638.

During the Bishops' Wars in Scotland, Gunn served on the Royalist side. According to Andrew Lind, he was brought in to oversee the training of new levies and advise Aboyne. He corresponded with Marquis Hamilton on the the progress of Aboyne’s army.

Gunn is thereafter said by some to have joined Dutch service as a Colonel, but no evidence of this has yet been found. What is known is that Gunn entered into the Imperial service. He got the regiment of Francisco Imperiali, son­-in-law of Lothar Baron of Bönninghausen, a well-known leader of an Imperial regiment of horsemen [the regiment was dissolved in 1645 in Italy]. Gunn is mentioned in a letter from Walter Leslie to Ottavio Piccolomini from the 4 of February 1641 as a follower in the staff of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria on their way to Brünn [today Brno] because of the danger threatened by an assumed invasion of the Turks into Hungary. During the 1640s Gunn (again)  served in the Royalist army of Charles I, who apparently knighted him for bravery. He later returned to Imperial service and sometime after 1648 gained the rank of Generalwachtmeister, and died in 1660.


Sources: R. Monro, His Expedition with a worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keyes (2 vols., London, 1637), II, The List of the Scottish Officers in Chiefe; Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1630/37,38; 1636/20-22; Anon. A very exact Relation of the proceeding of Gustavus Horne, in the yeare 1634, till the fatall Batell of Norlingen, written (by an eye-witnesse) to his friend in England from Francfort upon the Mayne, the 10/20 September, 1634. Published in Anon., The Modern History of the World. Or An Historical Relation of the most memorable passages in Germany, and else-where, since the beginning of this present Yeere 1635 (London, 1635), A2-A5; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas Skrifter och Brefvexling, vol. XV (Stockholm, 1956),p.216; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas Skrifter och Brefvexling, 2nd series, vol. IX (Stockholm,1898), 389-390 and 2nd series, vol VI, 422. Johan Banér to Axel Oxenstierna, 10 August 1637. “Obrist Gunn hatt einen sehr wiederspenstigen kopf, [und] ist ein erzcatholicus”; T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh,1902), p.112; T. Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), p.266; G. Lind, Danish Data Archive, 1573; Documenta Bohemica Bellum Tricennale Illustrantia (Prague 1979), vol. 6, no. 1136; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), p.101. 

Thanks to Dr Bernd Warlich for updating this record. For a full review of his later Imperial service see Bernd Warlich's impressive database:

We thank Andrew Lind who provided the following reference to his service in the Bishops Wars - Sources: National Records of Scotland, GD406/1/857 (Colonel Gunn to the Marquis of Hamilton, 9 June 1639).

Service record

Arrived 1627-01-01, as LIEUTENANT
Departed 1628-10-31, as LIEUTENANT
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1629-11-01, as LIEUTENANT
Departed 1638-04-20, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1640-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1649-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1650-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1655-12-31, as MAJOR-GENERAL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY