First name

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Sir Alexander Hamilton, known to friend and foe alike as 'Dear Sandy', was a Scot who served in both the Danish and Swedish armies. In 1628 he received permission from the Scottish Privy Council to raise and transport 500 men in Ulster to join the regiment of the Earl of Nithsdale in Denmark. Logistical problems meant they did not get there until at least July 1628, but they were recruited in January. After leaving Denmark, Sir Alexander was a Colonel of a recruited infantry regiment in Sweden and was granted by the Privy Council of Scotland, permission to recruit masterless men in Scotland in June 1629. The same year he established cannon foundries in the Arboga in the Orebro region of Sweden. In July 1630 Hamilton's regiment was merged with John Meldrum's [SSNE 572]. Apparently during this merger a young captain, presumably John Hamilton [SSNE 2595], from Hamilton's regiment was made colonel of the new merged unit, promoting over his lieutenant colonel William Baillie [SSNE 1909]. In a letter from Brandenburg in November 1631, Hamilton is designated General of Marquis Hamilton's artillery. In March 1632 Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna wrote to him providing him with a recruitment warrant and informing him that as King Gustav II Adolf had divided the Marquis Hamilton's [SSNE 1348] army into two sections, Sandy was in charge of one of them, comprising 12 companies of Scottish soldiers. The other section, the 'English' regiment was under command of the Scot Sir William Bellenden [SSNE 1969]. These two regiments were ordered to join up with Duke William of Saxe-Wismar in June 1632. Dear Sandy served as governor of Hanau from 1631-34, and was succeeded by James Ramsay [SSNE 3315]. After Gustav II Adolf's death, he entered the service of Duke William of Saxe-Weimar on a more permanent basis and started an artillery foundry in Suhla in the Thuringian Forest. He returned to Britain at the end of 1635. There is a record of him signing a receipt in Sweden in April 1638, indicating he may have returned to Sweden to conclude some business there.

Sandy in Britain

Hamilton was with the Covenanting army in 1638 as General of Artillery. He had a foundry at Poterow and made cannon for the Covenanters. He is sometimes said to have refined the Leather Cannon invented by General Robert Scott in Sweden. This may be true, but other's content his main invention 'Dear Sandy Stoups' were a frame gun comprising four bronze light cannon mounted together. These cannon were said to be sometimes carried swivel fashion between two horses and proved very effective at the battle of Newburn in August 1640. However, they were more effectively used in large batteries, with various records suggesting the Army of the Covenant had over 40 of them.

A few months prior to the Battle of Newburn, Dear Sandy Hamilton had been initiated into Mary Chapel Lodge as a Freemason signing a Delta as his Mason's Mark. The Lodge minute records "The 20 day off May 1640. The quhilk day, James Hamiltone bing deken off the Craft and Johne Meyenes warden, and the rest off M'rs off meson off edenbr. conuened, doeth admit in amoght them the right honerabell ALEXANDER HAMILTONE, generall of the artilerie of thes kindom, to be fellow and Mr off the forsed Craft: and therto wie heaue set to our handes or markes. A. Hamilton, James Hamilton, John Mylln." One year later, 20 May 1641, Hamilton was one of the Freemasons in Newcastle who took part in the induction of Sir Robert Moray [SSNE 6599] along with other Scottish officers of the Army of the Covenant. 

It is often erroneously cited that Hamilton was initiated at the same time as Moray. David Stevenson, despite often quoting Murray-Lyon, makes the mistake and it is quite clear he has misread or not seen the documents reproduced in that work. Similarly, Pick and Norman Knight naughtily merge the two documents into one quote. However, the transcript of Hamilton's reception above, and of Moray's initiation below make it clear that there are two separate documents and that Hamilton was one of the officiating officers at Moray's ceremony a year after his own initiation. Moray's was the first recorded initiation of a Speculative Mason on English soil and was done under the auspices of Mary Chapel Lodge (Edinburgh). Other officers present included John Mylln and James Hamilton. Dear Sandy Hamilton was eventually made General of His Majesties Artillery and Master of his Ordinance and Ammunition, presumably during the Engagement. 

In 1648, Dear Sandy 'gifted to the college [of Aberdeen], for help of the librarie therof, three rair and fair volumes upon Ezechiell and visions therof, sett forth by Baptisia Villalpandus'. He died the following year. Sandy had a daughter called Christian Hamilton who married Patrick Hume of Polwarth and his grandson, Alexander Hume [SSNE 4827] served as a colonel in the Russian army. Dear Sandy's own son and namesake, Alexander Hamilton [SSNE 3927] also served in Muscovy.

Sources: Swedish Riksarkiv, Axel Oxenstiernas Brefvexling E619, Alexander Hamilton to Axel Oxenstierna, Stockholm 15 June 1630: "Cum ab hac cura subcunda alra me vocent todo regementum domino Joanni Hamilton nepoti meo reponavi hoc mihi persuasum habent quod socro potino et uxori (ut equem ejt) satysfacere propondas quam ut hic divtius moveris. Lodovicum Lesleum vicetrubunum et Ricardum Preston regementi maiorem constitui. Si de proposito tuo deceptus fuerim sit hac ratio quod priequam ex Scotia cecessera domini Jacobi Hamilton nepotis mei imperio subici remioras quod (te excepto) pauci belgici loci tenentes pro dedicare haberunt. Satis tibi justeptit ubi hoc a me expecioras alnun substituere qui nos totiis meis istic per agendis incumberet quod locotenent noster haud amice nobis cum egerit id circo nepoti meo hoc imposui ut tum vobiscum tum loco-tenente et vexillifero computer et quod superest secum in Scotiam apportet"

See also: Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0069704_00132#?c=&m=&s=&cv=131&xywh=1874%2C-167%2C4900%2C2826

This source details the conditions which Alexander Hamilton insisted upon as the price of his work in developing new artillery for the Swedes. These inventions were later deployed in Britain and were either leather cannon or frame guns.

  1. For making a hundred separate machines of his own devising, forty Imperials each. Before work starts, let a reliable reckoning be agreed of four thousand Imperials to be handed over to him. From this sum he can pay workers and other costs quickly and appropriately as the occasion and the bill arising from the job requires, so that the job will not be held up or impeded.
  2. For conscripting a legion of infantry consisting of twelve cohorts and two squadrons of cavalry for the more secure preservation of and guard upon the machines, let pieces of land sufficiently convenient and suitable, or military posts, be assigned to him.
  3. Let the double pay promised by his most serene royal Majesty be paid in full each month without any deduction to him and one vice-tribune with four cohorts, seeing that because of the constant need to pay attention to and get to know the machines and keep them safe, they cannot be allowed to have permission to run around to see for themselves as other soldiers do. The second vice tribune and the remaining eight cohorts and two squadrons of cavalry, however, will be paid in accordance with the usual way it is done to other soldiers of the royal army.
  4. A sum of money will be designated and paid, sufficient for buying and feeding seventy horses to pull the machines, along with provisions and transport-wagons and all other necessities, and also to supply them with appropriate shelter. [The word here is 'munimenta' which could mean 'protection', but I suspect 'shelter' is more appropriate here].
  5. The said machines must remain under his control and command, and no one else be admitted to a sight of the secret without his consent.

This document was kindly translated by Dr Peter Maxwell Stuart.

See also: A letter recording Hamilton's rank as General of Artillery to Marquis Hamilton can be found at NAS, GD406/1/234. Scottish Generals request for the provision of 500 suits of clothes, 1 November 1631. The minute recording Moray's induction into Freemasonry records "At Neucastell the 20 day off May 1641. The qwilk day ane serten nomber off Mester and others being lafule conveined, doeth admit Mr the Right Honerabell Mr Robert Moray, General quarter Mr to the Armie off Scotlan, and the same bing aproven be the hell Mester off the Mesone off the Log off Edenbroth, quherto they heaue set to ther handes or merkes. A. Hamilton, R. Moray, Johne Mylln, James Hamilton." Hamilton's and Moray's initiation details are reproduced and transcribed in D. Murray-Lyon, The History of Freemasonry in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1873), pp.80 and 96, while more on Hamilton can be found on pp.89-90; Alexia Grosjean, An Unofficial Alliance: Scotland and Sweden, 1569-1654 (Brill, Leiden, 2003). pp.182-188 focuses directly on the leather cannon, their development in the Thirty Years' War and their deployment in the British Civil Wars.

For the rest of his career see also The Hartlib Papers, HP42/13/1a-2b. Sampson Johnson to John Durie, 16 June 1633; Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1629/11,14,16,18-20; 1630/22-30 [where he was succeded by a John Hamilton]; 1632/30,31; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas skrifter och brefvexling, first series, V, p. 176, 179, 454, 468; ibid, VII, pp.108-109; R. Monro, His Expedition with the worthy Scots regiment called Mackeyes (London 1637), II, List 1 and p.1. Note that Monro mentions his foundry as being in ‘Vrbowe’ in 1629; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.113; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, 2nd Series, II, pp. 241, 316, 335-6 and III, p.152; Fasti Aberdonenses: Selections from the records of the University and King's College of Aberdeen, 1494-1854 (Aberdeen, 1854), p.535; L. de Geer till Leufsta, Louis de Geer 1587-1652. Hans lif och verk (Uppsala, 1923), p.138; C. B. R. Butchart, 'Sir Alexander Hamilton, General of Artillery' in Aberdeen University Review, XLII (1948), pp.296-302; E. Furgol. A Regimental History of the Covenanting Armies (Edinburgh, 1990); T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh, 1902); D. Stevenson, Masonry, symbolism and ethics in the life of Sir Robert Moray, FRS in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, no.114 (1984), pp.405-431 [particularly pp.407-408 where the error about Hamilton's admission is repeated]; D. Stevenson, The First Freemasons; Scotland's Early Lodges and their Members (Aberdeen, 1988), p.28; F.L. Pick and G. Norman Knight, The Pocket History of Freemasonry (London, 1992 edition), p.44; M. K. Scuchard "Leibniz, Benzelius, and the Kabbalistic Roots of Swedish Illuminism" in A. P. Coudert et al (eds), Leibniz, Mysticism and Religion (Dordrecht, 1998), p.90; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.193, 235, 289, 309;  A list of the Several Regiments and Chief Officers of the Scottish Army quartered neer Newcastle (London 1644); Steve Murdoch and Alexia Grosjean, Alexander Leslie and the Scottish Generals of the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648 (London, 2014).

Bishops Wars; English Civil Wars; British Civil Wars

Service record

Departed 1629-01-21, as CAPTAIN
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Departed 1630-12-31, as COLONEL + CHIEF
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Departed 1633-12-31, as COLONEL and GENERAL OF ARTILLERY
Capacity GOVERNOR, purpose MILITARY
Departed 1635-12-31, as COLONEL
Departed 1640-12-31, as GENERAL
Departed 1649-12-31, as GENERAL