When Dighton drew this caricature of MacDonald in 1812, the General was near the end of his life. He was Colonel of the 55th from 20th March 1811 until 9th Oct 1812. As a young officer he was regarded as a man destined for greatness but he succumbed to drink and in later life was seldom seen sober. A story is told of his obsessive dislike of the fashion for wearing cocked hats fore and aft instead of side to side. Soldiers had taken to wearing them that way in 1799 after serving in Holland and seeing that the French wore them like that. MacDonald had commanded a brigade in Holland and on returning to England they were quartered in Canterbury. Coming back to barracks one snowy night, when he was a little under the weather, he called out the guard and had them march past. He stood leaning on a friend who had helped him home and kept repeating "Damn those hats, damn those hats," as they passed him...even though they were wearing forage caps at the time.
The print shows him in the undress coat of a lieutenant-general ...and a cocked hat. It is unclear whether the hat is side to side or fore and aft, but he may well have come to terms with the fore and aft style - twelve years after it became the fashion.
Regimental Colonels | Regimental details