In the course of ten years after the Insurrection of
1745, the wise policy of Lord Chatham (then Mr Pitt) had suggested a
remedy for the spirit of disaffection among the Highlanders, which his
sagacity had enabled him to trace to its proper source. It did not
escape his penetration, that much of their attachment to the descendants
of their ancient kings, was to be ascribed to the romantic and
chivalrous dispositions of the people, which kindled and kept warm the
sentiment of mistaken loyalty, by constant reference to the misfortunes
and sufferings of those who were its objects. He, therefore, determined
to abandon the illiberal policy which had served only to alienate the
affections of a valuable portion of the people, and to repose that
confidence in the gratitude and fidelity of the Highlanders, which
future events have so fully justified. In his celebrated speech on the
commencement of the differences with America, in 1766, he thus expresses
himself: "I sought for merit wherever it was to be found; it is my boast
that I was the first minister who looked for it and found it in the
mountains of the North. I called it forth, and drew into your service a
hardy and intrepid race of men, who, when left by your jealousy, became
a prey to the artifice of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have
overturned the State in the war before the last. These men in the last
war were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as
they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the
world." An anonymous author, a friend of Lord Chatham's, noticing how
this call to arms was answered, observes, that "now battalions on
battalions were raised in the remotest parts of the Highlands," of those
men who, a few years before, and while they saw any hope, "were devoted
to, and too long had followed, the fate of the race of Stuart. Frasers,
Macdonalds, Camerons, Macleans, Macphersons, and others of disaffected
names and clans, were enrolled; their chiefs or connections obtained
commissions, the lower class, always ready to follow, they with
eagerness endeavoured who should be first enlisted."
Actuated by such liberal sentiments, Mr Pitt, in the
year 1757, recommended to his Majesty George II.
to attach the Highlanders to his person, by employing them in his
service ; and, in evidence of the disappearance of all jealousy on the
part of the Crown, the Honourable Simon Fraser, who had himself been
engaged in the Rebellion, for which his father, Lord Lovat, had been
beheaded on Tower Hill, was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel-Commandant of a
battalion, to be raised on the forfeited estate of his own family (then
vested in the Crown), and of those of his kinsmen and clan.
The result showed the wisdom that had suggested the
experiment, as well as the disinterested fidelity with which young Lovat
was supported. Without estate, money, or influence, beyond that which
flowed from attachment to his family, person, and name; this gentleman,
in a few weeks, found himself at the head of 800 men, recruited by
himself. The gentlemen of the country and the officers of the regiment,
added more than 700; and thus a battalion was formed of 13 companies of
105 rank and file each, making in all 1460 men, including 65 sergeants
and 30 pipers and drummers.
All accounts concur in describing this as a superior
body of men. Their character and actions raised the military reputation,
and gave a favourable impression of the moral virtues of the sons of the
The following list will show the names of the
officers, whose commissions were dated the 5th of January 1757:
the Honourable Simon Fraser, died a
Lieutenant-General in 1782.
John Campbell of Dunoon, afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of
Campbell Highlanders in Germany.
John Macpherson, brother of Clunie.
John Campbell of Ballimore.
Simon Fraser of Inverallochy, killed on the Heights of Abraham 1759.
Donald Macdonald, brother to Clanronald, killed at Quebec in 1760.
John Macdonell of Lochgarry, afterwards Colonel of the 76th, or
Macdonald's Regiment, died in 1789, Colonel. Alexander Cameron of
Thomas Ross of Culrossie, killed on the Heights of Abraham 1759.
Thomas Fraser of Strui.
Alexander Fraser of Culduthel.
Sir Henry Seton of Abercorn and Culbeg.
James Fraser of Belladrum.
Captain-Lieutenant Simon Fraser, died Lieutenant-General in 1812.
Ronald Macdonell, son of Keppoch.
Charles Macdonell from Glengarry, killed at St John's.
Roderick Macneill of Barra, killed on the Heights of Abraham 1759.
Archibald Campbell, son of Glenlyon.
John Fraser of Balnain.
Hector Macdonald, brother to Boisdale, killed 1759.
Allan Stewart, son of Innernaheil.
Alexander Macdonell, son of Barisdale, killed on the Heights of Abraham
Alexander Fraser, killed at Louisbourg.
Alexander Campbell of Aross.
Arthur Rose, of the family of Kilravock.
John Macdonell of Leeks, died in Berwick 1818.
Cosmo Gordon, killed at Quebec 1760.
David Baillie, killed at Louisbourg.
Charles Stewart, son of Colonel John Boy Stewart,
Ewen Cameron; of the family of Glenevis.
John Cuthbert, killed at Louisbourg,
Archibald Macallister, of the family of Loup.
James Murray, killed at Louisbourg.
Donald Cameron, son of Fassafearn, died Lieutenant on half pay 1817.
John Fraser of Erroggie.
Malcolm Fraser, afterwards Captain 84th regiment.
Hugh Fraser, afterwards Captain 84th, or Highland Emigrants.
Alexander Gregorson, Ardtornish.
Chaplain, Robert Macpherson.
Quartermaster, John Fraser.
Adjutant, Hugh Fraser.
Surgeon, John Maclean.
The uniform was the full Highland dress, with musket
and broad sword, to which many of the soldiers added the dirk at their
own expense, and a purse of badger's or otter's skin. The bonnet was
raised or cocked on one side, with a slight
bend inclining down to the right ear, over which were suspended two or
more black feathers. Eagle's or hawk's feathers were usually worn by the
gentlemen, in the Highlands, while the bonnets of the common people were
ornamented with a bunch of the distinguishing mark of the clan or
district. The ostrich feather in the bonnets of the soldiers were a
modern addition of that period, as the present load of plumage on the
bonnet is a still more recent introduction, forming, however, in hot
climates, an excellent defence against a vertical sun.
The regiment was quickly marched to Greenock, where
it embarked, in company with Montgomerie's Highlanders, and landed at
Halifax in June 17,57. In this station it remained till it formed a
junction with the expedition against Louisbourg, the details of which,
and of the conquest of Canada, are included in the general narrative. On
all occasions, this brave body of men sustained an uniform character for
unshaken firmness, incorruptible probity, and a strict regard both to
military and moral duties. Their religious discipline was strictly
attended to by their very respectable chaplain, the Reverend Robert
Macpherson, who followed every movement, and was indefatigable in the
discharge of his clerical duties. The men of the regiment were always
anxious to conceal their misdemeanours from the Caipal Mor; as
they called the chaplain, from his large size.
The regiment was quartered alternately in Canada and
Nova Scotia till the conclusion of the war, when a number of the
officers and men having expressed a desire to settle in the country, all
those who made this election were discharged, and received a grant of
land; the rest were sent home and discharged in Scotland. Of those who
settled in America, upwards of 300 enlisted in the 84th regiment in
1775, and formed the foundation of two very fine battalions, then
embodied under the name of the Royal Highland Emigrants.
When the regiment landed in North America it was
proposed to change the uniform, as the Highland garb was said to be
unfit for the severe winters, and the hot summers of that country. The
officers and soldiers vehemently protested against any change, and
Colonel Fraser explained to the Commander-in-Chief the strong attachment
which the men cherished for their national dress, and the consequences
that might be expected to follow, if they were deprived of it. This
representation was successful. In the words of a veteran who embarked
and returned with the regiment, "Thanks to our generous Chief, we were
allowed to wear the garb of our fathers, and in the course of six
winters, showed the doctors that they did not understand our
constitutions, for in the coldest winters our men were more healthy than
those regiments who wore breeches and warm clothing."