The design of rendering such a valuable class of subject
available to the state by forming regular military corps out of it, seems not to have
entered into the views of the government till about the year 1729, when six companies of
Highlanders were raised, which, from forming distinct corps unconnected with each other,
received the appellation of independent companies. Three of these companies consisted of
100 men each, and were therefore called large companies; Lord Lovat, Sir Duncan Campbell
of Lochnell, and Colonel Grant of Ballindalloch, were appointed captains over them. The
three smaller companies, which consisted of 75 each, were commanded by Colonel Alexander
Campbell of Finab, John Campbell of Carrick, and George Munro of Culcairn, under the
commission of captain-lieutenants. To each of the six companies were attached two
lieutenants and one ensign. To distinguish them from regular troops, who, from having
coats, waistcoats, and breeches of scarlet cloth, were called Saighdearan Dearg, or Red
soldiers; the independent companies, who were attired in tartan consisting mostly of
black, green, and blue, were designated Am Freiceadan Dubh, or Black Watch, from the
somber appearance of their dress.
As the services of these companies were not required beyond their own territory, and as
the intrants were not subjected to the humiliating provisions of the disarming act, no
difficulty was found in forming them; and when completed, they presented the singular
spectacle of a number of young men or respectable families serving as privates in the
ranks. "Many of the men who composed these companies were of a higher station in
society than that from which soldiers in general are raised; cadets of gentlemen's
families, sons of gentlemen farmers, and tacksmen, either immediately or distantly
descended from gentlemen's families, - men who felt themselves responsible for their
conduct to high-minded and honorable families, as well as to a country for which they
cherished a devoted affection. In addition to the advantages derived from their superior
rank in life, they possessed, in an eminent degree, that of a commanding external
deportment, special care being taken in selecting men of full height, well proportioned,
and of handsome appearance.
The duties assigned to these companies were to enforce the disarming act, to overawe the
disaffected, and watch their motions, and to check depredations. For this purpose they
were stationed in small detachments in different parts of the country, and generally
throughout the district in which they were raised. Thus Fort Augustus and the neighboring
parts of Inverness-shire were occupied by the Frasers under Lord Lovat; Ballindalloch and
the Grants were stationed in Strathspey and Badenoch; the MUnros under Culcairn, in Ross
and Sutherland; Lochnell's and Carrick#s companies were stationed in Athole and
Breadalbane, and Finab's in Lochaber, and the northern parts of Argyleshire among the
disaffected Camerons and Stewarts of Appin. All Highlanders of whatever clan were admitted
indiscriminately into these companies as soldiers; but the officers were taken, almost
exclusively from the whig clans.
The independent companies continued to exist as such until the year 1739, when government
resolved to raise four additional companies, and to form the while into a regiment of the
line. For this purpose, letters of service, dated 25th October 1739, were addressed to the
Earl of Crawford and Lindsay, who was appointed to the command of the regiment about to be
formed, which was to consist of 1000 men. Although the commissions were dated as above,
the regiment was not embodied till the month of May 1740, when it assembled on a field
between Taybridge and Aberfeldy, in Perthshire, under the number of the 43d regiment,
afterwards changed to the 42d, but still bearing the name of the Black Watch. "The
uniform was a scarlet jacket and waistcoat, with buff facings and white lace, - tartan
plaid of twelve yards plaited round the middle of the body, the upper part being fixed on
the left shoulder ready to be thrown loose, and wrapped over both shoulders and firelock
in rainy weather. At night the plaid served the purpose of a blanket, and was sufficient
covering for the Highlander. These were called belted plaids from being kept tight to the
body by a belt, and were worn on guards, reviews, and on all occasions when the men were
in full dress. On this belt hung the pistols and dirk when worn. In the barracks, and when
not on duty, the little kilt or philibeg was worn, a blue bonnet with a border of white,
red and green, arranged in small squares to resemble, as is said, the fess chque in the
arms of the different branches of the Stewart family, and a tuft of feathers, or
sometimes, from economy or necessity, a small piece of black bear-skin. The arms were a
musket, a bayonet, and a large basket-hilted broadsword. These were furnished by
government. Such of the men as chose to supply themselves with pistols and dirks were
allowed to carry them, and some had targets after the fashion of their country. The
sword-belt was of black leather, and the cartouch-box was carried in front, supported by a
narrow belt round the middle".
The officers appointed to this regiment were:
Colonel: John, Earl of Crawford and Lindsay, died in 1748.
Lieutenant-Colonel: Sir Robert Munro of Foulis, Bart., killed at Falkirk, 1746.
Major: George Grant, brother of the Laird of Grant, removed from the service by sentence
of a court-martial, for allowing the rebels to get possession of the castle of Inverness
George Munro of Culcairn, brother of Sir Robert Munro, kiled in 1746.
Dugal Campbell of Craignish, retired in 1745.
John Campbell, junior, of Monzie, retired in 1743.
Sir James Colquhoun of Luss, Bart., retired in 1748.
Colin Campbell of Ballimore, retired.
John MUnro, promoted to be Lieutenant-Colonel in 1743, retired in 1749.
Captain-Lietenant Duncan Macfarlane, retired in 1744.
Lewis Grant of Auchterblair.
John Maclean of Kingarloch and John Mackenzie (both removed from the regiment in
consequence of having fought a duel in 1744)
Malcolm Fraser, son of Culduthel, killed at Bergenop-Zoom in 1747.
Francis Grant, son of the Laird of Grant, died Lieutenant-General in 1782.
Dugal Campbell, killed at Fontenoy.
John Menzies of Comrie.
Gilbert Stewart of Kincraigie.
Gordon Graham of Drains.
Archibald Macnab, son of the Laird of Macnab, died Lieutenant-General, 1790.
James Campbell of Glenfalloch, died of wounds at Fontenoy.
Chaplain: Hon Gideon Murray.
Surgeon: James Munro, brother of Sir Robert Munro.
Adjutant: Gilbert Stewart
Quarter-Master: John Forbes.
In 1740 the Earl of Crawford was removed to the Life Guards and Brigadier-General Lord
Sempill was appointed Colonel of the Highlanders.