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Scottish Regiments
The Black Watch - Verplanks, Stony Point and end of American War


The British troops again too the field about the middle of June, when General Howe attempted to draw Washington from his station at Middle Brook; but the American commander knew too well the value of such a strong position to abandon it. Not judging it prudent to attack it, the British general resolved to change the seat of war. Pursuant to this resolution, he embarked 36 battalions of British and Hessians, including the flank battalions of the grenadiers and light infantry, and sailed for Chesapeak. Before the embarkation the Royal Highlanders received an accession of 170 recruits from Scotland.

The army landed at Elk Ferry on the 24th of August, after a tedious voyage. It was not till the 3d of September that they began their march for Philadelphia. The delay enabled Washington to cross the country, and to take an advantageous position at Red Clay Creek, whence he pushed forward detachments to harass the British troops on their march. General Howe did not reach the Brandy Wine River till the middle of September, in consequence of the difficulties he met with in traversing a country covered with wood and full of defiles. On reaching that river, he found that the enemy had taken up a strong position beyond it, with the view of opposing the further advance of the royal army. The Americans had secured all the fording places, and in expectation that the British would attempt to cross at Chad's Ford, they had erected batteries and thrown up entrenchments at that place to command the passage. Making a circuit of some miles, Lord Cornwallis crossed Jeffrey's Ford with one division of the army without opposition, and turning down the river fell in with the American general, Sullivan, who had been detached by Washington to oppose him. An action took place, and the Americans were driven from all their posts through the woods towards the main army. Meanwhile General Kynphausen, with his division, made demonstrations for crossing the river at Chad's Ford, and as soon as he knew from the firing of cannon that Lord Cornwallis's movement had succeeded, he passed the river, and carried the batteries and entrenchments of the enemy. A general rout ensued, and Washington, with the corps he was able to keep together, fled with his baggage and cannon to Chester. The British had 50 officers killed and wounded in the battle of Brandywine, and 438 rank and file, including non-commissioned officers. The flank companies of the 42d, being the only ones engaged, had 6 privates killed, and 1 sergeant and 15 privates wounded.

On the 25th, the army marched to German Town, and the following morning the grenadiers took peaceable possession of Philadelphia. The 42d took part in the operations, by which the British commander endeavored to bring the enemy to a general engagement at White Marsh, and was afterwards quartered at Philadelphia.

The next enterprise in which the Royal Highlanders were engaged, was under Major-General Charles Grey, who embarked with the grenadiers, the light infantry brigade, and the 42 regiment, for the purpose of destroying a number of privateers, with their prizes, at New Plymouth. The troops landed on the banks of the Acushnet river on the 5th of September, and having destroyed seventy vessels, with all the stores, cargoes, wharfs, and buildings, along the whole extent of the river, the whole was re-embarked the following day, and returned to New York.

Matters remained quiescent till the 25th of February 1779, when Colonel Stirling, with a detachment consisting of the light infantry of the Guards and the 42d regiment, was ordered to attack a post at Elizabeth Town, which was taken without opposition. In April following the Highland regiment was employed in an expedition to the Chesapeak, to destroy the stores and merchandise at Portsmouth in Virginia. They were again employed with the Guards and a corps of Hessians in another expedition under General Mathews, which sailed on the 30th, under the convoy of Sir George Collins, in the Reasonable and several ships of war. This expedition reached its destination on the 10th of May, when the troops landed on the glebe on the western bank of Elizabeth. They returned to New York after fulfilling the object of the expedition.

The campaign of 1779 was begun by the capture of the part of the British, of Verplanks and Stony Point. A garrison of 600 men, among whom were two companies of Fraser's Highlanders, took possession of this last post; but owing to the too great confidence of the commander, it was surprised and re-captured. Flushed with this success, the American general, Wayne, made an immediate attack upon Verplanks, which was garrisoned by the 33d regiment; but receiving accounts of the advance of Colonel Stirling with the light infantry of the 42d, he retreated from Verplanks and abandoned Stony Point, of which Colonel Stirling took possession. This officer being shortly thereafter appointed aid-de-camp to the king, and a brigadier-general, the command of the 42d regiment devolved on Major Charles Graham.

The Royal Highlander, with the Grenadiers and Hessians, re-embarked on the 4th of June for New York, and, after several movements in the province, went into winter quarters. Here they received an accession of 100 recruits from Scotland. The regiment was not again employed in any active service during the remainder of the war.

Whilst the war lasted, the Americans held out every allurement to the British soldiers to induce them to desert their ranks and join the cause of American independence. Many were, in consequence, seduced from their allegiance; but during five campaigns, and until the unfortunate draft of men from the 26th regiment, not one man from the 42d deserted its ranks. About the close of the war the regiment was stationed at Paulus Hook, an advanced post from New York leading to the Jerseys, and here, for the first time, several of the men deserted to the enemy. One of these deserters, by name Anderson, was afterwards taken, tried by a court-martial, and shot.

After the peace the establishment of the regiment was reduced to 8 companies of 50 men each. The officers of the ninth and tenth companies were not put on half-pay, but kept as supernumeraries to fill up vacancies as they occurred in the regiment. Many of the men having been discharged at their own request, their places were supplied by drafts from Fraser's and Macdonald's Highlanders, and from the Edinburgh and Hamilton regiments, some of the men in these corps having preferred rather to remain in America than return home with their regiments.

In October 1783, the regiment was sent to Halifax, in Nova Scotia, where it remained till the year 1786, when six companies were removed to the island of Cape Breton, the remaining two companies being detached to the island of St John. Next year two companies were added to the regiment, in consequence of preparations for war with Holland. Captains Willian Johnstone and Robert Christie succeeded to these companies. Lieutenant Robert Macdonald, brother of Macdonald of Sanda, from the half-pay of Fraser's regiment, and Ensign David Stewart (afterwards major-general and author of the Sketches), and James Stewart, nephew of the Earl of Moray, ensigns.

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