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Fraser's Highlanders
Seige and Surrender of Louisburg


The uniform of the regiment "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 to 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 was 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 defense against a vertical sun".

The regiment embarked in company with Montgomery's Highlanders at Greenock, and landed at Halifax in June 1757. They were intended to be employed in an expedition against Louisburg, which, however, after the necessary preparations, was abandoned. About this time it was proposed to change the uniform of the regiment, as the Highland garb was judged unfit for the severe winters and the hot summers of North America; but the officers and soldiers having set themselves in opposition to the plan, and being warmly supported by Colonel Fraser, who represented to the commander-in-chief the bad consequences that might follow if it were persisted in, the plan was relinquished. "Thanks to our gracious chief", said a veteran of the regiment, "we were allowed to wear our garb of our fathers, and, in the course of six winters, showed the doctors that they did not understand our constitution; for, in the coldest winters, our men were more healthy than those regiments who wore breeches and warm clothing".

Amongst other enterprises projected for the campaign of 1758, the design of attacking Louisburg was renewed. Accordingly, on the 28th of May, a formidable armament sailed from Halifax, under the command of Admiral Boscawen and Major-general Amherst, and Brigadier-generals Wolfe, Laurence, Monckton, and Whitmore. This armament, consisting of 25 sail of the line, 18 frigates, and a number of bombs and fire-ships, with 13,000 troops including the 78th Highlanders, anchored, on the 2d of June, in Gabarus Bay, seven miles from Louisburg. In consequence of a heavy surf no boat could approach the shore, and it was not til the 8th of June that a landing could be effected. The garrison of Louisburg consisted of 2500 regulars, 600 militia, and 400 Canadians and Indians. For more than seven miles along the beach a chain of posts had been established by the enemy, with entrenchments and batteries; and, to protect the harbor, there were six ships of the line and five frigates placed at its mouth, of which frigates three were sunk.

The disposition being made for landing, a detachment of several sloops, under convoy, passed the mouth of the harbor towards Lorembec, in order to draw the enemy's attention that way, whilst the landing should really be on the other side of the town. On the 8th of June, the troops being assembled in the boats before day-break in three divisions, several sloops and frigates, that were stationed along shore in the bay of Gabarus, began to scour the beach with their shot. The division on the left, which was destined for the real attack, consisted of the grenadiers and light infantry of the army, and Fraser's Highlanders, and was commanded by Brigadier-general Wolfe. After the fire from the sloops and frigates had continued about a quarter of an hour, the boats containing this division were rowed towards the shore; and, at the same time, the other two divisions on the right and in the center, commanded by Brigadiers-general Whitmore and Laurence, made a show of landing, in order to divide and distract the enemy. The landing-place was occupied by 2000 men entrenched behind a battery of eight pieces of cannon and ten swivels. The enemy reserved their fire till the boats were near the beach, when they opened a discharge of cannon and musketry which did considerable execution. A considerable surf aided the enemy's fire, and numbers of the men drowned by the upsetting of the boats. Captain Baillie and Lieutenant Cuthbert of the Highlanders, Lieutenant Nicholson of Amhert's, and 38 men were killed; but, notwithstanding these disadvantages, General Wolfe pursued his point with admirable courage and deliberation: "and nothing could stop our troops, when headed by such a general. Some of the light infantry and Highlanders got first ashore, and drove all before them. The rest followed; and, being encouraged by the example of their heroic commander, soon pursued the enemy to the distance of two miles, where they were checked by a cannonading from the town".

The town of Louisburg was immediately invested; but the difficulty of landing stores and implements in boisterous weather, and the nature of the ground, which, being marshy, was unfit for the conveyance of heavy cannon, retarded the operations of the siege. The governor of Louisburg, having destroyed the grand battery which was detached from the body of the place, recalled his outposts, and prepared for a vigorous defense. He opened a fire against the besiegers and their work from the town, the island battery, and the ships in the harbor, but without much effect. Meanwhile General Wolfe, with a strong detachment marched round the north-east part of the harbor to secure a point called the Light-house Battery, from which the guns could play on the ships and on the batteries on the opposite side of the harbor. This service was performed on the 12th by General Wolfe with great ability, who, "with his Highlanders and flankers", took possession of this and all the other posts in that quarter with very trifling loss. On the 25th the inland battery immediately opposite was silenced from this post. The enemy however, kept up an incessant fire from their other batteries and the shipping in the harbor. On the 9th of July they made a sortie on Brigadier-general Lawrence's brigade, but were quickly repulsed. In this affair Captain, the Earl of Dundonald, was killed. On the 16th General Wolfe pushed forward some grenadiers and Highlanders, and took possession of the hills in front of the Light House battery, where a lodgment was made under a fire from the town and the ships. On the 21st one of the enemy's line-of-battle ships was set on fire by a bombshell and blew up, and the fire being communicated to two others, they were burned to the water's edge. The fate of the town was now nearly decided, the enemy's fire being almost totally silenced and their fortifications shattered to the ground. To reduce the place nothing now remained but to get possession of the harbor, by taking or burning the two ships of the lines which remained. For this purpose, in the night between the 25th and 26th, the admiral sent a detachment of 600 men in the boats of the squadron, in two divisions, into the harbor, under the command of Captains Laforey and Balfour. This enterprise was gallantly executed, in the face of a terrible fire of cannon and musketry, the seamen boarding the enemy sword in hand. One of the ships was set on fire and destroyed, and the other towed off. The town surrendered on the 26th, and was taken possession of by Colonel Lord Rollo the following day; the garrison and seamen, amounting together to 5637 men, were made prisoners of war. Besides Captain Baillie and Lieutenant Cuthbert, the Highlanders lost Lieutenants Fraser and Murray, killed; Captain Donald M'Donald, Lieutenants Alexander Campbell (Barcaldine), and John M'Donald, wounded; and 67 rank and file killed and wounded.


 

 


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