|Old Seventy-Sixth Highland Regiment 1777-1784|
Letter of service were granted in December 1777 to Lord MacDonald to raise a
regiment in the Highlands and Isles, of which corps his lordship was offered the command;
but he declined the commission, and at his recommendation, Major John Macdonell of
Lochgarry was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant of the regiment. Lord Macdonald,
however, exerted his influence in the formation of the corps, and as a good selection of
officers was made from the families of the Macdonalds of Glencoe, Morar, Boisdale, and
others of his own clan, and likewise from those of other clans, as MacKinnon, Fraser of
Culduthel, Cameron of Callart, Etc., a body of 750 Highlanders was soon raised. Nearly 200
men were raised in the Lowlands by Captains Cunningham, and Lieutenant Samuel Graham.
These were kept together in two companies, and another body of men, principally raised in
Ireland by Captain Bruce, formed a third company, all of which were kept perfectly
distinct from the Highlanders. The regiment was inspected at Inverness in March 1778 by
General Skene, and amounted to 1086 men, including non-commissioned officers and drummers.
The regiment was then quartered in Fort George, where it
remained twelve months under the command of Major Donaldson, who, from his long
experience, was well calculated to train them properly.
Being removed to Perth in March 1779, the regiment was again
reviewed by General Skene on the 10th, and, being reported complete, was ordered to march
to Burntisland for the purpose of embarking for America. Shortly after their arrival at
Burntisland, numbers of the Highlanders were observed in parties in earnest conversation
together. The cause of this consultation was soon known. Each company, on the evening of
the third day, gavein a written statement, complaining of non-performance of promises, of
their bounty-money being withheld, Etc., and accompanied by a declaration, that till their
grievances were redressed, they would not embark. They demanded that Lord Macdonald should
be sent for to see justice done to them. No satisfactory answer having been returned
within the time expected, the Highlanders marched off in a body, and took possession of a
hill above Burntisland. To show that these men had no other end in view but justice, they
refused to allow some young soldiers, who had joined them in a frolic, to remain with
them, telling them that as they had no ground for complaint, they ought not to disobey
The Highlanders remained for several days on the hill without
offering the least violence, and sent parties regularly to the town for provisions, for
which they paid punctually. During this interval, Major Donaldson, assisted by Lieutenant
David Barclay the paymaster, investigated the claims of the men, and ascertained that they
were well founded, and Lord Macdonald having arrived, his lordship and the major advanced
the money, and paid off every demand at their own risk. On a subsequent investigation of
the indiviual claims, when sent to the Isle of Skye, it was ascertained that all, without
exception, were found to be just, a circumstance as honourable to the claiments as it was
disgraceful to those who had attempted to overreach them.
This disagreeable affair being fortunately settled, the
regiment embarked on the 17th of March; but before their departure, all the men of Skye
and Uist sent the money they had received home to their families and friends. Major
Donaldson being unable to accompany the regiment on account of the delicate state of his
health, and Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell having been taken prisoner on his passage from
America, where he had been serving with Fraser's Highlanders, the command of the regiment
devolved on Major Lord Berridale.
The transports, with the 76th on board, touched at
Portsmouth, and while lying at Spithead, the regiment was ordered to the relief of Jersey,
which the enemy had attacked; but before reaching the island the French had been repulsed.
They then proceeded on the voyage, and landed at New York in August. The flank companies
were then attached to the battalion, composed of the flank companies of the other
regiments, and the battalion companies quartered between New York and Staten Island. In
February 1781, these companies embarked for Virginia with a detachment of the army,
commanded by Major-General Phillips. The light company, being in the second battalion of
light infantry, also formed a part of the expedition.
Lord Berridale, who had, by the death of his father this
year, become Earl of Caithness, having been severely wounded at the siege of Charlestown,
returned to Scotland, and was succeeded in the command of the regiment by the Hon. Major
Needham, afterwards Earl of Kilmorey, who had purchased Major Donaldson's commission.
General Phillips landed at Portsmouth, Virginia, in March,
and having joined the detachment under General Arnold, the united detachments formed a
junction with the army of Lord Cornwallis in May. The Macdonald Highlanders, on meeting
with men who had braved the dangers of the field, considered themselves as an inferior
race, and sighed for an opportunity of putting themselves on an equality with their
companions in arms, and they did not wait long.
The celebrated Marquis de la Fayette, anxious to distinguish
himself in the cause which he had espoused, determined to attack Lord Cornwallis's army,
and in pursuance of this intention pushed forward a strong corps, which forced the British
picquets. He then formed his line and a warm contest immediately began, the weight of
which, on the side of the British, was sustained by the brigade of Colonel Thomas Dundee,
consisting of the 76th and 80th regiments. These corps, which were on the left, were drawn
up on an open field, while the right of the line was covered by woods. Coming up in the
rear of the 76th, Lord Cornwallis gave word to charge, which being responded to by the
Highlanders, they rushed forward with great impetuosity upon the enemy, who, unable to
stand the shock, turned their backs and fled, leaving their cannon and 300 men, killed and
wounded, behind them.
After the surrender of Lord Cornwallis's army, the 76th was
marched in detachments as prisoners to different parts of Virginia. During their
confinement, many attempts were made by their emigrant countrymen, as well as by the
Americans, to induce them to join the cause of American independence; but not one of them
could be induced by any consideration to renounce his allegiance.
The regiment, on its return to Scotland, was disbanded in
March 1784 at Stirling Castle.