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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland

Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Seventy-Eighth Regiment
Fraser's Highlanders,

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 mountains.

The following list will show the names of the officers, whose commissions were dated the 5th of January 1757:

Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant.

the Honourable Simon Fraser, died a Lieutenant-General in 1782.


James Clephane.
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 Dungallon.
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.
Simon Fraser, died Lieutenant-General in 1812.


Alexander Macleod.
Hugh Cameron.
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.
William Macdonell.
Archibald Campbell, son of Glenlyon.
John Fraser of Balnain.
Hector Macdonald, brother to Boisdale, killed 1759.
Allan Stewart, son of Innernaheil.
John Fraser.
Alexander Macdonell, son of Barisdale, killed on the Heights of Abraham 1759.
Alexander Fraser, killed at Louisbourg.
Alexander Campbell of Aross.
John Douglass.
John Nairn.
Arthur Rose, of the family of Kilravock.
Alexander Fraser.
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.
Allan Cameron.
John Cuthbert, killed at Louisbourg,
Simon Fraser.
Archibald Macallister, of the family of Loup.
James Murray, killed at Louisbourg.
Alexander Fraser.
Donald Cameron, son of Fassafearn, died Lieutenant on half pay 1817.


John Chisholm.
John Fraser of Erroggie.
Simon Fraser.
James Mackenzie.
Malcolm Fraser, afterwards Captain 84th regiment.
Donald Macneil.
Henry Munro.
Hugh Fraser, afterwards Captain 84th, or Highland Emigrants.
Alexander Gregorson, Ardtornish.
James Henderson.
Robert Menzies.
John Campbell.

Chaplain, Robert Macpherson.
John Fraser.
Adjutant, Hugh Fraser.
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."

Return of Killed and Wounded of Fraser's Highlanders during the War of 1756 and 1763.

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