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

Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Seventy-fourth Regiment
Argyle Highlanders

In the month of December 1777, Letters of Service were granted to Colonel John Campbell of Barbreck to raise a regiment in Argyleshire. This officer, who had served as Captain and Major of Fraser's Highlanders in the Seven Years' War, was now appointed to superintend the recruiting of this corps, with power to select and recommend such officers as were most likely to be successful in procuring men.

The county of Argyle includes so many islands, and on the main land is so intersected by long and wide arms of the sea, that the people, contrary to the disposition of other Highlanders, are more inclined to the naval than to the land service. Accordingly, in the 74th regiment there was a greater number of Lowlanders than in any other of the same description raised at this period. But although, from local circumstances, the lower orders of Argyleshire are less inclined to the land service, this is far from being the case with the gentlemen of the county. On the present occasion, all the officers except four were Highlanders, while of the soldiers only 590 were of the same country, the others being from Glasgow, and the western districts of Scotland. The name of Campbell, as might be expected in an Argyleshire regiment, mustered strong; three field-officers, six. captains, and fourteen subalterns, being of that name. [Among the officers was the chief of the Macquarries. This gentleman was sixty-two years of age when he entered the army in 1778. Although so far advanced in life, he was healthy, active, and perfectly capable of executing any duty of his new profession. He died in 1817, in his 102d year, the last of a long line of ancestors, which, although possessing but a small property, and surrounded by the powerful chiefs of the Macdonalds of the Isles, Macleans, Campbells, &c, had preserved itself entire, and in uninterrupted succession, for a period of nearly 600 years. The chief of Macrquarrie of the fourteenth century was particularly distinguished under Robert Bruce at Bannockburn. The last of this race was obliged to dispose of his property, which was the cause of his entering the army at so late a period of life; and dying without male issue, the direct line became extinct.]

The regiment, mustering 960 rank and file, was inspected at Glasgow by General Skene, in the month of May 1778. They embarked at Greenock in August, and landed at Halifax in Nova Scotia, where they remained garrisoned with the 80th, or Edinburgh, and the 82d, or Duke of Hamil-ton's regiment; the whole being under the command of Brigadier-General Francis Meclean. [General Maclean has already been mentioned as particularly distinguished by General Count Lowendahl at Bergenopzoom in 1747.]

In Spring 1779, the flank companies in garrison at Halifax were ordered to head-quarters at New York, the Grenadier company of the 74th being commanded by Captain Ludovick Colquhoun of Luss, and the Light company by Captain Campbell of Balnabie. They joined the army immediately before the siege of Charlestown.

In June of the same year, the battalion companies, with a detachment of the 82d regiment, under the command of Brigadier-General Maclean, embarked from Halifax, and took possession of Penobscot, with the intention of establishing a post there. The brigadier had not completed his defences, when a hostile fleet from Boston, commanded by Commodore Saltonstat, with 2500 troops on board, under Brigadier-General Lovel, appeared in the bay. On the 28th of July, this force effected a landing on the peninsula where the fort was building, and immediately proceeded to erect batteries for a regular siege. These operations were frequently interrupted by parties from the fort. General Maclean exerted himself to the utmost to strengthen his position. Being well supported by his troops, he kept the enemy in check, and preserved his communication with the shipping) which they attempted to cut off. In this manner, much skirmishing ensued, but with no important result, till the morning of the 13th of August, when Commodore Sir George Collier appeared in the bay, with a fleet intended for the relief of the post. This accession of strength disconcerting the enemy, and completely destroying their hopes, they quickly decamped, and retired to their ships; but, being unable to re-embark all the troops, those who remained, along with the sailors of several vessels which had run aground in their hurry to escape, formed themselves into a body, and endeavoured to penetrate through the woods. In the course of this attempt, they ran short of provisions, quarrelled among themselves, and, coming to blows, fired on each o-ther till their ammunition was expended. Upwards of sixty men were killed and wounded; the rest dispersed in the woods, numbers perishing before they could reach an inhabited country. The object of the expedition was thus completely frustrated.

The conduct of General Maclean and his troops met with high approbation; and in his dispatch, giving an account of the attack and defeat of the enemy, he particularly noticed the exertions and zeal of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Campbell of the 74th, and Lieutenant Crawford of the 82d regiments. The loss of the garrison was 2 sergeants and 23 privates killed, and two lieutenants, 3 sergeants, and 29 privates, wounded. The loss of the 74th was 2 sergeants, and 14 privates, killed, and 17 rank and file wounded.

General Maclean, with the detachment of the 82d, returned to Halifax, and left Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Campbell of Monzie, with the 74th, at Penobscot, where they remained till the peace. On this occurrence, they embarked for England, and landed at Portsmouth, whence they were marched for Stirling, and reduced in the autumn of 1783; the flank companies, who had been detached, having previously joined them.

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