Scottish Soldiers in Colonial America, Part Eight


Author: Dobson, David
Publication Date: 8-Mar-24
Pages: xii, 168 pp.
ISBN: 9780806359687


Scottish soldiers could be found in the Americas during the seventeenth century, some in the service of England, others in the service of the Netherlands or other European powers. Scottish mercenary soldiers had fought throughout Europe, notably during the Thirty Years War (1618 to 1648), and, while most remained there, some were recruited to serve overseas notably by the Dutch.

In the aftermath of the War of the Three Kingdoms, 1638 to 1651, significant numbers of Scottish prisoners of war were transported to the colonies by Oliver Cromwell. Consequently, many of them were recruited into the colonial militias there, notably in New England. Similarly, in Barbados the militia rolls in 1679/1680 identify many Scots enrolled there, most of whom arrived in chains, having been banished there. In 1698-1699 the Scots attempted to establish a trading settlement at Darien in Panama. To defend the colony, Scottish soldiers who had been fighting in Flanders were recruited; some of them died there, while others took refuge in the English colonies in the Caribbean and along the eastern seaboard of North America.

However, it was not until the mid-eighteenth century that the British government began to raise Highland regiments, such as Fraser’s Highlanders, Montgomery’s Highlanders, and the Black Watch, which were sent to fight in North America.  The Seven Years War, 1756 to 1763, known in America as the French and Indian War, led to significant recruitment in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands, for service in America. The allocation of land to former military personnel in the aftermath of the war was a major incentive to settle by the now-former soldiers. The massive increase in emigration from the Highlands that occurred in the decade after the Seven Years War resulted to some extent from the influence of returning soldiers. Scottish settlers among the residents of the colonies were also recruited into the military, and especially the militia.

At the outbreak of the American Revolution, former soldiers, who had received land grants in America, were recalled for duty by the British government. For example, many former Scottish soldiers, who had settled in the Mohawk Valley of upper New York, were recruited into the King’s Royal Regiment of New York. At the same time many new or recent immigrants from Scotland formed the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment. After the war, large numbers of soldiers from former Loyalist units and from regular British Army regiments were settled in what have become Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec. Scottish soldiers, thus, not only played an important role in defending the American colonies but also an important part in settling them.

The practice of settling former soldiers in the Atlantic colonies continued into the nineteenth century. In 1815 the British government was faced with a number of problems in the post-Napoleonic War period. The War of 1812 revealed the insecurity of the American-Canadian borders, while thousands of British soldiers and sailors had been demobilized and many were unemployed. The government alleviated these problems by establishing settlements for former military personnel along the American-Canadian border.

The attached list of Scottish regiments that were stationed in colonial America should be of interest to family historians. Regimental museums in Scotland, such as the Black Watch Museum at Balhousie Castle, Perth, are worth visiting. Before 1751 army regiments bore the surname of their colonel; however, this changed in mid-century when regiments began to be numbered. Sometimes the number was changed, for example the Black Watch, which was briefly known as the 43rd Regiment of Foot, changed to the 42nd Regiment. Also, when some regiments were disbanded, their regimental numbers were reissued to new regiments.

Scottish Regiments in North America

The majority of Scottish soldiers served in regiments, raised and based in Scotland; however, there were some Scottish officers and men who enlisted or were transferred into English regiments. The Scottish regiments that were sent to the American colonies were:

 1st [Royal Scots] Regiment, founded in 1633, is the oldest regiment in the British Army. It was sent to America in 1757 and fought the French and Indians on the frontier; at Montreal in 1760; at Louisbourg, Guadeloupe, and Havanna. In 1781 it served in the West Indies at St. Eustatius and St. Kitts, then it returned to the West Indies in 1801 to fight in St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Demerara, Essequibo, and Guadeloupe. During the War of 1812, the regiment was in action at Sackett’s Harbour, Fort Niagara, Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane, Fort Erie, and at St. John’s, Newfoundland.

 3rd [Scots Guards] Regiment was in New York by 1776; it fought at Long Island, Fort Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Brandywine, and Monmouth in 1778 and later in Charleston, South Carolina, and was captured at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1782.

 21st [Royal North British Fusiliers] Regiment. Its origins date from 1678 in South West Scotland. James O. Forbes, 1765-1843, prominent Colonel, was at Quebec in 1776, captured at Saratoga, New York, in 1777, and interned until 1783. During the Napoleonic Wars the regiment fought at Martinique and at Guadeloupe, and also during the War of 1812.

 26th [Cameronians] Regiment had its origins in the Covenanter Risings of the 1680s. It was sent to Nova Scotia in 1767, to Canada in 1775, was at Ticonderoga and Crown Point and possibly Quebec and St. John’s. Served at Monmouth, New Jersey, in 1776; it was based in New York before returning home in 1779. Returned to North America in 1787 to garrison Quebec, Montreal, Niagara, and St. John.

 42nd [Black Watch alias the Royal Highland Regiment] was formed in 1739 in Perthshire. It fought in the French and Indian War and also the Revolutionary War. It was in action at Louisbourg in 1757, at Ticonderoga in 1758, at Montreal in 1760, in the Caribbean in 1762, in New York in 1762, then on the frontier, returned to New York in 1776, fought at Long Island, Fort Washington, New Jersey. The unit also served at Philadelphia in 1778, Monmouth, Newport, and East Florida in 1778, at Charleston in 1779, returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1783.

 77th [Montgomery’s Highlanders] Regiment was raised in 1757. It was sent to New York in 1758, fought at Fort Du Quesne, Ohio, in 1758, from there to fight in Martinique and at Havanna, Cuba, in 1762, returned to New York and the Battle of Bushy Run in 1763. It was disbanded with land grants being made to the soldiers in 1763.

 71st [Fraser’s Highlanders] Regiment was originally raised 1775 in Inverness, Stirling, and Glasgow, by Lieutenant General Simon Fraser of Lovat. Was sent to New York in 1776, in action that year on Long Island, also at Fort Washington, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Brandywine, Little Egg Harbour, and Savannah in 1778. In 1779, at Stone Point, also at Charleston in 1780, and Guildford Courthouse in 1781. Captured at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, the regiment was disbanded in 1786.

 74th [Argyll Highlanders] Regiment was raised in 1777 by John Campbell of Barbrock, a veteran of the French and Indian War. Was sent to New York in 1779, then to Halifax, Nova Scotia, garrisoned at Montreal, disbanded in 1783, then raised and sent to Halifax in 1818, quartered in Newfoundland and Labrador; by 1828 was based in Bermuda.

 76th [MacDonald’s Highlanders] Regiment was raised in 1777, and sent to New York in 1779, fought in the Southern campaign. Was captured at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1782, and disbanded in Scotland in 1784.

 78th [Fraser’s Highlanders] Regiment was raised by Lieutenant Colonel Simon Fraser of Lovat, and was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1757. From there to Connecticut 1757-1758; fought at Louisbourg in 1757, at Ticonderoga in 1758, at Quebec in 1759, and Montreal in 1760. Disbanded in 1763, the officers and men were offered land grants in Canada.

 80th [Royal Edinburgh] Regimen was raised in 1778, and sent to New York in 1779, fought in the South, was captured at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1782.

 82nd [Hamilton’s] Regiment was raised in Lanarkshire during 1778, and was sent to New York in 1779, fought at the Battle of Penobscot, New Ireland, Maine, in 1779, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, then to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1781. Was captured at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, and was disbanded in 1784.

 83rd [Royal Glasgow] Regiment was raised in 1778, and sent to New York in 1781 on garrison duty until 1783, then returned to Scotland in 1784.

 84th [Royal Highland Emigrants] Regiment was raised in America in 1775, mostly from former soldiers settled there. The regiment fought throughout the thirteen colonies but mostly in Quebec and Canada, at Bunker’s Hill, at Fort St. Jean, Moore’s Bridge Creek, and Eutaw Springs. Disbanded in Canada in 1784, and many of its soldiers settled there.

 93rd [Sutherland Highlanders] Regiment was raised by General William Wemyss in the county of Sutherland in 1799. During the War of 1812 it fought at New Orleans, Louisiana, later, from 1823 until 1834, it was stationed in the West Indies in Barbados, Antigua, and St. Kitts.

 100th [Campbell’s] Regiment was raised in 1760 from independent companies in Stirling by Colonel Colin Campbell. In 1761, during the French and Indian War, it was sent to the Caribbean to fight the French in Martinique. In the aftermath of the War the regiment returned to Stirling, where it was disbanded in 1763.

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