Monday, September 18, 2017

Colonel Simon Fraser's Letters to Lord Murray

The Scottish Highlanders who served in North America were recruited by a variety of methods, but records do indicate most were volunteers. Economic depression swarmed their homelands, and the thoughts of prosperity and securing a better livelihood in the new world certainly would have contributed to each man's decision to enlist. Recruiters scoured the countryside, some concentrating their efforts to the immediate lands around their estates, while others traveled the length of Aberdeen to "make out their recruits." With competition to enlist men coming from Colonel Montgomery of the First Highland Battalion, recruiting was at a premium from a country sorely depleted in able-bodied men. The Recruiting Act of 1756-57 specified commissioners and their representatives may only enlist men aged 17-45; fit to serve His Majesty; free from ruptures and distemper; and non-Papists. Albeit there are no records available indicating recruiting officers compelled men in Scotland to sign and swear to a religious certificate, records do indicate this was a requirement at that time throughout Ireland.

On February 7, 1757, Simon Fraser had personally visited the offices of the Board in Edinburgh, to impress and extol the need for rapid recruitment. He, and others found that traveling the country securing men for the regiment simply came with the territory, -- it was part of the job. In a letter to his brother dated April 8, 1757, Major James Clephane, second in command, described the exhausting need to continuously oversee the recruiting efforts across Scotland for his personal company.

"My dear johnie,

No doubt you'll be much surprised that, till now, you have had no letter from me ever since I came to this place, which is now 20 days, but I'm persuaded you'll give great allowance for my silence, when I tell you that till yesterday I have not been 24 hours at one time here; sometimes one day at Inverness, next day return here, and a third at Nairn, and so on alternately, and often reviewing my recruits, and Kilraick and I engaging good men and dismissing worse."

Hon. Simon Fraser to Mr. Murray of Strowan
Dunkeld, 19th Feb. 1757.

Dr Sir, -- I have seen some men that are brought in here by a Constable, some of whom say they have had money for Col : Montgomery, & one in particular was inclinable to prefer enlisting wt. me to any other. As I suppose they came here by the Duke’s order, I would not attempt doing any thing without his Grace’s permission. At same time, as his Grace was so good as to say he wou’d not discountenance my recruiting, if any of the men prefer enlisting wt. me to going elsewhere, I flatter myself His Grace will have no objection to my getting any who are still unengaged, & make that choice. The man I mentioned to have already made it, had received no money & was perfectly disengaged, but I wou’d do nothing wt. him without asking his Grace.

Pardon this trouble. I am just setting out. God bless you, & do me the justice to believe me very much your faithful servt.


Colonel Fraser departed Dunkeld, Perthshire on February 19, 1757, after posting his letter to Mr. Murray, and appears to have quartered at Moulinearn Inn, about three miles southwest of Ballyoukan, where he sends a second letter, postmarked the same day. 

Hon. Simon Fraser to Mr. Murray of Strowan
Mulenairn, Satud. night, 19 Feb. 1757.

Dr Sr, -- When you did me the honor to call this afternoon, the number of fiddle faddle letters I had just been writing had quite jumbled my Judgement, & it was only upon the road that I began to consider that you said the men I saw were sent for by my Lord Duke for Coll. Montgomery. I had been informed they were impressed to fill up the quota of the county, & seeing a constable with them made me think it was so, & the men themselves thought so. But I suppose the case is that one or two of them may be wanted for that, and the Duke means to make use of it to give the rest to Coll. Montgomery. If I had understood that to be the case when I saw them, I should have not interfered so far as to ask one of them to make his choice of me, & I beg to recall any demand I made of that sort. If they are men the Duke intended & sent for to be given to Col. Montgomery, I wou’d not presume to interfere wt. his Grace’s intentions so far as to take them if they came out and offered themselves, & I shall be obliged to you if you’l do me the honor to present my complts. To His Grace, and tell him this, & that when I took the liberty to send to you before I took them to be impressed men for the county.

I beg leave to offer my complts. To the Dutches & Lady Charlotte. Pray don’t be angry wt. me for this trouble, but believe me wt. great regard,

Dr Sir,
Yr most obt. & hult. Servt.

My paper & ink are very bad, but the place offers no better.


Note: Murray, of Strowan, is Lord George Murray (1694-1760), a Scottish Jacobite general most noted for his 1745 campaign under Bonnie Prince Charlie in England. In 1728, he married Amelia, daughter, and heiress of James Murray of Strowan and Glencarse and had five children, Lady Charlotte being the fourth child, second daughter.

Atholl, John James Hugh Henry Stewart-Murray, et al. Chronicles of the Atholl and Tullibardine families [Edinburgh, 1908].

William Congreve. "Letter to Wilmot indicating not one of the recruits were papists or had falsely signed the religious certificates." Dated 10 March 1757. PRO Northern Ireland, T3019/3122.

Mackillop, Andrew. Military recruiting in the Scottish Highlands 1739-1815: Col. Fraser in Edinburgh, February 7, 1757 [September 1995].

H. Rose and Lachlan Shaw. A genealogical deduction of the family of Rose of Kilravock: with illustrative documents from the family papers, and notes [Edinburgh, 1848].

“Lord George Murray (General).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Aug. 2017, Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.

© Jeffrey Campbell, Fraser's 78th Regiment of Foot, 2017. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Petitions of Captain Hugh Fraser

Petition of Capt. Hugh Fraser, born on the Estate of Lovat, late of the 78th Regiment, for a farm. He had served his Majesty 28 years, 26 of which in the 27th Regiment. In the war before the last in the West Indies, and in Scotland all the winter Campaign during the late rebellion, and all the last war in America, and was at the reduction of Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Isle aux Noire, and Montreal. He purchased a Company in the Hon. Col. Simon Fraser’s corps, but the peace following soon thereafter the regiment was reduced, and he way put on half-pay. Read 13 Feb. 1764.

Petition of Capt. Hugh Fraser, late of the 78th Regiment, has been above 30 years in the service, and in the last Campaign in America as a Capt. In the 78th Regt., and on the peace being concluded the regiment was disbanded. Had prevailed on his uncle, Andrew Fraser of Aigas, to give up a small possession of Inchlair, of £7, 12s. 1d. ster. of rent, and having laid out some expenses, although only from year to year, hopes to get a lease of the same. Read 27 Feb. 1769.

Millar, A. H. A Selection of Scottish Fortified Estate Papers, 1715; 1745 [Edinburgh, Scottish Historical Society, 1909].

©  Jeffrey Campbell, Fraser's 78th Regiment of Foot, 2017. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Raising of the Highland Regiments in 1757

In his eloquent survey of the career of the elder Pitt Lord Stanhope says---

     Was it not he who devised that lofty and generous scheme for removing the disaffection of the Highlanders by enlisting them in regiments for the service of the Crown? Those minds which Culloden could not subdue at once yielded to his confidence; by trusting he reclaimed them; by putting arms into their hands he converted mutinous subjects into loyal soldiers.

And he afterwards quotes Pitt's own words, spoken a few months before his death.

     I remember how I employed the very rebels in the service and defence of their country. They were reclaimed by this means; they fought our battles; they cheerfully bled in defence of those liberties which they had attempted to overthrow but a few years before.

Whether the final pacification of the Highlands was mainly due to this policy of trust, or to that harsher policy which, by exiling the chiefs, gradually loosened the tie between them and their clans, is perhaps open to question. At any rate the raising of the Highland regiments was a bold and wise measure, for which Pitt deserves credit. But the credit is not due to him exclusively, nor did the idea originate with him. The needs of America, not of Scotland, gave birth to it.

Eight years before, the duke of Bedford had proposed to send out Highlanders to Nova Scotia as settlers, and the duke of Cumberland had promised to support this scheme, 'as it is much to be wished that these people may be disposed of in such a manner as to be of service to the government, instead of a detriment to it.' And in 1751 Wolfe, who was at that time commanding a regiment in Scotland, wrote to a brother officer in Nova Scotia that he should imagine two or three independent companies of Highlanders would be found useful in the desultory frontier warfare which was then going on: 'they are hardly, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall.'

Braddock's disaster in 1755, and the French reinforcements sent to Canada in the early part of the following year, made it an urgent matter to send out British reinforcements. But it was not easy to find them. The standing army of Great Britain, normally 19,000, had been raised to 34,000 men; but this was a little more than one-fifth of that of France. England was threatened with invasion, and when Hessians and Hanoverians to the number of 19,000 were brought over to guard it they had to be sent back to Germany because of the popular outcry, of which Pitt took the lead. The Mediterranean garrisons could not spare men to reinforce it, and it was driven to capitulate.

Lord Loudoun, who had been very useful in the Highlands at the time of the rebellion, was sent to America to take the chief command; but only two weak battalions accompanied him. One of these was the Black Watch, the earliest Highland regiment, which had been formed out of independent companies in 1739. So many Highland recruits were set out to join it that in a few months' time it numbered 1,300 men. In spite of the opposition of Pitt and his friends, money was voted for a regiment of four battalions to be raised in America from Swiss and German protestants settled in Pennsylvania and New York. One-third of the commissions were given to officers of those nationalities. This regiment, at first known as the Royal American, is now the King's Royal Rifle Corps, or 60th Rifles.

After various acts of hostility on both sides, war was declared between England and France in May 1756. In the course of that month a plan for carrying on the war was submitted to the duke of Cumberland. It proposed an increase in the establishment of British regiments, and the procuring of some German regiments for service in America, and added, 'Two regiments, a thousand men in a corps, may be raised in the north of Scotland for the said service and on the same terms. No men in this island are better qualified for the American war than the Scots Highlanders.' It further suggested that the Scots regiments in the Dutch service should be recalled, and 2,000 Protestants raised in the north of Ireland.

Pitt was sworn as principal secretary of state on 4 Dec., and the duke soon afterwards sent him by Lord Albemarle the plan described above. As regards the Highlanders, the matter was quickly settled, for in the course of that month the duke wrote the following letter, marked 'Most private,' to Lord Loudoun:---

St. James De 23d 1756.
     My Lord Loudoun,--- I write this private letter to you to assure you of the thorough satisfaction your conduct has given me, and will not fail to support you to the utmost of my power through the many difficulties you find in the executing of your orders, and in opposition to the public service. Nothing can be worse than our situation here at home, without any plan, or even a desire to have one, great numbers talked of to be sent you, but without any consideration of how, and from whence, without considering what they should carry with them. But that you may know what can be done for you, I write in my own Hand, trusting to your Honour, that you will burn this as soon as read.
     The King will spare you five old Battalions from Europe and two thousand new raised Highlanders, which will make 6,000 men, officers included: and I will send a proper train of artillery with them. Prepare your own plan for one army up the St. Lawrence River, and for the other to keep the enemy in check from where your army now is. I will send you my thoughts more fully with a plan of mine for your operations, which you shall be left at liberty, either to adopt, in part, or not at all, as you shall find it proper from your better information. I don't doubt a moment of your burning this letter, so don't answer it, but send your plan and thoughts without taking any notice of this most private letter. I remain very sincerely your most affectionate Friend.

The 2,000 Highlanders here referred to were to form two battalions, to be raised respectively by Archibald Montgomery, afterwards the earl of Eglinton, and Simon Fraser, master of Lovat. Montgomery was a major of Lord Robert Manners's regiment (88th Foot), but Fraser was in a different position and has never held the king's commission. His father, Lord Lovat, had made him join the Jacobite army in 1746 at the head of his clan. He had afterwards received a pardon, and become an advocate (as readers of 'Catriona' may remember). He now applied to be allowed to raise a regiment, and was supported by the duke of Argyle, who told the government that under no other person would the clan of Fraser enlist.

Among the Cumberland Papers at Windsor there is a list of officers from Fraser's regiment, endorsed, 'These papers delivered to me by the Duke of Argyle on 2d Jan. 1757, and approved the next day by the King. [Initialed] W.' Out of a total of thirty-nine officers thirteen are Frasers, and there is a note to that
     Mr Fraser being to raise so great a number of men, it is necessary to recommend many gentleman of the name of Fraser who have not been in the service before, but who from their connections and interest in the country can raise most men.

The two majors in this list are Campbells, but one of them was afterwards appointed to Montgomery's regiment.

The duke of Newcastle, whom Pitt had driven out of office, watched the measures of the new minitsry with the disapproval which was to be expected. On 4 Jan. 1757 he wrote to Lord hardwicke about the reinforcements for America---
     The Duke will not part with more than 4 regiments from hence, the new lord-lieutenant will spare only 1,000 from thence, and the old governor of Scotland cannot muster up above 2,000 of his Highland Friends, which altogether will not amount to much above 6,000 men. Mr. Pitt insists upon 8,000.
Hardewick replied on the 7th---

     I find this measure of raising 2,000 Highlanders alarms many of the best affected, particularly the making councillor Fraser colonel of one of the Battalions. . . . Nothing could more affectually break in upon the plan which has been pursuing for that country, ever since the last Rebillion, and I dare say the scheme is to put an end to it.
Two days later Newcastle wrote again---
     I most entirely disapprove the method of their Highland regiments. The Duke, I hear, disapproves and submits. It is wholly the duke of Argyle.

There seems to be nothing to bear out the statement that the duke of Cumberland disapproved the raising of these regiments. The fact that Henry Fox supported the measure in the house of commons is an indication to the contrary. The situation is pretty clear. Pitt was bent on vigorous action in America, but his hand were to some extent tied by his opposition to the employment of foreign soldiers. Whether or not he welcomed the scheme at that time as a message of peace to Scotland, it was practically indispensable for waging war in America. The king and the duke, as captain-general, were unwilling to denude the country of troops, especially as they cherished a hole that some British regiments would join the army which was to be formed for the defence of Hanover. Highlanders had fought under the duke at Fontenoy, and against him at Culloden, and he knew their value. As already mentioned, the Black Watch had been sent to America before Pitt became a minister. The opinions of Argyle and Loudoun, Campbells both, would be likely to weigh with him, especially when they furnished a means of reconciling his views with those of the imperious minister.

Recruits came in so freely that the establishment of the two regiments increased. They were sent to America in a few months. Montgomery's regiment served under Forbes in the successful expedition against Fort Duquense (where Braddock had met with disaster), while Fraser's took part in the capture of Louisbourg and Quebec, and won the praise of Wolfe. The regiments were brought into the line as the 77th and 78th respectively, but were disbanded at the peace of 1763, the men receiving grants of land in America.
E.M. Lloyd.

Lloyd, E.M. The Raising of the Highland Regiments [The English Historical Review, Vol. 17, No. 67, pp. 466-69, London, 1902].

©  Jeffrey Campbell, Fraser's 78th Regiment of Foot, 2017.