Sunday, October 14, 2018

Companies of the 78th Regiment, 1763

As early as March 1759 Colonel Fraser's 78th Highlanders consisted of 14 companies and over 1500 men and women, each commanded by a commissioned officer. By 1763 the total number was reduced quite significantly to a regiment just under 900 in strength. Although thoroughly documented muster rolls [complete with soldier's names] are not available for the early years, it's towards the latter end of the war when we would finally discover the names of the men and women who graced their country in what will be forever recognized as one of the single most important military campaigns in North America's early history.

Muster rolls have remained an important document in military accountability for literally hundreds of years. In addition to identifying the names in a company, battalion, or regiment, they sometimes contained a 'record of events,' recording activities engaged in by the particular unit. The primary function of the many rolls maintained was to provide basic information about the identities, numbers, condition, equipage, and pay status of the men and women that comprised the British Army in order to facilitate administrative control. The rolls would have been created at the formation of a regiment, and continued monthly [bimonthly, and even semi-annually] as a way to track the status of each member, and finally ending when the unit was disbanded. It has been reported commanding officers' sometimes 'padded their rolls' [accounting for more men than they actually had] in order to receive extra rations at the end of the month. 

The earliest known surviving subsistence rolls [muster rolls created to document the official discharge dates, including funding victualed to each soldier] for the 78th Highlanders are dated 19 July 1763, with a subsequent set created one month later in August. Though errors have been discovered in the final reporting [we would expect to see incomplete or ambiguous reporting when dealing with about 900 names], these rolls serve as the Regiment's official discharge roster at the time of its disbandment.

Colonel Fraser's 78th Regiment of Foot, 1763

“Revolutionary War Rolls, 1894-1913.” National Archives Catalog, War Department, National Archives, Washington, D.C., 1947,

©  Jeffrey Campbell, Fraser's 78th Regiment of Foot, 2018.


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