The Fraser Highlanders

Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat
Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat 1667 – 1747

After the first failed Jacobite uprising of 1715 Clans loyal to the Crown were appointed Independent Highland Companies to police the Highlands of Scotland. But by 1717 these Companies had been greatly reduced due to the numbers of regular Crown troops now stationed in the Highlands at Fort William, Fort Augustus and Ruthven Barracks. Simon Fraser the 11th Lord Lovat, Clan Chief of The Frasers of Lovat who had on the surface been supporters of the Hanoverians during the uprising wrote to King George I complaining this had left many of the clans who supported the Hanoverians vulnerable in the Highlands. Consequently, the Frasers of Lovat were appointed as an Independent Highland Company in 1725 to police Inverness-Shire on behalf of the Crown. However, stories began to surface that Jacobites had infiltrated some Highland Companies, and King George at the behest of General Wade, who suspected rightly or wrongly Simon Fraser of having Jacobite sympathies, stripped him of his captaincy and put his company under another command. Wade also had him removed from his position as High-Sheriff of Inverness. Subsequently, when Bonnie Prince Charlie landed and raised his standard at Glenfinnan on the 19th of August 1745, Simon Fraser unsure of his position with the Crown and while still trying to back both sides in the coming uprising, reluctantly nailed his colours to the mast and supported the Jacobite cause. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the second Jacobite uprising being quickly put down, Simon Fraser tried to make his escape to France but was captured while hiding in a hollow tree on the shores of Loch Morar, thereafter being sent to London and imprisoned in the Tower. At his trial he was tried as a traitor sentenced to death and executed on the 9th of April 1747, his lands and title forfeit to the Crown, the last man to be beheaded on the British mainland.

As the story goes, Lord Lovat had sent his son, Simon, the Master of Lovat, then only 19 to fight with the Jacobites at Culloden, but while marching with his clansmen they came across retreating Jacobites heading back to Inverness who informed him the battle was lost. There are several suggestions as to what happened next. One being he joined with the retreating Jacobites and marched back to Inverness, with banners flying and pipes playing, another suggests as the Frasers along with the fleeing Jacobites approached the bridge over the River Ness, they were confronted by The Argyll Militia holding the bridge for the Hanoverians. The Frasers quickly turned on the retreating Jacobites, and switched loyalties to the Hanoverian side allowing the Frasers of Lovat safe passage to return to Inverness. The young Master of Lovat did however go on the run for a short while from the Crown Forces before surrendering himself. The latter suggestion of turning on the Jacobites may have some truth to it as The Master of Lovat was only imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle for a year and released to Glasgow ‘at the Kings pleasure’ then later pardoned in 1750, while his father was captured and executed.

The 78th Highland Regiment of Foot or Fraser Highlanders

Simon Fraset and Highlander
General Simon Fraser 1726 – 1782                             78th Fraser Highlander c1760

In January of 1757 Simon Fraser now a committed supporter of the Crown, and retaining some influence in Inverness raised 800 men as the 2nd Highland Company to fight in the Seven Years War between France and Great Britain, himself being appointed as Colonel on the 5th of January 1757. Designated as the 62nd Regiment of Foot later that year, quickly followed by another designation to the 63rd Regiment of Foot., and finally renamed the 78th (Highland) Regiment of Foot, or Fraser’s Highlanders in June of 1758, after several other regiments raised in 1756 became the 61st through to 75th Regiments. The 78th Fraser Highlanders now 1400 strong, fought throughout the Seven Years War and disbanded in Quebec in December of 1763 with some soldiers taking up the offer of Land Grants in North America, while others returned to Scotland. In 1775 many veterans of the old 78th Fraser Highlanders joined the 84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Immigrants) to fight in the American War of Independence.

Royal Highland Immigrants Buttons
Royal Highland Immigrants Buttons

The 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot or (Frasers Highlanders)

By 1774 Simon Fraser had risen to Major General in the British Army and now representing the County of Inverness in the House of Commons had his forfeited lands and lordships restored to him on payment of nearly £21,000 to the government, about three and a half million pounds in today’s money.

At the outbreak of War with America in 1775 Simon Fraser again raised a Regiment for Service in North America, two battalions being raised at Inverness, Stirling and Glasgow designated the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot. Simon Fraser of Lovat however did not embark with the Regiment to North America, although the 71st did contain many former officers of the old 78th Frasers Highlanders. The 71st arrived in North America in July of 1776 and numbered over 2300 men in two Battalions. The two Battalions were split into three smaller Battalions of 500 men during the New York Campaign, with the Two Grenadier Companies being amalgamated with the Grenadier Company of the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) to form the 4th Grenadier Battalion.

71st Cartridge Box Badge
71st Fraser Highlander Buttons                                              71st Fraser Highlander Cartridge Box

Top: Officer’s button. Bottom: Other Ranks. The cartridge Box Badge was often incorrectly identified as a Feather Bonnet Badge.

Grenadier shoulder belt plate
Officers Grenadier Company Shoulderbelt Plate c1775 (Authors Collection)
Musket butt plate
Buttplate of Musket showing markings to the 1st Battalion 71st Regt. (Authors Collection)
71st Fraser Highlander c1775
71st Fraser Highlander c1775
71st Fraser Highlander during the Winter Campaign 1780-81
71st Fraser Highlander during the Winter Campaign 1780-81

The 71st Fraser Highlanders served in both North and South Campaigns during the American War of Independence, taking part in many battles, notably the Battles of Long Island 1776, Brandywine 1777, The Siege and capture of Savannah and Charleston 1778, 1779,  Briar Creek 1779,  Camden 1780, Guilford Courthouse 1781, and Yorktown 1781. Worth mentioning is The Battle of Cowpens where the unfortunate 2nd Battalion of the 71st were under command of the notorious Sir Banastre Tarleton and suffered a heavy defeat, prompting the officers of the 71st to petition Lord Cornwallis that the 71st never again come under Tarletons command, which was granted. The 2nd battalion continued North through Virginia until their capture at the Battle of Yorktown, interred and eventually repatriated to Scotland in 1783 they formally stood down at Stirling in October of 1783. The remainder of the Regiment being eventually disbanded in Scotland 1786.

Simon Fraser of Lovat represented Inverness-Shire as Member of Parliament until his death in February 1782.

Sources:

 

Benny Bough

Glasgow, Scotland

19th October 2017

 

 

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