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Fraser’s Highlanders

The 71st and 78th Regiments of Foot

Fraser’s Highlanders at Quebec in 1759 | National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec

Fraser’s Highlanders is a name that refers to two different regiments of Scottish soldiers that were raised for service in North America during the 18th century. Both regiments were raised by Simon Fraser of Lovat, a Scottish nobleman and military leader who supported the British crown.

The first regiment was raised in 1757, during the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years’ War), which pitted Britain against France and their Native American allies for control of North America. The regiment consisted of about 1,400 men, mostly from the Highlands of Scotland, who wore a distinctive tartan uniform and carried muskets and broadswords. The regiment was officially numbered as the 78th (Highland) Regiment of Foot in 1758.

The 78th Fraser Highlanders participated in several battles and sieges against the French forces in Canada, such as the capture of Louisbourg in 1758, and the Battle of Quebec in 1759, where they were part of General James Wolfe’s army that defeated General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham, and the Battle of Sainte-Foy in 1760, where they helped repel a French counterattack. The regiment also fought against Native American tribes that opposed British expansion, such as the Cherokee War in 1760-61.

The 78th Fraser Highlanders were disbanded in Quebec in December 1763, after the Treaty of Paris ended the war. Many of them chose to settle in Canada rather than return to Scotland, and some became prominent figures in Canadian history, such as Simon McTavish, a fur trader and founder of the North West Company.

The second regiment was raised in 1775, during the American Revolutionary War (also known as the American War of Independence), which pitted Britain against its thirteen colonies that declared independence. The regiment consisted of two battalions later increased to three. The regiment was officially numbered as the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders) from October 1775.

The 71st Fraser Highlanders arrived in America in July 1776 and joined General William Howe’s army that fought against George Washington’s Continental Army. The regiment saw action at several battles and skirmishes throughout the war, such as Long Island (1776), Fort Washington (1776), Brandywine (1777), Savannah (1778-79), Charleston (1780), Cowpens (1781) and Yorktown (1781). The regiment also faced challenges from disease, desertion and captivity.

The 71st Fraser Highlanders were disbanded at Stirling Castle in Scotland in April 1786. Some returned to their homes or settled elsewhere, while others joined other British regiments or emigrated to other countries.

Fraser’s Highlanders were renowned for their courage, loyalty and discipline on both sides of the Atlantic. They left a lasting legacy in North American history and culture.

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