Fraser's Highlanders

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Fraser's Highlanders

FRASER'S HIGHLANDERS. Two regiments known by this name, both raised by Simon Fraser (1726–1782), were conspicuous in America during the French and Indian War and during the Revolution. The first was raised in 1757, numbered as the Seventy-eighth Regiment of Foot on 1 June 1758, and was disbanded in December 1763 at Quebec.

Recognizing that the British army in America would need reinforcements following the slaughter at Bunker Hill, Simon Fraser raised at Inverness, Stirling, and Glasgow a regiment of two battalions. Officially the Seventy-first Regiment of Foot (Fraser Highlanders) from 25 October 1775, the unit sailed from Scotland for Boston at the end of April 1776, not knowing that Boston had fallen into Patriot hands on 17 March 1776. Two transports were captured at sea, one of them carrying a company of the Seventy-first and the other a company of the Forty-second Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Regiment). Four more transports were captured off the Massachusetts coast in mid-June. Among the prisoners was Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell, whose transport was taken in Boston Harbor; he was exchanged two years later for Ethan Allen. Replacement companies were raised in Scotland by September 1779 and arrived safely in America.

The First Battalion and the remainder of the Second Battalion arrived at Staten Island in July 1776 and took part in the Battle of Long Island on 27 August, being the first ashore on the 24th. They were with the force that cut off the retreat of rebel Major General William Alexander (Lord Stirling) in the final phase of the battle. The Highlanders fought at Fort Washington, New York (16 November 1776), Brandywine, Pennsylvania (11 September 1777), and Billingsport, New Jersey (9 October 1777). The Third Battalion of the Seventy-first was created in May 1777 and was sent in 1779 to garrison Newfoundland.

The two original battalions were the core of the expedition sent south under Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell in December 1778. The Highlanders helped to capture Savannahon 29 December 1778; occupied Augusta from 29 January to 13 February 1779; fought at Briar Creek, Georgia, on 3 March; and helped defend Savannah against the Franco-American counterattack in September. After receiving 150 replacements, they joined Sir Henry Clinton's expedition against Charleston, South Carolina. They took part in the final siege operations and remained with the field army under Lord Cornwallis. Under Major Archibald McArthur, the First Battalion distinguished itself before most of it was captured at the Battle of Cowpens on 17 January 1781; the Second Battalion was with Cornwallis until the final surrender at Yorktown. The remainder of the First Battalion went from Charleston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in November 1782, and then returned to Scotland, where it was disbanded in 1786. The members of the Second Battalion were among the prisoners exchanged in 1783; the Highlanders returned to Scotland and were disbanded at Stirling on 3 October.

SEE ALSO Briar Creek, Georgia; Campbell, Archibald; Charleston Expedition of Clinton in 1780; Cowpens, South Carolina; Fraser, Simon (1726–1782); Long Island, New York, Battle of; Maitland, John; Savannah, Georgia (9 October 1779).


Harper, J. Ralph. 78th Fighting Frasers in Canada: The Old 78th Regiment, or Fraser's Highlanders, 1757–1783. Cholmondeley, Canada: Dev-Sco Publications, 1966.

―――――――. The Fraser Highlanders. Montreal: Society of the Montreal Military and Maritime Museum, 1979.

Katcher, Philip R. N. Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units, 1775–1783. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1973.

Mills, T. F. "Land Forces of Britain, the Empire, and Commonwealth: Fraser's Highlanders [71st and 78th Regiments of Foot]." Available online at

                            revised by Harold E. Selesky