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Highlanders in the French-Indian War

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Highlander in the French-Indian War
In 1745 the Jacobite Rebels failed in a revolt as they rose against their English rulers. As a result the rebels and all those believe to be rebels were imprisoned or execute. In 1755 the British and American army lead by General Braddock set off on an expedition to take Fort Duquesne from the French. Several miles away from the fort the Anglo-American army was ambushed by a French and Indian force. This massacre sent shockwaves back to the British soil. The British army was already stretched across the world and did not have the man power to fight and win the war in America against the French and protect the other possessions in the empire. The British royals realized that there was a great solution to this problem. They could send Scottish troops to fight in America in place of British troops. Not only did this remove the threat of another uprising it improved relation with their Scottish counterparts as they provided needed jobs for the worsening economy. Mass recruiting for the first highland regiment bound for America started at the beginning of 1756. They accomplished this by putting up bulletins up all throughout Scotland and the promise of being allowed to use Highland weapons to kill the King’s enemies was enticing for many. (Highlander 10) As a result of the uprising the Highlander clans were forbidden to wear their full plaids or carry weapons under the Prosecution Act. As stated in the book, “only in the king’s service would they be able to have swords, pistols, and war like goods and chase the Indians thro’ the woods.” The first unit create was called the 42nd Foot, which is also the same battalion number for the famous British Black Watch. With the war still favoring the French and their Indian allies another two Highland battalions numbered the 77th and the 78th head towards America shortly after the 42nd to reinforce the other British forces. (Highlander 6-7) The impact of the Scottish troops was immediate as they started to fight alongside the British in the year of 1758. The Scottish battalions partook in major battles throughout the North American continent in the early stages of the war. After the victory at the Battle of Ticonderoga the 42nd was honored by being rewarded the Royal Highland Regiment by the King of England. (Highlander 7)
The Highland units continued to fight and gain experience as the war started to tilt in favor of the British on all fronts. This is shown when the 78th Foot was a major part in the British victory at the Battle of Sillery. (Highlander 8) Later on in the year of 1760 the two other Highland battalions partook in Amherst’s invasion of Canada and went south to battle the Cherokee as well. After another successful year of fighting the 77th and 42nd were sent to the Caribbean in 1761 to partake in a campaign against Martinique. Early in the year of 1762 the same regiments were apart of Major General Monckton’s army that captured Martinique. (Highlander 9) Later on in the same year the same Highland battalions partook in the siege of Havana until it surrender two months later. The remnants of the fever-ridden Highlanders returned to Long Island to recuperate. (Highlander 9) Before the battalions could fully recuperate the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War.
The Highland battalions had many unique qualities that differed from the other battalions in America. During the uprising in 1745 British soldiers realized that a Scottish regiment would not march without its piper, because of this the British courts outlawed the “instruments of war” and the traditional music of the Scottish clans that the pipers played. When the uprising was defeated, piper players were arrested as rebels and were either executed or deported. It wasn’t until 1758 that the royals realized that they could use this to their advantage by adding them to their newly created Highland battalions, hoping to increase the effectiveness, morale and ferocity of the battalions. They were also used after the battle to play a tune that honor the fallen or liven up the mood of the troops that survived the day. It wasn’t long befo re the traditional Scottish instruments became the beacon and cultural identity of the Highlanders in America. (Highlander 30-31)
When the Highlanders arrived in America they weren’t necessarily accepted by the colonist in the area. When the 77th Foot arrived in Charles Town, South Carolina the colonist did not give them livable quarters to start with as they were forced to stay in a church with no windows, damp store houses or empty store house that provide them with a floor to lay on and nothing else. (Highlander 34) This lead to hardship for the Highlanders and as stated by Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery, “Immediate sickness was the result of such a reception after so long a voyage.” When the battalion arrived the only had sixteen men sick and when the month passed over five hundred were sick of which sixty were dead. After several months at South Carolina the local assembly debated on whether a thousand men barrack should be constructed to house the troops there, but as winter neared the assembly decided just to distribute a blanket for every two men were a plantation owner “allowed one for the most despicable slave.” It wasn’t until the day before the 77th Foot departed for Pennsylvania that the accommodations for the Highlanders changed in South Carolina. (Highlander 34-35) When away from established cities the Highlanders, like other battalions, will establish “canvas cities”, which could be pretty large. When the 42nd and 77th highland regiments were fighting in upstate New York they stayed at a canvas city that would have the fourth largest cities in the thirteen colonies. (Highland 35)
By the end of the war the Scottish troops became indispensable to the British Army because they were able to do various things that the British regulars weren’t able to. They quickly learned how to build roads that would allow the armies to move throughout the thick wilderness south of Canada. (Highlander 35) When they were stationed at forts they became responsible for constructing and up keeping the barracks and the defenses of the fort. Everyday tasks kept the men active a reassured that they were prepared for the enemy at any time. During winter men hand to constantly shovel the snow that blocked their defenses so that the enemy won’t have any advantages when trying to attack them. (Highlander 36) It wasn’t rare to find skilled laborers and regular civilians that travel along with the regular troops when they went on longer expeditions.
One of the major problems for all of the Highland battalions during their time throughout the French-Indian War was the weather. It was so different from the climate they experienced when in Scotland no matter where they were stationed. When they were up north the winters were more extreme than what they experienced in Scotland this caused sickness and death for a lot of soldiers until they were provide with the proper clothing rather than just their kilts. (Highlander 46-47) Even though the winter was bad it wasn’t the worse type of weather they experienced. When several of the battalions were sent to the Caribbean they experienced heat and humidity. They also had problems with the insects that thrived in the climate that they hated. This caused a severe rise in the number of soldiers that died from disease. It got bad enough that the 42nd and the 77th where sent back north to Long Island, New York to recuperate because it resemble the climate that they experienced back in Scotland. (Highlander 48)
The Highlanders did not have a good time dealing with the wildlife and terrain in America as well. While they were up North at Louisburg the Highlanders were plagued by blood sucking blackflies and deerflies. When station in Quebec for the winter the men were forced to stay with the vermin indoors. The bigger problem was when they moved further south and experienced mosquitoes and snakes for the first time. When in New Orleans the Highlanders experienced buffalo, antelope, prairie dogs, pelicans, catfish, and of course alligators. (Highlander 49) The terrain was a problem for the soldiers that often wore only a shirt and a kilt. North America was filled with poison ivy, poison sumac, and brambles when traveling through the woods, this forced majority of the troops to start wearing leggings to protect against such a thing. (Highlander 49) During the snow months men constantly drowned falling through ice. When the snow was gone supplies were often delivered by water to make it easier to deliver supplies but the intense storms and unpredictable waters took many lives. (Highlander 49)
The author used this book and the personal accounts of the soldiers who were there to try and show the heroics the Highlanders showed during the French-Indian War. What was more impressive was that the Highlanders fought in America with the same people they revolted against ten years ago. Even though they weren’t accepted by the colonist or the British they fought and gave an extra ferocity that was needed when fighting the French and especially their Indian allies. Many believed the reason why the Highlanders had so much success against the savage Indians is because they are the British equivalent of a savage. (Highlander 33) This book proves the Scottish held their own in America and proved the previous statement about them being nothing but mere savages wrong.
The Highlanders experienced the dangers of 18th century North America and survived. When the war was over the 42nd, 77th, and 78th were sent to the Ohio Valley to relieve the British that were under siege at Fort Pitt by the remnants of the French’s Indian allies who did not agree with or included in the Treaty of Paris 1763. After success out west the battalions were eventually disbanded and the troops went on their own way and dispersed throughout the world. Some decided to stay and settle in the colonies, some remained in the British army and joined non-Scottish battalions, but majority returned back home to Scotland as heroes and veterans of the French-Indian War. They proved their worth and erased the image of the Jacobite rebels and replaced it with the image of a great British soldier.

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