The 78th Regiment, Second Highland Battalion of Foot, commonly called Fraser’s Highlanders was raised in Scotland in 1757, specifically for service in North America. It played a daring and romantic role in the major battles of the Seven Years’ War, a war which ultimately determined Canada’s future. Although the regiment was disbanded in Quebec in 1763, it was the only Scottish regiment ever to be disbanded on foreign soil. The men of the 78th were first among the many thousands of “red-coated” settlers who remained in Canada. Since that time, their family trees have flourished placing their descendants throughout the country and the continent.
At the behest of Lord Chatham, Colonel Simon Fraser, Master of Lovat, raised the Regiment under Warrant for King George II. The 1,500 men were recruited largely from clansmen, who, a dozen years earlier had fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the War of ’45. When an official high in authority questioned the wisdom of arming former rebels, General James Wolfe defensively replied, “If a Highlander gives his oath, he can be completely trusted”.
The Regiment sailed from Scotland, via Ireland, to Halifax before moving north to lay seige and then capture the mighty French Fortress Louisbourg in 1758. The men wintered in Connecticut and southern New York State before undertaking the Quebec campaign throughout the summer of 1759. It was the largest regiment on the Plains of Abraham and suffered the heaviest casualties.
Within the walls of the old fortified city, the bitter winter of 1759-60 played heavily on the health of the soldiers. Tradition holds that the Ursuline Nuns came to the Highlanders aid by knitting longer hose to reduce their exposure to the elements!
The next spring, despite a French victory at St. Foy, just outside of Quebec, the British Army, now under the command of General Murray, moved onto Montreal, which was surrendered in September 1760. For the first time since the onset of the War, the 78th was garrisoned with the other two Highland Regiments in the campaign, the 77th Montgomery’s and the 42nd, The Black Watch.
The surrender of Montreal effectively ended the war in North America although the 78th did take part in the re-capture of St. John’s Newfoundland in September 1761. It would be two years before the war was to be settled in Europe. In the meantime, since a number of the men spoke French (due to their Jacobite connection) and were Catholic, they were well respected by the French Canadians in the area. When word was received of the disbandment of the Regiment while in Quebec, many decided to stay on land grants and many married into French Canadian families. During their short stay in Quebec, members of the Regiment were also responsible for establishing the first Presbyterian church in Canada and the first Masonic Lodge, as well as introducing the game of curling on the frozen rivers and lakes.
Even the men who went home to Scotland after the War could not forget their North American experience. Many returned to fight in the American Revolution under Major-General Simon Fraser forming the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 71st Regiment (Fraser’s Highlanders). In Canada, Lt. Colonel Allen Maclean raised the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 84th Regiment (Royal Highland Emigrants) from soldiers who had fought in the previous war.
Many others returned independently to establish business concerns, notably in the fur trade, where they or their descendants explored and opened the continent naming such rivers as the Mackenzie and the Fraser.
The influence of the original 1,500 men of this Regiment on Canadian and North American should not be forgotten. New historical discoveries are still being made which further indicate that this Regiment deserves a special place in our military tradition.
During preparations for Montreal’s EXPO’67, the Montreal Military & Maritime Museum (now called The David M. Stewart Museum) revived two historic Regiments – La Compagnie Franche de la Marine and The 78th Fraser’s Highlanders. Through the leadership of Colonel J. Ralph Harper and Colonel David M. Stewart, research was undertaken to reproduce the uniform and equipment of these 18th century soldiers.
During the mid-1970s the growing need to supplement Regimental income became apparent. The suggestion of Lieutenant-Colonel J. Ross Oborne to form Outposts in other parts of Canada won the approval of the Colonel Commandant, Colonel J. R. Harper. Funds were raised through the 18th century tradition of allowing suitable and interested officers to purchase commissions. Each garrison now implements their own commissioning programs.
The Fort New Inverness Garrison is located in Atlanta, GA. Our objectives are to preserve the memory of the 78th Fraser Highlanders (1757-1763) and the role our Regiment played in North American history, to celebrate the contributions of early Scottish immigrants to our culture, and to encourage our youth an community to do the same. The garrison has been privileged to provide honor guard services throughout the Southern United States. Our members are able to enjoy deep camaraderie the gatherings offers.