Origin and History
The regiment was raised on January 5, 1757 at Inverness by Simon Fraser, master of Lovat as the “78th Regiment of Foot” or “2nd Highland Battalion”. It counted 10 companies of 100 men each. Recruitment was so successful that 3 additional companies were created.
A 14th company was raised in 1758, bringing the total strength of the regiment to 1,542 men.
In December 1763, the regiment was disbanded in Québec. Several men decided to remain in Canada and received land grants.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:
- from January 1757 : Simon Fraser
- from 1761 to December 1763: John Campbell of Ballimore
Service during the War
In 1757, the regiment was selected for the planned campaign against Louisbourg or Québec. In April, the regiment embarked at Glasgow for Ireland. In Late June, the regiment sailed from Ireland for Halifax. Meanwhile, three French Naval Squadrons reinforced Louisbourg and the expedition was cancelled. On August 24, the regiment arrived at Halifax. Lack of winter-quarters at Halifax forced the relocation of the 78th Foot into winter-quarters largely in Connecticut and New York.
On April 1758, the regiment embarked at Boston and returned to Halifax where it joined the forces assembling for the second expedition against the Fortress of Louisbourg in Canada. On June 8, when Amherst's Army landed near Louisbourg, the regiment was part of the left brigade under Lawrence. In June and July, it took part in the Siege of Louisbourg which surrendered on July 27. After the capture of the fortress, the regiment sailed for Boston where it arrived on September 14. It wintered in Albany.
In the spring of 1759, the regiment joined the forces assembling under General James Wolfe for the expedition against Québec. It was attached to Brigadier-General Monckton's Brigade. On June 27, the army landed on Isle-d'Orléans and were drawn up on the beach near the village of Saint-Laurent. On July 31, the entire battalion took part in the attack on the shores of Beauport where it was part of the second wave with the 15th Amherst's Foot. The assault failed and, towards 7:30 p.m., the British retreated in good order. The 78th Highlanders, led by Wolfe himself, joined the column from beyond the Montmorency, placing themselves in its rear as it slowly retired along the flats and across the ford. The grenadiers suffered heavy losses in this fight. About the middle of August, Wolfe ordered the regiment along with rangers and light infantry to waste the settlements far and wide around Québec. Wherever resistance was offered, farmhouses and villages were laid in ashes, though churches were generally spared. Late in the evening of September 12, 200 men of the regiment formed part of the first 1,700 men who were ordered from the British vessels above Québec into bateaux in preparation for a landing at Anse-au-Foulon. On September 13, the regiment took part in the victorious Battle of the Plains of Abraham near Québec. It was deployed in the centre and suffered the heaviest loss of Wolfe's army. On September 18, Québec finally surrendered. At the end of October, when Vice-Admiral Saunders left with his fleet for Great Britain, the regiment remained as garrison in Québec along with 9 other battalions.
On April 28, 1760, the regiment took part in the Battle of Sainte-Foy where it was deployed in Fraser's Brigade on the left wing. After the defeat, it took refuge within the walls of Québec until the arrival of British reinforcements. From July 4, as part of General Murray's force, the regiment took part in the expedition against Montréal where it met with the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot and the 77th (Montgomery's Highlanders) Regiment of Foot who were part of Amherst's force advancing down the Saint-Laurent valley.
In 1761 and 1762, the regiment garrisoned several places: Montréal, Québec and Nova Scotia. In September 1762, a detachment of the regiment took part in the recapture of Saint-John's Newfoundland.
The uniform of this regiment is often represented with white lace and light buff collar and lapels. However, in 1759, the colonels of the 42nd Highlanders and 78th Highlanders were admonished for purchasing uniforms which did not have lapels or lace. Additionally, "A Pinch of Snuff", a painting by Delacour in 1759, illustrates the 78th Fraser's Highlanders in their uniform which clearly shows the lack of lapels, collars, and lace. It is possible that lapels and lace were added in 1761, but we are not aware of any research on the subject.
|Coat||short brick red Highland jacket with white buttons
|Waistcoat||brick red with white buttons|
|Kilt||orange red with green cross-hatching; with a black or dark brown sporran|
|Gaiters||none long stockings with red and white diagonal dicing|
Troopers were armed a variety of weapons including a broadsword, a 42" barrel carbine with wooden ramrod, a bayonet, a pistol and a cartouche box worn on the waistbelt.
Related to weapons, there are several references to both the 77th Highlanders and 78th Highlanders carrying two 18-round cartridge boxes – one around the waist, and one slung over the shoulder. In 1757, the 77th placed their swords and pistols into storage in Charleston, South Carolina and appear to have left them there for the duration of the war. These two regiments were also armed with 37' barrel, .66 calibre Artillery Carbines almost as soon as they arrived in North America. This is supported in orders for arms issues, as well as the issue of "carbine" ammunition, which was .66 calibre as opposed to the .75 calibre Long Land Pattern Muskets carried by the majority of the British Army in North America.
Officers of the regiment wore the same uniforms as the private soldiers but with the following differences
- silver gorget around the neck
- a gold aiguilette on the right shoulder
- gold lace on the coat, cuffs, buttonholes, waistcoat
- a crimson sash
Officers wore the same headgear as the private soldiers under their command; however, officers of the grenadier company wore a more decorated mitre cap.
Officers generally carried a spontoon, however, in battle some carried muskets instead.
According to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751:
- The drummers and pipers of the regiment were clothed in light buff, lined and faced with red, and laced in such manner as the colonel shall think fit for distinction sake, the lace, however, was of the colours of that on the soldiers' coats.
- The front or fore part of the drums was painted light buff, with the king's cypher and crown, and the number “LXXVIII” under it. The drums had red rims, white cords and a brass barrel.
King's Colour: Union with a centre device consisting of a rose and thistle wreath on the same stalk around the regiment number "LXXVIII" in gold Roman numerals.
Regimental Colour: light buff field with a centre device consisting of a rose and thistle wreath on the same stalk around the regiment number "LXXVIII" in gold Roman numerals. The Union in the upper left corner.
Aylor, Ron: British Regimental Drums and Colours
Boscawen, Hugh: The Capture of Louisbourg, 1758, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2011
Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899
May R. and Embleton G. A.: Wolfe's Army, Osprey Publishing, London, 1974
Mills, T. F., Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth through the Way Back Machine
Reid, Stuart: Highland Regiments in America During the Seven Years War, 18th Century Military Notes & Queries No. 1
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.
Jason R. Melius for additional information on the uniform and equipment of the regiment