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French-Indian War

Battles of the 42nd, 77th and 78th Highland Regiments with Lists of the "Killed and Wounded"

Thanks goes to Deborah for this series of articles, which she generously donated to The Canadian Military Heritage Project and which is used here with consent.

After years of warlike activity with France, England officially declared war on May 18, 1756, beginning the Seven Year's War in Europe. But the focus of the war soon shifted away from the continent to the colonies. Echoeing the conflicts in Europe, the final struggle for the empire was to take place in North America and in the West Indies. British regulars and American militia joined forces against France and her Indian allies in a campaign commonly known as the French and Indian Wars. After suffering numerous defeats and disappointments, England and her colonies successfully reversed the course of events and conquered the Canadian and regular armies of France. Peace between Britain and France was proclaimed with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763; however, warfare against the Indians endured for sometime after.

The following accounts of the French-Indian Wars focus mainly on the involvement of the Highland Regiments in the battles and expeditions listed below. However, a list of other regiments involved, and the field officers in general command during these battles, have been noted in order to facilitate further research.

Martinique & Guadaloupe Expedition, January-April, 1759

Source: "Sketches of the Character, Manners and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland; with details of The Military Service of The Highland Regiments", by Major-General David Stewart, Vol I & II, (1825), Edinburgh.

  • Highland Regiment: Royal Highlanders (42nd), being seven companies of the 2nd Battalion
  • Other Regiments: Old Buffs, Kings, 6th, 63rd, 64th, and 800 Marines
  • Battle Under General Command of: Major-Generals Hopson and Barrington, and Brigadier-Generals Haldane, Armiger, Trapaud and Clavering; fleet commanded by Commodore Moore.

Abridged text: An armament of troops had been joined in Barbadoes, and on the 13th January, 1759, they sailed from Carlisle Bay under convoy, and appeared off Martinique on the morning of the 15th. On the 16th three line-of-battle ships were ordered to anchor opposite to Fort Negro, the guns of which they soon silenced.

Next morning the whole were landed at Cas de Navire, as if going to exercise, no enemy being then in sight. At 10 o'clock, the Grenadiers, the Kings and the Highlanders moved forward, and soon fell in with parties of the enemy, with whom they kept up a regular battle till a party of Grenadiers and Highlanders got within a little distance of Morne Tortueson, an eminence behind Fort Royal, and the most important post in the island. Whilst they were waiting in this position till the rest of the army came up, the advanced parties continued skirmishing with the enemy, during which it was said of the Highlanders, "that, although debarred the use of arms in their own country, they showed themselves good marksmen, and had not forgot how to handle their arms."

In the meantime, General Hopson, finding from the ruggedness of the ground, intersected by deep ravines and rocks, that he could not get up his guns without great labour, determined to relinquish the attempt, and gave orders to re-embark without delay. The expedition was aborted.

Guadaloupe being of equal importance, it was resolved to proceed to the conquest of that island. Accordingly, on the 29th of January, the line-of-battle ships ranged themselves in a line with the town of Basseterre in Guadaloupe, and commenced a furious attack on the town and batteries, which was returned and kept up on both sides, with great spirit, for many hours. About 5 o'clock in the evening, the fire of the citadel slackened, and at 10 many parts of the town were ablaze. Next morning, the troops landed without opposition, and after taking possession of the town and citidal, encamped in the neighbourhood and established small posts on the hills nearest the town. Lieutenant Alexander McLean of the Highlanders, distinguished himself on this occasion. Mr. McLean lost an arm; however, it would appear that this did not injure Lt. Maclean in the esteem of the ladies of Guadaloupe: "He was particularly noticed by the French ladies for his gallantry and spirit, and in the manner he wore his plaid and regimental garb."

On the 13th of February, a detachment of Highlanders and Marines were landed in Grandeterre, in the neighbourhood of Fort Louis, after which, "a party of Marines and Highlanders drove the enemy from his entrenchments, and taking possession of the fort, hoisted the English colours." But disease had made such ravages that many were either dead or in hospital.

Anxious to complete, with all possible dispatch, the reduction of the colony, and to meet the enemy in their own manner of fighting, the Commander embarked his troops with an intention of removing the war to Grandeterre and Capesterre, leaving one regiment in the citadel of Basseterre. General Barrington having established himself in Grandeterre, ordered Colonel Crump to attack the towns of St. Anne and St. Francis. This was executed next morning at sunrise, with great spirit. Notwithstanding the fire of the enemy from their entrenchments and batteries, both towns were carried with little loss, Ensign McLean of the Highlanders being the only officer who fell in the assault.

The General then formed a design to surprise Petit Bourg, St. Mary's and Gouyave, on the Capesterre side. After landing near the town of Arnonville, the river, rendered inaccessible, except at two narrow passes by a morass covered with mangroves, was fortified by a redoubt and entrenchment. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, the commanders determined to hazard an assault, and began the attack with a fire from their field, and the Royal Highlanders pushed forward. The enemy beginning to waver as they advanced, the "Highlanders drew their swords, and supported by a part of the other regiment, rushed forward with their characteristic impetuosity, and followed the enemy into the redoubt, of which they took possession."

In a succession of skirmishes they forced the enemy from their strongholds, and obtained possession of all the batteries and towns on the sea-coast. At length, the enemy were compelled to surrender, after a gallant defence, which was maintained to the 1st of May, when the capitulation was signed. The loss of the British on this expedition was severe; but, in consequence of their continued fatigues and exposure, they suffered more by the climate than by the enemy.

This expedition was tolerably smart training for a young corps, who, nine months before, had been herding cattle and sheep on their native hills.

42nd Highland Officers Killed (plus 1 sergeant and 33 soldiers):NB: some died from disease.
  • Major: Robert Anstruther; died of the fever
  • Captain: Robert Arbuthnot, died of the fever
  • Ensign: William McLean (at Guadaloupe)
42nd Highland Officers Wounded (plus 5 sergeants and 79 soldiers):
  • Lieutenants: George Leslie (at Martinique and at Guadaloupe); Alexander McLean; ? Sinclair; and ? Robertson at Guadaloupe.

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