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        A History of the Regiment

History of the Regiment.

A letter from Lieutenant Colin Campbell, of the 74th

Light Company time line of service

In December of 1777, His Majesty, King George III, granted letters of service to John Campbell of Barbreck, Scotland. These letters gave Campbell of power to raise a regiment of foot, 1,082 men strong. There were to be eight (8) battalion companies with 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, 1 ensign, 5 sergeants, 5 corporals, 2 drummers and 100 private soldiers each; one (1) light infantry and one (1) grenadier company each with 1 captain, 3 lieutenants, 5 sergeants, 5 corporals, 2 drummers, 2 pipers and 100 private soldiers each. The recruits were to be at least 5'4" tall and aged 18 through 30.

Of all the Highland regiments, the 74th had more lowlanders in ranks than in any other of the same description raised at this time. Of the private men, only 590 were from Argyllshire County, the rest being from Glasgow and the western districts of Scotland. Of the 1082 men authorized, 987 men were raised (684 Highlanders, 282 Lowlanders, 12 English, and 9 Irish).

The name Campbell, as might be expected in an Argyllshire regiment, mustered strong for officers. Nine of the eleven most senior officers were surnamed Campbell. It is possible that many of the enlisted men were also Campbells (possibly due to family recruiting family). On 13 May 1778, Major-General Robert Skene inspected the 74th Regiment, mustering 960 rank and file, in Glasgow. In August of the same year, the regiment embarked from Greenock, Scotland and was to land at Halifax, Nova Scotia. On 11 February 1779, General Sir Henry Clinton ordered Brigadier General Francis McLean to send the flank companies of the 70th, 74th, and 82nd (regiments) to headquarters at New York City. The Light Company, commanded by Captain Campbell of Balnabie and the Grenadier Company, commanded by Captain Ludovick Colquhoun of Luss, arrived at New York on 23 March 1779.

In the spring of 1779, the battalion companies took possession of Bagaduce (present-day Castine, Maine) with the intention of establishing a post there. Before defenses could be completed, a force of 2,500 men under the command of Commodore Saltonstall of Boston attacked. From 28 July until 13 August, the 74th and a detachment of the 82nd, under the command of Brigadier General McLean, defended their positions and kept the rebels from advancing. By 13 August, a relief fleet under the command of Sir George Collier, forced the rebels to leave in defeat. The losses to the 74th were 2 sergeants and 14 privates killed and 17 rank and file wounded. The battalion companies stayed at Bagaduce, completing construction of a fort (Fort George) for the remainder of the war until 15 January 1784, when they evacuated Penobscot Bay; more than a year after the Treaty of Paris (3 September 1783) was signed.

The detached flank companies served with the 1st Grenadier battalion and the 1st Light Infantry battalions. They campaigned with Sir Henry Clinton on his expedition to South Carolina (December 1779 – June 1780) which resulted in the capture of Charlestown and the surrender of a significant American army. The Light Company was part of General Phillips' army that landed in March 1781 in Virginia. They served in the entire Virginia Campaign which culminated at the surrender of Cornwallis' army at Yorktown on 19 October 1781.

The Light Company was marched to the prisoner of war camp at Fort Frederick, Maryland. They remained prisoners until the cessation of hostilities in late 1783 when they returned to the main army headquarters at New York. By 1784, all the companies of the 74th were reunited in Halifax and were embarked for England; landing at Portsmouth. They were then marched to Sterling and disbanded on 24 May 1784.

A Letter from Lieutenant Colin Campbell, of the 74th Highlanders dated New York, 20th November, 1780

"I embarked about the beginning of June last at Charlestown for this place with his Excellency General Clinton, the British Light Infantry, the Hessian Yaggers, the British and Hessian Grenadiers, the 42d Regiment, Queen’s Rangers, etc., amounting to 5000 men in transports convoyed by Admiral Arbuthnot. We had fine weather and an agreeable passage. Whenever we landed here, I was obliged (on the 21st of June) to get a billet and retire to sick quarters in this tow, where I have remained ever since. I informed Kitty in my letter above mentioned that I had a violent attack of the fever and ague about the conclusion of the siege of Charlestown. I was twice cured of it in South Carolina, once in the passage from thence hither; and I have had so many relapses since, that I have been cured no less than nine times in all of the same disorder in the course of this season; three times of a flux, two of them bloody; and, to conclude the catalogue of my calamities, I am now lately recovered of a smart high fever, which lasted only ten or twelve days. I was so harassed with the continnal returns of these different ailments, that you can easily believe I had been at one particular time extremely reduced; but neither my doctor, myself, or my friends ever despaired of my recovery; and since the cold weather has set in, I have recruited so fast that I might already join the battalion and do duty with them, which at present is very easy, as they have gone into winter quarters at Bedford, in Long Island, about a mile and a half from the [p. xv] village of Brooklyn, immediately opposite to this town, which gives the names to the ferry from thence to Long Island. I remain here only a few days longer, till my health and strength are perfectly established, which I may say is already the case. I would not consent that any of my friends who wrote to Isla should mention my being sick till I had it in my power to inform you of my perfect recovery; it could answer no purpose but to make you uneasy. I flatter myself that my friends still entertain so much regard for me that the knowledge of such an event would give them little concern. I did not wish to put any of them to the trial; it would be an ungenerous experiment. Though I had the misfortune of being very much indisposed both last year and this for a long series of time, I cannot help congratulating myself on the uncommon good luck of its happening at time when the Light Infantry, and consequently the whole army here, were quite unemployed and disengaged from field service. The campaign (1779) was short, and ended early in August. It was not till our army was ordered within our lines at King’s Bridge that I was taken ill as I formerly wrote home). The embarkation for South Carolina occasioned the first movement of our troops. I got well in time to accompany them, and not much sooner. I never was better than during that very fatiguing expedition, and till about the end of the siege of Charlestown; but in traversing the woods of that country for six or eight weeks, without bed, tent, or any other cover than a great-coat against the cold dew and sometimes frosts of the nights, or against the excessive rains or scorching heats of the days in that climate; and for near six weeks more at the siege lying in the open air, except the last fortnight only, at which time we got tents, and then, as well as before, twenty-fours hours on duty in the trenches for every forty-eight hours we were off duty, whether cold, hot, wet, or dry, all of which we frequently experienced in the extreme before we were relieved – this was too much for the most constitutions to bear unhurt: mine I confess, was not proof against it, as I have already informed you. I may also declare that for ten weeks after landing in South Carolina the 11th February last, I had neither my clothes or side-arms off, except while shifting, or never lay down to sleep without my fuzee stretched alongside of me, or within my arms, ready to [p. xvi] start up with it to the first sound of the bugle horn, which the Light Infantry used instead of a drum. it resembled a huntsman’s horn, and by different notes, easily distinguished, loudly expresses the different words of command, to be heard at two miles distance; twelve or fifteen of them together make the most lofty warlike music in the world.

With these I have known the whole Light infantry roused at one o’clock in the morning on a sudden alarm, formed, and ready for action within the short space of three minutes from the time of their being in a profound sleep after a fatiguing march; and to the honour of these brave fellows be it told, not one man of a company in the whole battalion missing. The pleasure, the happiness of being on actual service with such delightful fellows is inexpressible. Toil and hardships alongst with them lose those names, and are softened into agreeable amusements. A man’s constitution may not always be equal to support a variety of such diversions often repeated; but his inclination can never fail him. Some time after our arrival from the southward in this province, it was known that a small squadron of French ships of the line, with 4,000 or 5,000 men, had taken possession of Rhose Island. it seemed to be the resolution both of Admiral Arbuthnot and of General Clinton, with the fleet here, and with a considerable part of the army, to make a vigorous attack upon them and their rebel allies in that post. Our fleet sailed directly, and are still stationed in view of that place. The troops designed for this service also embarked; the Light Infantry were a part of them; but I was so ill of the fever and ague I could not attempt to leave my sick quarters, and for the first time had the mortification to be left behind when the battalions of Light Infantry were going upon any expedition. But kind Providence favoured me beyond my expectations. I heard in a few days that the expedition was countermanded, and the troops had disembarked. I supposed it was for the good of the service, or it would not have happened so; and I could not help being extremely well pleased. Now, God be praised! I am able to accompany them wherever they go, if their first movement should take place tomorrow; and I have had such a broad seasoning last year and this one, both to the northward and southward of this extensive continent, that I have reason to hope that the severest [p. xvii] service or the most intemperate climate cannot hurt me during the continuance of this war”

     Time Line of the Service of the Light Company

December 1777- King George III issues a letter of service to John Campbell of Barbeck, Scotland to raise a regiment for service in the American War

            - 1082 men total.

                        - 8 Battalion Companies consisting of 1 Captain, 2 Lieutenants, 1 Ensign, 5 Sjt, 5 Cpl, 2 Drummers, 100 Men at Arms

                        - 2 Flank Companies (Grenadier and Lights) consisting of 1 Captain, 3 Lieutenants, 5 Sjt, 5 Cpl, 2 Drummers, 2 Pipers, 100 Men at Arms

                        - Each soldier recruited was to be at least 5’4” in height.

            - A total of 987 men were raised

                        - 684 Highlanders

                        - 282 Lowlanders

                        - 12 English

                        - 9 Irish

13 May 1778- Major General Robert Skene inspected the 74th Regiment in Glasgow. It mustered 960 men at arms.

August 1778- 74th Highlanders departed Greenok, Scotland for Halifax, Nova Scotia

11 February 1778- Sir Henry Clinton instructed Brigadier Francis McLean to send the flank companies of the 70th, 74th, and 82nd to his headquarters in New York City.

3 November 1778- Grenadiers and Lights are to immediately be formed into one battalion each, the Light Infantry under Lt.Col Robert Abercromby.[1]

26 November 1778- Major William Dansey of the 33rd Foot is assigned to the 1st Light Battalion.[2]

23 March 1779- The 74th’s flank companies arrive in NYC and are assigned to the 1st Light Infantry Battalion, and 1st Grenadier Battalion respectively.

            -The Company was still wearing kilts at this time.

15 December 1779- 1st Light Infantry Battalion is to consist of the Light Infantry Companies of: 7th, 22nd, 33rd, 37th, 42nd, 54th, 63rd, 70th, and 74th Regiments of Foot. [3]

26 December 1779- Sir Henry Clinton, and his second in command, General Charles, Earl of Cornwallis, departed with 8,500 troops (including the 74th’s flank companies) to Charleston, South Carolina.[4]

1 February 1780- Clinton’s expedition reached the Savannah River.

11 February 1780- First Debarkation landed at Edisto Island (about 25 Miles SE of Charlestown). This included the Light Infantry and Grenadier Battalions. They were brigaded under Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie.


[1] From General Orders of Sir Henry Clinton

[2] 37th Light Infantry Co’y Adjutant’s Book

[3] ^Ibid

[4] Around this time the 74th Lights (and Grenadiers) transitioned into gaitered trousers(Overalls) made of Russia Drill.

12 February 1780- Clinton landed his expeditionary force on Simmons Island (30 miles south of Charleston).

13 February 1780- Court Martial assembled (not sure as to why) presided over by Captain Donald Campbell of the 74th’s Light Infantry.[1]

24 February 1780- Crown Forces crossed the Stono River onto James Island.

10 March 1780- Cornwallis reached the mainland.

            - Bulk of the British forces assembled on James Island.

22 March 1780- Crown Forces had reached Middleton Place and Drayton Hall.

29 March 1780- Crown Forces crossed the Ashley River.

1 April 1780- Clinton began the siege of Charleston. His forces were 800 yards from the Continental fortifications.

            - The weather during this expedition was reportedly horrible. Either cold at night with frost at times, or incredibly hot, humid and rainy. The men did not have tentage until the end of the siege and would spend 24 hours on duty in the trenches and 48 hours off duty. Even off duty, however, they kept their weapons about them and did not have an opportunity to change clothes during the siege. They were roused at all hours to respond to an attack. They could be ready to go in three minutes or less.[2]

            - The Light Infantry Battalions took up the center-left of the British lines

9 April 1780- Clinton’s forces continued to move guns into position of the first parallel, but it was slow as they had lost all their horses in a storm on the trip south. The guns had to be manhandled into place.

10 April 1780- Clinton offered terms to the Charleston Garrison. Lincoln rejected them.

18 April 1780- Reinforcements from NYC arrived numbering 2,500 men.

            - The British had completed the second parallel and a deadly duel between Jaegers and American riflemen began. In addition small mortars were being used by both sides and the whole situation became much worse for the men in the trenches.

21 April 1780- Seeing the noose tightening and realizing that evacuation was no longer an option, Lincoln requested terms from Clinton.

23-24 April 1780- 200 South Carolina Militia attacked the final parallel and killed 8 British and Hessian soldiers and took 12 prisoners.

25 April 1780- British troops in the first and second parallels were unnerved by the American attack the night before and fired on and killed a few of their own.

12 May 1780- General Benjamin Lincoln surrenders Charleston.

5 June 1780- Clinton sets sail for New York City with many of the flank battalions including the 74th.

            - Did the 74th Lights transition back to kilts once they had returned to NYC?

4 November 1780- Lieutenant George Dunlap became Adjutant of the 1st Battalion.

December 1780- Clinton sent 1,600 troops to Portsmouth, Va under Brigadier Benedict Arnold.

8 January 1781- 74th Light Infantry is transferred to the 2nd Light Infantry Battalion

[1] Stated in the Order book for the 37th Regiment of Foot’s Light Infantry Company.

[2] From letter of LT C. Campbell dated 20 November 1780 sent from New York.

27 March 1781- Major General William Phillips arrived in Portsmouth to reinforce Arnold. He had with him 2,000 troops.

            - This included the 74th’s Light Infantry Company (Presumably as part of the 1st Light Infantry Battalion). It is possible that the 1st Light Infantry Battalion could have accompanied Arnold in December 1780.

24 April 1781- Just before sunset Phillips landed a force of 2,500 troops at City Point (12 Miles east from Petersburg, VA).

25 April 1781- Battle of Blandford, VA is fought between Phillips’ troops and the “Baron” von Steuben.

            - Crown Forces began moving at 10am  moving down the River Road.

            - Phillips’ force consisted of

                        - 78th and 80th Regiments of Foot

                        - Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers

                        - Arnold’s American Legion

                        - Hessian Jaegers

                        - 1st and 2nd Light Infantry Battalions

            - Around 2pm Phillips halted his column to organize it for battle.

                        - He put LtCol Robert Abercromby’s 1st Light Infantry Battalion with a detachment of Jaegers and ordered them to move along the river and drive the Continental force back to the Pocahontas Bridge.

                        - Abercromby sent the Jaegers to run some Virginia militia off of a nearby hill, protecting the flank of the 1st Light Infantry Battalion.

                        - When the forces met the militia resistance was stiffer than anticipated and Phillips dispatched Simcoe in a lengthy flanking movement around to the Pocahontas bridge. The Crown line attacked twice and was repulsed twice before artillery came in and pounded Steuben’s line for over an hour before they withdrew across the Pocahontas Bridge.

29 April 1781- Phillips’ force reached Richmond but were unable to enter because Major General Layfaette had arrived first and occupied the city. They burned some tobacco warehouses throughout Chesterfield county.

7 May 1781- Phillips received orders to return to Portsmouth and wait for Cornwallis.

9 May 1781- Phillips’ force reached Pocahontas and came under fire from Lafayette’s artillery.

13 May 1781- Phillips died of typhoid fever.

20 May 1781- Cornwallis reached the British force in Petersburg now under command of Benedict Arnold. This brought the British force up to 5,300 men. Soon after reinforcements arrived from New York City under command of Colonel von Voigt bringing the Crown Force up to over 7,000 men.

            - Cornwallis’ arrival prompted Lafayette to withdraw back to Fredricksburg.

1 June 1781- Cornwallis’ forces reached Hanover County Courthouse.

25 June 1781- Cornwallis’ force reached Williamsburg, VA having ignored Lafayette and the Continental troops who were still trying to organize.

4 July 1781- Cornwallis moved his force towards the Jamestown Ferry where they would cross the James River and march to Portsmouth, VA.

            -Cornwallis sent deserters to falsely inform Lafayette of his movement and intention to cross the James river. It was a fake. He instructed Simcoe to guard the baggage as it crossed, while the rest of his Army hid near the crossing.

            -Cornwallis split his force with 76th and 80th Regiments along with part of the 43rd and Tarelton’s (beaten) Legion with companies of Light Infantry on his left. He put the Brigade of Guards, and Hessian Auxiliaries on the right with other companies of Light Infantry

                        - It is unclear which flank the 74th was assigned to.

6 July 1781- Battle of Green Springs

- Around 3pm the skirmish started between some of Wayne’s men and Tarelton’s Legion, which lasted almost two hours. Riflemen with General Anthony Wayne managed to inflict severe casualties on the British “guards” including killing some commanding officers.

            - Around 5pm the British withdrew and the Americans reached an abandoned canon that Cornwallis had left in the middle of the road. It was the signal for the rest of the British force to attack.

            - Cornwallis opened up by firing grapeshot into the enemy before sending his infantry forward.

            - The two sides exchanged volleys for around 15 minutes at the range of 70 yards and under. The British Light Infantry Battalions attacked the American left and Wayne’s skirmishers and threatened to surround Wayne’s position. It appears that the 1st Light Infantry Battalion was the one to lead that attack. This cannot be confirmed, however.

            - Lafayette moved troops forward so that Cornwallis’ trap couldn’t close on Wayne. With a counter-charge by Wayne, which halted the British attack and allowed Wayne to withdraw.

- Lafayette led the troops forward, and the British counter-attack was led by Cornwallis himself. This caused the Americans to retreat and abandon two cannons and Lafayette was unhorsed.

- With night falling, Cornwallis did not pursue the American forces.

- Crown casualties are listed at 5 officers and 70 enlisted killed or wounded.

- Cornwallis, satisfied in his victory, crossed the James River as planned and proceeded to Portsmouth, VA.

20 July 1781- Cornwallis received orders to establish a fortified port. He decided to do so at Yorktown.

6 August 1781- Cornwallis’ forces landed in Yorktown.

14 September 1781- Cornwallis received a letter from Clinton informing him to expect reinforcements. This likely affirmed Cornwallis’ decision to remain in Yorktown and not try to fight his way out, which Tarelton was urging him to do.

17 September 1781- Cornwallis sent a dire letter to Clinton stating that if Clinton could not support him, that he should expect to hear the worst news.

28 September 1781- The Siege of Yorktown began.

            - The allies launched an attack on the British positions. The Allied column split with the French attacking the British Right, where the two Light Infantry Battalions were positioned. They were drivenback by Col. Marquis de Laval’s Chasseurs who were supported by two field guns, and the Brigade De Bourbonnais.

            - British troops began evacuating across the York River to Gloucester Point where Cornwallis had further defenses.

29 September 1781- British guns opened up on Washington’s army which was moving closer to Yorktown. The artillery inflicted few casualties. There were also skirmishes between the Jaegers and Continental Riflemen.

            - Cornwallis also evacuated most of his outer defenses, except the Fusilier’s Redoubt on the west side of town, and Redoubts 9 and 10 on the east. He repositioned the rest of his forces on the lines just around the town because he’d received word from Clinton that 5,000 reinforcements were on their way. These would never materialize.

            - The Franco-Allies quickly occupied the abandoned defenses and set up their batteries there.

30 September 1781- French attacked the Fusiliers Redoubt. The skirmish lasted two hours and the French were defeated.

5 October 1781- Lieutenant Colin Campbell was wounded and died shortly after.

9 October 1781- The Franco-Allied guns began to fire on the British inner defenses and inflict serious damage.

14 October 1781- The Allies attacked Redoubts 9 and 10.

            - Redoubt 10 fought back hard but were overwhelmed. Intense hand to hand combat ensued and in the end nearly the entire garrison was captured including it’s commander Major Campbell.

            - At the same time the French attacked Redoubt 9. The Hessians manning it fought back but in the end were also overwhelmed.

16 October 1781-

            - Around 3am 350 men (half from the 1st Light Battalion, the other half from the Guards) under Lt. Col. Abercromby made an attack to cripple the two batteries in the second parallel. Abercromby led them and they drove off the guards and spiked four guns with bayonets before moving left and spiking three more. Soon after the Americans and the French infantry drove them off.

                        - Crown casualties numbered 8 dead and 12 prisoners. The French lost 20 dead and wounded and the Americans lost only one man wounded.

                        - Six hours later the guns were back in action.

- Cornwallis attempted to evacuate his men to Gloucester Point but a squall only allowed one boat to make it across.

            - The 74th was imprisoned in Fort Fredrick, Maryland

Late 1783 after Treaty of Paris- The 74th was returned to the main army in New York City.

Early 1784- All of the companies of the 74th were reunited in Halifax before being returned to Portsmouth, England where they marched to Stirling, Scotland and were disbanded on 24 May 1784.


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