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A History of the Regiment. Updated new information

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” >>Top


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