Conquering Canada on the plains of Germany
by Marie Fraser, Genealogy/Newsletter Editor, Clan Fraser Society of Canada

soldiera.jpg (48446 bytes)

Much has been written about the officers and men of the 78th Fraser Highlanders (1757-63) but James Fraser of Belladrum [1732-1808] is one officer whose involvement has remained a mystery. In The Fraser Highlanders, Colonel J. R. Harper lists him as Major (p. 67) and later as Colonel, recruiting for the 15th Fraser Fencibles in 1794, having « previously served with distinction as a Major in the Old 78th Fraser Highlanders at Louisbourg and Quebec » (p. 161). Harper and the well-known historian and author, W. Stewart Wallace before him, have quoted extensively from Sketches of the Highlanders (1822) by General David Stewart of Garth [1772-1829] who wrote that Simon Fraser of Lovat [1726-82] « in a few weeks, found himself at the head of 800 men, recruited by himself. The gentlemen of the country and the officers of the regiment added more than 700, and a battalion was formed of 13 companies of 105 rank and file each, making in all 1,460 men including 65 sergeants and 30 pipers and drummers. »

On January 5, 1757 Simon Fraser of Lovat was commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the 63rd Regiment of Foot [later renumbered the 78th Regiment or Fraser’s Highlanders]. The Majors were James Clephane and John Campbell of Dunoon. James Clephane, who had been with the Scots Brigade in Holland, was commissioned Major January 4, 1757. He was present at Louisbourg in 1758 but was left with the sick at New York. In the fall of 1759 he returned to Kilravock Castle and, after protracted negotiations, sold out to Captain John Macpherson. John Campbell was commissioned Major January 6, 1757, but later recalled. On January 1, 1760 John Campbell of Dunoon was commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the 88th Regiment of Foot, or Highland Voluntiers (1759-63), raised to fight on the Continent in the Seven Years War, who greatly distinguished themselves in Germany.

During 1760 the following changes took place in the top ranks of Fraser’s Highlanders:

John Macpherson, younger brother of Euan Macpherson of Cluny, had also been with the Scots Brigade and was wounded at Bergen-op-Zoom in 1747. Commissioned Captain in the 78th on January 5, 1757, Macpherson was promoted Major April 15, 1760. James Abercrombie, a Captain in the 42nd Regiment, who in 1759 was appointed aide-de-camp to Major-General Jeffery Amherst, transferred to the 78th and was commissioned Major July 25, 1760. Abercrombie commanded a company when the regiment was disbanded in 1763. John Campbell of Ballimore, commissioned Captain January 9, 1757, who commanded the 78th on the Plains of Abraham in lieu of the wounded Colonel Simon Fraser, was promoted Major October 5, 1760. Major Campbell assumed command of the 78th on the departure of Colonel Fraser in 1761, and commanded a company when the regiment was disbanded in 1763.

As noted, the officers were not all Frasers. It has been stated that of 12 Captains, 5 were Frasers; of 30 Lieutenants, 6 were Frasers; of 12 Ensigns, 5 were Frasers. The Adjutant and Quartermaster were Frasers. Among the objectives of Clan Fraser Society of Canada has been the ongoing research to identify the commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers in the 78th Regiment of Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders) formed in Scotland in 1757 & 1758 to fight in the Seven Years War.

Alexander Fraser [1860-1936], a native of Inverness-shire, who was the first Archivist of Ontario (1903-35), was an acknowledged authority on Scottish history in general and Fraser history in particular. In 1934 he advised a descendant of Malcolm Fraser of Mount Murray that the Rev Dr Archibald MacDonald – then quite an old man – had written a short history of the Lords of Lovat. In The Old Lords of Lovat and Beaufort (1934), Dr MacDonald included the roll of 71 recruits raised in 1757 by James Fraser of Belladrum, as well as extracts of correspondence between Belladrum and Bailie James Fraser, merchant, Inverness, which shed some light on Belladrum’s involvement with the Fraser Highlanders. Belladrum was appointed a Lieutenant in this detachment and, having been very active in recruiting, was naturally anxious to obtain a Captain’s rank. In a letter to Bailie Fraser, James Fraser of Belladrum writes from Newcastle on 23rd August, 1759:

Dr Sir
I gave you the trouble of a line from Perth but had not the pleasure of a return, without standing on ceremonies of that kind I shall alwise think it my duty to acquaint you what comes of me. We arrived here on the 20th on our way to Hemstead and Watford, yesterday morning as we were setting out we were commanded by Genl Whitemore to remain here till further orders. This day we are ordered to buy 34 horses and to be in readiness again next week to embark at Shields for Germany under the command of one Major Keith who is expected here to-morrow or next day from London. Our small body consists of two Captns three Lieuts one Ensn and about 300 Recruits. One of our Captns has applyed his friends to get on half pay by reason of his bad state of health as he pretends.
Col Scot will do all he can to get it done. I have acquainted my friend Mr Ross of this in case anything could be done for me, if Mr Ross thought it proper I would allow him half pay upon getting his Company. If this does not take place I have no great chance of preferment in this Regt. If I had been the oldest of the three now here, by our going to Germany I might have some chance if there was any brocken bones, but the misfortune is I am the youngest and yet the third or fourth in the 2nd Battn. You’ll hear from me soon after our landing.
If we were to remain here for any time I intended asking a letter from you to Capt Jonathan Forbes who lives in the neighbourhood, as our stay will be but short I cannot now expect it. I’ll probably ask for him as we embark at Shields.
This is a dirty extravagant place, our men’s pay can hardly subsist them. All the Yorkshire Militia are here upwards of 1000 men, odd looking fellows, the whole under arms make a tollerable appearance. Our little corps meet with great civilities from the Genl and magistrates. When I come to settled quarters I would be fond to hear of your and your families well being, as I have the happiness to be with respect Dear Sir your most affect Cousin and most obliged sert. James Fraser

On September 9th [1759] Belladrum was still at Newcastle, and in a letter of that date to Bailie Fraser, Inverness, he reports the arrival of one of the transports with troops for the seat of war. Another transport and convoy carrying Major Keith and a further detachment of Fraser Highlanders had got separated from its neighbour, but on its arrival Belladrum with his contingent would embark. This embarkation took place on September 14th and on October 2nd they landed at Geisendorff on the Weser. After three days’ halt they began their march to Cassel, where they arrived on October 24th. Two days later Belladrum writes Bailie Fraser:

We have lost not a single man since we left Newcastle, we had fine weather all the way and marched through vast agreeable countries, this place in spite of what the French have done to it is the most so I ever saw both by nature and art… Tomorrow morning we march for the army with all our camp equipage, it will take us five or six days before we can be there, they expect another action soon as the French are gathering all their troops at Frankfort. I wish we may be there before it happens as the Duke seems anxious to try us. I am hopefull we will do no worse than the rest of the Highland corps.

Belladrum at the same time informs his correspondent that a Captain-Lieutenancy had been provided for him, this being a captain’s rank without a company, but he was sanguine that this would be his in due course. As to what transpired during the next four months we have not much information regarding this section of the Fraser Highlanders. However, another letter from Captain Fraser casts some light on their movements during the winter of 1759-60.

Neunkirchen, 22 February 1760
Dear Sir,
I had the pleasure of yours of the 19th Decr on our way here, where we arrived on the 1st of this month after a wearisome campaign and a tedious march of 153 miles. The first of it thro a mountaineous cold country and the last four Days thro a low and marshy country which is the situation of our present Quars twelve miles beyond the town of Osnaburg, the British head quars in scattered villages, some of us five miles from the other. We have plenty of good victuals of all kinds pretty reasonable tho but a dull life in such dirty quars, yet most agreeable to what life we have led since the 1st. Potatoes, short allowances of black bread and a mouthful of gin was our constant fare all owing to our being upon cursed Hussar duty…
I am uneasy to learn that the late accounts from Col Fraser have not been so favourable as to his health and the long time that is till we expect to hear again will make his friends the more so. Poor Simon Inveralachie’s son’s death has been owing I am told to his too much fondness for his companions before he got quite well. If his Father was a man easily affected I think now he has reason seeing his family so weak and his only son having such a turn though a sensible sober lad. Simon Balnain is a lucky youth that is free of such Winter quars. I have rather wearied your patience with this tedious scrawl which I conclude with my respects to Mrs Fraser you and Achnagairn and assuring you that I ever am with great sincerity Your most affectionate Cousin, James Fraser

Captain Simon Fraser of Inverallochy [1732-59] died as a result of wounds suffered on the Plains of Abraham. His eldest brother Lt-Colonel Charles Fraser, who had been severely wounded while leading the Lovat Frasers at Culloden on 6th April 1746, was afterwards killed in cold blood.

Dr MacDonald makes reference to the prelude to the battle on the Plains of Abraham, where the challenge of the French sentry was answered by Simon Fraser of Balnain [1729-77], noting that Stewart in Sketches of the Highlanders gives the name as John Fraser of Balnain.

Further research has confirmed that James Fraser of Belladrum transferred to the 87th Regt of Foot, or Highland Voluntiers [1759-63], formed under Major Commandant (later Lt-Colonel Commandant) Robert Murray Keith, in which James Fraser was promoted Captain-Lieutenant October 8, 1759 and Captain December 20, 1760, retiring on half-pay in 1763. So, Captain James Fraser of Belladrum’s contingent of Fraser Highlanders no doubt justified the words of William Pitt regarding his war policy : « I am conquering Canada on the plains of Germany. »

Colonel Fraser’s Regiment

colonel.jpg (27057 bytes)

Of the Fraser Highlanders recruited for service abroad, some 400 were left behind, being intended for service in Germany. On 17th April, 1757, Colonel Simon Fraser wrote to his great friend, Bailie James Fraser, Inverness. The bailie evidently lived outside Inverness, from which the letter was probably written:

My Dear Friend,
I staid in town last night purposely to avoid taking leave & my servant’s sleepiness had almost involved me in it this morning. I will not do injustice to what I feel by attempting to express myself in regard to you and Mary. I’m infinitely obligd to you, but our friendship is equal & that is not to be mentioned. God bless you both & all yours, & when I cease to wish you well may my 1000 Highlanders be ashamed of me. S. Fraser

The main body of Fraser Highlanders left Glasgow for Ireland and marched some 400 miles to Cork, where they arrived in the latter part of June. From the Ann Transport in Cove Harbour, Colonel Fraser wrote on 28th June 1757:

My Dr Sir,
Tho I have been long hurryd I am not less so than ever & have but just time to tell you that we marched safe and sound thro Ireland without the loss of a man since we landed they hardly gave us time to cool our bloods when they embarked us & here we are all alive and merry.
I don’t know if I said anything in answer to yours about the meal but it must be sent for & distributed first to the widows, then to the wives & so on to the third and fourth generation of them that loved me well enough to follow me. As to the Deserters I woud have them be sent by the first troops to Glasgow & Mr Geo Buchanan Junr there will send them by some Capt transporting convicts to Halifax where we are destined to & this I would have done with the rest if any are taken. God bless you my Dr Sir, the Wyfie poor beoch, the bairns, Hopefull &c &c I shall find time to write you at sea. Yrs S. Fraser

On 25th December 1757, he wrote to Bailie James Fraser at some length:

My Dear Sir,
After a halt of Five days at Cork to recover the fatigues of a march of 400 miles the Battalion Embark’d, consisting of 1000 fine fellows besides 170 Supernumerarys, being 40 more than the Secretary at War desired me to bring, those 40 men were intended to answer any deficiency that might arise by death or Desertion, but I did not lose a man by either from the day we left Glasgow and but 7 before. We had even the good luck to seize two Deserters from Montgomery’s in the March thro’ Ireland. And here I can’t help mentioning that in the whole of this March, Man and Woman gave us the preference over the other Battalion even beyond comparison, particularly at Dublin; I shoud not have mentioned this but that I know that pains has been taken to give merit to the other Battalion. My conduct towards them has been of that honourable kind which a conscious advantage makes it easy to hold, but what I tell you is so sure that you may aver it. Being obliged to leave about 17 men sick at Cork you will not blame my attachment to them in leaving directions to have them sent after us at my private expense, in case the publick shoud grudge it, and think of incorporating them to other Regiments to save expense.

As I think no voyage can be agreeable, I must only say that it was as tolerable as any for without its being tedious we have extremely fine weather which gave us opportunity of changing the scene a little by visiting from ship to ship; In one of these excursions I surprised a fine Turtle and had him in the boat before he was well awake. In short the last day of eight very ill spent weeks we anchored in Halifax harbour leaving in the whole 17 men sick.

We remained 7 days aboard while the General deliberated about our destination, at length we were ordered to disembark and to encamp a quarter of a mile out of Town where the Second Battalion of the Royal was already encamped. In this Camp in less than a fortnight the 2 Field Officers 6 Captains seventeen subalterns and above 300 men were down with the Flux whither occasioned by the sudden encamping after so long a March and voyage, or by the climate I cannot say : most of the Officers are now recovered, but I have lost 20 men and there are about 200 still ill. As you have heard so much about this place I must endeavour to describe it to you, but remember whatever I attempt of this kind is upon condition that you do not expect descriptive precision from so rambling a pen as mine…

I got this far at Halifax, now I write from New York 25th December having got here about eight days ago, after the most tedious and disagreeable voyage that has been known, in the course of which we had six very hard gales that your fresh water sailors would call storms. In one of these we were all separated, one ship drove upon Nantucket Shoal, another lost her Masts, a third her sails, and we who got off as well as any you may believe were not entirely at our ease during 26 hours that we drove with our helm lash’d under a balance mizen, however we thank God we have all got in one after another without any material loss, but from the Atlantic Ocean in the Month of November Libera nos Domine.

We don’t after all remain here this winter but go to Cantonments in Connecticut from 40 to 90 miles from hence among a set of Cromwelians imported about the year 1640… I wish you woud send me 2 hogsheads of your best vintage to the care of Mr Hugh Wallace at New York to Mr Abthorp & Company at Boston. Farewell my Dr Alderman Remember me most affectionately to the wifie and to all my friends & if you don’t write me often may you be 7 years longer a getting to heaven. In all times & places yrs S. Fraser

Commenting on the casualties suffered during the attack on Louisbourg on 8th June 1758, Colonel Fraser wrote to his usual correspondent in Inverness, from the Camp near Louisbourg, 10th August 1758:

My Dear Sir,
I wrote you a long letter from Connecticut, what has befallen us since the inclosed will inform you which you will seal and deliver if you think it worth while for your own or Country friends amusement. You may take a copy of the news part making such changes as will prevent its being known if it should chance to come round to my fair correspondent.
I feel too much for Baillie & Cuthbert to be yet able to write to the father of the one or the mother of the other. Pray do you speak for me to both, few of the Relations of these fine young fellows have suffered so much by their death as I have done, they were my friends and companions and I need not say how few of these I have to spare, their effects will be taken the best care of, poor Tenakyles have been sold for near £100. The poor boy you recommended to me, Sandy Fraser was killed within a yard of me, he was a treasure in his way, improv’d surprisingly & just put in a way to make his fortune. I ow’d him twenty five pounds Sterling which I beg you may pay to his father or nearest relations that stand most in need of it and charge me… Of your acquaintance Glyd James is Capt Lieut. Leadclunes son Lieut. Hugh the Adjt & Malcolm Daltilich Ensigns of which you will inform their respective friends. John McPherson Crubin [Cluny] soon to be done for. Baillie James’s Company all well & several of them promoted. My best & most affectionate good wishes to the wyfie & the Keots the Dr and all friends. Bruiach’s boys are well & the eldest my secretary & a very great favourite. I have just been reading Struy a lecture & with a few of these now and then my cousins the Capts do very well. Why won’t you write me now & then my dear friend. Remember me affectionately to my brother Sandy. I shall write him by this opportunity. Farewell my Dr Alderman & be certain, I am sincerely yours S. Fraser

Captain John Macpherson, who was the younger brother of Euan Macpherson of Cluny (of the ’45), was married to Colonel Simon Fraser’s sister Janet, and was probably in line for the next Majority vacancy in the 78th.

In The Fraser Highlanders (p. 67) Colonel J. R. Harper lists Thomas Fraser of Struy as Major. In the History of the Frasers of Lovat (p. 653), Alexander Mackenzie notes that: « Thomas Fraser was appointed a Captain in the 78th Fraser Highlanders, raised in 1757 by General Simon Fraser of Lovat, and who in that distinguished corps took a part in the conquest of Canada during the Seven Years War. » Thomas Fraser was commissioned Captain on 16th January 1757 and was on Army lists for 1757 and 1758, but not later. He probably died after 10th August, when Colonel Fraser « was reading Struy a lecture » at Louisbourg. According to Dr MacDonald: A letter from Robert Fraser, Esq., Muilzie, in the parish of Kilmorack, makes further reference to the severity of the losses, especially in officers, suffered by the Fraser Highlanders. It is dated 2nd November, and is written from New York, but as the end is lost, the writer cannot be identified, though the opening shows him to be related to the Belladrum family, of which Fraser of Muilzie was a cadet.

Dear Cousin,
Though I now write you ’tis not with a view of giving you a description of the country nor an account of the campaign which has been a bloody one, but much to the credit and advantage of the British nation. In the part of the army where I have been we lost a great many of our countrymen. Poor Willie Baillie of Torbreck fell killed, with many more to tedious to insert. On the whole we lost two thousand killed, with a great many wounded who will never recover. My brother Willie was with me and we both, thank God, got off untouched. Nothing has affected me of a long time so much as the Death of my poor Struy and Simon Tynakyle, not altogether as relations but my particular regard for them for their own worth. I have not seen Col Fraser as yet nor any of his officers except Simon Balnain son and James Fraser son of Castleheather, who got Struie’s Company.

The 2000 figure has been quoted by many authors, but the Johnson Calender (p. 95) has an undated return of killed, wounded and missing in the attack of July 8th on the French works near Ticonderoga – Total 1947. Led by Major-General James Abercromby [1706-81], his force of 15,390 lost against Montcalm’s force, although the British outnumbered the French 4 to 1.

When news of the Carillon disaster reached Louisbourg, Amherst was ordered to send reinforcements to Abercromby, which included the 78th Regiment [then still numbered 63rd on battle maps] under Colonel Simon Fraser. On August 16th Amherst met the commanding officers of the Highland regiments and told them their destinations. On August 27th the Frasers embarked for Albany, to set up winter quarters in New England. A letter dated 15th September 1758 from his friend and mentor, Field Marshall Lord Ligonier, advised Jeffery Amherst that « His Majesty has been pleased to appoint you Commander-in-Chief of his forces in North America » in succession to Abercromby, who returned to England in early 1759. On April 14th Amherst records that the Frasers arrived from Albany and were quartered at Long Island. On April 23rd Amherst writes: I went to Jamaica [on Long Island] and reviewed Col. Fraser’s nine companys. In May they sailed from New York to Louisbourg and training in Halifax in preparation for the advance on Quebec.

Colonel Simon Fraser did not personally lead the 78th on the Plains of Abraham on Sept 13th 1759 as he had not recovered from wounds suffered at Montmorency (Beauport) in July. He was again wounded at Ste Foy (Sillery) in April 1760.

During March 1761, Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Fraser of Lovat [1726-1782], who in 1757 had raised the 78th Regiment of Foot [originally numbered the 63rd of Foot], visited his companies along the St. Lawrence River and in Nova Scotia to bid farewell to his loyal Highlanders. He left for London to take up his seat in the House of Commons, as an elected Member of Parliament for Inverness, for which constituency he was thrice re-elected. In 1762 he was a brigadier-general in the British force sent to Portugal to repel an invasion from Spain, and was one of the officers appointed to commands in the Portuguese Army, in which he held the temporary rank of major-general. In the Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, Fraser is shown in 1768 as a lieutenant-general in the Portuguese service, and in 1771 as a major-general in the British army. His attendance at the House of Commons could not have been very regular, as during a great part of the time he was resident at Lisbon.

In a letter from Lisbon to Bailie James Fraser, Inverness, dated 29th August 1767, he says:

I think I wrote you before I left Scotland that Mr Secretary Conway had promised me a pardon for my old and faithfull soldier John Grant & that Henry Davidson had promised to Sollicit it, I have since wrote three or four times to Davidson to put him in mind but altho I have heard from him frequently I have never been able to procure an answer to that point, I shall be very angry with him & what is more he will be very angry with himself, if thro any forgetfulness on his part the poor fellow has languished all this time in gaol, pray let me know what is become of him. If he should have been forced out of the country the pardon must be sent wherever he is that he may return in triumph.

In recognition of service to the Crown

In 1772 General Fraser petitioned the government for a restoration of the Lovat estates which, together with the Lovat title, had been forfeited to the Crown when his father was executed for supporting the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. In 1774 an Act of Parliament was passed enabling the King to grant him his paternal lands, in recognition of his service to the Crown, subject to a payment of £20,983 0s 1d.

He petitioned the government for the restoration of his family estates (Gent. Mag. xliv. 137), and as it was held that his military services entitled him to some particular act of grace, all the forfeited lands, lordships, &c., were restored to him on the payment of a sum of £20,983 Sterling, by a special Act of Parliament (24 George III, c.37), ten years before the same grace was extended to any other family similarly circumstanced. However, the title of Lord Lovat, which had also been forfeited when his father, Simon 11th Lord Lovat was executed in 1747, was not restored. In December 1775 he was again called upon to raise, with the help of six clan chiefs, two battalions of the 71st Regiment of Foot [Fraser’s Highlanders] to fight in the American Revolution. Although commissioned as colonel, this time he did not accompany the regiment to America.

According to Dr MacDonald, General Fraser’s feelings on the subject are more or less indicated in a letter addressed to Fraser of Belladrum, who himself, as may be remembered, bore an honourable part in the Seven Years’ War. It was probably written from Glasgow, though this is not directly stated:

Argyll Street, Aprile 4th 1774
My dear Belladrum,
Having reason to thank God to consider you all as friends and brothers, I sent Dunballoch as the nearest, one of the Acts to be communicated onwards to satisfy your curiosity more at leisure. I enclose one now ; I shall only say on the occasion, that I should not have taken so much pains for any equal income in Europe ; and certainly not have taken it for this, but from the flattering idea that you all wished it as much as I did, and I shall be satisfied to be put out of the power of enjoying it when any part of my conduct gives you just ground to cease to wish so.
All your Commrs of suply are put on & many more on our part to ballance a number offered by Genl Grant. Best wishes to your better half, for so she is unquestionably tho’ you are a very worthy fellow. Yours ever, S. Fraser

At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, General Fraser raised another regiment, known as the 71st or Fraser’s Highlanders, of two battalions consisting of 2,400 men but, compared with the regiment raised in 1757, the proportion of Frasers was relatively small. Among 30 or 40 officers of different grades, there were only three Frasers.

General Fraser died in London on 8th February 1782. Leaving no issue by his wife, Catherine Bristow, whom he had married in 1765, he was succeeded in the estates and the representation of Inverness in the House of Commons, by his half-brother, Archibald Campbell Fraser [1736-1815], M.P. for Inverness and colonel of the Inverness local militia. Some twenty years before his succession, while General Fraser was on service in Canada, Archibald Fraser was writing to Bailie James Fraser regarding the death of his half-brother Alexander, nicknamed the « Brigadier » by his father, 11th Lord Lovat [c1668-1747]. Alexander died at Dunmaglass, of which he was tenant, on 7th August, 1762. The letter was sent from London, dated 24th August, 1762:

Dear Baillie James,
I ought some days since to have answered your very friendly letter of the 10th curtt but I have been not a little affected with the account it brought me. My poor Sandy has paid the debt he owed to nature and the Exercise of his Foibles. His parts were never enough to be admired and might in time have shone. I hope therefore you my Dear Sir & all his friends that are attached to a dismembered family, intend as I do, Bury what failings he had along with the shell that contained them at Kirkhill, & I wish he had lived longer to give a stout branch to that family from whom he sprange, submitting at the same time to That Providence which we are given to understand does everything for the best.
I am told he gave a family watch and Ring to Farralane’s Daughter, I would have her keep them under this promise That when she dies or marries they be returned to her then Chief whoever he happens to be.
I approve much of your Plann for his Interment nothing more proper or more judicious.
I am told Errogie has taken an Inventory of his farm. I desire I may be acquainted before any steps are taken either as to selling the stock or letting the Farm. I have my reasons & if Erogie or any of his friends will take the Direction in the meantime, It will be a favor I shall be glad to acknowledge.
You may show this hurried Epistle to Achnagairn, Culduthel & Hector Fraser & tell them I would write them separately but that the repeating so melancholy a subject cutts me too Keenly without in the least serving them. My respects to Mrs Fraser & your family & Believe me my Dear Baillie, yours affectionately A. C. Fraser

In a letter to Fraser of Belladrum, dated 28th Febry 1782 from Downing Street, Archibald Fraser writes about the General’s death:

Dear Sir,
Sell your company for a good price with all my heart. I hate the Idea of Recruiting Nurses or Nurserys on the Lovat inheritance besides campaigning at your time of Life is not the thing. Putt all the Pullpits in Black merino Internally and Externally as I do, but do not dispond – you have reason to grieve, but none to despair. There has been much done for the family of Lovat as to its Pollitical Existence within these two days…

As noted by Dr MacDonald: In 1794 a Fraser Fencible Regiment was raised and letters of service were issued to Colonel Fraser of Belladrum. Belladrum resigned the command [in 1797], which was handed over to John Simon Frederick Fraser, younger of Lovat. Archibald Fraser of Lovat died on 8th December 1815, predeceased by all his children, and with him the main family of Lovat became extinct in the male line.

Bailie James Fraser, Merchant, Inverness

The identity of Bailie James Fraser is explained in the Clan Fraser Society of Canada newsletter, Canadian Explorer, September 1999 issue, with chart of the relationship between the Frasers of Belladrum and the Frasers of Achnagairn, from which this article has been extracted.

To clarify Dr MacDonald’s statement, the Frasers of Struy, Eskadale and Muilzie descended from a younger son of Hugh Fraser 3rd Lord Lovat [1494-1544], whereas the Frasers of Guisachan, Culbokie, Belladrum, Achnagairn,etc., descended from a younger son of Thomas Fraser 2nd Lord Lovat [1460-1514]. The Frasers of Strichen, Ardochy & Boblanie descended from Alexander Fraser 4th Lord Lovat [1527-1557].

Disbandment of The Old 78th Fraser Regiment

As noted by Col. J.R. Harper in The Fraser Highlanders , with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 10th February 1763, the Seven Years’ War came to an end and peace ensued between France and Britain. In December orders were received to disband the regiments and those officers and soldiers who decided to stay in Canada received 14 days subsistence pay and a grant of land, depending on their rank and length of service. The others were shipped back to Scotland and paid off at Inverness [see Muster Rolls web page].

Without Benefit of Clergy

Some of these Fraser Highlanders turned to farming and raising a family in a strange land. It was inevitable that romances blossomed. However, these conquering heroes faced a more formidable opponent in the form of the local priest, and his bishop, who were unwilling to solemnize marriages involving a Protestant groom. In Quebec in the 1760s and 1770s, many of the Scottish soldiers and their Roman Catholic brides lived without benefit of clergy, although their children were baptized, albeit in many cases the entry by the local priest noted that the child was illegitimate. Also, there were very few Protestant clergy in the country, and the women and their families would probably have been very unhappy about marrying in a Protestant church. Those who could afford to do so, had a marriage contract drawn up by the local notary as a means of legalizing their union.

A descendant of these unrecorded unions pointed out philosophically that « none of those Fraser Highlanders were married ». It is difficult for us to understand what it was like to live in a Quebec village as man and wife, without the Church’s blessing. Such couples were probably generally respected, or at least regarded with sympathy, and each time one of their children was baptized by the priest, the marriage would have become more acceptable to the community.

Professor Harry Duckworth has spent over 20 years researching the fur trade and the influence of such empires as the NorthWest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company on the lives of these early settlers. He notes that similar difficulties were experienced in the fur trade, where many were contracted between voyageurs and fur trade clerks or partners on the one hand acountry marriagesnd native or Métis women on the other. These unions were established in the Upper Country, where there were no clergy at all until the 1820s. In many cases these relationships were stable, and even stood up in Canadian courts when challenged by relatives. Often a voyageur who retired back to Canada brought his country wife and children with him, and in many cases a regular marriage took place once a priest or clergyman was available. There were also men who took advantage of the non-binding nature of the union to desert their wives, but Professor Duckworth does not believe that this was ever regarded as respectable behaviour.
Paul-Henri Hudon wrote a very reasoned article about the dilemma of the parish priests, in L’Ancêtre, Bulletin de la Société de généalogique de Québec [Vol. 23-No.5, January 1997] entitled « Les familles Fraser de Rivière-du-Loup…ou la problème des mariages mixtes », giving several examples of such unions between Fraser Highlanders and their French-Canadian brides.

Heritage of The Old 78th Fraser Highlanders

soldierb.jpg (31258 bytes)

There is no doubt that Malcolm Fraser and other members of the 78th Fraser Highlanders who settled in Quebec after the regiment was disbanded in 1763, many of whom married into French families, had a profound impact on the development of Canada. We owe it to them to respect their memory, pay tribute to their perseverance and accomplishments, and understand their frontier way of life.

The descendants of these soldiers have spread far beyond the towns, villages and farms along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Although many are now completely Francophone, their pride in their Scottish heritage is evident from their enthusiastic support of Clan Fraser, and they bring to the Society a unique blend of the cultures that built Canada. Several members of the Old 78th and their descendants have been profiled in the CFSC quarterly newsletter « Canadian Explorer », which regularly features articles on Fraser history and genealogy.

Information on how to order a copy of Colonel J.R. Harper’s book The Fraser Highlanders [1995] second edition, can be found on the Membership Page of the CFSC Web Site.