MUSTER ROLLS The Old 78th Fraser Highlanders

The Seven Years War between Britain and France continues to fascinate people around the world. One of the most recognized images of that war is the painting of the death of Montcalm. The other is the painting of the death of Wolfe by B. West, Historical Painter to His Majesty, engraved by William Woollett, Engraver to His Majesty, and published as the Act directs, January 1st 1776 by Messrs Woollett, Boydell & Ryland London.

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It is clearly proved by reference to Captain John Knox’s Journal of the Campaign in North America that only four men were present at the death of Wolfe on 13th September 1759, and that Benjamin West’s picture is altogether fancy and unhistorical. A more realistic picture of the death of Wolfe was drawn in 1760 from materials supplied by an eye-witness to the tragic event. When the fatal ball hit his breast, he gasped out to Lieutenant Henry Brown of the Louisbourg Grenadiers to support him. « Let not my brave fellows see me fall. The day is ours – keep it.” A young volunteer named James Henderson and a private soldier were close at hand and, with Colonel Williamson, an artillery officer, they carried their stricken leader to a small redoubt held by the French at dawn that day. Wolfe was buried beside his father in the family vault of the parish church of St Alfege at Greenwich on 20th November 1759. Less well known is the painting [1764] by Edwd. Penny, Professor of Painting, to ye Royal Academy, engraved by Richd. Houston, and published as the Act directs, 1st Jany 1772 by Messrs Woolett, Boydell & Ryland, London. [The Life and Letters of James Wolfe]

It is also well known that Lieut. Colonel Commandant Simon Fraser of Lovat [1726-1782], who in 1757 had raised the 2nd Highland Battalion of Foot [originally numbered the 63rd and after the siege of Louisbourg in 1758, renumbered the 78th Regiment of Foot, or Fraser’s Highlanders], did not personally lead the regiment on the Plains of Abraham on September 13th 1759 as he had not recovered from wounds suffered at Montmorency (Beauport) in July. Colonel Fraser was again wounded at Ste Foy (Sillery) in April 1760. Captain John Campbell of Ballimore commanded the Fraser Highlanders at Quebec and, as Major Campbell, assumed command of the regiment when Colonel Fraser left for London in 1761 to take up his seat in the House of Commons, as an elected Member of Parliament for Inverness. In 1762 Fraser was a brigadier-general in the British force sent to Portugal to repel an invasion from Spain, and in 1771 was 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. He died a Lieut. General in London in 1782.

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Muster Rolls

A question often asked by members of Clan Fraser Society of Canada is where they can find a list of those who served with the Fraser Highlanders recruited in Scotland for service in Canada during the Seven Years War (1757-63). Colonel J. R. Harper included a partial list in his book The Fraser Highlanders (1979), updated with index (1995).

It is best to know at the outset that your chances are slim that you will be able to identify your ancestor as a member of one of the landed families in Scotland at that time.

John Fraser, gazetted a lieutenant on January 24, 1757 in Captain Simon Fraser’s company, and promoted captain on April 15, 1760, has been identified in the genealogy of the Frasers of Guisachan and Culbokie. However, the ancestry of Malcolm Fraser, gazetted an ensign on July 18, 1757 and promoted lieutenant on September 25, 1759, remains unknown; as does the ancestry of John Nairn, gazetted a lieutenant on July 16, 1757 and promoted captain on April 24, 1761. Captain Alexander Cameron died of a fever on September 3, 1759 and was buried at Levis, and we know that a monument was later erected to his memory by John Nairne and Malcolm Fraser, who had been officers in Cameron’s company.

Even in the cases of non-commissioned officers like Malcolm Fraser, a sergeant in Captain John Fraser’s company, who settled in Trois Rivieres; and John Fraser, sometime corporal in Captain Alexander Wood’s company, who settled at La Perade, their ancestry is unknown. Sergeant Malcolm Fraser’s daughter subsequently married a nephew of Captain (later Judge) John Fraser, of the Culbokie family. Corporal John Fraser from Boleskine, a blacksmith by trade, in 1775 married a francophone woman twenty years younger, by whom he had ten children, the last of whom was born when he was aged about 65.

According to the Roll of Army Medical Officers, John McLean became Surgeon to the regiment on January 12, 1757; went on half-pay in 1763, and died on half-pay on May 2, 1779. The absent officers list shows John MacLean, Surgeon gone to England 20th Octbr 1761 by leave of General Amherst. Lachlan McPherson was Surgeon at disbandment of the regiment in 1763.

Soldiers’ documents are kept in the Public Record Office (PRO) at Kew. However, very few soldiers’ papers relating to the 18th century are still in existence, according to the Research and Information Officer, National Army Museum, London. If your ancestor was among the soldiers recruited by Major James Clephane, who hired a professional recruiter named John Strachan, these papers have been preserved and show the names of recruits, age, height, place of birth, occupation, etc. However, the repetition of names of recruits and their eventual distribution among the various companies in the regiment, will not shed much light on their ancestry (names of parents, etc.).

Let’s face it. Many of the soldiers who chose to enlist in Fraser’s Highlanders, did so for the money, and those who stayed when the regiment was disbanded in 1763, likely felt that their chances of land ownership were better in the New World than they would have been had they returned to Scotland. In fact, many of those who returned home subsequently emigrated to British North America with their families and friends. Some of these veteran soldiers chose to serve in the 84th Regiment (Royal Highland Emigrants) during the American Revolution (1775-83).

The following is a list of the officers and men of the 78th Regiment (Fraser’s Highlanders) and the companies to which they were attached when the regiment was discharged in 1763.

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Discharged Serjeants of the 78th Regiment

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In a land petition, dated at Quebec 15 March 1765, 12 Serjeants were listed; two of them were in the 2nd Battalion of the 60th Regiment, and 10 of them were in the 78th Regiment, as follows:

The Petition of Alexander Simpson and John McLone late Serjeants in the 2nd Battalion of the 60th Regiment, James Thompson, Hugh Tulloch, William Gunn, James McDonell, John Fraser, James Sinclair, Alexander Ferguson, Alexander Lieth, Lachlan Smith and Donald Fraser late Serjeants in the 78th Regiment.

This petition shows that of the 10 Serjeants in the 78th Regiment, two were not among those previously listed – namely, Alexander Leith and Lauchlin Smith, the latter becoming the future father-in-law of Joseph Fraser, son of Lieutenant Malcolm Fraser of Mount Murray [1733-1815].

Discharged Soldiers of the 78th Regiment

In a land petition, dated at Quebec 19 & 31 May 1765, 1 Corporal and 22 Private Soldiers were listed as having served in the 78th Regiment, as follows:

The Petition of Donald McKenivan late Corporal, James Campbell, Edward Davidson, Thomas Davidson, George McAdam, Donald Clark, John Grant, Alexr Cormac, John Chisolm, Alexander McDonald, Ranald McDonald, Alexander McNab, Thomas Cameron, Thomas Cameron, John Robie, Alexander Fraser, Angus McDonald, Duncan McCraw, James Forbes, Finlay Munro, Willm McNabb, Murdoch McPherson, Willm McKenzie, late Private Soldiers in the 78th Regiment and William Campbell late Private in the 47th Regiment.

Although seven of these men were listed in the 78th Muster Rolls in 1763, they were not among those previously listed as having been discharged in Canada in 1763 – namely, Donald Clark, Alexander McDonell, Alexander McNabb, Angus McDonald, Duncan McCraw, William McNabb, Finlay Munro; and four others were not among those previously listed as having served in the 78th – namely, John Grant, Thomas Cameron, John Robie and William McKenzie.

These are just two examples of the need to look beyond the standard archival material available, and underlines the value of careful research, with appropriate supporting documentation, to trace that elusive ancestor who settled in Canada after the 78th Regiment of Foot [Fraser’s Highlanders] disbanded in 1763.

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.

The descendants of these soldiers have spread far beyond the towns, villages and farms along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, but their pride in their Scottish heritage is evident in their enthusiastic support of Clan Fraser Society of Canada.

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Lieut. General Simon Fraser (1726-1782) had no issue by his marriage in 1765 to Katherine Bristow. He was succeeded by his younger half brother, Archibald Campbell Fraser (1736-1815), whose five sons predeceased him, including his oldest son who never married but had an illegitimate son. Consqequently, there was no Lord Lovat between the execution in 1747 of their father, Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat for his role in the Jacobite rebellion that led to the battle of Culloden in 1746, and 1837 when Thomas Alexander Fraser (1802-1875) of Strichen, Aberdeenshire was admitted to the peerage of the United Kingdom and in 1857 became 14th Lord Lovat, but for the attainder.

In July 1908 the 14th Lord Lovat’s grandson, Simon Fraser 16th Lord Lovat, attended the Tricentennial of the Founding of Quebec, representing Clan Fraser of Lovat and Lieut. General Simon Fraser (1726-1782) of the earlier Lovat line who had raised the Fraser Highlanders in 1757. Other representatives of the British Empire included the Earl of Dudley, from Australia; the Earl of Ranfury, from New Zealand; and Henry de Villiers, from the various provinces of South Africa; George Wolfe, from General Wolfe’s family; Arthur C. Murray, from General Murray’s family; Dudley Carleton, from the family of Governor Guy Carleton. French government representatives Admiral Jaureguiberry and federal judge Louis Herbette were accompanied by the mayor of the town of Brouage, Samuel de Champlain’s birthplace, Count Bertrand de Montcalm, the Marquis de Levis, and the Marquis de Levis Mirepoix. Also present were France’s consul general at Montreal, Mr. de Loynes, and Vice-President Fairbanks of the United States. Prime Minister Laurier arrived with an entourage of members of his cabinet, members of parliament, and senators.

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Above photo from « Clan Fraser: A history celebrating over 800 years of the Family in Scotland » by Flora Marjory Fraser, The Lady Saltoun, Chief of Clan Fraser. The book was published by Scottish Cultural Press, Edinburgh in conjunction with the 1997 Clan Fraser Gathering at Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire, hosted by The National Trust for Scotland, under the authority of The Rt. Hon. The Lady Saltoun and The Rt. Hon. The Lord Lovat, Chief of Clan Fraser of Lovat, a major branch of Clan Fraser.