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74th Regiment of Foot, American Revolution

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74th Regiment of (Highland) Foot (Argylles) 1778 - 1784



In December 1777, John Campbell of Barbreck received letters of service from King George III to raise a regiment of infantry in the county of Argyll for service in the regular army for the civil war in the American colonies (later the Revolutionary War). Campbell had seen previous service in the colonies during the French and Indian Wars. His commission allowed him to raise a force of around 1000 men. His recruiting was successful through Argyll and the region north of Glasgow and he raised for first muster 1,082 officers and men. These he formed into eight companies with 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, 1 ensign, 5 sergeants, 5 corporals, 2 drummers and 100 private soldiers; an establishment typical of the regular army of the day. He retained one grenadier (heavy) company and one light (skirmishing) company each with 1 captain, 3 lieutenants, 5 sergeants, 5 corporals, 2 drummers, 2 pipers and 100 private soldiers each. Clan Campbell provided many of the men, including nearly 70% of the Officers. As was typical, friends of John Campbell also received commissions. Although his commission mandated that all that served were to be between 18 and 30, one of those commissioned was "The MacQuarrie" who joined, due to financial problems, at the age of 62.

The first muster of the regiment was held in April 1778 at Glasgow and the unit numbered 74th Regiment of (Highland) Foot (Argylles). It was inspected, by the King, at Glasgow in May 1778 and sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, in August 1778.


In April 1779 the two flank companies; grenadier and light, were deployed to the main British force base in New York. The rest of the Regiment, along with the companies of the 82nd Regiment of Foot, a Regiment recruited from neighbouring Lanarkshire, were deployed as part of a British naval and military force under the command of General Francis McLean. They deployed to Maine, Penobscot Bay, with the intent of creating a new loyalist colony to be called New Ireland. They began erecting Fort George on one of the highest points of the peninsula.

Siege of Bagaduce (Penobscot Expedition)

The action was opposed, by a force of 2,500 men under the command of Commodore Saltonstall of Boston, and the Regiment fought a strong defensive action resulting in a 21-day siege. The Royal Navy relieved the siege with reinforcements and the Americans were routed by the arrival of British reinforcements under the command of Sir George Collier. The battle was one of the greatest British victories of the war. The failure by the Revolutionaries proved to be the greatest American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The regiment remained at Fort George until January 1784, when the fort was evacuated and the troops returned to New York, with elements deploying to Nova Scotia. There they were reunited with the regiment's flank companies who had been operating under General Sir Henry Clinton in South Carolina.

Action in the Carolinas

The Grenadier company served with General Sir Henry Clinton in South Carolina in 1779 and 1780 but seems to have been back in New York in 1781.

The Light Company was with Clinton in 1779/80 and then served in Virginia in 1781, as part of Lord Cornwallis' army, surrendering at Yorktown in October 1781. They remained as prisoners until the end of the war in 1783, when they were returned to New York.


The regiment remustered at New York at the end of 1783 and returned to England in January 1784, arriving at Portsmouth. From there they marched to Stirling, where the Regiment was disbanded on 24 May 1784.

As was common, many of the members of the unit remained in New York and then subsequently migrated into Canada.


As a Highland Regiment the unit was allowed to wear a tartan. There is some uncertainty regarding the tartan that was worn and it was definitely NOT that worn later by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Scottish Tartans suggest that they wore the Government tartan (the Black Watch).[1]


A large number of the members of this unit disbanded in Canada. An excellent source of material, for early Canadian settlers, can be found at a Private Genealogy site.


  1. Scottish Tartans; 74th Regiment of Foot

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