The Black Watch

The Black Watch - Source: raising-of-the-regiment

The Black Watch - Source: raising-of-the-regiment

The 42nd Royal Highland Regiment
Am Freiceadan Dubh (The Black Watch)

“In a Highland Regiment every individual feels that his conduct is the subject of observation and that, independently of his duty, as one member of a systematic whole he has a separate and individual reputation to sustain, which will be reflected on his family and district or glen.”  The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) website


The Black Watch name was derived from the dark color of the tartan which is now known as the Black Watch tartan and the units original role to guard the highlands.


Black Watch Uniform - Source: http://www.theblackwatch.

Black Watch Uniform - Source: http://www.theblackwatch.

The original uniform was a twelve yard long plaid which was used as a blanket at night and was fastened by a belt.  The jacket and waistcoat were scarlet with buff facings and white lace.  Men wore a blue bonnet and were armed with a musket and bayonet, a broadsword and usually a pistol and dirk (long dagger).


The Black Watch was raised in the wake of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715.  A good number of the clans took part in this rebellion because English Law considered it a crime to bear arms and wear the highland dress.  The English Government determined that the most effective way to preserve order and enforce the Disarmament Acts, was to employ Scotch Highlanders rather than regular British troops.

Black Watch Tartan - Source: http://www.theblackwatch.

Black Watch Tartan - Source: http://www.theblackwatch.

In 1725 four independent companies of Highlanders were raised and because they functioned so succuessfully two more companies were added in 1729.  The unit became a regular army regiment of the line in 1740.

The first real action for the unit was at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745 which was an English defeat.  The 42nd Regiment of Foot performed admirably in battle.  One French Officer is reputed to have said, “Highland furies rushed in on us with more violence than ever did the sea driven by tempest.”

At the start of the French and Indian War the regiment remained inactive near Albany, New York.  The 42nd then became part of the assault on Fort Ticonderoga.  In a series of futile charges half of the regiment’s men were killed or wounded but because the unit performed admirably they were still accorded the honor of being declared a Royal Highland Regiment of Foot.  The unit was then transferred to Martinique.

When the 42nd Regiment returned to North America in 1763 they were assigned to Col. Henry Bouquet for his expedition to relieve Fort Pitt.  This expedition by Bouquet appeared to be headed for defeat similar to Braddock’s in 1755.  However, Bouquet was a much better tactician than Braddock and strategically placed his men on a hill which gave him the highground in the battle.  On the second day of the Battle of Bushy Run the 42nd Regiment led a bayonet charge that drove the Indians from the field and relieved the siege of Fort Pitt.

In 1765 a detachment of the 42nd was placed at Fort Loudoun under Lt. Charles Grant where they became embroiled in the Black Boys Rebellion.  A patrol under the direction of Sgt. Leonard McGlashen engaged in a shoot out with some of the Black Boys at the Widow Barr’s place located near present day Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.  This incident was considered by some as the the first armed conflict of the Revolutionary War.  Over the course of the following nine months the unit became involved in increasing controversy over the confiscation of fire arms.  The Black Boys Rebellion did not end until the confiscated fire arms were turned over and the 42nd Regiment abandoned Fort Loudoun permanently by order of General Thomas Gage.

In 1767 the regiment was ordered home.  Many men of the Highland Regiment volunteered to stay in America.  Some were transferred to other units, while others were discharged and settled here.  The unit returned to America in 1775 to fight in the Revolution.  The 42nd Regiment remains an active British Military unit today.


The Papers of Henry Bouquet Volume VI Selected Documents, November 1761 – July 1765.  Edited by Louis M. Waddell.  The Pennsylvania Historical And Museum Commission.  Harrisburg 1994

The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) website.

42d Royal Highland Regiment 1729 – 1775.





© 2010 Smith Rebellion 1765 – If used for academic purposes please use proper citations.