Quebec: 78th Fraser Highland Regt. History & Build

Simon Fraser, Master of Lovat was Commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant in 1757 and was authorized on 5 January to raise a regiment of foot - the "2nd Highland Battalion". First listed as the 62nd Regiment of Foot and later renamed the 63rd, it was again renumbered the 78th in 1758.

Raised locally, the Regiment had an initial planned strength of 44 officers, 40 NCOs, 20 drummers, and 10 companies of 100 men each. The popularity of the regiment was such that upon embarkation it included three additional companies and absorbed a further company in North America with a total 1,542 all ranks for the commencement of the Quebec campaign (exact figures vary in the sources).

The officers of the Regiment included men from clans Fraser, MacDonald, Campbell and Cameron and it is worth noting that this body of men had much to prove. Many had most probably fought against the crown or from families who did and after having lost the '45, they had yet to demonstrate through a victory their fighting worth as men, a regiment and demonstrate their loyalty to the crown in the new world order.

The regiment left Glasgow in April 1757 and wintered in Connecticut, mobilising in the following Spring (1758). The regiment fought at the capture of Louisbourg in 1758 being involved in the original assault (landing) and the siege operations. After Louisbourg was taken, the Regiment shifted to and wintered in New York.

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 the abortive defeat at Montmorency (Beauport) earlier in the Quebec campaign. He retired from the army soon afterwards to take up a political life with his seat in the House of Lords. Both Majors (James Clephane and John Campbell of Dunoon) were absent on the day of battle – Clepahne was left behind sick in New York and Campbell recalled to Britain earlier that year to assume a senior command. Captain John Campbell of Ballimore commanded the Fraser Highlanders at Quebec and, as Major Campbell he went on to assume command of the regiment when Colonel Fraser left for London in 1761.

This post follows on from my 78th Foot Unit Design posting. This regiment for me has been a significant undertaking; the first painting project commenced from almost a year away from my table and the largest uniformed regiment I have attempted at 58 figures.

Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand 'History and Uniform of the 78th (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Fraser's Highlanders), 1757-1763' has the Regiment wearing blue-black bonnets with a coloured or red band. I have opted for a dark, navy blue bonnet and certainly steered away from the light blue UN like colours I have seen on other models.
I have decided that the general appearance of the regiment would have been in good order on the day. That is to say, whilst it had been two years since having left Britain for America and the Regiment had seen protracted action at Louisbourg, it was quartered in major population centres between actions with access to resupply. As the expedition to Quebec was essentially a marine affair and the army was spared the ardours of the march, they would have suffered less wear and tear on uniform and equipment as one might normally expect in an army on campaign. I have therefore opted for less fading and adhered to a more regular colour scheme with coats and the like in my painting.

There continues to be debate and certainly uncertainty concerning what tartan this regiment may have worn for the North American expedition. Some suggest the government set Campbell or Black Watch tartan and others the Fraser tartan. Benjamin West has his figure (second left) clad in the Fraser tartan but his work has come under an enormous amount of technical criticism and is dismissed by many as generally unreliable. Whilst his painting remains of use, I need to bear this in mind.

I prefer the contrast of the red coats against the Black Watch set and am mindful of the 1746 Dress Act as part of the Act of Proscription banning the wearing of tartan outside of the army (not repealed until 1782). It seems more likely to me that the 78th foot would have been adorned in the Government Set in the absence of any definitive evidence.

In supporting my preference I need to consider the extra company raised in America which was included on the regimental strength. Along with the need to re-issue from time to time across a two year campaign deployment, whilst sufficient Fraser tartan (if issued) would have been included (presumably) in the regimental supply when shipping out; the increase in numbers upon arrival, the wear and tear of campaigning and the problems of trans-continental resupply would support a more uniform adoption of the Government Set across all highland regiments within the army. It simply makes sense.

Given the Colonel Commandant’s dubious actions at Culloden and his father’s execution after rebelling in the ’45, it seems more likely that highland regiments raised so soon after and in this particular period would have been barred from adopting clan tartan – especially one which was worn by rebels. It might also have been more prudent on Fraser’s part to adopt the Government Set in keeping with his new found loyalty to the crown.


My entire regiment comprises figures from the Redoubt Miniatures range and given the restricted variety of officers and NCOs within this set, I was required to covert two figures. One spare ensign was changed to an officer by carving off his flag -carrying web. Completed conversion can be seen in the next image to right of centre. I opened up the upper hand, fixing a sword in it and glued a pistol in his lower hand by cutting a pistol in half at the grip, sticking the main part in the top and the but through the bottom.
The other line officer figure I varied by inverting the sword arm by sawing it and the hand off, pinning and gluing both back on upside down.

Completed conversion
I continue to experiment with material flag construction with this regiment. Obtaining as thin a sample of cloth my local haberdashers could supply, I wrapped and glued one ply of cloth around a length of steel wire using Selley's Quick Grip. Sliding it up and down the wire to ensure it was not fixed to the shaft, I then measured and drew on the ensign details for King's and Colonel's colours - tracing the same design on the other side of each. I then saturated both for over an hour in a heavily diluted white glue solution before wringing them out and wrapping them up with cotton twine concertina like to heavily ruffle the material. Once semi-set, I removed the twine, teased out a little and allowed to set properly.
The carbon pattern (I drew in pencil) was retained and I then painted the colours with faded tones on the set shaped flags. I had not done this before and would perhaps avoid doing so for more complex flags - creases and folds are fiddly. I left the wreath designs to be added after spraying the basic finished flags with a matt coat. Unusually I also painted the flags at the beginning of this build rather than the end. This is because material or cloth miniature flags take time and careful construction. They are in fact models in their own right.
I feel that the creases remain too sharp - probably the choice of material. This experiment requires further trial and error before I will be completely satisfied. As to the flag representation, whilst there is a suggestion in the Osprey Quebec Campaign reference that the regiment may have retained the 63rd foot inscription on their colours, I feel satisfied that the seamstresses of the New World could easily have altered and re-embroidered the new regimental number easily enough by the attack on Quebec.

All figures have natural hair colour, it being my general observation that periwigs appear to have been worn by Lieutenant Colonels or above if at all. The officer commanding the 78th, in spite of their numbers present was Captain James Campbell so definitely no periwig for him. My regiment was broken down by me into four basic hair colours -light brown, dark brown, black, red and blond. I only ever give my black haired figures five o'clock shadow by a diluted application of black ink.

These figures are extremely well detailed. Each fusilier carried an additional pistol as well as dirk and bayonet, claymore and sporran in addition to the usual equipment of British line infantry. Combine this with tartan kilts of full and military design as well as patterned stockings with buckled shoes and we have the most intricate of figures and uniforms for the British army of the period. At 58 figures strong, this battalion has taken me an inordinate amount of time and effort to paint. I admit to being over-faced at times and even procrastinated before facing those stockings. On the subject of stockings, they are depicted as diced or checkered by Embleton (Osprey Men-At-Arms 48) but invariably a criss-cross pattern elsewhere. I elected for the latter but did so in red, whereas it may have been more accurate to have done so in pink, with dots of red at the intersections - but that would have been more work and I didn't think about it at the time.
There is a lot discussed on-line about painting tartans with several techniques promoted by well intentioned and highly skillful painters. They usually involve cross hatching paint over a base colour and finishing off with tiny stripes with the finest of brushes. Whilst I have done this in the past, I took a step back this time and really looked at the impression I needed to achieve at 28mm scale. I concluded that the abovementioned albeit skillful approach resulted in an inaccurate finish - the checks are always going to be just too damned big.

I resolved to aim for a tighter and smaller pattern by applying a faded, darkened green cross over dark blue and then applied mid green in dots at the intersections of my lines. I painted in darker creases across the painted tartan within the casting folds. This does not make for a pretty or particularly impressive finish when shot with a macro setting on my camera in close-up but hits the mark for me when held 20 centimetres or so from the eye.


  1. Great work mate and what a sight they will be on the table with that many men in a unit. I wouldn't want to be the Frenchy who takes you on :D

  2. A great looking unit and some great info too!!

  3. mighty fine, mighty fine indeed!



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