Scottish 71st Regiment “Fraser's Highlanders” American Revolutionary War Two Months Service Payroll Accounting
Click an Image to Enlarge It
December 25, 1780 through February 23, 1781 Dated Revolutionary War, “Account of Subsistence for the 2nd Battn., 71st Regim. Commencing 25th Decem. 1780 and Ending 23rd Feby 1781”, Choice Extremely Fine.
The 71st Regiment of Foot was a regiment of infantry raised during the American Revolution in Scottland. This document records some of their historic American Revolutionary War Service record titled: “Account of Subsistence for the 2nd Battn., 71st Regim. Commencing 25th Decem. 1780 and Ending 23rd Feby 1781”. It measures 9” x 7.25”, 1 page, written in brown ink on fine quality watermarked laid paper. It lists the amount paid specific to soldier’s and officer’s different levels of rank. The document identifies and lists: 40 Sergeants, 40 Corporals, 22 Drummers & Pipers and 500 Privates. Deductions are listed which included 1 Sergeant, 5 Corporals, 3 Drummers and 107 Privates which were held as “Prisoners with the Rebels” during the pay period. The total paid to the 71st Regiment was 840.5.6.
The 71st Regiment, also known as “Fraser’s Highlanders,” was the only new regiment to be formed by the British to help fight the American Rebel’s. During the period listed by the Payroll, 263 men of the 71st were helping fight the Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina. Age-toned with a minor smear on bottom center of document; not affecting the text; aesthetically pleasing. An amazing document that captures the British attempts to suppress the Rebels by bringing back the Scottish into the fight. (A printed background history of the 71st Regiment is included.) The 71st Regiment of Foot was a regiment of infantry raised during the American Revolution. The unit served in both the Northern and Southern Campaigns, and participated in many major battles including:
The Battle of Long Island (1776), the Battle of Brandywine (1777), Savannah (1778), Briar Creek (1779), the Siege of Savannah (1779), the Siege of Charleston (1780), the Battle of Camden (1780), Guilford Courthouse (1781), and the Battle of Yorktown (1781).
The regiment was unofficially known as Fraser's Highlanders and is referred to both in contemporary writings, including correspondence by regimental soldiers, and in later historical accounts. The official title of the regiment was always simply "71st Regiment of Foot".
The third battalion raised in May of 1777 was Ferguson's Rifle Corp, who drew his pay and allowances from the 71st. The light and grenadier companies were drawn from the regiment to create the new 4th Light Infantry Regiment, composed of men from the 42nd also(2nd Battalion). The 71st carried rifles as they used the new "belly box" associated with them.
Despite losses at Charleston and Camden, the Americans continued to resist; Washington appointed General Nathaniel Greene to the Southern Army on 3 December 1780. Greene soon moved into South Carolina in a controversial move, splitting the army to ensure enough fodder for both wings and correctly assuming his forces' superior mobility would allow it to fight on ground of its own choosing.
Greene's left wing moved to Cheraw Hill but did not see action, as Cornwallis concentrated against the right wing under General Daniel Morgan. On 27 December 1780, American scouts learned of 250 Tories at Fair Forest, who fled when American cavalry was sent to meet them. Pursuing and routing the Tories, Washington continued on to Fort Williams, whose garrison also retreated. Cornwallis was forced to deal with the thread of the American right wing, and so Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton moved across the Broad River in early January. Joining the 1st battalion of the 71st under his command were 3 pound guns and infantry known as Tarleton's Legion. Tarleton was reinforced by Cornwallis, but terrain made quick movement impossible. A lengthy pursuit of the right wing began, while Cornwallis also sent forces to deal with the left wing.
The American forces converged at Cowpens, received reinforcements, and stopped to make a stand on 17 January 1781. As the forces formed for battle, the 71st we left in reserve. Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton was so focused on attacking quickly that he failed to consider the poor position of his reserves and the terrain’s limits on their manoeuvre. This dramatically affected the battle as the 71st was significantly delayed in joining the fight owing because of the deep underbrush on the British left. Although the main field was clear, the surrounding terrain contained thick underbrush which channelled British movement. Additionally, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton didn’t allow the 71st time to move into a proper reserve position before the opening of the battle; thereby further worsening their position and ability to react.
After the main engagement got underway, and things went favourably for the British save for actions of the cavalry on the left, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, believing victory was at hand, signalled for the reserve. The 71st Regiment and some of his Legion were ordered to strike and envelop the American right. Poor positioning of the regiment prior to the battle came into play dramatically delayed the 71st, and as they struggled forward, the American line of battle fired a deadly volley at 30 to 40 paces with devastating effect on the British line. An American charge resulted in a fierce melee. Major Archibald McArthur, supported by his pipers, rallied the 71st, who stood unflinching in musket fire for 10 to 15 minutes. Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton’s Legion abandoned the regiment’s left flank and most of the Fusiliers threw down their guns and surrendered.
with only the 71st Regiment holding against the encircling Americans, the Georgian Militia charged unsuccessfully against the Regimental Colour. Unsupported and surrounded, the 71st begin to retire, and some even attempted to flee the field. American regulars and militia encircled the regiment by this time, and American Colonel Howard offered Major McArthur quarter, the latter accepting his offer.
The detachment of 71st Regiment men left guarding the baggage train destroyed it and fell back behind the fleeing British cavalry, becoming the only 71st men of the 1st Battalion to escape capture.
As a result of the defeat, the 71st Regiment wore no facings on their uniforms for the rest of the war. Additionally, the surviving officers of the 71st petitioned Lord Cornwallis, asking that the Regiment never serve under Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton again; a request that was approved. At the same time, the 71st was consolidated into a Brigade with the Welsh Fusiliers and the 33d Regiment of Foot.
Lord Cornwallis felt that the overall operation in the South could still succeed despite the loss at Cowpens, but to do so, he would have to deal with the growing American forces in the Southern District. Cornwallis set out to chase down the force of American regulars that had defeated Tarleton after the latter's battered forces had consolidated.
By the time Cornwallis began to move into North Carolina and Virginia, General Morgan’s force had already crossed the Broad River. Pursuit of the Americans lasted into February 1781 while the Americans retreated towards their supply lines. Skirmishing began in mid-February, as both armies paused to rest. Not wishing to forestall a decisive battle, Cornwallis managed to engage the Americans in a full scale battle on 15 March 1781 at Guilford Courthouse.
General Greene sought to emulate the successful deployments of Cowpens, and put his least experienced and reliable North Carolinian militiamen in the centre of the line, at a fence line, opposite the 71st Regiment. The remainder of the line extended to the tree lines and the flanks were guarded by sharpshooters. This formation forced the British into the open along the fence line. The second line, also of militia units, considered more reliable and better trained, was positioned Template:Convert/yd to the rear. Finally, the Continental regulars were positioned some Template:Convert/yd further to the American rear.
Cornwallis was outnumbered roughly two-to-one, with only 2,200 troops on the ground and was forced to attack over open ground, beyond which were fences and forests which would make control over the troops difficult, followed by more open ground over which the army would have to pass to engage the Continentals.
The 71st Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Duncan MacPherson began to move at about one in the afternoon as the British line advanced. The British left may have lost as many as a third of its force in engaging the first line of Americans. Captain Dugald Stewart of the 71st said: “One half of the Highlanders dropped on that spot” (Later estimates put the regiment's actual losses that day at about 70 men). After this volley, the British returned fire and drove the American first line from the field with a charge.
The British left then began a contested drive through the second American line and into the open ground in front of the American third. But the British right, including the 71st Regiment, became entangled in a hotly contested skirmish in the woods. This action then split into two, and the 71st were engaged by the Virginia militia in heavy woods, unsupported by any other unit. This was just one of many small battles within the larger battle of Guilford Courthouse where sub-regimental units struggled as individuals and small parties of men without the clearly defined lines which were the convention at the time.
The success of the 71st, along on the British right, now began to support the entire effort. Because the regiment had continued as ordered, they were able to tie-down the Virginia militia in the American second line which prevented them from flanking the British left. Finally, after an exhausting fight, the 71st broke the American second line and the threat to the British flank was eliminated, though the regiment remained in the woods and could provide no support to the main advance on the third American line.
In the end, the was long and difficult for both sides and neither side could claim a clear victory. The British had swept the field up to the third line, but the Americans succeeded in their goal of inflicting casualties the British could ill-afford. General Greene, believing he had little to gain by remaining, withdrew, leaving the British in possession of the field. The losses at Guilford Courthouse totalled over 500 dead and wounded, of these, the 71st lost Ensign Grant and 11 men killed, with 50 men wounded (including 4 sergeants and 46 other ranks), or a total of 62 casualties.