HIGHLAND INDEPENDENT COMPANIES

Painting by David Morier of the Battle of Culloden first published just six months after the battle in October 1746, showing in the foreground British red coat soldiers wearing kilts who were probably the Independent Highland Companies that were kept in reserve at the battle, as described by Peter Simpson. William Sutherland, 17th Earl of Sutherland who raised two Independent Highland Companies for the Government was present at the battle.

Formation of the 43rd (Black Watch) regiment

In 1738 Wade reviewed the six Independent Highland Companies who by this time were known officially as Am Freiceadan Dubh or Black Watch. It has been suggested that this name came from their sombre dress which distinguished them from Lowland and English soldiers who were known as Seidaran Dearag (Red Soldiers). In 1739 a further four companies were added and the ten companies together were embodied to form the 43rd Highlanders Regiment (a regiment of the line).

One of the biggest problems faced by the Jacobites was the degree of opposition which they faced in the Highlands. Several incomplete companies of the Earl of Loudoun’s 64th Highlanders were scattered in various posts and provided a nucleus for the formation of a Loyalist army. At the end of October 1745, Major General John Campbell of Mamore was commissioned to raise ‘eight Independent Companies each of 100 men with the proper officers; and likewise to arm 16 such companies more, without the charge of commissioned officers, who are to serve without pay and are to be raised from the Duke of Argyll’s and the Earl of Breadalbane’s Contrys’.These companies became known as the Argyle Militia and the eight regular companies together with a company from the Black Watch and two from Loudoun’s 64th served at Falkirk and afterwards at Culloden. In addition a further eighteen Highland Independent Companies were raised in the north of Scotland by the Earl of Loudoun. It is worth noting that the companies were primarily employed in a counter-insurgency role and much of the harrying of the glens which followed Culloden was actually carried out by these Highlanders.

Independent Highland Companies

 

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