Clan Donald Magazine No 12 (1991) Online
Captain Charles MacDonell of the 78th (Fraser's)
Highlanders By the Editor
Charles MacDonell, fourth
son of John MacDonell, 12th of Glengarry, was, like the majority of his
family, a mere child during the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46 and suffered
the hardships imposed on them when after the burning of Invergarry
Castle on 29th May, 1746, a party of Cumberland's redcoats who
"first pillaged the
Memorialist's dwelling house of Glengarry, burnt it and all his
office houses down to the ground and by the indulgence of the
Officers who Commanded, there were only given to the Memorialist's
Lady and Nine Children. Two small highland Cows, one Chest of
Drawers and six pair of Blankets for their maintenance and Support
and not so much as a Hatt left to Cover them, and upon this occasion
the Memorialist's whole furniture, plate, books. Charter Chest, and
other writes, Cloaths. a great Stocking of Cattle of different kinds
the Memorialist's riding horses and in short everything he had...."
(Glengarry's Memorial 1750).
Glengarry and his large
family and servants were
"ruthlessly herded to
the hill, where, from a friendly shieling, they watched the flames
rising from the chambers so lately their own."
personally taken no part in the Rising, although his two eldest sons
were very much involved, the Clan having been "out" under his second son
Angus and the principal cadets, was not forfeited and eventually the
family made a partial recovery. It was however, necessary for him to
find suitable occupations for his younger sons and a favourable
opportunity presented itself when the British Government of William
Pitt, the Elder encouraged the raising of Highland regiments to fight
the French in North America and elsewhere.
Through the influence of
William Pitt, the Elder, later Earl of Chatham, the Hon. Simon Fraser.
eldest son of the forfeited Simon, Lord Fraser of Lovat. was appointed
to the command of a Highland regiment to be raised by him for service in
North America. Within a few weeks. Simon Fraser had raised a corps of
800 men which was augmented by upwards of 600 more raised by the
neighbouring gentry. Among the officers, whose commissions were dated
5th January. 1757. was Charles MacDonell, as a Lieutenant.
The regiment, entitled
the 78th Regiment of Foot (Fraser's Highlanders), embarked in company
with the 77th Regiment (Montgomery's Highlanders) at Greenock and landed
at Halifax in what is now Nova Scotia, in June 1757. An intended
expedition against the French fortress of Louisbourg in which they were
to take part was abandoned and it was intended to change the uniform of
the regiment as it was considered that the Highland dress was unsuitable
for the extremes of severe winters and hot summers prevalent in North
America; but the officers and men vigorously protested against the plan
and received the full support of their Colonel. Simon Fraser, who
persuaded the Commander-in-Chief to drop the proposal. In the words of a
veteran of the regiment:
"we were allowed to
wear the garb of our fathers, and. in the course of six winters,
showed the doctors that they did not understand our constitution;
for, in the coldest winters, our men were healthier than those
regiments who wore breeches and warm clothing."
Charles MacDonell was not specifically mentioned in the reports of the
actions which resulted in the taking of Louisbourg (now beautifully
reconstructed) in 1758 and Quebec in 1759 we can confidently conclude
that he acquitted himself in the manner expected of a Highland soldier
in the discharge of his duty.
After the taking of
Quebec in September, 1759, General Murray, who had succeeded General
Wolfe, on the death of the latter, was faced with the difficult task of
holding the citadel, with a force reduced by sickness and the threat of
a hostile population. By the end of April, 1760, his strength had been
reduced by death and disease to 3000 effective men. Such was the
situation when he received intelligence that a combined force of 10,000
French and 500 Indians from Montreal was approaching. After securing his
outposts. Murray decided that he could not risk the dangers of a
protracted siege and on the morning of the 28th April he marched his
little army out of Quebec and formed it in order of battle on the Plains
of Abraham. The Highlanders under Colonel Fraser were placed on the left
wing of the first line. Observing the enemy in full march in one column.
General Murray ordered his force to advance quickly to meet them before
they could form their line. Murray's light infantry coming in contact
with the French advance, drove them back on their main body but pursuing
too far. were vigorously attacked and repulsed in their turn. The French
by their superior numbers succeeded in capturing two redoubts but were
driven out of both by the Highlanders "Sword in hand". By pushing
forward fresh reserves, however, the French succeeded in forcing the
left wing to retire. The French did not attempt to pursue, allowing the
British to retire within the walls of the city. Among those wounded in
this action was Captain Charles MacDonell.
In the summer of 1762,
two companies of Fraser's Highlanders took part in an expedition under
Lieutenant-Colonel William Amherst to retake St. John's Newfoundland,
which had been occupied by a French force. The British force landed on
12th September seven miles north of St. John's and in the main action
which followed, in which Captain Charles MacDonell played such a
significant part, Lieutenant-Colonel William Amherst wrote:
"On the 15th of
August just before day break. I ordered Captain McDonell's corps of
light infantry, and. the provincial light infantry, supported by our
advanced posts, to march to suprise the enemy on this hill (one of
two commanding the whole ground from Kitty Vitty to St. John's).
Capt. McDonell passed their sentries, and advanced guards, and was
first discovered by their main body on the hill, as he came climbing
up the rocks near the summit which he gained, receiving the enemy's
fire. He threw in his fire, and the enemy gave way.
"Capt. McDonell was
wounded. Lieut. Schuyler of his company killed, with 3 or 4 men; and
"The enemy had 3
companies of grenadiers and 2 picqucts at this post, commanded by
Col. Belcombe second in command; who was wounded; a captain of
grenadiers wounded; his lieutenant killed, several men killed and
wounded, and 13 taken prisoners."
Writing from St. John's
on 20th September. 1762 to the Earl of Egremont. Lieut. Colonel Amherst
"Capt. McDonell of
Col. Fraser's regiment, having Sir Jeffrey Amherst's leave to go to
England, was to have delivered this to your Lordship; but his leg is
broken by the wound he received, which keeps him here. May I humbly
presume my Lord, to recommend this gentleman to your Lordship's
protection, as a really brave and good officer."
Alas, the "Scots
Magazine" for November 1762 records:
"Capts. Mackenzie (of
Montgomery's) and Macdonald (Capt. Charles McDonell of Fraser's).
dead of the wounds they received at the attack of Kitty Vitty.
Had Charles MacDonell
survived it is probable that he would have risen to high rank in the
History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans: Browne
The Clan Donald: Revs. A. & A. MacDonald
The Clan Ranald of Knoydart and Glengarry; Norman H. MacDonald.
The Scots Magazine: November 1762.
If you have any comments, additions or corrections to this article,
please post them in the forum as a new thread
here. Please make the title of your post the title of the article
and put a link back to the article in your post. You will have to
register to join the forum.