Saratoga’s Scotsmen Fought for King George (Guest Blog by Saratoga National Historical Park, NY) BBC Civilisations Festival



For the BBC Civilisations Festival we have some special guest posts. This one is written by Eric Schnitzer from Saratoga National Historical Park, Stillwater, NY.

A correspondent…with the officers of the Highland regiments at present serving in America, informs us, that nothing displeases the common men of that corps so much as to hear the provincials called Rebels. On a former occasion [the 1745 Jacobite Rising] many of themselves were dignified with that appellation. They then fought bravely, in what they thought was a just cause. The Americans will scarce fight at all, though they pretend their cause is equally just. The Highlanders, therefore, conceive themselves highly affronted, when the designation of Rebel is applied to an American. They think it involves in it a tacit reflection against themselves, as if they were cowards as well as the rebels. Of this they can by no means admit, and consequently will allow the Americans no other title than that of cowardly rascals.

 Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, 1 January 1777

Considering the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Scottish support at home and abroad for the Georgian monarchy against the rebellion in North America may seem counterintuitive. Although Scottish emigration to North America throughout the 18th century constituted perhaps as many as 70,000 people, Scottish support for the American Revolution was not fueled by Jacobean animus for the House of Hanover. In fact, Scottish immigrants and their descendants were more likely to side with government on this matter than against it. This is exemplified in the 1777 Battles of Saratoga, fought in upstate New York during the American War for Independence.

Many Scottish Americans supported the revolution, and many served it in key leadership roles. But the American revolutionaries who fought at Saratoga under the command of General Horatio Gates (an Englishman) were, categorically, from New England and New York’s Hudson Valley, neither of which were known for being heavily settled by Scotsmen. At Saratoga, the highest percentage of revolutionary Scotsmen served in a corps of 400 elite riflemen led by Colonel Daniel Morgan, the son of Welsh immigrants. This unit’s personnel were drawn from men who hailed from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, places more widely settled by Scottish immigrants. This was the most elite battalion that Gates had at his disposal.

house saratoga
Main house on the country estate of Philip Schuyler at Saratoga NP

But it was General John Burgoyne’s British Army at Saratoga which benefited more from the services of Scotsmen. Hundreds of the soldiers in his redcoat ranks were from Scotland, and Scottish officers in Burgoyne’s army held important leadership positions, such as the Earl Balcarres, who commanded the elite British light infantry battalion, and John Anstruther of Balcaskie, who commanded the 62nd Regiment of Foot. One of the regiments in Burgoyne’s army was the fusilier regiment representing Scotland, the 21st or Royal North British Fusiliers, whose officers and men were, predominantly, Scottish. But Scottish support for Georgian Britain didn’t end there, as substantial numbers of men loyal to the crown resided in upstate New York’s Lake Champlain and Hoosic River Valleys. The entire region was pocketed with lands granted to veterans whose battalions were downsized or disbanded after the Seven Years’ War. A high percentage of these men were from Scotland—in fact, the property owned by the author is surrounded by plots given to veteran Scottish officers named Grant, Campbell, Gregor, Bain, Gordon, and Monro. Most of these former British soldiers and their families flocked to the British banner and joined Samuel MacKay’s “Loyal Volunteers,” Daniel McAlpin’s “American Volunteers,” or Allan Maclean’s “Royal Highland Emigrants,” amongst others. Nowhere in the Army of the United States was Scottish patriotism likewise manifested.

Reflecting upon the Caledonian Mercury article above, overwhelming support for the crown as expressed by Scottish people becomes understandable. Supporters of the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745 believed they were restoring the British Constitution, not destroying it. But as the 18th century wore on, and the Glorious Revolution and 1706/07 Acts of Union surpassed living memory, Jacobean sentiments were generally subsumed by British nationalism and loyalty to the Georgian monarchy. This generational shift is exemplified by the Frasers. Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, was executed in 1747 for his support of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. However, his son, General Simon Fraser of Lovat, raised a highland regiment which was deployed to America to combat the “cowardly rascals” in 1776. A cousin, General Simon Fraser of Balnain, commanded Burgoyne’s most elite troops and was mortally wounded in the 2nd Battle of Saratoga (7 October) whilst fighting to restore British governance in America. As to that, no one knows which American rifleman fired the shot, but stories point to Timothy Murphy (an Irishman), William Critchlow (an Englishman), or one Thomas Scott—a Scotsman.

By Eric Schnitzer, Saratoga National Historical Park

Sgian Dubh

Many people who visit Scotland love discovering more about the traditional Highland dress and part of that is the Sgian Dubh.

Today the Sgian Dubh (pronounced ‘skian doo) is a small single edged blade worn at the calf, tucked into your sock. The Gaelic roughly translates as ‘black dagger’, sgian meaning dagger or knife and dubh meaning black.  The reason for the term black has had some theories over the years. Some feel it represents the most common colour of the hilt of the blade whereas others feel it has a meaning of secrecy and symbolises that the blade was hidden away as a secret weapon.

Example of a Sgian Dubh (


It is not entirely clear where the blade originated from. Some believe it was developed from an old dagger that men used to conceal in the upper sleeves of their jacket, known as the ‘armpit dagger’ or sgian achlais. Women may also have kept a similar blade tucked in the folds of their skirt. Others believe it evolved from a simple small skinning knife that was then utilised as a hidden weapon.

Regardless the sgian dubh as we know it was probably around from the early to mid 18th Century and there are some great portraits in the national Portrait gallery of clan chiefs with the sgian dubh being worn. Early blades were quite simple with hilts made from antler and simple leather sheaths. However, as time moved on and they became more widely used, along side the highland dirk, the work became more elaborate, especially for those wealthy enough to afford quality weapons. The handles were, as we said, often black and shaped to rest beside the leg, they became more intricately carved with celtic designs or clan motifs and some even had stones set into the top of the handle.

Sgian Dubh (


Today the sgian dubh are typically shorter than they would have been during the 18th Century, maybe an inch or so less on the blade. Also the modern blades made today are unsurprisingly used for ceremonial purposes rather than skinning animals and threatening enemies. Many are made with blunted edges and there are even ‘safe’ sgian dubh made from plastic so that children can wear them and for travelling.

We hope you enjoyed the insight into part of the Scottish dress and as always please share, like, comment and tweet and feel free to share your stories with us.

All the best, K & D

The Story of the Quaich

What is a Quaich? It’s a question we hear quite a bit here at Culloden with Quaich’s on show in both our exhibition and gift shop and luckily the story behind this unique item is a good one to tell.

Before we go any further though we need to tackle the tricky subject of pronunciation. Most people tend to pronounce Quaich as ‘quake’ with a hard ‘k’ sound and, to be fair, this is pretty close but us Scots are fussy. So, it you want to be perfect, you have to be able to master the Scottish ‘ch’ sound which is made from the back of the throat and does not have the more clipped sound of the ‘k’. It’s the same sound that is found in the likes of loch and dreich.

A selection of Quaichs in our shop


So, with pronunciation sorted now we need to discover what exactly a Quaich is? In its simplest terms a Quaich is a traditional Scottish drinking cup. It’s formed from a central bowl like depression with two lugs (or handles) on either side. Traditionally they were made from wood but have transformed over the years and now are often seen made of pewter or silver. Initially Quaichs were used to offer a drink of welcome or farewell to guests as they entered or left the home. The most common fillings were whisky and brandy but there were sometimes larger Quaichs which were used for ale. Indeed there is some research to suggest the largest Quaichs could up to one and a half pints of ale.

Part of the Quaichs beauty is in the ceremony behind its use as it passed from one person to another. This is also why it is sometimes called the ‘cup of friendship’ or the ‘loving cup’. Of course there are some slightly less romantic outlooks as well. The two handles means that as the cup is passed from one person to another both hands are required to hold the Quaich. This can be both a sign of friendship and bonding as well as a tool for ensuring that no one is holding any weapons in their hands when you meet them.

A lovely Quaich by Heathergems


There have also been a couple of different designs in Quaichs for different reasons. For the untrustworthy Quaichs could be made with a glass bottom so that the drinker could still see everyone whilst they drank. For the romantics Quaichs could be made with a double glass bottom which could hold a lock of a loved ones hair so that the owner could drink to their love.

Quaichs have been around for centuries, in 1589 King James VI of Scotland gave a Quaich to Anne of Denmark as a wedding gift and this tradition is still followed today. Quaichs even enter the Jacobite story. In 1745 a Quaich travelled south from Edinburgh to Derby with Prince Charles Edwards Stuarts Jacobite army and it is thought this was one of the first times the Quaich made its way so far below the Scottish border.

Ceramic Quaichs by Robert Blamire


Today Quaichs are used mainly for special occasions such as weddings and christenings and often have engravings to make them special personal gifts. They are also quite commonly used at Burns night during a Burns supper and other traditional Scottish events.

We hope you enjoyed our short insight into Quaichs. As always please like, comment, share, tweet and let us know if you have a Quaich of your own.

All the best, k & D