The Highlands of Scotland was a wild place in the 1700s, full of rebels, robbers and warring clans. To keep the peace, King George I in 1725 ordered the formation of six independant companies of Highland troops to act as a local police force. These companies quickly earned the nickname "the Black Watch" because of their dark tartans and their job of keeping watch on the Highlands. They did their work so well that, in 1739 the King ordered them to be formed into a regiment to serve in the army. In this way the Black Watch became the first Highland Scottish regiment in the British Army and began the distinguished career that continues to this day.
The regiment was originally numbered the 43rd and later renumbered the 42nd. The regiment first came to North America during the French and Indian War. It took part in the assault of Fort Ticonderoga in 1758 where it fought bravely in a costly defeat. Later in 1758 it became a Royal Regiment by order of King George II. It was then known as the Royal Highland Regiment and its soldiers wore the dark blue royal facings on their red coats.
After the severe losses at Ticonderoga, the 42nd did not have another major action until they were sent to relieve Fort Pitt in 1763 and help put down the rebellion of the Ottawa Chief, Pontiac. They spent the next few years on the frontier garrisoning small forts. They then left North America and were stationed in Ireland.
The regiment returned to North America during the Revolutinary War. It fought in the British Army's campaigns of 1776 through 1778. It fought in the battle of Long Island, New York, the battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania and the battle of Monmouth Courthouse in New Jersey. For the remainder of the war, it spent the time moving about New York and New Jersey. Finally it was sent to help relieve Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, but was never landed and returned to New York in October of 1781. The regiment remained in New York until September or October 1783 when it went to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
After both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, many soldiers of the 42nd Regiment settled in North America. The records show that many were granted land in Canada.
During the Revolutinary War, the Grenadier Company of the 42nd was often joined with grenadier companies from other regiments forming separate grenadier battalions.
Women and children were included in the Royal Highland Regiment as official camp followers. The British Army allowed a few soldiers' wives to accompany their husbands overseas. The women were on half rations and the children we on one-third rations. As dependants of the army, they were subject to the rules and regulations of the army and to the orders of the regimental commander.