Low Scots

Variety of Dutch musket side plates recovered from Fort Ticonderoga during restoration of the site in the 20th century. (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

The first of Fort Ticonderoga’s Fort Fever Series on January 10th examined the history of the Dutch contributions to the conflicts of the 18th century. Although the Dutch never sent troops or Naval personnel to North America (in fact they remained neutral during the Seven Years’ War), Dutch weapons armed thousands of American soldiers. Recoveries of Dutch musket parts at Fort Ticonderoga confirm the extensive usage of these weapons here during the French and Indian War and possibly the Revolution.

What many may not realize is the close connection between the Netherlands and Great Britain in the 18th century. The Dutch and British clashed in the 17th century as Britain rose as a commercial nation. The cessation of the three Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century brought about a warming of relations culminating in the Glorious Revolution. Following James II’s abdication, the Dutch William of Orange became England’s King William III.

Dutch weaponry was heavily represented in British arsenals, especially following William’s rise to the English throne. The Land Pattern series of Muskets, developed in the early 18th century, owed more than a little of their original design to Dutch weapons. Between 1706 and 1759 nearly 80,000 Dutch firearms were purchased by British agents, many of which were deemed sub-standard and shipped to the colonies to arm American provincials fighting the French and Indians in the 1750s.

Douglas Barrel.

Dutch Musket Barrel, c.1740 (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

Examples of Dutch muskets from this period represent a number of different patterns, often with significant variations from piece to piece. Some surviving Dutch muskets are engraved with the decidedly un-Dutch name “Douglas” along the top of the barrel. Two such weapons are in Fort Ticonderoga’s collection; one can be viewed in our “Bullets and Blades” exhibit.

The composition of the Dutch military may explain the origin of these engravings. Reforms in the 1590s meant that over half of the Dutch army consisted of hired foreigners. In addition to native troops, the Dutch relied particularly heavily on Germans from Saxe-Gotha, Salm, Hessen-Darmstadt, Baden, Löwensten-Wertheim, Mecklenberg-Schwerin, and Münster, as well as Wallons and Swiss. Most interesting though may be the Scotch Brigade. This brigade was composed of three regiments of Scots and had existed as a hired unit since 1570. Many nations had hired Scots –an independent kingdom until 1707 – to serve as auxiliaries. They wore red uniforms like British soldiers until 1783, while the rest of the Dutch forces wore blue.

The muskets marked Douglas may be decommissioned Dutch military weapons. Like many units, the regiments of the Scotch Brigade were known by the name of the colonels. In the Scotch Brigade these were names like Hamilton, Murray, Wood, Stewart and yes Douglas. General John (or occasionally Johann) Douglass commanded a regiment during the war of the Spanish Succession, which was disbanded in 1717. An additional regiment, raised in 1747 and disbanded in 1752, was commanded by the Earl of Drumlanrig, Henry Douglas. It is possible that these Douglas marked muskets were once carried by Scottish soldiers serving the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

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Brigadier General Simon Fraser, Mezzotint, Scouter, Watson, 1778 (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

By way of a conclusion it may be worth noting that more than a few officers who gained notoriety in North America with the British military began their careers in the Dutch army. General James Murray who served as the Governor of Quebec following the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 had served in the Scotch Brigade as had Francis McLean who defended a British post on Penobscot Bay from an American expeditionary force that included Paul Revere in 1779. Henry Bouquet, who served admirably under General John Forbes in Pennsylvania in 1758 and during Pontiac’s War, had begun his career in a Swiss Regiment in Dutch service. Most important for the Champlain/Hudson Valley though, Simon Fraser the vaunted commander of Burgoyne’s Advanced Guard, killed at the Battle of Bemis Heights, who had served during the War of the Austrian Succession in the Scotch Brigade in Dutch service.

Matthew Keagle

Curator of Collections


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