Fort Ticonderoga is famous for its dramatic role in Scottish military history, particularly the heroic attack of the 42nd Highland Regiment against the Marquis de Montcalm’s French lines on July 8, 1758. While the Scottish connection has received a great deal of attention, another national connection can be uncovered through Fort Ticonderoga’s history and collections. Dutch contributions to the conflicts of the 18th century are often overlooked, but they actually intersect with the more familiar history of Britain’s wars despite the fact that the Dutch never sent troops or Naval personnel to North America (in fact they remained neutral during the Seven Years’ War).
What many may not realize is the close connection between the Netherlands and Great Britain for much of the 18th century. The Dutch and British clashed in the 17th century as Britain rose as a commercial power. A warming of relations followed the cessation of the three Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century, culminating in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Following James II’s abdication, the Dutch William of Orange became England’s King William III. The Dutch served as allies to the British during the Nine Years War (1689-1697), the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), and the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748).
Dutch troops did not serve in mainland North America, but Dutch weapons armed thousands of American soldiers in the great war against the French fought between 1754 and 1763. 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. In addition between 1706 and 1759, British agents purchased nearly 80,000 Dutch firearms, many of which were deemed sub-standard and shipped to the colonies to arm American provincials fighting the French and Indians in the 1750s.
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 as well. During the American War of Independence the Dutch joined the rebellious colo
nists in the global war against Great Britain, a conflict they refer to as the 4th Anglo-Dutch War.
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 to our story though is the Scotch Brigade. This brigade was composed of three regiments of Scots and had existed as a hired unit since the late 16th century. Many nations had hired Scots –an independent kingdom until 1707 – to serve as auxiliaries. In the Dutch Army, 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 during the War of the Austrian Succession.
More than a few officers who gained notoriety in North America with the British began their careers in the Dutch Army. General James Murray who served as the Governor of Québec following the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 had served in the Scotch Brigade. Also, Allan Maclean, a survivor of the Battle of Carillon in 1758 and commander the 1st Battalion of the Royal Highland Emigrants that defended Québec from Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold’s attack in 1775. Also, 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 brilliantly 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, had served during the War of the Austrian Succession in the Scotch Brigade in Dutch service.