87th Foot

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Origin and History

The regiment was raised at Perth on August 25, 1759 from a nucleus draft of 315 men from the 42nd Highlanders by Lieutenant-colonel Robert Murray Keith. Major Keith was a relation of the celebrated field-marshall Keith of the Prussian Army. He had served in the Scotch Brigade in Holland before being appointed to the command of the regiment. Usually known as Keith's Highlanders, the regiment was also designated as the 87th Highland Volunteers.

The nucleus of 315 men were formed into three companies were led by Captain Archibald Campbell, Captain Alexander Mclean and Captain-lieutenant James Fraser. They were sent to Germany by late 1759 after the battle of Minden.

In 1760, Ferdinand of Brunswick was so pleased by these Highlanders that he requested to complete the initial detachment to a full regiment. Accordingly, 5 additional companies were raised at Perth and shipped to Germany to join the 3 former companies.

Highland units were used as a light troops or raiders. The men received little formal training other than to advance with the bayonet. The soldier's backgrounds, extensive cattle raiding in the Highlands, made them well suited to their role in Germany. The unit was often combined with the 88th Campbell or Highland Volunteers and both were heavily engaged in petite guerre operations gaining a fearsome reputation.

In 1763, the unit was shipped, via the Netherlands, home. It landed at Tilbury Fort and marched to Scotland. As was common with the light units of the period after wars end, it was disbanded at Perth in July.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • from 1759 to 1763: Robert Murray Keith

Service during the War

In November 1759, the three first companies were shipped over to Emden in Germany as the Highland Volunteers and joined the Allied army under Ferdinand of Brunswick at Krondorf on November 14 1759.

On January 7, 1760, in support of the attack on Dillenburg, the 3 coys of Highlanders, with the support of the Luckner's Hussars, attacked the village of Eybach. There, they routed Beaufremont Dragons. The Highlanders had 4 men killed and 7 wounded while capturing 80 men and 120 horses. The opening actions at Viesebeck saw a company of the 87th being captured. On July 31, the battalion took part in the battle of Warburg but was not involved in heavy fighting. On September 5, 150 highlanders took part in a successful raid on a French outpost at Zierenberg. They led the assault on the town and surprised the French stationed there. The losses of the Highlanders in this affair were 3 privates killed and 6 wounded. In October, they were sent to reinforce the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick who was besieging Wesel. On October 14, they made a junction with the Prince's army. On October 16, at the battle of Clostercamp, 100 men of the regiment, along with British grenadiers, tried to seize the convent held by the Chasseurs de Fischer. The Allied detachment was quickly routed and badly knocked about. However, in the ensuing battle, the Highlander corps was the last Allied unit to retreat. In this action lieutenants William Ogilvie and Alexander Macleod of the Highlanders, 4 sergeants, and 37 rank and file were killed, and Captain Archibald Campbell of Achallader, lieutenants Gordon Clunes, Archibald Stewart, Angus Mackintosh of Killachy, and Walter Barland, and 10 rank and file were wounded.

On July 15, 1761, the regiment took part in the battle of Vellinghausen where it was heavily engaged during the evening. Initially driven back, they recovered, counter-attacked and stabilized their position until morning. The next day, they and the rest of Granby's infantry were ordered forward when another French assault fell into confusion. In the action, the Highlanders corps succeeded in cutting off and capturing Rougé Infanterie but suffered fairly heavy losses. Major Archibald Campbell, Lieutenant James Grant, Lieutenant Angus Mackintosh and Lieutenant William Ross together with a sergeant and 31 men were killed. As for the wounded, they included Captain James Fraser and Lieutenant Archibald McArthur, two sergeants and 70 men. The commander in chief, in a general order, thus expressed his approbation of the conduct of the corps in this action:

"His serene highness, duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, had been graciously pleased to order colonel Beckwith to signify to the brigade he has the honour to command his entire approbation of their conduct on the 15th and 16th of July. The soldier-like perseverance of the Highland regiments in resisting and repulsing the repeated attacks of the chosen troops of France, has deservedly gained them the highest honour. The ardour and activity with which the grenadiers pushed and pursued the enemy, and the trophies they have taken, justly entitle them to the highest encomiums. The intrepidity of the little band of Highlanders merits the greatest praise".
Voices from the Past
On October 26, 1762, William Ogilvie's daughter is baptised at Langenstein

On June 24, 1762, the regiment took part in the battle of Wilhelmstal where it was lightly engaged with 9 killed, 10 wounded and 15 missing. On September 21, it was at the combat of Amöneburg (aka Brücker-Mühle). In this action, the two Highlanders regiments had Major Alexander Maclean and 21 rank and file killed, and Captain Patrick Campbell, Lieutenant Walter Barland, 3 sergeants, and 58 rank and file wounded.


Later paintings illustrate green facings. However, there are also references to buff facings.


Uniform in 1759 - Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details
Musketeer dark blue bonnet; headband laced with a white braid ; black cockade on the left side
Grenadier black bearskin with a small red front flap edged white and carrying a white edged embroidered "GR"
Neckstock white
Coat short brick red Highland jacket laced and edged white (white braid without decoration) with 11 white buttonholes and 11 white buttons
Collar green (or buff) laced white (same lace as above)
Shoulder Straps n/a
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets with white laces (same lace as above), each with pewter buttons
Cuffs green (or buff) (slashed in the British pattern) laced white (same lace as above) with white buttonholes and white buttons on the sleeve
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat brick red laced white (same lace as above) with white buttons
Kilt green with narrow blue green vertical and horizontal stripes with very thin black stripes; with a black or dark brown sporran
Gaiters none long stockings with red and white diagonal dicing
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt black
Waistbelt black leather
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard black
Scabbard black
Footgear black shoes

Troopers were armed a variety of weapons including a broadsword, a 42" barrel carbine with wooden ramrod, a bayonet, a pistol and a cartouche box worn on the waistbelt.


Officers of the regiment wore the same uniforms as the private soldiers but with the following differences (partly based on a painting of Captain James Gorry circa 1760):

  • a golden aiguilette on the right shoulder
  • golden lace on the collar, coat, cuffs, buttonholes
  • pale buff waistcoat
  • buff leather belt

Officers wore the same headgear as the private soldiers under their command; however, officers of the grenadier company wore a more decorated mitre cap. Furthermore, line Officers also had a cockade of white feathers attached to the bonnet.

Officers generally carried a spontoon, however, in battle some carried muskets instead.


According to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751:

The drummers and pipers of the regiment were clothed in green (or buff), lined and faced with red, and laced in such manner as the colonel shall think fit for distinction sake, the lace, however, was of the colours of that on the soldiers' coats. Furthermore, they probably wore the Royal Stewart tartan. This is described as "scarlet, with medium stripes of dark green arranged in pairs, the pairs spaced widely apart. Over the green stripes were alternating thin over-stripes of yellow and white."
The front or fore part of the drums was painted green (or buff), with the king's cypher and crown, and the number “XLII” under it. The drums had red rims, white cords and a brass barrel.


King's Colour: Union with a centre device consisting of a rose and thistle wreath on the same stalk around the regiment number "LXXXVII" in gold Roman numerals.

Regimental Colour: green (or buff) field with a centre device consisting of a rose and thistle wreath on the same stalk around the regiment number "LXXXVII" in gold Roman numerals. The Union in the upper left corner.

King's Colour - Copyright: Kronoskaf
Regimental Colour - Copyright: Kronoskaf


Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899

George II, The Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751

Lawson, Cecil C. P.: A History of the Uniforms of the British Army - from the Beginnings to 1760, vol. II, p. 102

Mills, T. F.: Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth through the Way Back Machine

Reid, S.: Highland Regiments in the Seven Years War, 18th Century Military Notes & Queries No. 4

Osprey’s British Redcoat 1740–93 (Warrior 19)