Two-and-a-half centuries after their military ancestors fought and died in two 18th-century North American wars, members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland will embark on a 340-mile canoe trip that will trace the water route many of their forebears travelled.
Sixteen soldiers are preparing to leave Montreal in Canada on 30 August and travel south via Quebec’s Richelieu River, Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Hudson River.
They are due to arrive in Manhattan 11 days later, in time for ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.
En route they will camp at historic New York sites where Scottish soldiers serving alongside their British counterparts fought during the American Revolution and the French and Indian War, part of the Seven Years’ War.
Major Scotty Menzies, the officer leading the expedition, revealed the journey will be “part training exercise, part history lesson”.
“It’s a way we can take a soldier from a known environment and expose him to the unknown, take them out of their comfort zone, and educate them on the history of the regiment,” said Major Menzies, a member of the regiment’s Glasgow-based battalion.
British units carry out similar exercises elsewhere, but it will be the first one ever held in North America, he said. Unlike the redcoats who had to haul canoes and boats over rugged terrain between waterways, the Scots will use vehicles to transport their canoes and gear.
The soldiers will be covering water and ground that were not welcoming to Scotsmen in the 1700s.
At Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain’s southern end, the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, suffered more than 500 deaths and injuries while assaulting enemy positions on 6 July, 1758 during the French and Indian War.
At Stillwater, on the upper Hudson, a Scottish regiment was among the British forces who surrendered to the Americans after the Battles at Saratoga in 1777, during the Revolutionary War.
The expedition will end at the USS Intrepid, a Second World War aircraft carrier that serves as a floating museum in Manhattan.
After the 11 September ceremony, the soldiers, most of them veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will head to Brooklyn, scene of the Battle of Brooklyn, fought on 27 August, 1776.
The two Highland regiments fared much better there, with the Revolutionary War’s largest battle ending in a victory for British forces.