FROM season four onwards, Outlander focuses on the creation of a Scottish colony in North Carolina, along with the settlement of a few former Jacobites there, men who go on to participate in early resistance to the British colonial authorities and will even join the American Revolution.

But what is the real history of Scots and Jacobites in 18th-century North America and the American War of Independence?

There was indeed significant Scottish settlement in the Carolinas. Charleston and the coastline in South Carolina were home to communities of Lowland Scots, as was Wilmington in North Carolina. The latter state, particularly the area around Cape Fear, also had many Highlander colonists.

From 1734-52, the governor of North Carolina was a Scot, Gabriel Johnston, as was James Glen, the governor of South Carolina from 1738 to 1765. Many Scots in both states were Ulster Scots, which Americans today call Scots-Irish.

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These were the descendants of Scottish colonists settled in the north of Ireland by James VI and I in the early 17th century. They were particularly common in the upstate frontier region, where Jamie and Claire’s settlement, Fraser’s Ridge, is located. There is only a little evidence of Jacobite survivors of the 1745 Rising settling in the Carolinas. As governor, Johnston, a former professor at the University of St Andrews, was accused of encouraging former Jacobites to move to North Carolina, antagonising many loyalist colonists.

But of the Highlanders in North Carolina, most seem to have arrived before the 1745 Rising. There were at least 33 land grants issued in the state to settlers with Highland names in 1740, but only 17 between 1746-51. There were also Jacobites exiled to the Americas after the 1715 and 1745 Risings as punishment, but they mostly settled in other states.

Seasons Four and Five depict Claire’s husband, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), coming into conflict with the Regulator Movement. The Regulators were frontier settlers in the Carolinas who rebelled against the perceived corruption and over-taxation of the colonial authorities, particularly William Tryon (Tim Downie), governor of North Carolina.

In Outlander, one of the Regulator leaders is Jamie’s godfather and fellow former Jacobite Highlander, Murtagh Fraser (Duncan Lacroix). Tryon did accuse the Regulators of being Jacobites. In a 1770 proclamation he claimed they had drunk a toast of “Damnation to their lawful Sovereign King George and success the Pretender”, that is, the Jacobite claimant Charles Edward Stuart who was defeated at Culloden in 1745. However, there isn’t any evidence that the Regulators actually were Jacobites and their own proclamations repeatedly emphasised their loyalty to George III. Tryon was likely just trying to smear his opponents.

Unlike Murtagh Fraser, most of the Regulators were Ulster Scots, while the Highlander community in Cross Creek raised a company of men led by Farquhar Campbell to fight against the Regulators.

After their defeat in the Battle of Alamance in 1771, a few Regulators would later go on to fight in the American War of Independence. As the series moves on to later books, it will show Jamie joining a militia and playing a role in that war on the Revolutionary side. Historically, there were indeed a few Jacobites who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Hugh Mercer, a surgeon from Aberdeen, joined the 1745 Rising as a surgeon’s mate and was at Culloden. Afterwards, he went to America, settling in Pennsylvania. There he fought for the British in the Seven Years’ War before moving to Virginia to work as a doctor.

He became friends with George Washington. The two were even members of the same Masonic Lodge. In the Revolutionary War, he was a colonel and then a brigadier-general but died of wounds received in the Battle of Princeton in 1776.

However, most Jacobites and Highlanders actually fought on the Loyalist side, often because they had suffered reprisals following the defeat of the ’45 or felt they owed the colonial authorities for their pardons.

Farquhar Campbell and his men from Cross Creek initially supported the Patriots but backed the Loyalists by early 1776. Allan MacDonald of Kingsburgh was another Scottish Loyalist. The son of a Jacobite, MacDonald’s wife was the famous Flora MacDonald, whose part in helping Charles Stuart escape after his defeat at Culloden is immortalised in the Skye Boat Song.

He sided with the Loyalists and served as a major until the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in February 1776, when he was one of 850 Highlanders captured by Patriots. His lands were soon confiscated and in 1779 he returned to Skye.

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There were former Jacobites among the top levels of the army and colonial administration as well. Allan Maclean of Torloisk had even fought at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and then spent four years in exile but later joined the British Army. During the Revolutionary War, he served as a brigadier-general, raising a regiment of Scots, the Royal Highland Emigrants.

John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, had also been with the Jacobites in 1745, though he was only a teenager serving as Charles Stuart’s pageboy. He eventually joined the British Army and was governor of New York from 1770-1 and of Virginia from 1771-5, becoming the final colonial governor of the state.

Outlander’s depiction of Scots in North Carolina is certainly more accurate than its portrayal of the ’45. With future seasons likely to show Jacobites and Highlanders fighting on both sides of the Revolutionary War, it highlights a fascinating backlink to 1745.

There were indeed veterans of Culloden fighting in Ameria, but a surprising number supported the British Crown that persecuted them so harshly after 1746.