The original 79th New York Cameron Highlanders consisted primarily of emigrant Scots, and was originally organized in the mid 19th century. The pre-war militia unit modeled itself after the British Army’s 79th Cameron Highlanders, adopting that unit’s numerical designation of 79. In addition, the New Yorkers adopted the Cameron of Erracht tartan, the same pattern used by the British regiment.
The 79th New York was one of the first volunteer units to rush to the colors after the fall of Fort Sumter, and, 795 men strong, was mustered into Federal service in May of 1861.
Over the course of the war, the Highlanders would lose 502 men, killed, wounded or missing. They would also earn the respect of their fellow soldiers, and a reputation as one of the hardest fighting regiments in the army. In keeping with its Scottish identity, the 79th dress uniform consisted of Cameron of Erracht kilts or trousers ( knowns as trews ), glengarry caps and the Highland cut tunic (doublet).