Traditional Scottish Dirks in Early America

A dirk is a long-bladed thrusting dagger. Its name derives from the Highland Dirk (Scots Gaelic "Dearg"). It was the traditional sidearm of the Highland Clansman and later used by the officers, pipers, and drummers of Scottish Highland regiments around 1725 to 1800. Many Scottish dirks carry a smaller knife and fork which fit into compartments on the front of the sheath, and a smaller knife known as a "sgian dubh" is also worn tucked into the top of the hose when wearing a kilt. By the end of the American Revolution, the term dirk began to describe a short naval side arm for both daggers or knife blades.

Scots came to America in large numbers just after 1700 and settled mostly in the southern colonies. Their numbers increased after the Jacobite defeats of 1715 and 1745. They brought the dirk which was a personal weapon carried in civilian life. Many of these Scottish colonists, particularly those who remained loyal to the crown, carried them into war as well as Scottish units in the British Army.