THE reports of invasion from France — of King James’s landing with a foreign force, abundance of arms, ammunition, and treasure, and the full purpose to reward his friends and chastise his enemies — the same exaggerated intelligence from England, concerning general discontent and local insurrection, which had raised the north of Scotland in arms — had their effect also on the gentlemen of Jacobite principles in the south of that country, and in the contiguous frontiers of England, where a number of Catholic families, and others devoted to the exiled family, were still to be found. Ere the hopes inspired by such favourable rumours had passed away, came the more veracious intelligence, that the Earl of Mar had set up James’s standard in the Highlands, and presently after, that he had taken possession of Perth-that many noblemen of distinguished rank and interest had joined his camp, and that his numbers were still increasing. These reports gave a natural impulse to the zeal of men, who, having long professed themselves the liege subjects of the Stewart family, were ashamed to sit still when a gallant effort was made to effect their restoration, by what was reported to be, and in very truth was, a very strong party, and an army much larger than those commanded by Montrose or Dundee, and composed chiefly of the same description of troops at the head of whom they had gained their victories. The country, therefore, through most of its districts, was heaving with the convulsive throes which precede civil war, like those which announce an earthquake. Events hurried on to decide the doubtful and embolden the timorous. The active measures resolved on by government, in arresting suspected persons throughout England and the southern parts of Scotland, obliged the professed Jacobites to bring their minds to a resolution, and either expose their persons to the dangers of civil war, or their characters to the shame of being judged wanting in the hour of action, to all the protestations which they had made in those of safety and peace.
These considerations decided men according to their characters, some to submit themselves to imprisonment, for the safety of their lives and fortunes-others to draw the sword, and venture their all in support of their avowed principles. Those gentlemen who embraced the latter course, more honourable, or more imprudent perhaps, began to leave their homes, and drew together in such bodies as might enable them to resist the efforts of the magistrates, or troops sent to arrest them. The civil war began by a very tragical rencounter in a family, with the descendants of which your grandfather has long enjoyed peculiar intimacy, and of which I give the particulars after the account preserved by them, though it is also mentioned in most histories of the times.
Among other families of distinction in East Lothian, that of Mr Hepburn of Keith was devotedly attached to the interests of the House of Stewart, and he determined to exert himself to the utmost in the approaching conflict. He had several sons, with whom, and his servants, he had determined to join a troop to be raised in East Lothian, and commanded by the Earl of Winton. This gentleman being much respected in the county, it was deemed of importance to prevent his showing an example which was likely to be generally followed. For this purpose, Mr Hepburn of Humbie and Dr Sinclair of Hermandston resolved to lay the Laird of Keith under arrest, and proceeded towards his house with a party of the horse-militia, on the morning of the 8th of October, 1715, which happened to be the very morning that Keith had appointed to set forth on his campaign, having made all preparations on the preceding evening. The family had assembled fur the last time at the breakfast-table, when it was observed that one of the young’ ladies looked more sad and disconsolate, than even the departure of her father and brothers upon a distant and precarious expedition seemed to warrant at that period, when the fair sex were as enthusiastic in politics as the men. Miss Hepburn was easily induced to tell the cause of her fears. She had dreamed she saw her youngest brother, a youth of great hopes, and generally esteemed, shot by a man whose features were impressed on her recollection, and stretched dead on the floor of the room in which they were now assembled. The females of the family listened and argued — the men laughed, and turned the visionary into ridicule. The horses were saddled, and led out into the court-yard, when a mounted party was discovered advancing along the flat ground, in front of the mansion-house, called the Plain of Keith. The gate was shut; and when Dr Sinclair, who was most active in the matter, had announced his purpose, and was asked for his warrant, he handed in at a window the commission of the Marquis of Tweeddale, Lord Lieutenant of the county. This Keith returned with contempt, and announced that he would stand on his defence. The party within mounted their horses, and sallied out, determined to make their way; and Keith, discharging a pistol in the air, charged the Doctor sword in hand; the militia then fired, and the youngest of the Hepburns was killed on the spot. The sister beheld the catastrophe from the window, and to the end of her life persisted that the homicide had the features of the person whom she saw in her dream. The corpse was carried into the room where they had so lately breakfasted, and Keith, after having paid this heavy tax to the demon of civil war, rode off with the rest of his party to join the insurgents. Dr Sinclair was censured very generally, for letting his party zeal hurry him into a personal encounter with so near a neighbour and familiar friend; he vindicated himself, by asserting that his intentions were to save Keith from the consequences into which his rash zeal for the Stewart family was about to precipitate that gentleman and his family. But Dr Sinclair ought to have been prepared to expect, that a high-spirited man, with arms in his hands, was certain to resist this violent mode of opening his eyes to the rashness of his conduct; and he who attempts to make either religious or political converts by compulsion, must be charged with the consequences of such violence as is most likely to ensue.
Mr Hepburn and his remaining sons joined the Jacobite gentry of the neighbourhood, to the number of fifty or sixty men, and directed their course westward towards the Borders, where a considerable party were in arms for the same cause. The leader of the East Lothian troop was the Earl of Winton, a young nobleman twenty-five years old, said to be afflicted by a vicissitude of spirits approaching to lunacy. His life had been marked by some strange singularities, as that of his living a long time as bellows-blower and assistant to a blacksmith in France, without holding any communication with his country or family. But, if we judge from his conduct in tile rebellion, Lord Winton appears to have displayed more sense and prudence than most of those engaged in that unfortunate affair.
This Lothian insurrection soon merged in the two principal southern risings, which took place in Dumfries-shire and Galloway in Scotland, and in Northumberland and Cumberland in England. On the western frontier of Scotland, there were many families not only Jacobites in politics, but Roman Catholics in religion; and therefore bound by a double tie to the heir of James II., who, for the sake of that form of faith, may be justly thought to have forfeited his kingdoms. Among the rest, the Earl of Nithisdale, combining in his person the representation of two noble families, those of the Lord Herries and the Lord Maxwell, might be considered as the natural leader of the party. But William, Vicount Kenmure, in Galloway, a Protestant, was preferred as chief of the enterprise, as It was not thought prudent to bring Catholics too much forward in the affair, on account of the scandal to which their promotion might give rise. Many neighbouring gentlemen were willing to throw themselves and their fortunes into the same adventure in which Nithisdale and Kenmure stood committed. The latter was a man of good sense and resolution, well acquainted with civil affairs, but a total stranger to the military art. In the beginning of October, the plan of insurrection was so far ripened, that the gentlemen of Galloway, Nithisdale, and Annandale, proposed by a sudden effort to possess themselves of the county town of Dumfries. The town was protected on the one side by the river Nith; on the others it might be considered as open. But the zeal of the inhabitants, and of the “Whig gentlemen of the neighbourhood,1 baffled the enterprise, which must otherwise have been attended with credit to the arms of the insurgents. The Lord Lieutenant and his deputies collected the fencible men of the county, and brought several large parties into Dumfries, to support, if necessary, the defence of the place. The provost, Robert Corbett, Esq. mustered the citizens, and putting himself at their head, harangued them in a style peculiarly calculated to inspire confidence. He reminded them that their laws and religion were at stake, and that their cause resembled that of the Israelites, when led by Joshua against the unbelieving inhabitants of the land of Canaan.
“ Nevertheless,” said the considerate Provost of Dumfries; “ as I, who am your unworthy leader, cannot pretend to any divine commission like that of the son of Nun, I do not take upon me to recommend the extermination of your enemies, as the judge of Israel was commanded to do by a special revelation. On the contrary, I earnestly entreat you to use your assured victory with clemency, and remember, that the misguided persons opposed to you are still your countrymen and brethren.” This oration, which, instead of fixing the minds of his followers on a doubtful contest, instructed them only how to make use of a certain victory, had a great effect in encouraging the bands of the sagacious provost, who, with their auxiliaries from the country, drew out and took a position to cover the town of Dumfries.
Lord Kenmure marched from Moffat, with about a hundred and fifty horse, on Wednesday the 13th of October, with the purpose of occupying Dumfries. But finding the friends of Government in such a state of preparation, he became speedily aware that he could not with a handful of cavalry propose to storm a town, the citizens of which were determined on resistance. The Jacobite gentlemen, therefore, retreated to Moffat, and thence to Langholm and Hawick. From thence they took their departure for the eastward, to join the Northumberland gentlemen who were in arms in the same cause, and towards whom we must now direct our attention.
In England, a very dangerous and extensive purpose of insurrection certainly existed shortly after the Queen’s death; but the exertions of Government had been so great in all quarters, that it was every where disconcerted or suppressed. The University of Oxford was supposed to be highly dissatisfied at the accession of the House of Hanover; and there, as well as at Bath, and elsewhere in the west, horses, arms, and ammunition, were seized in considerable quantities, and most of the Tory gentlemen who were suspected of harbouring dangerous intentions, were either arrested, or delivered themselves up on the summons of Government. Amongst these was Sir William Wyndham, one of the principal leaders of the High Church party.
In Northumberland and Cumberland, the Tories, at a greater distance from the power of the Government, were easily inclined to action; they were, besides, greatly influenced by the news of the Earl of Mar’s army, which, though large enough to have done more than it ever attempted, was still much magnified by common fame. The unfortunate Earl of Derwentwater, who acted so prominent a part in this shortlived struggle, was by birth connected with the exiled royal family; his lady also was a bigot in their cause; and the Catholic religion, which he professed, made it almost a crime in this nobleman to remain peaceful on the present occasion. Thomas Forster of Bamborough, member of Parliament for the county of Northumberland, was equally attached to the Jacobite cause; being a Church-of-England man, he was adopted as the commander-inchief of the insurrection, for the same reason that the Lord Kenmure was preferred to the Earl of Nithisdale in the command of the Scottish levies. Warrants being issued against the Earl of Derwentwater and Mr Forster, they absconded, and lurked for a few days among their friends in Northumberland, till a general consultation could be held of the principal northern Tories, at the house of Mr Fenwick of Bywell; when, as they foresaw that, if they should be arrested, and separately examined, they could scarce frame such a defence as might save them from the charge of high treason, they resolved to unite in a body, and try the chance that fortune might send them. With this purpose they held a meeting (6th Oct.)at a place called Greenrig, where Forster arrived with about twenty horse. They went from this to the top of a hill, called the Waterfalls, where they were joined by Lord Derwentwater. This reinforcement made them near sixty horse, with which they proceeded to the small town of Rothbury, and from thence to Warkworth, where they proclaimed King James III. On the 10th of October they marched to Morpeth, where they received further reinforcements, which raised them to three hundred horse, the highest number which they ever attained. Some of these gentlemen remained undecided till the last fatal moment, and amongst these was John Hall of Otterburn. He attended a meeting of the quarter sessions, which was held at Alnwick, for the purpose of taking measures for quelling the rebellion, but left it with such precipitation that he forgot his hat upon the bench, and joined the fatal meeting at the Waterfalls.
The insurgents could levy no foot soldiers, though many men offered to join them; for they had neither arms to equip them, nor money to pay them. This want of infantry was the principal cause why they did not make an immediate attack on Newcastle, which had formed part of their original plan. But the town, though not regularly fortified, was surrounded with a high stone wall, with old-fashioned gates. The magistrates, who were zealous on the side of Government, caused the gates to be walled up with masonry, and raised a body of seven hundred volunteers for the defence of the town, to which the keelmen, or bargemen employed in the coal-trade upon the Tyne, made offer of seven hundred more; and, in the course of a day or two, General Carpenter arrived with part of those forces with whom he afterwards attacked the insurgents. After this last reinforcement, the gentlemen, as Forster’s cavalry were called, lost all hopes of surprising Newcastle. About the same time, however, a beam of success which attended their arms, might be said just to glimmer and disappear. This was the exploit of a gentleman named Lancelot Errington, who, by a dexterous stratagem, contrived to surprise the small castle or fort, upon Holy Island,1 which might have been useful to the insurgents in maintaining their foreign communication. But before Errington could receive the necessary supplies of men and provisions, the governor of Berwick detached a party of thirty soldiers, and about fifty volunteers, who, crossing the sands at low water, attacked the little fort, and carried it sword in hand. Errington was wounded and taken prisoner, but afterwards made his escape.
This disappointment, with the news that troops were advancing to succour Newcastle, decided Forster and his followers to unite themselves with the Viscount Kenmure and the Scottish gentlemen engaged in the same cause. The English express found Kenmure near Hawick, at a moment when his little band of about two hundred men had almost determined to give up the enterprise. Upon receiving Forster’s communication, however, they resolved to join him at Rothbury. On the 19th of October, the two bodies of insurgents met at Rothbury, and inspected each other’s military state and equipments, with the anxiety of mingled hope and apprehension. The general character of the troops was the same, but the Scots seemed the best prepared for action, being mounted on strong hardy horses, fit fur the charge, and, though but poorly disciplined, were well armed with the basket-hilted broadswords, then common throughout Scotland. The English gentlemen, on the other hand, were mounted on fleet blood-horses, better adapted for the race-course and hunting-field than for action. There was among them a great want of war-saddles, curb-bridles, and, above all, of swords and pistols; so that the Scots were inclined to doubt whether men so well equipped for flight, and so imperfectly prepared for combat, might not, in case of an encounter, take the safer course, and leave them in the lurch. Their want of swords in particular, at least of cutting swords fit for the cavalry service is proved by an anecdote. It is said, that as they entered the town of Wooler, their commanding-officer gave the word-” Gentlemen, you that have got swords, draw them;” to which a fellow among the crowd answered, not irrelevantly-” And what shall they do who have none? “ When Forster, by means of one of his captains named Douglas, had opened a direct communication with Mar’s army, the messenger stated that the English were willing to have given horses worth L.25-then a considerable price — for such swords as are generally worn by Highlanders.
It may be also here noticed, that out of the four troops commanded by Forster, the two raised by Lord Derwentwater and Lord Widrington were, like those of the Scots, composed of gentlemen, and their relations and dependents. But the third and fourth troops differed considerably from the others in their composition. The one was commanded by John Hunter, who united the character of a Border farmer with that of a contraband trader; the other by the same Douglas whom we have just mentioned, who was remarkable for his dexterity and success in searching for arms and horses, a trade which he is said not to have limited to the time of the Rebellion. Into the troops of these last-named officers, many persons of slender reputation were introduced, who had either lived by smuggling, or by the ancient Border practice of horse-lifting, as it was called. These light and suspicious characters, however, fought with determined courage at the barricades of Preston. The motions of Kenmure and Forster were now decided by the news, that a detachment from Mar’s army had been sent across the frith of Forth to join them; and this requires us to return to the Northern insurrection, which was now endeavouring to extend and connect itself with that which had broke out on the Border. The Earl of Mar, it must be observed, had, from the first moment of his arrival at Perth, or at least as soon as he was joined by a disposable force, designed to send a party over the frith into Lothian, who should encourage the Jacobites in that country to rise; and he proposed to confer this command upon the Master of Sinclair. As, however, this separation of his forces must have considerably weakened his own army, and perhaps exposed him to an unwelcome visit from the Duke of Argyle, Mar postponed his purpose until he should be joined by reinforcements. These were now pouring fast into Perth. From the North, the Marquis of Huntly, one of the most powerful of the confederacy, joined the army at Perth with foot and horse, Lowlanders and Highlanders, to the amount of nearly four thousand men. The Earl–Marischal had the day before brought up his own power, consisting of about eighty horse. The arrival of these noblemen brought some seeds of dissension into the camp. Marischal, so unlike the wisdom of his riper years, with the indiscretion of a very young man, gave just offence to Huntly, by endeavouring to deprive him of a part of his following. The occasion was this: The MacPhersons, a very stout, hardy clan, who are called in Gaelic, MacVourigh, and headed by Cluny MacPherson, held some possessions of the Gordon family, and therefore naturally placed themselves under the Marquis of Huntly’s banner on the present occasion, although it might be truly said, that in general they were by no means the most tractable vassals. Marischal endeavoured to prevail on this Clan–Vourigh to place themselves under his command instead of that of Huntly, alleging, that as the MacPhersons always piqued themselves on being a distinguished branch of the great confederacy called Clan–Chattan, so was he, by his name of Keith, the natural chief of the confederacy afore-said. Mar is said to have yielded some countenance to the claim, the singularity of which affords a curious picture of the matters with which these insurgents were occupied. The cause of Mar’s taking part in such a debate was alleged to be, the desire which he had to lower the estimation of Huntly’s power and numbers. The Mac–Phersons, however, considered the broad lands which they held of the Gordon as better reason for rendering him their allegiance, than the etymological arguments urged by the Earl Marischal, and refused to desert the banner under which they had come to the field.
Another circumstance early disgusted Huntly with an enterprise in which he could not hope to gain any thing, and which placed in peril a princely estate, and a ducal title. Besides about three squadrons of gentlemen, chiefly of his own name, well mounted and well armed, he had brought into the field a squadron of some fifty men strong, whom he termed Light Horse, though totally unfit for the service of petite guerre which that name implies. A satirist describes them as consisting of great lubberly fellows, in bonnets, without boots, and mounted on long-tailed little ponies, with snaffle bridles, the riders being much the bigger animals of the two; and instead of pistols, these horsemen were armed with great rusty muskets, tied on their backs with ropes. These uncouth cavaliers excited a degree of mirth and ridicule among the more civilized southern gentry; which is not surprising, any more than that both the men, and Huntly, their commander, felt and resented such uncivil treatment-a feeling which was gradually increased into a disinclination to the cause in which they had received the indignity. Besides these Northern forces, Mar also expected many powerful succours from the northwest, which comprehended the tribes termed, during that insurrection, by way of excellence, The Clans. The chiefs of these families had readily agreed to hold the rendezvous which had been settled at the hunting match of Braemar; but none of them, save Glengarry, were very hasty in recollecting their promise. Of This high chief a contemporary says, it would be hard to say whether he had more of the lion, the fox, or the bear, in his disposition; for he was at least as crafty and rough as he was courageous and gallant. At any rate, both his faults and virtues were consistent with his character, which attracted more admiration than that of any other engaged in Mar’s insurrection. He levied his men, and marched to the braes of Glenorchy, where, after remaining eight days, he was joined by the Captain of Clanranald, and Sir John MacLean; who came, the one with the MacDonalds of Moidart and Arisaig; the other with a regiment of his own name, from the isle of Mull. A detachment of these clans commenced the war by an attempt to surprise the garrison at Inverlochy. They succeeded in taking some outworks, and made the defenders prisoners, but failed in their attack upon the place, the soldiers being on their guard.
Still, though hostilities were in a manner begun, these western levies were far from complete. Stewart of Appin, and Cameron of Lochiel, would neither of them move; and the Breadalbane men, whose assistance had been promised by the singular Earl of that name, were equally tardy. There was probably little inclination, on the part of those clans who were near neighbours to the Duke of Argyle, and some of them Campbells, to displease that powerful and much-respected nobleman. Another mighty limb of the conspiracy, lying also in the north-western extremity of Scotland, was the Earl of Seaforth, chief of the MacKenzies, who could bring into the field from two to three thousand men of his own name, and that of MacRae, and other clans dependent upon him. But he also was prevented from taking the field and joining Mar, by the operations of the Earl of Sutherland, who, taking the chief command of some of the northern clans disposed to favour government — as, the Monroes, under their chief, Monro of Foulis; the MacKays, under Lord Rae; the numerous and powerful clan of Grant, along with his own following-had assembled a little army, with which he made a demonstration towards the bridge of Alness. Thus, at the head of a body of about twelve or fifteen hundred men, Sutherland was so stationed on the verge of Seaforth’s country, that the latter chief could not collect his men, and move southward to join Mar, without leaving his estates exposed to ravage. Seaforth prepared to move, however, so soon as circumstances would admit, for while he faced the Earl of Sutherland with about eighteen hundred men, he sent Sir John MacKenzie of Coull to possess himself of Inverness, Brigadier MacIntosh, by whom it was occupied for James VIII., having moved southward to Perth.
Thus, from one circumstance or another, the raising of the western clans was greatly delayed; and Mar, whose plan it was not to attempt any thing till he should have collected the whole force together which he could possibly expect, was, or thought himself, obliged to remain at Perth, long after he had assembled an army sufficient to attack the Duke of Argyle, and force his way into the southern part of Scotland, where the news of his success, and the Duke’s defeat or retreat, together with the hope of plunder, would have decided those tardy western chieftains, who were yet hesitating whether they should join him or not. Mar, however, tried to influence them by arguments of a different nature, such as he had the power of offering; and despatched General Gordon to expedite these levies, with particular instructions to seize on the Duke of Argyle’s castle at Inverary, and the arms understood to be deposited there. There was afterwards supposed to be some personal spleen, in the Earl’s thus beginning direct hostilities against his great opponent; but it must be said, to the honour of the rebel general, that he resolved not to set the example of beginning with fire and sword; and therefore directed, that though General Gordon might threaten to burn the castle at Inverary, he was on no account to proceed to such extremity without farther orders. His object probably was, besides a desire to possess the arms said to be in the place, to effect a complete breach between the Duke of Argyle and the clans in his vicinity, which must have necessarily been attended with great diminution of the Duke’s influence. We shall see presently how far this line of policy appears to have succeeded.
During the currency of these events, Mar received information of the partial rising which had taken place in Northumberland, and the disposition to similar movements which showed itself in various parts of Scotland. It might have been thought, that these tidings would have induced him at length to burst from the sort of confinement, in which the small body commanded by Argyle retained so superior an army. If Mar judged that the troops under his command, assembled at Perth, were too few to attack a force which they more than doubled, there remained a plan of manoeuvring by which he might encounter Argyle at a yet greater advantage. He might have commanded General Gordon, when he had collected the western clans, who could not amount to fewer than four thousand men, instead of amusing himself at Inverary, to direct their course to the fords of Frew, by which the river Forth may be crossed above Stirling, and near to its source. Such a movement would have menaced the Duke from the westward, while Mar himself might have advanced against him from the north, and endeavoured to possess himself of Stirling bridge, which was not very strongly guarded. The insurgent cavalry of Lord Kenmure could also have cooperated in such a plan, by advancing from Dumfries towards Glasgow, and threatening the west of Scotland. It is plain that the Duke of Argyle saw the danger of being thus cut off from the western counties, where Government had many zealous adherents; for he ordered up five hundred men from Glasgow to join his camp at Stirling; and on the 24th of September, commanded all the regiments of fencibles and volunteers in the west of Scotland to repair to Glasgow, as the most advantageous central point from which to protect the country, and cover his own encampment; and established garrisons at the village of Drymen, and also in several gentlemen’s houses adjacent to the fords of Frew, to prevent or retard any descent of the Highlanders into the Low Country by that pass. But the warlike habits of the Highlanders were greatly superior to those of tile raw Lowland levies, whom they would probably have treated with little ceremony.
Nevertheless, the Earl of Mar, far from adopting a plan so decisive, resolved to afford support to Kenmure and Forster, by his original plan of marching a detachment to their assistance, instead of moving his whole force towards the Lowlands. This, e conceived, might be sufficient to give them the aid and protection of a strong body of infantry, and enable them to strengthen and increase their numbers, whilst the measure allowed him to remain undisturbed at Perth, to await the final result of his intrigues in the Highlands, and those which he had commenced at the Court of the Chevalier de St George. There were many and obvious dangers in making the proposed movement. A great inlet of the sea was to be crossed; and if the passage was to be attempted about Dunfermline or Inverkeithing, where the Forth was less broad, it was to be feared that the bustle of collecting boats, and the march of the troops which were to form the detachment, might give warning to the Duke of Argyle of what was intended, who was likely to send a body of his dragoons to surprise and cut off the detachment on their arrival at the southern side of the Forth. On the other hand, to attempt the passage over the lower part of the frith, where vessels were more numerous, and could he assembled with less observation, was to expose the detachment to the uncertainties of a passage of fifteen or eighteen miles across, which was guarded by men-of-war, with their boats and launches, to which the officers of the customs at every seaport had the most strict orders to transmit intelligence of whatever movement might be attempted by the rebels. Upon a choice of difficulties, however, the crossing of the frith from Pittenweem, Crail, and other towns situated to the eastward on the Fife coast, was determined on.
The troops destined for the adventure were Mar’s own regiment, as it was called, consisting of the Farquharsons, and others from the banks of the Dee-that of the MacIntoshes-those of Lords Strathmore, Nairne, and Lord Charles Murray, all Highlanders, excepting Lord Strathmore’s Low-land regiment. They made up in all about two thousand five hundred men; for in the rebel army the regiments were weak in numbers, Mar having gratified the chiefs, by giving each the commission of colonel, and allowing him the satisfaction to form a battalion out of Ins own followers, however few in number.
The intended expedition was arranged with some address. Considerable parties of horse traversed Fifeshire in various directions, proclaiming” James VIII., and levying the cess of the county, though in very different proportions on those whom they accounted friends or enemies to their cause, their demands upon the Litter being both larger, and more rigorously enforced. These movements were contrived to distract the attention of the Whigs, and that of the Duke of Argyle, by various rumours, tending to conceal Mar’s real purpose of sending a detachment across the frith. For the same purpose, when their intention could be no longer concealed, the English men-of-war were deceived concerning the place where the attempt was to be made. Mar threw troops into the castle of Burntisland, and seemed busy in collecting vessels in that little port. The armed ships were induced by these appearances to slip their cables, and, standing over to Burntisland, commenced a cannonade, which was returned by the rebels from a battery which they had constructed on the outer port of the harbour, with little damage on cither side.
By these feints Mar was enabled to get the troops, designed to form the expedition, moved in secrecy down to Pittenweem, the Ely, Crail, and other small ports so numerous on that coast. The were placed under the command of MacIntosh of Borlum, already mentioned, commonly called Brigadier MacIntosh, a Highland gentleman, who was trained to regular war in the French service. He was a bold, rough soldier, but is stated to have degraded the character by a love or plunder which would have better become a lower rank in the army.
But this may have been a false or exaggerated charge.
The English vessels of war received notice of, the design, or observed the embarkation from their topmasts, but too late to offer effectual interruption. They weighed anchor, however, at flood-tide, and sailed to intercept the flotilla of the insurgents. Nevertheless, they only captured a single boat, with about forty Highlanders. Some of the vessels were, however, forced back to the Fife coast, from which they came; and the boats which bore Lord Strathmore’s Lowland regiment, and others filled with Highlanders, were forced into the island of May, in the mouth of the Forth, where they were blockaded by the men-of-war. The gallant young Earl intrenched himself on the island, and harangued his followers on the fidelity which they owed to the cause; and undertook to make his own faith evident, by exposing his person wherever the peril should prove greatest, and accounting it an honour to die in the service of the Prince for whom he had taken arms. Blockaded in an almost desert island, this young nobleman had the additional difficulty of subduing quarrels and jealousies betwixt the Highlanders and his own followers from Angus. These dissensions ran so high, that the Lowlanders resolved to embrace an opportunity to escape from the island with their small craft, and leave the Highlanders to their fate. The proposal was rejected by Strathmore with ineffable disdain, nor would he leave his very unpleasant situation, till the change of winds and waves afforded him a fair opportunity of leading all who had been sharers in his misfortune in safety back to the coast they sailed from. Mean time the greater part of the detachment designed for the descent upon Lothian, being about sixteen hundred men, succeeded in their desperate attempt, by landing at North Berwick, Aberlady, Gulan, and other places on the southern shores of the frith, from whence they marched upon Haddington, where they again formed a junction, and refreshed themselves for a night, till they should learn the fate of their friends who had not yet appeared. We have not the means of knowing whether MacIntosh had any precise orders for his conduct when he should find himself in Lothian. The despatches of Mar would lead us to infer that he had instructions, which ought to have directed his march instantly to the Borders, to unite himself with Kenmure and Forster. But he must have had considerable latitude in his orders, since it was almost impossible to frame them in such a manner as to meet, with any degree of precision, the circumstances in which he might be placed, and much must have, of course, been intrusted to his own discretion. The surprise, however, was great, even in the Brigadier’s own little army, when, instead of marching southward, as they had expected, they were ordered to face about and advance rapidly on the capital.
This movement Mar afterwards termed a mistake on the Brigadier’s part. But it was probably occasioned by the information which Macintosh received from friends in Edinburgh, that the capital might be occupied by a rapid march, before it could be relieved by the Duke of Argyle, who was lying thirty miles off. The success of such a surprise must necessarily have given great eclat to the arms of the insurgents, with the more solid advantages of obtaining large supplies both of arms and money, and of intercepting the communication between the Duke of Argyle and the south. It is also probable, that Macintosh might have some expectation of an insurrection taking place in Edinburgh, on the news of his approach.1 But, whatever were Ins hopes and motives, he marched with his small force on the metropolis, 14th October, 1715, and the movement excited the most universal alarm.
The Lord Provost, a gentleman named Campbell, was a man of sense and activity. The instant that he heard of the Highlanders having arrived “at Haddington, he sent information to the Duke of Argyle, and arming the city guard, trained bands, and volunteers, took such precautions as he could to defend the city, which, though surrounded by a high wall, was far from being tenable even against a coup-demain. The Duke of Argyle, foreseeing all the advantages which the insurgents would gain even from the temporary possession of the capital, resolved on this, as on other occasions, to make activity supply the want of numbers. He mounted two hundred infantry soldiers on country horses, and uniting them with three hundred chosen dragoons, placed himself at their head, and made a forced march from Stirling to relieve Edinburgh. This he accomplished with such rapidity, that he entered the West Port of Edinburgh about ten o’clock at night, just about the same moment that MacIntosh had reached the place where Piershill barracks are now situated, within a mile of the eastern gate of the city. Thus the metropolis, which seemed to be a prey for the first occupant, was saved by the promptitude of the Duke of Argyle. His arrival spread universal joy among the friends of Government, who, from something resembling despair, passed to the opposite extremity of hope and triumph. The town had been reinforced during the day by various parties of horse militia from Berwickshire and Mid–Lothian, and many volunteers, whom the news of the Duke of Argyle’s arrival greatly augmented, not so much on account of the number which attended him, as of the general confidence reposed in his talents and character. The advancing enemy also felt the charm communicated by the Duke’s arrival; but to them it conveyed apprehension and dismay, and changed their leader’s hopes of success into a desire to provide for the safety of his small detachment, respecting which he was probably the more anxious that the number of the Duke’s forces were in all likelihood exaggerated, and besides consisted chiefly of cavalry, respecting whom the Highlanders entertained at that time a superstitious terror. Moved by such considerations, and turning off the road to Edinburgh, at the place called Jock’s Lodge, Brigadier MacIntosh directed his march upon Leith, which he entered without opposition. In the prison of that place he found the forty men belonging to his own detachment who had been taken during the passage, and who were now set at liberty. The Highlanders next took possession of such money and provisions as they found in the Custom House. After these preliminaries, they marched across the drawbridge, and occupied the remains of a citadel, built by Oliver Cromwell during the period of his usurpation. It was a square fort, with five demi-bastions and a ditch; the gates were indeed demolished, but the ramparts were tolerably entire, and the Brigadier lost no time in barricading all accessible places with beams, planks, carts, and barrels, filled with stones and other similar materials. The vessels in the harbour supplied them with cannon, which they planted on the ramparts, and prepared themselves as well as circumstances admitted for a desperate defence.
Early next morning, the Duke of Argyle presented himself before the fortified post of the Highlanders, with his three hundred dragoons, two hundred infantry, and about six hundred new-levied men, militia, and volunteers; among the latter class were seen several clergymen, who, in a war of this nature, did not consider their sacred character inconsistent with assuming arms. The Duke summoned the troops who occupied the citadel to surrender, under the penalty of high treason, and declared, that if they placed him under the necessity of bringing up cannon, or killed any of his men in attempting a defence, he would give them no quarter. A Highland gentleman, named Kinackin, answered resolutely from the ramparts, “ That they laughed at his summons of surrender -that they were ready to abide his assault; as for quarter, they would neither give nor receive it and if he thought he could force their position, he was welcome to try the experiment.”
The Duke having received this defiance, carefully reconnoitred the citadel, and found the most important difficulties in the way of the proposed assault. The troops must have advanced two hundred yards before arriving at the defences, and during all that time would have been exposed to a fire from an enemy under cover. Many of those who must have been assailants were unacquainted with discipline, and had never seen action; the Highlanders, though little accustomed to exchange the fire of musketry in the open field, were excellent marksmen from behind walls, and their swords and daggers were likely to be formidable in the defence of a breach or a barricade, where the attack must be in some degree tumultuary. To this was to be added the Duke’s total want of cannon and mortars, or artillery-men by whom they could be managed. All these reasons Induced Argyle to postpone an attack, of which the result was so uncertain, until he should be better provided. The volunteers were very anxious for an attack; but we are merely told, by the reverend historian of the Rebellion, that when they were given to understand that the post of honour, viz. the right of leading the attack, was their just right as volunteers, it made them heartily approve of the Duke’s measure in deferring the enterprise. Argyle therefore retreated to Edinburgh, to make better preparations for an attack with artillery next day.
But as MacIntosh’s intention of seizing on the capital had failed, it did not suit his purpose to abide in the vicinity. He left the citadel of Leith at nine o’clock, and conducted his men in the most profound silence along the sands to Seaton house, about ten miles from Edinburgh, a strong castle belonging to the Earl of Winton, surrounded by a high wall. Here they made a show of fortifying themselves, and collecting provisions, as if they intended to abide for some time. The Duke of Argyle, with his wonted celerity, made preparations to attack MacIntosh in his new quarters. He sent to the camp at Stirling for artillery-men, and began to get ready some guns in Edinburgh castle, with which he proposed to advance to Seaton, and dislodge its new occupants. But his purpose was again interrupted by express upon express, despatched from Stirling by General Whetham, who commanded in the Duke’s absence, acquainting his superior with the unpleasing information that Mar, with his whole army, was advancing towards Stirling, trusting to have an opportunity of destroying the few troops who were left there, and which did not exceed a thousand men.
Upon these tidings the Duke, leaving two hundred and fifty men of his small command under the order of General Wightman, to prosecute the plan of dislodging the Highlanders from their stronghold of Seaton, returned in all haste, with the small remainder of his forces, to Stirling, where his presence was much called for. But before adverting to events which took place in that quarter, we shall conduct MacIntosh and his detachment some days’ journey farther on their progress. On Saturday, the 15th of October, the environs of Seaton house were reconnoitred by a body of dragoons and volunteers. But as the Highlanders boldly marched out to skirmish, the party from Edinburgh thought themselves too weak to hazard an action, and retired towards the city, as did the rebels to their garrison. On Monday the 17th of October, the demonstration upon Seaton was renewed in a more serious manner, Lord Rothes, Lord Torphichen, and other officers, marching against the house with three hundred volunteers, and the troops which had been left by the Duke of Argyle, to dislodge MacIntosh. But neither in this third attempt was it found prudent, without artillery, to attack the pertinacious mountaineers, as indeed a repulse, in the neighbourhood of the capital, must necessarily have been attended with consequences not to be rashly risked. The troops of the Government, therefore, returned a third time to Edinburgh, without having farther engaged with the enemy than by a few exchanges of shot.
MacIntosh did not consider it prudent to give his opponent an opportunity of attacking him again in his present position. He had sent a letter to General Forster, which, reaching the gentlemen engaged in that unadvised expedition, while they were deliberating whether they should not abandon it, determined them to remain in arms, and unite themselves with those Highlanders, who had crossed the frith at such great risk, in order to join them. Forster and Kenmure, therefore, returned an answer to MacIntosh’s communication, proposing to meet his forces at Kelso or Coldstream, as should be most convenient for him.-Such letters as the Brigadier had received from Mar, since passing the Forth, as well as the tenor of his former and original instructions, directed him to form a junction with the gentlemen engaged on the Borders; and he accepted accordingly of their invitation, and assigned Kelso as the place of meeting. His first march was to the village of Longformachus, which he reached on the evening of the 19th of October. It may be mentioned, that, in the course of their march, they passed Hermandston, the seat of Dr Sinclair, which MacIntosh, with some of the old vindictive Highland spirit, was extremely desirous to have burned, in revenge of the death of young Hepburn of Keith. He was dissuaded from this extreme course, but the house was plundered by Lord Nairne’s Highlanders, who were active agents in this species of punishment. Sir William Bennet of Grubet, who had occupied Kelso for the Government, with some few militia and volunteers, learning that fifteen hundred Highlanders were advancing against him from the eastward, while five or six hundred horse, to which number the united forces of Kenmure and Forster might amount, were marching downwards from the Cheviot mountains, relinquished his purpose of defending Kelso; and, abandoning the barricades, which he had made for that purpose, retired to Edinburgh with his followers, carrying with him the greater part of the arms which he had provided. The cavalry of Forster and Kenmure, marching from Wooler, arrived at Kelso a few hours before the Highlanders, who set out on the same morning from Dunse. The Scottish part of the horse marched through Kelso without halting, to meet with MacIntosh at Ednam-bridge, a compliment which they conceived due to the gallantry with which, through many hazards, the Brigadier and his Highlanders had advanced to their succour. The united forces, when mustered at Kelso, were found to amount to about six hundred horse and fourteen hundred foot, for MacIntosh had lost some men by desertion. They then entered the town in triumph, and possessed themselves of such arms as Sir William Bennet had left behind him. They proclaimed James VIII. in the market-place of this beautiful town, and attended service (the officers at least) in the Old Abbey Church, where a non-juring clergyman preached a sermon on hereditary right, the text being, Deut. xxi. 17, The right of the first-born is his. The chiefs then held a general council on the best mode of following out the purposes of their insurrection. There were two lines of conduct to choose betwixt, one of which was advocated by the Scottish gentlemen, the other by the insurgents from the north of England. According to the first plan of operations, it was proposed that their united forces should move westward along the Border, occupying in their way the towns of Dumfries, Ayr, and Glasgow itself. They expected no resistance on either of these points, which their union with MacIntosh’s troops might not enable them to overcome. Arrived in the west of Scotland, they proposed to open the passes, which were defended chiefly by militia and volunteers, to the very considerable force of the Argyle-shire clans, which were already assembled under General Gordon. With the Earl of Mar’s far superior army in front, and with the force of MacIntosh, Kenmure, and Forster upon his left flank and in his rear, it was conceived impossible that, with all his abilities, the Duke of Argyle could persevere in maintaining his important post at Stirling; there was every chance of his being driven entirely out of the “ ancient kingdom,” as Scotland was fondly called.
This plan of the campaign had two recommendations. In the first place, it tended to a concentration of the rebel forces, which, separated as they were, and divided through the kingdom, had hitherto been either checked and neutralized like that of Mar by the Duke of Argyle, or fairly obliged to retreat and shift for safety from the forces of the Government, as had been the fate of Forster and Kenmure. Secondly, the basis on which the scheme rested was fixed and steady. Mar’s army, on the one hand, and Gordon with the clans, on the other, were bodies of troops existing and in arms, nor was there any party in the field for the Government, of strength adequate to prevent their forming the proposed junction.
Notwithstanding these advantages, the English insurgents expressed the strongest wish to follow an opposite course, and carry the war again into England, from which they had been so lately obliged to retreat. Their proposal had at first a bold and spirited appearance, and might, had it been acted upon with heart and unanimity, have had a considerable chance of success. The dragoons and horse which had assembled at Newcastle under General Carpenter, were only a thousand strong, and much fatigued with forced marches. Reinforced as the insurgents were with MacIntosh and his infantry, they might have succeeded by a sudden march in attacking Carpenter in his quarters, or fighting him in the field; at all events, their great superiority of numbers would have compelled the English general either to hazard an action at very great disadvantage, or to retreat. In either case, the Northumbrian gentlemen would have remained masters of their native province, and might have made themselves masters of Newcastle, and interrupted the coal trade; and, finally, the great possessions and influence of Lord Derwentwater and others would have enabled them to add to their force as many infantry as they might find means of arming, without which, the gentry who were in arms could only be considered as a soul without a body, or a hilt without a blade. But Forster and his friends would not agree to a measure which had so much to recommend it, but lost time in empty debates, remaining at Kelso from the 22d to the 27th of October, until it became impossible to put the plan in execution. For they learned, that while they were deliberating, General Carpenter was acting; and his little army, being reinforced and refreshed, was now advanced to Wooler, to seek them out and give them battle.
Forster and the English officers then insisted on another scheme, which should still make England the scene of the campaign. They proposed that, eluding the battle which General Carpenter seemed willing to offer, they should march westward along the middle and west Borders of Scotland, till they could turn southward into Lancashire, where they assured their Scottish confederates that their friends were ready to rise in numbers, to the amount of twenty thousand men at least, which would be sufficient to enable them to march to London in defiance of all opposition.
Upon this important occasion the insurgents gave a decided proof of that species of credulity which disposes men to receive, upon very slight evidence, such tidings as flatter their hopes and feelings, and which induced Addison to term the Jacobites of that period a race of men who live in a dream, daily nourished by fiction and delusion, and whom he compares to the obstinate old knight in Rabelais, who every morning swallowed a chimera for breakfast.
The Scottish gentlemen, and Lord Winton in particular, were not convinced by the reasoning of their Southern friends, nor do they appear to have been participant of their sanguine hopes of a general rising in Lancashire; accordingly, they strongly opposed the movement in that direction. All, therefore, which the rebels, in their divided counsels, were able to decide upon with certainty, was to move westward along the Border, a course which might advance them equally on their road, whether they should finally determine to take the route to the west of Scotland or to Lancashire. We must refer to a future part of this history for the progress and ultimate fate of this ill-starred expedition.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54