I HAVE delayed till this point in the Scottish history some attempt to investigate the causes and conduct of the Rebellion, and to explain, if possible, the supineness of the insurgent general and chiefs, who, having engaged in an attempt so desperate, and raised forces so considerable, should yet, after the lapse of two months, have advanced little farther in their enterprise than they had done in the first week after its commencement. If we review the Earl of Mar’s conduct from beginning to end, we are led to the conclusion, that the insurrection of 1715 was as hastily as rashly undertaken. It does not appear that Mar was in communication on the subject with the court of the Chevalier de St George previous to Queen Anne’s death. That event found him at liberty to recommend himself to the favour of King George, and show his influence with the Highland chiefs, by procuring an address of adhesion from them, of a tenor as loyal as his own. These offers of service being rejected, as we have already said, in a harsh and an affronting manner, made the fallen Minister conclude that his ruin was determined on; and his private resentment, which, in other circumstances, would have fallen to the ground ineffectual and harmless, lighted unhappily amongst those combustibles, which the general adherence to the exiled family had prepared in Scotland. When Mar arrived in Fifeshire from London, it was reported that he was possessed of L.100, 000 in money,-instructions from the Pretender, under his own hand, and a commission appointing him lieutenant-general, and commander-inchief of his forces in Scotland. But though these rumours were scattered in the public ear, better accounts allege, that in the commencement of the undertaking, Mar did not pretend to assume any authority over the other noblemen of his own rank, or produce any other token from the Chevalier de St George, than his portrait. A good deal of pains were taken to parade a strong-box, said to enclose a considerable sum of money, belonging to the Earl of Mar; but it was not believed to contain treasure to the amount of more than L.3000, if, indeed, it held so much. As to the important point of a general to command in chief, the scheme, when originally contemplated at the Court of St Germains, turned upon the Duke of Ormond’s landing in England, and the Duke of Berwick in Scotland, whose well-known talents were to direct the whole affair. After commencing his insurrection, there can be little doubt that Mar did the utmost, by his agents in Lorraine, to engage the favourable opinion of the Chevalier; and the unexpected success of his enterprise, so far as it had gone, and the great power he had been able to assemble, were well calculated to recommend him to confidence. In the mean time, it was necessary there should be a general to execute the duties of the office ad interim. Mar offered, as I have told you, the command to the Duke of Athole, who refused to be connected with the affair. Huntly, from his power and rank in possession and expectation, might have claimed the supreme authority, but his religion was an obstacle. Seaforth lay distant, and was late in coming up. The claims of these great nobles being set aside, there was nothing so natural as that Mar himself should assume the command of an insurrection, which would never have existed without his instigation. He was acceptable to the Highlanders, as having been the channel through which the bounty of the late Queen Anne had been transmitted to them; and had also partisans, from his liberality to certain of the Lowland nobles who had joined him, whose estates and revenues were not adequate to their rank, a circumstance which might be no small cause for their rushing into so ruinous an undertaking. Thus Mar assumed the general’s truncheon which chance offered to his hand, because there was no other who could pretend to it. Like most persons in his situation, he was not inclined to distrust his own capacity for using to advantage the power which he had almost fortuitously become possessed of; or, if he nourished any doubt upon this subject, he might consider his military charge to be but temporary, since, from the whole tenor of his conduct, it appears he expected from France some person whose trade had been war, and to whom he might with honour resign his office. Such an expectation may account for the care with which the Jacobite commander abstained from offensive operations, and for his anxious desire to augment his army to the highest point, rather than to adventure it upon the most promising enterprise.
It is probable Mar was encouraged to persevere in his military authority, in which he must have met with some embarrassment, when he found himself confirmed in it by Ogilvie of Boyne, an especial messenger from the Chevalier de St George, who, greatly flattered by the favourable state of affairs in Scotland, conferred upon the Earl of Mar in form, that command, which he had so long exercised in point of fact, and it was said, brought a patent, raising him to the dignity of Duke of Mar. Of the last honour, little was known, but the commission of Mar as general was read at the head of every corps engaged in the insurrection. It might be matter of wonder that the vessel which brought over Mr Ogilvie, the bearer of this commission, had not been freighted with men, money, or provisions. The reason appears to have been, that the Chevalier de St George had previously expended all the funds he could himself command, or which he could borrow from foreign courts favourable to his title, in equipping a considerable number of vessels designed to sail from Havre-deGrace and Dieppe, with large quantities of arms and ammunition. But the Earl of Stair, having speedily discovered the destination of these supplies, remonstrated with the Court of France upon proceedings so inconsistent with the treaty of Utrecht; and Sir George Byng, with a squadron of men-of-war, blockaded the ports of France, with the purpose of attacking the vessels if they should put to sea. The Regent Duke of Orleans immediately gave orders to the inspectors of naval affairs to prevent the arming and sailing of the vessels intended for the service of the Chevalier de St George. Thus the supplies designed for the insurgents were intercepted, and the whole expense which had been laid out upon the projected expedition was entirely lost. This affords a satisfactory reason why the exiled Prince could send little to his partisans in Scotland, unless in the shape of fair words and commissions.
In the mean time, the Earl of Mar, and the nobles and gentlemen embarked in his enterprise, although disappointed in these sanguine expectations under which it had been undertaken, and in finding that the death of Louis XIV., and the prudence of his successor in power, would deprive them of all hopes of foreign assistance, were yet desirous to receive that species of encouragement which might be derived from seeing the Chevalier de St George himself at the head of the army, which they had drawn together in his name and quarrel. An address, therefore, was made to King James VIII., as he was termed, praying him to repair to Scotland, and to encourage, by his personal presence, the flame of loyalty, which was represented as breaking out in every part of that kingdom, pledging the lives and honour of the subscribers for his personal security, and insisting on the favourable effect likely to be produced upon their undertaking, by his placing himself at its head. Another address was drawn up to the Regent Duke of Orleans, praying him, if he was not pleased to aid the heir of the House of Stewart at this crisis of his fate, that he would at least permit him to return to his own country, to share the fate of his trusty adherents, who were in arms in his behalf. This paper had rather an extraordinary turn, sounding as if the Chevalier de St George had been in prison, and the Regent of France the keeper of the key. The addresses, however, were subscribed by all the men of quality at Perth, though great was the resentment of these proud hidalgos, to find that the king’s printer, Mr Robert Freebairn, was permitted to sign along with them. The papers were, after having been signed, intrusted to the care of the Honourable Major Hay, having as his secretary the historian Dr Abercromby, with charge to wait upon the Chevalier at the Court of Lorraine, or where he might happen to be, and urge the desire of the subscribers. The choice of the ambassador, and the secrecy which was observed on the subject of his commission, were regarded as deserving censure by those in the army who conceived that, the general welfare being concerned in the measures to be adopted, they had some right to be acquainted with the mode in which the negotiation was to proceed. Mar afterwards despatched two additional envoys on the same errand; the first was Sir Alexander Erskine of Alva, who was wrecked on his return; the second, an agent of considerable acuteness, named Charles Forbes. The Earl of Mar had not ascended to the pitch of power which he now enjoyed, without experiencing the usual share of ill-will and unfavourable construction. The Master of Sinclair, a man of a temper equally shrewd and severe, had from the beginning shown himself dissatisfied with the management of the insurrection, and appears, like many men of the same disposition, to have been much more ready to remark and censure errors than to assist in retrieving them. The Earl of Huntly seems also to have been disobliged by Mar, and to have looked on him with dislike or suspicion; nor were the Highlanders entirely disposed to trust him as their general. When Glengarry, one of their ablest chiefs, joined the army at Perth, separate from those first assembled at Perth, and act in conjunction with the forces of the Earl of Huntly; and it was proposed to Sinclair to join in this sort of association, by which the army would in fact have been effectually separated into two parts. Glengarry, however, was dissuaded from this secession; and although it is intimated, that in order to induce him to abandon his design, the arguments arising from good cheer and good fellowship were freely resorted to, it is not the less true, that his returning to the duty of a soldier was an act of sober reason.
The Earl of Mar, amidst his other duties, having a wish to prepare a place of arms for the residence of the Chevalier de St George on his expected arrival, made an attempt to cover Perth by fortifications, so as to place it out of danger from a coup-demain. General Hamilton attended to this duty for a short time; butt afterwards it was almost entirely given up to the direction of a Frenchman, who had been a dancing and fencing-master, and whose lines of defence furnished much amusement to the English engineers, who afterwards became possessed of them.
Before resuming the narrative, I may tell you, that in this same eventful month of October, when there were so many military movements in Scotland, the Duke of Ormond was despatched by the Chevalier de St George, with arms and ammunition, and directions to land on the coast of England. Three cannon were fired as a signal to the Jacobites, who were expected to flock in numbers to the shore, the name of Ormond being then most popular among them. But the signals not being answered, the vessel bore off, and returned to France. Had the Duke landed, the Jacobite party would have been in the singular predicament of having a general in England, without an army, and an army in Scotland without an effective general. We now approach the catastrophe of these intestine commotions; for the Earl of Mar had by the beginning of November received all the reinforcements which he had to expect, though it may be doubted whether he had rendered his task of forcing or turning the Duke of Argyle’s position more easy, or his own army much stronger, by the time he had spent in inactivity. His numbers were indeed augmented, but so were those of the Duke so that the armies bore the same proportion to each other as before. This was a disadvantage to the Highlanders; for where a contest is to take place betwixt undisciplined energy and the steadiness of regular troops, the latter must always attain superiority in proportion as their numbers in the field increase, and render the day likely to be decided by manoeuvres. Besides this, the army of Mar sustained a very great loss by desertion during the time he lay at Perth. The Highlanders, with the impatience and indolence of a half-civilized people, grew weary alike of remaining idle, and of being employed in the labour of fortification, or the dull details of ordinary parade exercise. Many also went home for the purpose of placing in safety their accumulation of pay, and what booty they had been able to find in the Lowlands. Such desertions were deemed by the clans to be perfectly in rule, and even the authority of the chiefs was inadequate to prevent them.
Neither do the plans of the Earl of Mar seem to have been more distinctly settled, when he finally determined on the important step of making a movement in advance. It seems to have been given out, that he was to make three feigned attacks upon the Duke’s army at one and the same time-namely, one upon the Long Causeway and Stirling bridge; another at the Abbey ford, a mile below Stirling; and a third at the Drip-coble, a ford a mile and a half above that town. By appearing on so many points at once, Mar might hope to occupy the Duke’s attention so effectually, as to cross the river with his main body at the fords of Forth. But, as the Duke of Argyle did not give his opponent time to make these movements, it cannot be known whether Mar actually contemplated them. It is, however, certain that the Earl of Mar entertained the general purpose of reaching, if possible, the fords of Forth, where that river issues out of Lochard, and thus passing over to the southern side. To reach this part of the river, required a march of two days through a hilly and barren country. Nor were Mar and his advisers well acquainted with the road, and they had no other guide but the celebrated freebooter, Rob Roy MacGregor, who they themselves said was not to be trusted, and who, in point of fact, was in constant communication with his patron, the Duke of Argyle, to whom he sent intelligence of Mar’s motions.1 It was said, too, that this outlaw only knew the fords from having passed them with Highland cattle-a different thing, certainly, from being acquainted with them in a military point of view. It was probably, however, with a view to the information which Rob Roy could give on this point, that Mar, in a letter of the 4th of November, complains of that celebrated outlaw for not having come to Perth, where he wished much to have a meeting with him.
But if Mar and his military council had known the fords of Forth accurately, still it was doubtful in what situation they might find the passes when they arrived there. They might have been fortified and defended by the Duke of Argyle, or a detachment of his army; or they might be impassable at this advanced season of the year, for they are at all times of a deep and impracticable character. Last of all, before they could reach the heads of the Forth, Mar and his army must have found the means of crossing the Teith, a river almost as large and deep as the Forth itself, on which Argyle had destroyed the bridge of Doune, which afforded the usual means of passage. Such were the difficulties in the way of the insurgents; and they are of a kind which argues a great want of intelligence in a camp which must have contained many persons from Menteith and Lennox, well acquainted with the country through which the Highland army were to pass, and who might have reconnoitred it effectually, notwithstanding the small garrisons of west-country militia and volunteers, which the Duke had placed in Gartartan, and other houses of strength in the neighbourhood of Aberfoil. But it was not the will of Heaven that the insurgents should ever march far enough on their expedition to experience inconveniences from the difficulties we have pointed out; for the Duke of Argyle, though far inferior in force, adopted the soldier-like resolution of drawing out such strength as he had, and interrupting the march of the insurgents by fighting them, before they should have an opportunity of descending upon the Forth. For this purpose, he called in all his garrisons and outposts, and having mustered a main body of not quite four thousand men, he marched from Stirling towards Dunblane, on the morning of Saturday, the 12th of November.
On the 10th of November, the Earl of Mar had broken up from his quarters at Perth, and advanced to Auchterarder, where the infantry were quartered, while the cavalry found accommodation in the vicinity.
But, during that night, the Highland army suffered in its nominal strength by two considerable desertions. The one was that of the whole clan of Fraser, amounting to four hundred men. They had joined Mar’s army very recently, under Fraser of Fraserdale, who had married the heiress of their late chieftain. Just at this crisis, however, the heir-male of the family, the celebrated Fraser of Lovat, arrived in the north, and recalled by his mandate the clan of Fraser from the standards of King James VIII. to transfer them to those of George I. The Frasers, deeming their duty to their chief paramount to that which they owed to either monarch, and recognising the right of the male-heir to command them in preference to that of the husband of the heir-female, unanimously obeyed the summons of the former, and left the camp, army, and cause in which they were engaged. There will be occasion to mention more of the Erasers hereafter.
The other desertion was that of two hundred of the Earl of Huntly’s Highland followers, who complained of having been unjustly overburdened with what is called fatigue-duty. Thus diminished, the army, after having been reviewed by their general, marched off their ground in the following order. The Master of Sinclair with the Fifeshire squadron, and two squadrons of Huntly’s cavalry, formed the advance of the whole. The western clans followed, being, first, the MacDonalds, under their different chiefs of Clan Ranald, Glengarry, Sir Donald MacDonald, Keppoch, and Glencoe. The next were Breadalbane’s men, with five regiments, consisting of the following clans: the MacLeans, under Sir John MacLean, their chief; the Camerons, under Lochiel; the Stewarts, commanded by Appin; and those who remained of Huntly’s followers from Strathdon and Glenlivet, under Gordon of Glenbucket. This chosen body of Highlanders were in high spirits, and so confident of success, that they boasted that their division of Mar’s army only would be more than enough to deal with the Duke of Argyle and all the force he commanded. General Gordon was commander of the whole Highland vanguard.
The rest of the army, commanded by Mar in person, with the assistance of General Hamilton, followed the advanced division; and it was settled that the rearguard should march only as far as Ardoch, while the vanguard should push forward as far as the town of Dunblane, where they had quartered on their former march from Perth, eight miles to the west of Ardoch, where the rear was to halt.
The horse, at the head of the first column, were advancing according to their orders, when a lame boy, running as fast as his infirmity would permit him, stated to the Master of Sinclair, who commanded the advance, that he was sent by the wife of the Laird of Kippendavie, whose husband was in the Jacobite army, to tell the Earl of Mar that the Duke of Argyle was in the act of marching through Dunblane. The news, though the appearance of the messenger excited some doubt, was entitled to be treated with respect. A reconnoitring party was sent forward, an express was despatched to Mar, who was six or seven miles in the rear, and General Gordon anxiously looked around him to find some strong ground on which to post the men. The river Allan lay in their front, and the Master of Sinclair proposed pushing across, and taking possession of some farm-houses, visible on the opposite side, where the gentlemen might find refreshment, and the horses forage. But General Gordon justly thought that the passing a river at nightfall was a bad preparation for a body of infantry, who were to lie out till morning in the open air, in a hard frost, in the middle of November. At length the dispute was terminated, on two farm-houses being discovered on the left side of the river, where the horse obtained some accommodation, though in a situation in which they might have been destroyed by a sudden attack, before they could have got out of the enclosures, among which they were penned up like cattle, rather than quartered like soldiers. To guard against such a catastrophe, General Gordon posted advanced guards and videttes, and sent out patrols with the usual military precautions. Soon after they had taken their quarters for the night. Lord Southesk and the Angus-shire cavalry came up, with the intelligence that Mar and the whole main body were following, and the Earl accordingly appeared at the bivouac of the vanguard about nine o’clock at night.
Fresh intelligence came to them from Lady Kippendavie, who seems to have been as correct in her intelligence, and accurate in communicating with the insurgent army, as she was singular in her choice of messengers, this last being an old woman, who confirmed the tidings of the enemy’s approach. The reconnoitring parties, sent forward by Sinclair, came in with news to the same purpose. The whole of Mar’s army being now collected together within a very narrow circumference, slept on their arms, and wrapped in their plaids, feeling less inconvenience from the weather, which was a severe frost, than would probably have been experienced by any other forces in Europe. By daybreak, on Sunday, 13th November, the insurgent army drew up in two lines of battle, on the plain above the place where they had spent the night. They had not long assumed this posture, when they perceived a strong squadron of horse upon an eminence to the south of their lines. This was the Duke of Argyle, who, with some general officers, had taken this post in advance, for the purpose of reconnoitring the enemy’s position and proceedings. In this he succeeded but imperfectly, on account of the swells and hollows which lay between him and Mar’s army.
In the mean time, Mar, after satisfying himself that he was in presence of the enemy, called a council of his nobles, general officers, chiefs of clans, and commanders of corps. He is allowed on this occasion to have made them a most animating speech. It sunk, in part, upon unwilling ears, for there were already several persons of consequence, among whom Huntly and Sinclair seem to have been the leaders, who, despairing of the cause in which they were engaged, were desirous to open a communication with the Duke of Argyle, in order to learn whether he had power to receive their submission, and admit them to pardon on their former footing of living quietly under Government. This, however, was only whispered among themselves; for even those who entertained such opinions, were at the same time conscious that the crisis was come, in which they must fight for peace sword-inhand, and that, by gaining a victory, they might dictate honourable terms; while, if they attempted a retreat, they would be no longer able to keep their Highland levies together, or to open a negotiation with the air of strength absolutely necessary to command a tolerable capitulation. When, therefore, the Earl of Mar reminded his military auditors of the injustice done to the royal English yoke, and conjured them not to let slip the opportunity which they had so long languished for, but instantly attack the enemy, with that spirit which their cause and their wrongs were calculated to inspire, his words awakened a corresponding energy in the hearers. The Earl of Huntly only asked, whether a battle won would, in their present circumstances, place their rights, and those of their country, within their reach? or, whether there was any hope of foreign aid, to enable them to withstand the arms of England and her allies? “ All this,” he said, “ my Lord of Mar could doubtless inform them of, since he had lately received a letter from Lord Bolingbroke, which he desired might be laid before the council.”
The critical circumstances of the moment, and the enthusiasm which had been excited in the assembly, enabled Mar to dispense with attending to questions which he might have found it difficult to answer. Gliding over the interruption given by Huntly, he stated to the council the question, in the words, “ Fight or not? “ The chiefs, nobles, and officers, answered, with an universal shout of “ Fight,” and their resolution reaching the two lines, as they stood drawn up in order of battle, was welcomed with loud huzzas, tossing up of hats and bonnets, and a cheerfulness, which seemed, even to those who had been before uncertain and doubtful of the issue, a sure presage of speedy victory.
In this state of excited feeling, the army of Mar advanced towards the enemy. The two lines in which they stood upon the moor were broken up each into two columns, so that it was in four columns that they pursued the order of their march, descending the hill which they had first occupied, crossing a morass, which the hard frost of the night before had rendered passable for cavalry as well as infantry, and ascending the opposite height, from which the Duke of Argyle was observing their movements. The Duke, on his part, as soon as he saw the extremity of Mar’s wing wheel to the right, in order to make the movement we have described, immediately comprehended that their purpose was to avail themselves of their superiority of numbers, and attack his small force at once on the left flank, and in front. He rode hastily down the eminence, at the foot of which his force was drawn up, in order at once to get them into such a disposition as might disappoint the object of the enemy, and to lead his troops up the hill. He drew up his little army of about four thousand men, extending his disposition considerably to the right, placing three squadrons of horse on that wing, and as many on the left of his front line; the centre being composed of six battalions of foot. Each wing of horse was supported by a squadron of dragoons. The second line was composed of two battalions in the centre, with a squadron of dragoons on either wing. In this order, and having his right considerably advanced against the enemy’s left, so as to admit of his withdrawing his own left wing from a flank attack, the Duke ascended the hill, seeing nothing of the enemy, who had left the high grounds, and were advancing to meet him on the other side of the same height, which he was in the act of mounting. The Highlanders, as has been already stated, advanced in four columns, marching by their right.
Each column of infantry, four in number, was closed by a body of cavalry, which, when the column should deploy into line, were to take up their ground on the flank. The Highlanders marched, or rather ran, with such eagerness towards the enemy, that the horse were kept at the gallop in the rear. Both armies were thus ascending the hill in column, and met, as it were unexpectedly, upon the top, being in some points within pistol-shot before they were aware of each others presence. Both, therefore, endeavoured at the same time to form line-of-battle, and some confusion occurred on either side. In particular, two squadrons of the insurgent cavalry were placed in the centre of the right wing, instead of being stationed on the flank, as had been intended, and as the rules of war required. This discovery, however, was of much less consequence to the Highlanders, whose terrors consisted in the head-long fury of the onset, whilst the strength of the regulars depended on the steadiness of their discipline.
It was at this moment that an old chief, impatient for the command to charge, and seeing the English soldiers getting into order, became enraged at seeing the favourable minute pass away, and made the memorable exclamation, “ Oh, for one hour of Dundee!”
The Duke’s left wing was commanded by General Whitham, who does not appear to have been distinguished either for courage or conduct. The right of Mar’s line was hastily formed, consisting of the western clans, MacDonalds, MacLeans, and the followers of Breadalbane, when old Captain Livingstone rode up, a veteran soldier, who had served in King James’s army before the Revolution, and with several oaths called to General Gordon, who commanded the right wing, instantly to attack. The General hesitated, but the chiefs and clans caught the enthusiasm of the moment. A gentleman, named MacLean, who lived to a great age, thus described the attack of his own tribe; and there can be no doubt that the general onset was made under similar circumstances. When his clan was drawn up in deep order, the best born, bravest, and best armed of the warriors in front, Sir John MacLean placed himself at their head, and said, with a loud voice, “ Gentlemen, this is a day we have long wished to see. Yonder stands MacCallanmore for King George–Here stands MacLean for King James.-God bless MacLean and King James!-Charge, gentlemen!”
The clan then muttered a very brief prayer, fixed the bonnet firm on the head, stripped off their plaids, which then comprehended the philabeg also, and rushed on the enemy, firing their fusees irregularly, then dropping them, and drawing their swords, and uniting in one wild yell, when they mingled among the bayonets. The regular troops on the left received this fierce onset of the mountaineers with a heavy fire, which did considerable execution. Among others who dropped was the gallant young chief of Clan Ranald, mortally wounded. His fall checked for an instant the impetuosity of his followers, when Glengarry, so often mentioned, started from the ranks, waved his bonnet around his head, exclaiming, “ Revenge, revenge! today for revenge, and tomorrow for mourning!” The Highlanders, resuming the fury of their attack, mingled with the regulars, forced their line in every direction, broke through them and dispersed them, making great slaughter among men less active than themselves, and loaded with an unwieldy musket, which in individual or irregular strife, has scarce ever been found a match for the broadsword. The extreme left of Argyle’s army was thus routed with considerable slaughter, for the Highlanders gave no quarter; but the troops of the centre, under General Wightman, remained unbroken; and it would seem to have been the business of the rebel cavalry to have charged them in the flank or rear, exposed as they must have been by the flight of Whitham and the left wing. Of their cavalry, however, two squadrons, commanded by Drummond and Marischal, went off in pursuit of those whom the Highlanders had scattered; while Lord Huntly’s, and that of Fife, under the Master of Sinclair, remained inactive on the field of battle, without engaging at all. It would seem that they were kept in check by the dragoons of Argyle’s second line, who did not fly like the first, but made an orderly retreat in the face of the enemy.
On the right wing and centre, the event of the battle was very different. The attack of the Highlanders was as furious as on their right. But their opponents, though a little staggered, stood their ground with admirable resolution, and the Duke of Argyle detached Colonel Cathcart, with a body of horse, to cross a morass, which the frost had rendered passable, and attack the Highlanders on the flank as they advanced to the charge. In this manner their rapid assault was checked and baffled; and although the Camerons, Stewarts, and other clans of high reputation, formed the left wing of Mar’s army, yet that, and his whole second line, were put to flight by the masterly movement of the Duke of Argyle, and the steadiness of the troops he commanded. But his situation was very perilous; for as the fugitives consisted of five thousand men, there was every prospect of their rallying and destroying the Duke’s small body, consisting only of five squadrons of horse, supported by Wightman, with three battalions of infantry, who had lately composed the centre of the army. Argyle took the bold determination to press on the fugitives with his utmost vigour, and succeeded in driving them back to the river Allan, where they had quartered the night before. The fugitives made frequent halts, and were as often again attacked and broken. This was particularly remarked of the body of horse who carried James’s standard, and was called the Restoration Squadron. The gentlemen composing it made repeated and vigorous attacks, in which they were only broken and borne down by the superior weight of the English cavalry. It was in one of these reiterated charges that the gallant young Earl of Strathmore lost his life, while in vain attempting to rally his Angus-shire regiment. He was slain by a private dragoon, after having had quarter given to him. The Earl of Panmure was also wounded and made prisoner by the royalists, but was rescued by his brother, Mr Henry Maule.
The field of battle now presented a singular appearance, for the left of both armies were broken and flying, the right of both victorious and in pursuit. But the events of war are of less consequence than the use which is made of them. It does not appear than any attempt was made on the part of Mar to avail himself of his success on the right. General Whitham had indeed resigned the field of battle to his opponents, and from thence fled almost to Stirling bridge. The victorious Highlanders did not take the trouble to pursue them, but having marched across the scene of action, drew up on an eminence, called the Stony Hill of Kippendavie, where they stood in groups with their drawn swords in their hands. One cause of their inactivity at this critical moment may be attributed to having dropped their fire-arms, according to their fashion when about to charge; another, certainly, was the want of active aides-decamp to transmit orders; and a third, the character of the Highlanders, who are not always disposed to obedience. This much is certain, that had their victorious right wing pursued in the Duke of Argyle’s rear when he advanced towards the river Allan, they must have placed him in the greatest danger, since his utmost exertion was scarce equal to keep the multitude before him in full retreat. It is also stated, that some of the Highlanders showed an unwillingness to fight. This is alleged to have been particularly the case with the celebrated Rob Roy, a dependent, it will be observed, of the Duke of Argyle’s, and in the habit, during the whole insurrection, of furnishing him with intelligence from the enemy’s camp. A strong party of MacGregors and MacPhersons were under the command of this outlaw, who, when ordered to charge, answered coolly, “ If they cannot do it without me, they cannot do it with me.” It is said, that a bold man of the Clan Vourigh, called Alister MacPherson, who followed Rob Roy’s original profession of a drover, impatient at the inactivity in which they were detained, threw off his plaid, drew his sword, and called on the MacPhersons to follow. “ Hold, Sandie,” said Rob Roy; “ were the question about a drove of sheep, you might know something; but as it concerns the leading of men, it is for me to decide.”-” Were the question about a drove of Glen–Angus wethers,” retorted the MacPherson, “ the question with you, Rob, would not be who should be last, but who should be first.” This had almost produced a battle betwixt the two champions; but in the mean time, the opportunity of advancing was lost. The Duke of Argyle having returned back from his pursuit of the enemy’s left wing, came in contact with their right, which, victorious as we have intimated, was drawn up on the hill of Kippendavie. Mutual menaces of attack took place, but the combat was renewed on neither side. Both armies showed a disposition to retreat, and Mar, abandoning a part of his artillery, drew back to Auchterarder, and from thence retired to Perth. Both generals claimed the victory, but as Mar abandoned from that day all thoughts of a movement to the westward, his object must be considered as having been completely defeated; while Argyle attained the fruits of victory in retaining the position by which he defended the Lowlands, and barred against the insurgents every avenue by which they could enter them.
The numbers slain in the battle of Sheriffmuir were considerable. Seven or eight hundred were killed on the side of the rebels, and the royalists must have lost five or six hundred. Much noble and gentle blood was mixed with that of the vulgar. A troop of volunteers, about sixty in number, comprehending the Dukes of Douglas and Roxburghe, the Earls of Haddington, Lauderdale, Loudon, Belhaven, and Rothes, fought bravely, though the policy of risking such a troupe doree might be questionable. At all events, it marked a great change of times, when the Duke of Douglas, whose ancestors could have raised an army as numerous as those of both sides in the field of Sheriffmuir, fought as a private trooper, assisted only by two or three servants. This body of volunteers behaved in a manner becoming their rank. Many of them were wounded, and the Earl of Forfar was slain.
The loss of the Earl of Strathmore and of the young Clan Ranald, was a severe blow to the Insurrection. The last was a complete soldier, trained in the French Guards, and full of zeal for the cause of James. “ My family,” he replied to Mar’s summons to join him, “ have been on such occasions ever wont to be the first on the field, and the last to leave it.” When he fell out of the ranks, mortally wounded, Mar met him, and, ignorant of what had happened, demanded why he was not in the front. “ I have had my share,” said the dying chief, and fell dead before his commander. Many of his men retired from the army in consequence of his death.
Thus began and thus ended a confused affray, of which a contemporary ballad-maker truly says, “ there is nothing certain, except that there was actually a battle, which he witnessed.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00