WE left the insurgents when the melancholy news of the termination of the campaign of Forster, with his Highland auxiliaries, at the barricades of Preston, had not yet reached them; the moment it did, all hopes of a general insurrection in England, or any advantage being obtained there, were for ever ended.
The regular troops which had been detained in England to suppress the northern insurgents, were now set at liberty, and Mar could no longer rely upon Argyle’s remaining inactive for want of men. Besides, the Estates of the United Provinces had now, upon the remonstrance of General Cadogan, despatched for Britain the auxiliary forces which they were bound by treaty to furnish in case of invasion, and three thousand of them had landed at Deptford. The other three thousand Dutch troops. designed for ports in the north, had been dispersed by a storm, and driven into Harwich, Yarmouth, and elsewhere, which induced the Government to order those at Deptford, as the most disposable part of this auxiliary force, to move instantly down to Scotland.
Events equally unfavourable to the rebels were taking place in the North of Scotland; and, in order to ascertain the progress of these, it is necessary to trace some passages of the life of Simon Fraser, one of the most remarkable characters of his time. He was by birth the nearest male heir to (he estate of Lovat, and to the dignity of Chief of the Frasers-no empty honour, since the clan contained a following of from seven hundred to a thousand men. The chief last deceased, however, had loft A daughter, and Simon was desirous, by marriage with this young lady, to unite her pretensions to the chieftainship and estate with his own. As his character was bad, and his circumstances accounted desperate, the widowed mother of the young heiress, a lady of the house of Athole, was averse to this match, and her powerful family countenanced her repugnance. Being a man of a daring character, deep powers of dissimulation, and master of the tempers of the lower class of Highlanders, Simon found it no difficult matter to obtain the assistance of a strong party of Frasers, chiefly desperate men, to assist in a scheme of seizing on the person of the young heiress. She escaped his grasp, but her mother, the widow of the late Lord Lovat, fell into his power. Equally short-sighted as unprincipled, Fraser imagined that by marrying this lady, instead of her daughter, he would secure, through her large jointure, some legal interest in the estate. With this view he accomplished a forced marriage betwixt the Dowager Lady Lovat and himself, and enforced his rights as her pretended husband with the most brutal violence.1 For this abominable and atrocious outrage against a matron widow of his own near connexion, and a sister of the powerful Marquis of Athole, letters of fire and sword were granted against Fraser and his adherents, and being outlawed by the High Court of Justiciary, he was forced to fly to France. Here he endeavoured to recommend himself at the court of St Germains, by affecting much zeal for the Jacobite cause, and pretending to great interest with the Highland chiefs, and the power of rendering effectual service amongst them. The Chevalier de St George and the French King were aware of the infamy of the man’s character, and distrusted the proposal which he laid before them, for raising an insurrection in the Highlands. Mary of Este, more credulous, was disposed to trust him; and he was detached on a Jacobite mission, which he instantly betrayed to the Duke of Queensberry, and which created much disturbance in the year 1703, as we have noticed in its place.1 His double treachery being discovered, Simon Fraser was, on his return to France, thrown into the Bastile, where he remained for a considerable time. Dismissed from this imprisonment, he waited for an opportunity where he might serve his own interest and advance his claims upon the chieftainship of the clan Fraser and the estate of Lovat, by adopting the political side betwixt the contending parties which should bid fairest to serve his purpose.
The time seemed now arrived, when, by the insurrection of Mar, open war was declared betwixt the parties. His cousin, the heiress of Lovat, had been married to Mackenzie of Fraserdale, who, acting as chief of his wife’s clan, had summoned the Frasers to arms, and led a body of five hundred clansmen to join the standard of the Chevalier de St George. They marched to Perth accordingly. In the mean time, Simon Fraser arrived in Scotland, and made his appearance, like one of those portentous sea monsters whose gambols announce the storm. He was first seen at Dumfries, where he offered his personal services to join the citizens, who were in arms to repel an attack from Kenmure, Nithisdale, and their followers. The Dumfriesians, however, trusted him not, nay were disposed to detain him a prisoner; and only permitted him to march northward on the assurance of the Marquis of Annandale, that his presence there would be favourable to King George and his cause. It proved so accordingly.
Simon Fraser arrived in Inverness-shire, and hastened to form an intimate alliance with Duncan Forbes, brother of John Forbes of Culloden, and a determined friend to Government. Forbes was an excellent lawyer, and a just and religious man. At another time, he would probably have despised associating himself with a desperate outlaw to his country, black with the charges of rape, murder, and double treachery. But the case was an extreme one, in which no assistance that promised to be available was to be rejected.1 Simon Fraser obtained pardon and favour, and the influence of the patriarchal system was never more remarkably illustrated than in his person. His character was, as we have seen, completely infamous, and his state and condition that of an adventurer of the very worst description. But by far the greater number of the clan were disposed to think that the chiefship descended to the male heir, and therefore preferred Simon’s title to that of Fraserdale, who only commanded them as husband of the heiress. The mandates of Fraser, now terming himself Lovat, reached the clan in the town of Perth. They were respected as those of the rightful chief; and the Erasers did not hesitate to withdraw from the cause of the Chevalier de St George, and march northwards, to place themselves under the command of their restored patriarch by male descent, who had embraced the other side. This change of sides was the more remarkable, as most of the Frasers were in personal opinion Jacobites. We have already noticed that the desertion of the Frasers took place the very morning when Mar broke up to march on Dumblane; and, as a bold and warlike clan, their absence, on the 12th November, was of no small disadvantage to the party from whom they had retired.
Shortly after this, the operations of this clan, under their new leader, became directly hostile to the Jacobite cause. Sir John MacKenzie of Coul had, at the period of the Earl of Seaforth’s march to Perth, been left with four hundred MacKenzies, to garrison Inverness, which may be termed the capital of the North Highlands. Hitherto his task had been an easy one, but it was now likely to become more difficult. Acting upon a plan concerted betwixt him and Duncan Forbes, Lovat assembled his clan, and with those of the Monroes, Rosses, and Grants, who had always maintained the Whig interest, attacked Inverness, with such success, that they made themselves masters of the place, which Sir John MacKenzie found himself compelled to evacuate without serious resistance. The Earl of Sutherland also, who was still in arms, now advanced across the Murray frith, and a considerable force was collecting in the rear of the rebels, and in a position which threatened the territories of Huntly, Seaforth, and several other chief leaders in Mar’s army.
These various events tended more and more to depress the spirits of the noblemen and heads of clans who were in the Jacobite army. The indefinite, or rather unfavourable, issue of the affair of Sheriffmuir, had discouraged those who expected, by a decisive victory, if not to carry their principal and original purpose, at least to render themselves a foe to whom the Government might think it worth while to grant honourable terms of accommodation.
Most men of reflection, therefore, now foresaw the inevitable ruin of the undertaking; but the General, Mar, having formally invited the Chevalier de St George to come over and put himself at the head of the insurrectionary army, was under the necessity, for his own honour, and to secure the chance which such an impulse might have given to his affairs, of keeping his troops together to protect the person of the Prince, in case of his accepting this perilous invitation, which, given before the battle of Sheriffmuir, was likely to be complied with. In this dilemma he became desirous, by every species of engagement, to bind those who had enrolled themselves under the fatal standard, not to quit it.
For this purpose, a military oath was proposed, in name of King James VIII.; an engagement, which, however solemn, has been seldom found stronger than the severe compulsion of necessity operating against it. Many of the gentlemen engaged, not willing to preclude themselves from endeavouring to procure terms, in case of need, refused to come under this additional obligation. The expedient of an association was next resorted to, and Mar summoned a general council of the principal persons in the army. This was the fourth time such a meeting had been convoked since the commencement of the insurrection; the first had taken place when MacIntosh’s detachment was in peril; the second for the purpose of subscribing an invitation to the Chevalier de St George to join them, and the third on the field of battle at Sheriffmuir.
The Marquis of Huntly, who had already wellnigh determined on taking separate measures, refused to attend the meeting, but sent a draught of an association to which he was willing to subscribe, and seemed to admit that the insurgents might make their peace separately. Mar flung it scornfully aside, and said it might be a very proper form, providing it had either sense or grammar. He then recommended his own draught, by which the subscribers agreed to continue in arms, and accept no conditions unless under the royal authority, and by the consent of the majority of the gentlemen then in arms. The proposed measure was opposed by the Master of Sinclair and many of the Lowland gentlemen. They complained, that by using the phrase “ Royal authority,” they might be considered as throwing the free power of deciding for themselves into the hands of Mar, as the royal General, with whose management hitherto they had little reason to be satisfied. The Master of Sinclair demanded to know what persons were to vote, as constituting the majority of gentlemen in arms, and whether voices must be allowed to all who went by that general name, or whether the decision was to be remitted to those whom the General might select. Sir John MacLean haughtily answered, that unless some such power of selection were lodged in the commander-inchief, all his regiment of eight hundred men must be admitted to vote, since every MacLean was a gentlemen. Mar endeavoured to soothe the disaffected. He admitted the King’s affairs were not in such a state as he could have desired; but contended that they were far from desperate, intimated that he still entertained hopes, and in the same breath deprecated answering the questions put to him on the nature of his expectations. He was, however, borne down with queries; and being reminded that he could nut propose remaining at Perth, when the Duke of Argyle, reinforced by six thousand Dutch, should move against him on one side, and Sutherland, with all the northern clans in the Government interest, should advance on the other, it was demanded, where he proposed to make a stand. Inverness was named; and the shire of Murray was pointed out as sufficient to find subsistence for a considerable army. But Inverness, if not already fallen, was in imminent danger; Murray, though a fertile country, was a narrow district, which would be soon exhausted; and it seemed to be the general opinion, that if pressed by the Government forces, there would be no resource save falling back into the barren regions of the Highlands. The Master of Sinclair asked, at what season of the year forage and oilier necessaries for cavalry were to he found in the hills? Glengarry made a bizarre but very intelligible reply, “ that such accommodations were to be found in the Highlands at every season-by those who were provident enough to bring them with them.” The main argument of Mar was, to press upon the dissentients the dishonour of deserting the King, when he was on the point of throwing himself on their loyalty. They replied, he alone knew the King’s motions; of which they had no such assurances as could induce them to refuse any opportunity of saving themselves, their families, and estates from perdition, merely to preserve some punctilious scruples of loyalty, by which the King could gain no real advantage. They complained that they had been lured into the field, by promises of troops, arms, ammunition, treasure, and a general of military talent-all to be sent by France; and that, these reports proving totally false, they did not incline to be detained there upon rumours of the King’s motions, which might be equally fallacious, as they came from the same quarter. In a word, the council of war broke up without coming to a resolution; and there was, from that time, established in the army a party who were opposed to Mar’s conduct of affairs, who declared for opening a negotiation with the Duke of Argyle, and were distinguished at headquarters as grumblers and mutineers.
These gentlemen held a meeting at the Master of Sinclair’s quarters, and opened a communication with Mar, in which they urged the total inadequacy of any resistance which they could now offer -the exhaustion of their supplies of ammunition, provision, and money-the impossibility of their making a stand until they reached the Highland mountains-and the equal impossibility of subsisting their cavalry, if they plunged into these wildernesses. They declared, that they did not desire to separate themselves from the army; all they wished to know was, whether an honourable capitulation could be obtained for all who were engaged; and if dishonourable terms were offered, they expressed themselves determined to fight to the death rather than accept them.
While such were the sentiments of the Low-country gentlemen, dejected at their total want of success, and the prospect of misery and ruin which they saw fast approaching, the Highland chiefs and clans were totally disinclined to any terms of accommodation. Their warlike disposition made the campaign an enjoyment to them; the pay, which Mar dispensed liberally, was, while it lasted, an object with people so poor; and, finally, they entertained the general opinion, founded upon the convention made with their ancestors after the war of 1688–9, that they might at worst retreat into their hills, where, rather than incur the loss of men and charges necessary for suppressing them, the Government would be glad to grant them peace upon their own terms, and, perhaps, not averse to pay them for accepting it. Another class of men having influence in such a singular camp, were the nobility, or men of quality, who had joined the cause. Most of these were men of high titles but broken fortunes, whose patrimony was overburdened with debt. They had been early treated by Mar with distinction and preference, for their rank gave credit to the cause which their personal influence could not greatly have advanced. They enjoyed posts of nominal rank in the insurrectionary army; and the pay conforming to these was not less acceptable to them than to the Highlanders. It may be also supposed, that they were more particularly acquainted than others with the reasons Mar had for actually expecting the King; and might, with spirit worthy of their birth, be willing to incur the worst extremities of war, rather than desert their monarch at the moment when, by their own invitation, he came to throw himself on their fidelity. These noblemen, therefore, supported the measures and authority of the commander, and discountenanced any proposals to treat. Notwithstanding the aid of the nobles and the Highland chiefs, Mar found himself compelled so far to listen to the representations of the discontented party, as to consent that application should be made to the Duke of Argyle to learn whether any capitulation could be allowed. There was so little faith betwixt the officers and their general, that the former insisted on naming one of the delegates who were to be sent to Stirling about the proposed negotiation. The offer of submission upon terms was finally intrusted to Lieutenant–Colonel Lawrence, the officer of highest rank who had been made prisoner at Sheriffmuir. The Colonel, agreeably to a previous engagement, returned with an answer to the proposal of submission, that the Duke of Argyle had no commission from Court to treat with the insurgents as a body, but only with such individuals as might submit themselves; but his Grace promised that he would send the Duke of Roxburgh to court, for the purpose of soliciting such powers for a general pacification. A more private negotiation, instituted by the Countess of Murray, whose second son, Francis Stewart, was engaged in the rebellion, received the same answer, with this addition, that the Duke of Argyle would not hear her pronounce the name of Mar, in whose favour she had attempted to make some intercession.
Upon this unfavourable reception of the proposal of submission, it was not difficult to excite the resentment of those who had declared for war, against that smaller party which advocated peace. The Highlanders, whose fierce temper was easily awakened to fury, were encouraged to insult and misuse several of the Low-country gentry, particularly the followers of Huntly, tearing the cockades out of their hats, and upbraiding them as cowards and traitors. The Master of Sinclair was publicly threatened by Farquharson of Inverey, a Highland vassal of the Earl of Mar; but his well-known ferocity of temper, with his habit of going continually armed, seem to have protected him. About this time, there were others among Mar’s principal associates who became desirous of leaving his camp at Perth. Huntly, much disgusted with the insults offered to his vassals, and the desperate state of things at Perth, was now preparing to withdraw to his own country, alleging that his presence was necessary to defend it against the Earl of Sutherland, whose march southward must be destructive to the estates of his family. The movements of the same Earl with the clans of Rosses, MacKays, Frasers, Grants, and others, alarmed Seaforth also for the security of his dominions in Kintail; and he left Perth, to march northward, for the defence of his property, and the wives, families, and houses of his vassals in arms. Thus were two great limbs lopped off from Mar’s army, at the time when it was about to be assailed by Government with collected strength. Individuals also became dispirited, and deserted the enterprise. There was at least one man of consideration who went home from the field of battle at Sheriffmuir — sat down by his own hearth, and trusting to the clemency of the Government, renounced the trade of king-making. Others, in parties or separately, had already adopted the same course; and those who, better known, or more active, dared not remain at home, were seeking passages to foreign parts from the eastern ports of Scotland. The Master of Sinclair, after exchanging mutual threats and defiances with Mar and his friends, left the camp at Perth, went north and visited the Marquis of Huntly. He afterwards escaped abroad from the Orkney islands.
Amidst this gradual but increasing defection, Mar, by the course of his policy, saw himself at all rates obliged to keep his ground at Perth, since he knew, what others refused to take upon his authority, that the Chevalier de St George was very shortly to be expected in his camp. This Prince, unfortunate from his very infancy, found himself, at the time of this struggle in his behalf, altogether unable to assist his partisans. He had been expelled from France by the Regent Duke of Orleans, and even the provision of arms and ammunition, which he was able to collect from his own slender funds, and those of his followers, or by the munificence of his allies, was intercepted in the ports of France. Having, therefore, no more effectual mode of rendering them assistance, he generously, or desperately, resolved to put his own person in the hazard, and live and die along with them. As a soldier, the Chevalier de St George had shown courage upon several other occasions; that is, he had approached the verge of battle as near as persons of his importance are usually suffered to do. He was handsome in person, and courteous and pleasing in his manners; but his talents were not otherwise conspicuous, nor did he differ from the ordinary class of great persons, whose wishes, hopes, and feelings, are uniformly under the influence and management of some favourite minister, who relieves his master of the inconvenient trouble of thinking for himself upon subjects of importance. The arrival of a chief, graced with such showy qualities as James possessed, might have given general enthusiasm to the insurrection at its commencement, but could not redeem it when it was gone to ruin; any more than the unexpected presence of the captain on board a half-wrecked vessel can, of itself, restore the torn rigging which cannot resist the storm, or mend the shattered planks which are yawning to admit the waves. The Chevalier thus performed his romantic adventure:— Having traversed Normandy, disguised in a mariner’s habit, he embarked at Dunkirk aboard a small vessel, formerly a privateer, as well armed and manned as time would admit, and laden with a cargo of brandy. On the 22d December, l7l5, he landed at Peterhead, having with him a retinue of only six gentlemen; the rest of his train and equipage being to follow him in two other small vessels. Of these, one reached Scotland, but the other was shipwrecked. The Earl of Mar, with the Earl Marischal, and a chosen train of persons of quality, to the number of thirty, went from Perth to kiss the hands of the Prince for whose cause they were in arms. They found him at Fetteresso, discomposed with the ague — a bad disorder to bring to a field of battle. The deputation was received with the courtesy and marks of favour which could not be refused, although their news scarce deserved a welcome. While the Episcopal clergy of the diocese of Aberdeen congratulated themselves and James on the arrival of a Prince, trained like Moses, Joseph, and David, in the school of adversity, his general had to apprize his Sovereign of the cold tidings, that his education in that severe academy had not yet ended. The Chevalier de St George now for the first time received the melancholy intelligence, that for a month before his arrival it had been determined to abandon Perth, which had hitherto been their headquarters, and that, as soon as the enemy began to advance, they would be under the necessity of retreating into the wild Highlands. This was a reception very different from what the Prince anticipated. Some hopes were still entertained, that the news of the Chevalier’s actual arrival might put new life into their sinking cause, bring back the friends who had left their standard, and encourage new ones to repair thither, and the experiment was judged worth trying. For giving the greater effect to his presence, he appeared in royal state as he passed through Brechin and Dundee, and entered Perth itself with an affectation of Majesty.
James proceeded to name a privy council, to whom he made a speech, which had little in it that was encouraging to his followers. In spite of a forced air of hope and confidence, it was too obvious that the language of the Prince was rather that of despair. There was no rational expectation of assistance in men, money, or arms, from abroad, nor did his speech hold out any such. He was come to Scotland, he said, merely that those who did not choose to discharge their own duty, might not have it in their power to make his absence an apology; and the ominous words escaped him, “ that for him it was no new thing to be unfortunate, since his whole life, from his cradle, had been a constant series of misfortune, and he was prepared, if it so pleased God, to suffer the extent of the threats which his enemies threw out against him.” These were not encouraging words, but they were the real sentiments of a spirit broken with disappointment. The Grand Council, to whom this royal speech was addressed, answered it by a declaration of their purpose of fighting the Duke of Argyle; and it is incredible how popular this determination was in the army, though reduced to one-fourth of their original numbers. The intelligence of the arrival of the Chevalier de St George was communicated to Seaforth, Lord Huntly, and other persons of consequence who had formerly joined his standard, but they took no notice of his summons to return thither. He continued, notwithstanding, to act the sovereign. Six proclamations were issued in the name of James the Eighth of Scotland, and Third of England: The first appointed a general thanksgiving for his safe arrival in the British kingdoms-a second, commanded prayers to be offered up for him in all churches a third, enjoined the currency of foreign coins — a fourth, directed the summoning together the Scottish Convention of Estates-a fifth, commanded all the fencible men to join his standard-and a sixth, appointed the 23d of January for the ceremony of his coronation. A letter from the Earl of Mar was also published respecting the King, as he is called, in which, with no happy selection of phrase, he is termed the finest gentleman in person and manners, with the finest parts and capacity for business, and the finest writer whom Lord Mar ever saw; in a word, every way fitted to make the Scots a happy people, were his subjects worthy of him. But with these flattering annunciations came forth one of a different character. The village of Auchterarder, and other hamlets lying between Stirling and Perth, with the houses, corn, and forage, were ordered by James’s edict to be destroyed, lest they should afford quarters to the enemy in their advance. In consequence of this, the town above named and several villages were burned to the ground, while their inhabitants, with old men and women, children and infirm persons, were driven from their houses in the extremity of one of the hardest winters which had for a long time been experienced even in these cold regions. There is every reason to believe, that the alarm attending this violent measure greatly overbalanced any hopes of better times, excited by the flourishing proclamations of the newly-arrived candidate for royalty.
While the insurgents at Perth were trying the effect of adulatory proclamations, active measures of a very different kind were in progress. The Duke of Argyle had been in Stirling since the battle of 12th November, collecting gradually the means of totally extinguishing the rebellion. His secret wish probably was, that it might be ended without farther bloodshed of his misguided countrymen, by dissolving of itself. But the want of a battering train, and the extreme severity of the weather, served as excuses for refraining from active operations. The Duke, however, seems to have been suspected by Government of being tardy in his operations; and perhaps of having entertained some idea of extending his own power and interest in Scotland, by treating the rebels with clemency, and allowing them time for submission. This was the rather believed, as Argyle had been the ardent opponent of Marlborough, now Captain–General, and could not hope that his measures would be favourably judged by a political and personal enemy. The intercession of a part of the English ministry, who declared against the impeachment of the rebel lords, had procured them punishment in the loss of their places; and, notwithstanding the services he had performed, in arresting with three thousand men the progress of four times that number, Argyle’s slow and temporizing measures subjected him to a shade of malevolent suspicion, which his message to Government, through the Duke of Roxburghe, recommending an amnesty, perhaps tended to increase. Yet he had not neglected any opportunity to narrow the occupation of the country by the rebels, or to prepare fur their final suppression. The English ships of war in the frith, acting under the Duke’s orders, had driven Mar’s forces from the castle of Burntisland, and the royal troops had established themselves throughout a great part of Fifeshire, formerly held exclusively by the rebel army. The Dutch auxiliaries now, however, began to join the camp at Stirling; and as the artillery designed for the siege of Perth lay wind-bound in the Thames, a field-train was sent from Berwick to Stirling, that no farther time might be lost. General Cadogan also, the intimate friend of Marlborough, was despatched from London to press the most active operations; and Argyle, if he had hitherto used any delay, in pity to the insurgents, was now forced on the most energetic measures. On the 24th of January, the advance from Stirling and the march on Perth were commenced, though the late hard frost, followed by a great fall of snow, rendered the operations of the army slow and difficult. On the last day of January the troops of Argyle crossed the Earne without opposition, and advanced to Tullibardine, within eight miles of Perth.
On the other hand, all was confusion at the headquarters of the rebels. The Chevalier de St George had expressed the greatest desire to see the little kings, as he called the Highland chiefs, and their clans; but, though professing to admire their singular dress and martial appearance, he was astonished to perceive their number so greatly inferior to what he had been led to expect, and expressed an apprehension that he had been deceived and betrayed. Nor did the appearance of this Prince excite much enthusiasm on the part of his followers. His person was tall and thin; his look and eye dejected by his late bodily illness; and his whole bearing lacking the animation and fire which ought to characterise the leader of an adventurous, or rather desperate cause. He was slow of speech and difficult of access, and seemed little interested in reviews of his men, or martial displays of any kind. The Highlanders, struck with his resemblance to an automaton, asked if he could speak; and there was a general disappointment, arising rather, perhaps, from the state of anxiety and depression in which they saw him, than from any natural want of courage in the unhappy Prince himself. His extreme attachment to the Catholic religion, also reminded such of his adherents as acknowledged the reformed church, of the family bigotry on account of which his father had lost his kingdom; and they were much disappointed at his refusal to join in their prayers and acts of worship, and at the formal precision with which he adhered to his Popish devotions. Yet the Highlanders, though few In numbers, still looked forward with the utmost spirit, and something approaching to delight, to the desperate conflict which they conceived to be just approaching; and when, on the 28th January, they learned that Argyle was actually on his march towards Perth, it seemed rather to announce a jubilee than a battle with fearful odds. The chiefs embraced, drank to each other, and to the good day which was drawing near; the pipes played, and the men prepared for action with that air of alacrity which a warlike people express at the approach of battle. When, however, a rumour, first slowly whispered, then rapidly spreading among the clans, informed them, that notwithstanding all the preparations in which they had been engaged, it was the general’s purpose to retire before the enemy without fighting, the grief and indignation of these men, taught to think so highly of their ancestors’ prowess, and feeling no inferiority in themselves, rose to a formidable pitch of fury, and they assailed their principal officers in the streets with every species of reproach. “ What can we do?” was the helpless answer of one of these gentlemen, a confident of Mar. “ Do? “ answered an indignant Highlander; “ Let us do that which we were called to arms for, which certainly was not to run away. Why did the King come hither?-was it to see his subjects butchered like dogs, without striking a blow for their lives and honour?” When the safety of the King’s person was urged as a reason for retreat, they answered-” Trust his safety to us; and if he is willing to die like a prince, he shall see there are ten thousand men in Scotland willing to die with him.”
Such were the general exclamations without doors, and those in the councils of the Chevalier were equally violent. Many military men of skill gave it as their opinion, that though Perth was an open town, yet it was so far a safe post, that an army could not, by a coup-demain, take it out of the hands of a garrison determined on its defence. The severity of the snow-storm and of the frost, precluded the opening of breaches; the country around Perth was laid desolate; the Duke of Argyle’s army consisted in a great measure of Englishmen and foreigners, unaccustomed to the severe climate of Scotland; and vague hopes were expressed, that, if the general of Government should press an attack upon the town, he might receive such a check as would restore the balance between the parties. To this it was replied, that not only the superiority of numbers, and the advantage of discipline, were on the side of the royal army, but that the garrison at Perth was destitute of the necessary provisions and ammunition; and that the Duke of Argyle had men enough at once to form the blockade of that town, and take possession of Dundee, Aberdeen, and all the counties to the northward of the Tay, which they lately occupied; while the Chevalier, cooped up in Perth, might be permitted for some time to see all the surrounding country in his enemy’s possession, until it would finally become impossible for him to escape. In the end it was resolved in the councils of the Chevalier de St George, that to attempt the defence of Perth would be an act of desperate chivalry. To reconcile the body of the army to the retreat, reports were spread that they were to make a halt at Aberdeen, there to be joined by a considerable body of troops which were expected to arrive from abroad, and advance again southwards under better auspices. But it was secretly understood that the purpose was to desert the enterprise, to which the contrivers might apply the lines of the poet —
In an ill hour did we these arms commence,
Fondly brought here, and foolishly sent hence.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54