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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Cope's Alarm


In the present crisis Sir John Cope acted with more wisdom than had been usually ascribed to him, and certainly with more energy than his superiors. Not wishing, however, to trust entirely to his own judgement, he consulted Lord President Forbes, and the Lord Advocat and Solicitor General, the law-officers of the crown, upon the course to be adopted under existing circumstances. No man was better aquainted with every thing appertaining to the Highlands than Forbes; and in fixing upon him as an adviser, Cope showed a laudable desire to avail himself of the best advice and information within his reach. At the period now in question,the insurrection was in a merely inceptive state; and, according to the opinions of those best qualified to judge, there was little probability that it would assume a formidable character. At all events, sound policy dictated that the threatened insurrection should be checked in its bud, and as its progress could only be stopped by the presence of a body of troops, Cope propsed, and his proposal received the approbation of the three public functionaries before named, to march to the Highlands with such troops as he could collect. The number of regular troops in Scotland did not, it is true, amount to 3,000 men, and some of them were newly raised; but there can be little doubt thatm by a timely and judicious disposition of about two-thirds of this force in the disaffected districts, the embers of rebellion might have been extinguished. The unfortunate result of Cope's expedition detracts in no respect from the design he thus formed, though the propriety of his subsequent measures may well indeed be questioned.

Having formed his resolution, the commader-in-chief sent expresses to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the 9th and 10th of August, announcing his intention of marching to the Highlands. In pursuance of this resolution he ordered a camp to be formed at Stirling, and required all the officers who were absent from their regiments, to repair to their respective posts. About the same time he directed the Lord President to take the command of the companies raised in the north for Lord Louden's Highland regiment, and notified the appointment to the officers of the regiment commanding in that quarter. As there was no bread in the country through which he intended to march, he bought up all the biscuit which the bakers of Edinburgh and Leith had on hand, and set all the bakers there, as well as those of Perth and Stirling, to work night and day to prepare a quantity of bread sufficient to support his army for twenty-one days.

On reciept of Cope's letter, the Marquis of Tweeddale laid them before the Lords of the Treasury, who approved of the conduct of the commander-on-chief, and particularly of his resolution to march into the Highlands with such troops as he could assemble. The secretary notified the approbation of their lordships in a letter to Cope; and so satisfied were they with his plan, that when they understood that the march had been delayed only for a day or two, they send down an express to him, with positive orders to begin his march to the north instantly. Their lordships seem not to have been aware of the causes which retarded his march, not the least of which was the want of money, a credit for which did not arrive till the 17th of August. The order to march reached Edinburgh on the 19th of August, on which day Cope, accompanied by the Earl of Loudon and several officers, set off for Stirling, where he arrived in the evening. Thus, by a singular coincidence, Charles and his opponent placed themselves at the head of their respective armies on the same day.

The force which Cope found upon his arrival at Stirling consisted of twenty-fiove companies of foot, amounting altogether to 1,400 men, and some of Gardiner's dragoons. Leaving the dragoons, which could be of no use in a campaign among the mountains, behind him, Cope began his march towards the north on the 20th, carrying along with him four small field-pieces, as many cohorns, and 1,000 stand of spare arms for the use of such of the well-affected Highlanders as might join him. He carried also with him a considerable number of black cattle for the use of the army. Only a part, however, of the bread which had been ordered arrived; but so anxious was Cope to obey his instructions, that he began his march with the limited supply he had received, after giving orders to forward the remainder as soon as it should arrive at Stirling.

Cope halted on the 21st at Crieff. He was here visited by the Duke of Athole, and his younger brother, Lord George Murray, the latter of whom, doubtless, little imagined he was to act the conspicious part he afterwards did, as commander of the prince's army. The duke attended in consequence of a notice which Cope had sent to him and the other leading adherents of the government, through, or in the neighbourhood of whose territories he meant to pass, requiring them to raise their men; but neither the duke nor the other chiefs who had been applied to seem to have been disposed to obey the call. Lord Glenorchy who arrived shortly after the duke and his brother, excused himself on the ground that he had not had sufficient time. As Cope had calculated upon the junction of a considerable body of Highlanders on his route, he was exceedingly disappointed that his expectations were not likely to be realised, and would have instantly retraced his steps had the orders of government allowed him a discretionary power; but his instructions were too peremptory to admit of a return to Stirling. Seeing, therefore, no use for the large quantity of spare arms, he sent 700 of them back to Stirling castle. This was a judicious step, as from the want of carriages he could not have got them transported to Inverness.

On the 22d the army advanced to Amulree, where it stopped for a supply of bread. Next day it proceeded to Tay bridge, on the 24th to Trinifuir, reaching Dalnacardoch on the 25th of August. Here Cope was met by Captain Sweetenham, - the officer who had been taken prisoner when on his way to Fort William from Ruthven, and who had been released on his parole. This officer informed Sir John that he was carried to Glenfinnan, where he saw the rebels erect their standard, and that when he left them on the 21st they amounted to 1,400 men, - that on the road to Dalwhinnie he had met several parties of Highlanders hastening to join them, - and that on arriving at Dalwhinnie he had been informed that they were 3,000 strong, and were in full march towards Corriearrick, where they intended to meet him and give battle. Notwithstanding this alarming intelligence, Cope proceeded on his march, and arrived at Dalwhinnie next day. Here he received a letter from Lord President Forbes, written at his seat of Culloden near Inverness, corroborating the intelligence received from Sweetenham of the advance of the rebels, and of their intention to meet him upon Corriearrick.

Corriearrick, of which the royal army had now come within sight, and over which it was Cope's intention to march into Lochaber, is, as we have already seen, a lofty mountain of immense extent, occupying no less than nine miles out of the eighteen that form the last day's march from Garviemore to Fort Augustus. It is extremely steep on the south side, and appeasrs at a distance to rise almost as perpendicularly as a wall. Wade, we have seen, carried his road up this steep ascent by a series of many traverses, the descent on the north side being accomplished in much the same manner. As there are several gullies and brooks on the south side, bridges have been thrown across, over which the road is carried. There tortuosities, rendered absolutely necessary from the nature of the ground, almost quadruple the real distance, which, from base to base, does not exceed five miles. As the mountain was peculiarly fitted for the operations of Highlanders, it is evident that in attempting to cross Corriearrick, Cope, if attacked, would labour under every disadvantage; for while his men could not leave the road in pursuit of their assailants, the latter could keep a running fire from numerous positions, from which it would be impossible to dislodge them. Cope was warned by the President of the dangers he would run, and his fears were not a little increased by a report that, on arriving at the bridge of Snugborough, a dangerous pass on the north side of the mountain, he was to be opposed by a body of Highlanders; and that, while this party kept him employed, he was to be attacked in his rear by another body, which was to be sent round the west end of the hill.

Alarmed at the intelligence he had received, - sistracted by a variety of reports as to the strength of the enemy, and disgusted with the apathy of those on whose support he had relied, Cope called a council of war at Dalwhinnie, on the morning of the 27th of August, to which he summoned every field officer, and the commanders of the different corps of his little army. He would have acted more judiciously had he convened a council at Dalnacardoch, when he first received intelligence of he advance of the Highlanders. At this meeting, Cope laid before his officers the orders he had received from the secretary of state to march to the north, which were too positive to be departed from without the most urgent necessity. After some deliberation, the council were unamimously of opinion, that the general's original design of marching to Fort Augustus over Corriearrick, was, under existing circumstances, quite impracticable. Having abandoned the design of crossing Corriearrick, the council next considered what other course should be adopted. The wisest course certainly, if practicable, would have been to march back to Stirling, and guard the passes of the Forth; but against this proposal it was urged, that the rebels, by marching down the side of Loch Rannoch, would be able to reach Stirling before the king's troops, and that, by breaking down the bridges, they would intercept them in their retreat. As it was impossible to remain at Dalwhinnie, no other course therefore remained, in the opinion of the council, but to march to Inverness. This opinion, which was reduced to writing, and signed by all the members of the council, was delivered to Sir John Cope, who, acquiescing in its propriety, immediately issued an order to march. We must now advert to the proceedings of the prince and his friends.


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