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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Commencement of Hostilities


During Charles's stay at Kinlochmoidart, the arming of the Highlanders went on with extraordinary alacrity; and several days before the prince's departure for Glenfinnan, detached parties of armed Highlanders were to be seen perambulating the country in different directions. Though three weeks had elapsed since the arrival of the prince, and although Kinlochmoidart was only about thirty miles from Fort William, yet so effectually had his arrival been concealed from the officers of government in the Highlands, that it was not until they received intelligence of these movements, that they began even to suspect his arrival. Alarmed by reports which reached him for the safety of Fort William, around which Lochiel and Keppoch were assembling their men, the governor of Fort Augustus despatched, on the 16th of August, two companies of the second battalion of the Scots Royals, under the command of Captain (afterwards General) Scott, to reinforce that garrison; but they did not reach their destination, having been taken prisoners by a party of Lochiel's and Keppoch's men. As this occurrence may be regarded as the commencement of hostilities, and as it is strongly characteristic of the ardour with which the Highlanders took the field at the command of their chiefs, the details of it may not here be considered out of place.

At the period in question, as well as at the time of the previous insurrection of 1715, the country between Fort William and Inverness was inhabited altogether by disaffected clans; mainly to overawe whom, the chain of forts, namely, Fort William, Fort Augustus, and Fort George, which reach across the Highlands from the east to the west sea, was placed. In the centre of these, or almost equidistant between Fort William and Fort George, stands Fort Augustus, the distance between which and Fort William is twenty-eight miles. To keep up a regular communication between the garrisons of the two last mentioned forts, a road, as we have seen, was made by order of the government along the sides of the mountains which skirt the narrow lakes, which now form part of the bed of the Caledonian canal. It was along this road that the detachment in question marched. That they might reach Fort William the same day - there being no place on the road where so many men could have taken up their quarters during night - they left Fort Augustus early in the morning of the 16th of August, and met with no interruption till they arrived at High Bridge, within eight miles of Fort William. This bridge, which consists of one arch of great height, is built across the river Apean, a mountain torrent confined between high and steep banks. On approaching the bridge the ears of the party were saluted by the sound of a bagpipe, a circumstance which could excite little surprise in the Highlands; but when they observed a body of Highlanders on the other side of the bridge with swords and firelocks in their hands, the party became alarmed.

The Highlanders who had posted themselves at the bridge, were of Keppoch's clan, and were under the command of Macdonald of Tierndriech; and though they did not consist of more than eleven or twelve persons, yet by leaping and skipping about, moving from place to place, and extending their plaids between one another to give themselves a formidable appearance, they impressed Captain Scott with an idea that they were a pretty numerous body. He therefore halted his men, and sent forward a sergeant with his own servant towards the bridge to reconnoitre; but when they came near the bridge they were seized and carried across by two nimble Highlanders, who unexpectedly darted upon them. Seeing the fate of his messengers, knowing that he was in a disaffected district, and ignorant of the strength of the Highlanders, Captain Scott deemed it more advisable to retreat than risk an encounter. He, therefore, ordered his men to face about, and return by the road they had come. Tierndriech had for some time observed the march of these troops, and had sent expresses to Lochiel and Keppoch, whose houses were within three or four miles of High Bridge, announcing their advance, and demanding assistance. Expecting immediate aid, and not wishing to display his weakness, which, from the openness of the ground near the bridge, would have been easily discernible, he did not follow Scott immediately, but kept at a distance till the troops had passed the west end of Loch Lochy, and were upon the narrow road between the lake and the mountain. The Highlanders thereupon made their appearance, and ascending the craggy mountains which overhung the road, and, sheltering themselves among the rocks and trees, began to fire down upon the retreating party, who, in place of returning the fire, accelerated their pace.

Before this fire had been opened, bands of Highlanders were proceeding in the direction of the bridge to assist in the attack. Upon hearing the report of the fire-arms, these hastened to the place whence the firing proceeded, and in a short time a considerable body joined the party under Tierndriech. Captain Scott continued his march rapidly along the loch, and when he reached the east end, he observed some Highlanders on a hill at the west end of Loch Oich, where they had assembled apparently for the purpose of intercepting him on his retreat. Disliking the appearance of this body, which stood in the direct way of his retreat, Scott resolved to throw himself for protection into Invergary castle, the seat of Macdonell of Glengarry, and accordingly crossed the isthmus between the two lakes. This movement, however, only rendered his situation more embarrassing, as he had not marched far when he perceived another body of Highlanders, the Macdonells of Glengarry, coming down the opposite hill to attack him. In this dilemma he formed his men into a hollow square, and proceeded on his march. Meanwhile, Tierndriech having been reinforced by a party of Keppoch's men, headed by the chief, hastened the pursuit, and soon came up with the fugitives. To spare the effusion of blood, Keppoch advanced alone to Scott's party, required them to surrender, and offered them quarters; but assured them, that, in case of resistance, they would be cut to pieces. Fatigued with a long march, and surrounded on all sides by increasing bodies of Highlanders, Captain Scott, who had been wounded, and had had two of his men killed, accepted the terms offered, and surrendered. This affair was scarcely over, when Lochiel arrived on the spot with a party of Camerons, and took charge of the prisoners, whom he carried to his own house at Achnacarie. The result of this singular rencounter, in which the Highlanders did not lose a single man, was hailed by them as the harbinger of certain success, and they required no further inducement to prosecute the war this auspiciously begun, as they imagined.

Charles, to whom it may be supposed intelligence of this affair was instantly sent, left Kinlochmoidart on the 18th of August, on which day he went by water to the seat of Alexander Macdonald of Glenalladale, on the side of Loch Shiel, where he was joined by Gordon of Glenbucket, who brought with him Captain Sweetenham, an English officer of Guise's regiment, who had been taken prisoner by a party of Keppoch's men while on his way to Fort William to inspect that fortress. The prince passed the night at Glenalladale, and with his attendants, who amounted to about 25 persons, proceeded about six o'clock next morning, in three boats, to Glenfinnan, and landed within a few hours at the east end of Loch Shiel, where the little river Finnan falls into the lake.


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