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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Skirmishes at Strathbogie and Keith


To facilitate his march to the north, and to clear as much of the low country as possible from the presence of the insurgents, the Duke of Cumberland sent several detachments from Aberdeen, to scour the country, and possess themselves of certain posts between the Don and the Spey. One of these detachments, consisting of four battalions of infantry, the Duke of Kingston's horse, and Cobham's dragoons, under the command of General Bland, left Aberdeen on the 12th of March, and took possession of Old Meldrum, Inverury, and Old Rayne. Bland was preceded on his march by the Argyleshire men, and 100 of the laird of Grant's followers under the eldest son of that chief. At this time the insurgent forces on the eat of the river Spey, which has been placed under the command of Lord John Drummond, were stationed as follows. Lord Strathallan's horse, which had been lately separated from Lord Kilmarnock's, and the hussars, occupied Cullen; part of the battalions of Roy Stewart and Gordon of Avochy, consisting of about 400 men, with 50 horse, were quartered at Strathbogie, and the remainder were cantoned in Fochabers, and the villages along the Spey.

Having received intelligence of the occupation of Strathbogie by the Highlanders, the Duke of Cumberland sent orders on the 16th, to General Bland to march thither with all the troops under his command, and endeavour to surprise the forces there assembled, and failing in that design, to attack them and drive them across the river. To sustain General Bland, should occasion require, Brigadier Mordaunt marched by break of day next morning to Old Meldrum, with four battalions and four pieces of cannon. About the same time General Bland left Old Meldrum for Strathbogie, and almost succeeded in surprising the insurgents, who were ignorant of his approach till he came near the place. At the time the news of General Bland's march reached Strathbogie some of the Highlanders were absent, having been sent the preceding night for the purpose of intercepting the young laird of Grant, who was returning to his own country with a commission to raise a regiment out of his clan, and who was to pass within a few miles of Strathbogie. The party, however, did not succeed, as Mr Grant got the start on them, and took up his quarters for the night in a strong castle belonging to Lord Forbes, which they found it impossible to force without artillery. This party returned to Strathbogie about one o'clock in the afternoon, greatly fatigued from want of rest, and found the intelligence had been received of Bland's advance. This news was fully confirmed by the arrival of some scouts, who came back at full speed with information that a large body of horse and foot was at hand.

Alarmed at the unexpected approach of the enemy, the officers at Strathbogie were at first at a loss to act. There was danger in retreat as well as in attempting to remain. It was impossible that the men, who were in want of sleep and refreshment, could march far without halting; and as they had left several stragglers behind, it appeared certain that, n the event of a retreat, these would be picked up by Bland's cavalry. On the other hand, from the vast numerical superiority of the English forces, it was dreaded that the small party would not be able to make an effectual resistance, and that in the event of a defeat the whole would easily fall into the enemy's hands. In this dilemma it was resolved to remain an hour at Strathbogie, to give time to the stragglers to come up, and then to retreat. At this time the van of Bland's detachment had begun to appear, and before the hour had elapsed the whole was in sight, and the van within a quarter of a mile of the village. The small party of guards then marched out towards the enemy, and while they formed between the village and the bridge of Rogie, as if intending to dispute the passage of the bridge, the foot left the village. After they had cleared the village, and the enemy's cavalry had begun to file along the bridge, the small body of horse retired after the foot, towards the river Deveron, which they crossed. They thereupon formed again on the other side of the river to stop the enemy's horse, who had pursued them at full speed from Strathbogie to the river side, but they did not al first attempt the passage, a circumstance which enabled the foot to gain the adjoining hill without molestation, where, from the narrowness of the road and the rockiness of the ground on each side of it, they were perfectly safe from the attacks of cavalry. With the exception of some volunteers among the cavalry, who followed half-way up the hill, and skirmished with a few of the guards who were left behind to observe their motions, the rest of the cavalry gave over the pursuit. The Highlanders, however, did not halt till they reached Fochabers. Next day they crossed the Spey, along with the other troops which had been cantoned on the east side, and took up their quarters in the villages on the opposite side.

From Strathbogie, General Bland sent forward a detachment of 70 Campbells, and 30 of Kingston's horse, to occupy Keith, but they were not allowed to hold this post long. Major Glasgow, an Irish officer in the service of France, having offered to the prince to carry it with a detachment of 200 men, he was allowed to attempt the enterprise, and succeeded, the village having been invested on all sides before the enemy were aware of the attempt. On this occasion they became victims of a little stratagem. After recrossing the Spey, Lord John Drummond sent a body of horse and foot across every morning. The foot remained generally all day at Fochabers, and the horse patrolled on the road between that village and Keith. On the 20th of March, a small party of Bland's light horse having appeared on the top of the hill that overlooks Fochabers, the party occupying the village, apparently alarmed, left it in a hurry, much earlier than usual, and repassed the river. The design in thus repairing across the river before the usual tie, was to throw the party at Keith off their guard, who, fancying themselves secure, took no precautions against surprise. After it had grown quite dark, Glasgow crossed the Spey with his detachment, consisting of 200 foot and 40 horse, and marching direct to Keith, arrived there unperceived about one o'clock in the morning. The Campbells, who were quartered in the church, formed in the church-yard, and a smart fire was kept up for some time between them and their assailants; but upon being promised quarter, if they submitted, they laid down their arms. Of the whole party, including the horse, not above five or six escaped. Captain Campbell who commanded the detachment, a non-commissioned officer, and five privates were killed. Glasgow had twelve of his men killed or wounded.


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