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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Skirmish at Golspie


Two days after the battle the Earl of Cromarty, his son, Lord Macleod, several officers, and 153 private men, were landed at Inverness from the Hound sloop of war, which had conveyed them from Sutherland, where they had been taken prisoners by a party of Lord Sutherland's people on the preceding day, viz, the 15th of April, under the following circumstances. Having received instructions to rejoin the main body of the Highland army at Inverness, the earl was about proceeding to fulfil them, when a plan was formed by the Mackays and the Earl of Sutherland's people to cut him off. Uniting their forces, consisting of three independent companies, near Golspie, they resolved to attack the Earl of Cromarty, early in the morning of the 15th of April, in flank and in rear. In pursuance of this resolution, Captain Macallister, who commanded the Earl of Sutherland's militia, marched with his company towards the water of Golspie, and having in his march received intelligence that Cromarty's regiment had marched towards the ferry, but that the earl himself with the greater part of his officers was at Dunrobin Castle, he sent Ensign John Mackay, with a party of 26 men, to intercept him. The earl left the castle with 14 officers on horseback, and a small party of well-armed foot, to join his men, and would have fallen into an ambuscade which Ensign Mackay had laid for him, had not some of the Mackays begun to fire too soon. Lord Cromarty immediately retraced his steps and took refuge in the castle, from the top of the tower of which he displayed a white flag and rang a bell, as a signal that he was attacked. The earl's men began immediately to march back to his relief, upon which Mackay and his party retired to the adjacent high grounds. Meanwhile, the two independent companies, which were to attack Cromarty's men in flank, arrived at the hill of Culmaly, to the north west of Golspie, and observing the insurgents returning from the ferry, and drawn up in order of battle on a rising ground about a mile west from Golspie, they concealed themselves on the top of the hill: Captains Gray and Sutherland, the commanders of the two companies, then descended the hill to reconnoitre. They computed Cromarty's force to be between 400 and 500 men; and, having resolved to attack them, they returned to their men and gave orders to that effect. To deceive the insurgents as to the extent of their numbers, they marched down the hill in open column, keeping a distance of about twenty paces between each rank; and so well did the ruse succeed, that the insurgents, struck with a panic, fled towards the ferry, and were pursued by the two companies, who, attacking them in flank, killed a considerable number, and took 178 prisoners. The two companies thereupon marched to Dunrobin castle, which they invested. The earl held out the castle till the evening, when, despairing of relief, he requested the commanders of the companies to hold a conference with him in the castle on the subject of surrender. While engaged in conversation, Ensign Mackay, who had entered the castle along with two captains, went down stairs, and having informed the earl's men below that he had surrendered, induced them to deliver up their arms. Having secured their arms, he took the keys from the porter, and, opening the gates, admitted his party. He then went up stairs with them, and, entering the dinning-room, seized the earl, Lord Macleod, and the whole officers.

Whilst the Duke of Cumberland was deliberating upon the course he should adopt for finally suppressing the rebellion, his unfortunate kinsman, disheartened by his recent disaster, was entirely occupied with thoughts of his own personal safety. After leaving the field, Charles, escorted by a large body of horse, crossed the river Nairn at the ford of Galie, about four miles from the field of battle. Having halted a short time on the south side of the Nairn, during which he held a consultation with his friends, Charles dismissed the horse and most of his attendants, with instructions to assemble at Ruthven in Badenoch, where they were directed to wait for further orders. Taking along with him Sir Thomas Sheridan, O'Sullivan, Captain O'Neil, John Hay, and a few other persons, Charles set out for Gortuleg, the residence of Lord Lovat's steward, where he arrived about sunset. There, for the first and only time, the prince met Lord Lovat, who, on learning the cause of the Prince's unexpected visit, became, it is said, almost frantic, and, anticipating the fate which awaited him, called out to those around him to chop off his head. In a little time the aged chief regained his self-possession, and entered into conversation with Charles and his followers in relation to their future prospects. As it was not considered safe to pass the night so near the royal troops, Charles and his party, after partaking of some supper, left Gortuleg about ten o'clock for Invergarry, the seat of Macdonnell of Glengary. Before leaving Gortuleg, the prince took the precaution to change his dress.

The prince and his party arrived at the mansion of Invergarry about four o'clock in the morning, where Charles began to experience a foretaste of the hardships he was destined to endure. This ancient castle, ever since its first erection, had never been in such a cheerless condition as that in which Charles now found it. Unprovided with furniture or provisions, and inhabited by a solitary domestic, it seemed to warn the unfortunate fugitives that they must speedily look out for a more hospitable place of retreat. Overcome by fatigue, the whole party lay down upon the floor, in their clothes, and fell asleep. After reposing several hours, they rose, but had nothing to eat till Edward Burke, servant to Alexander Macleod, one of the party, observing a net in the water of Garry, pulled it out and caught two salmon, on which they dined.

With the exception of O'Sullivan, O'Neil, and Edward Burke, who, from his knowledge of the country, was selected as the prince's guide, all the party took leave of Charles at Invergarry. Before leaving the castle, Charles, in order the more effectually to disguise himself, put on Burke's coat; and at three o'clock in the afternoon, he set out for Loch Arkaig in Lochaber, accompanied by his three attendants, and took up his quarters for the night in the house of Donald Cameron of Glenpean. Charles slept the following night, that of Friday the 18th, at Mewbol, where he and his small party were well entertained. From Mewboll they set our next morning for Glenboisdale. At Loch Morar they waited several hours for a boat to carry them across; but, not finding one, they were obliged, from the road being impracticable for horses, to abandon them and to walk on foot to Glenboisdale, which they reached on Sunday the 20th, after great fatigue, having crossed two lofty ranges of mountains in their route.


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