|The Duke of Perth, who happened at this time
to be with the Highland forces appointed to defend the passage of the Spey, not thinking
it advisable to dispute the position against such an overwhelming force as that to which
he was opposed, retired towards Elgin on the approach of the Duke of Cumberland. The
conduct of the Duke of Perth, and of his brother, Lord John Drummond, has been censured
for not disputing the passage of the Spey, but without reason. The whole of the Highland
forces along the Spey did not exceed 2,500 men, being little more than a fourth of those
under the Duke of Cumberland. Notwithstanding this great disparity, the Highlanders, aided
by the swollen state of the river, might have effectually opposed the passage of the royal
army had it been attempted during the month of March, but a recent drought had greatly
reduced the quantity of water in the river, and had rendered it fordable in several places
to such an extent, that at two of them a whole battalion might have marched abreast. As
some of the fords run in a zig-zag direction, some damage might have been done to the
royal army in crossing; but as the Duke of Cumberland had a good train of artillery, he
could have easily covered his passage at these places.
The departure of the Duke of Cumberland from Aberdeen was not known at
Inverness till the 12th, on the morning of which day intelligence was brought to Charles
that he was in full march to the north with his full army. Shortly after his arrival at
Inverness, Charles had formed the design, while the Duke of Cumberland lay at Aberdeen, of
giving him the slip, by marching to Perth by the Highland road, so as to induce the duke
to return south, and thus leave the northern coast clear for the landing of supplies from
France. With this view, he had directed the seige of Fort William to be pushed, and,
calculating upon a speedy reduction of that fortress, had sent orders to the Macdonalds,
the Camerons, and the Stewarts, who were engaged in the siege, immediately on the capture
of the fort to march into Argyleshire, and, after chastising the whigs in that district,
and giving an opportunity to their friends there to join them, to proceed to Perth.
Charles, however, for the present, laid aside the intention of marching south, and knowing
that the Duke of Cumberland would advance from Aberdeen early in April, he gave orders for
concentrating his forces at Inverness, and, as soon as he was informed of the duke's
march, he renewed these orders, by sending expresses every where to bring up his men.
Those who had been at the siege of Fort William were already on their march, but Lord
Cromarty was at a considerable distance with a large body of men, and could scarcely be
expected to arrive in time if the duke was resolved on an immediate action.