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General History of the Highlands
March to July 1689

John Graham, Viscount DundeeBEFORE giving the details of Dundee’s insurrection, the following short sketch will not be out of place. John Graham, Viscount Dundee, descended from the royal line of the Stuarts by the marriage of William, Lord Graham of Kincardine, his ancestor, with the Princess Mary, second daughter of King Robert IlI, was the eldest son of Sir William Graham of Claverhouse in Angus or Forfarshire, and was born in 1643. Besides a royal descent, Viscount Dundee also claimed to be descended, through the family of Morphy in Mearns, from the illustrious house of Montrose, and was also allied to the noble family of Northesk by his mother, Lady Jean Carnegy, who was fourth daughter of the first earl. Young Graham entered the university of St. Andrew’s in the year 1660, where, according to his partial biographer, he made "very considerable progress" in "Humanity and Mathematics." He was chiefly remarkable for his enthusiastic predilection for Highland poetry and the established order of things. He left the university in 1670 and went to France, where he entered as a volunteer. He afterwards transferred his services to Holland, and received the commission of a cornet in one of the Prince of Orange’s troops of guards. He distinguished himself at the battle of Seneffe, in 1674, by saving the life of the prince, who had been dismounted, and carrying him off upon his own horse. Having been refused the command of one of the Scottish regiments in the employment of the States, he left the Dutch service and returned to Scotland in the year 1677, and was appointed by Charles II, captain of one of the regiments then raising in Scotland for the suppression of the Whigs, in which service he acquired from the unfortunate Covenanters, on account of his severities, the unenviable appellation of "the bloody Clavers." The confidence which Charles had bestowed on Captain Graham was continued by his successor James, who, after promoting him successively to the ranks of brigadier and major-general, raised him to the peerage under the title of Viscount Dundee, on the 12th of November 1688, seven days after the invasion of the Prince of Orange.

The idea of setting up a counter convention at Stirling, was immediately abandoned on the departure of Dundee from the capital. The Marquis of Athole, whom the adherents of the king had chosen for their leader, showed no disposition to follow Dundee, and the Earl of Mar, who to save his loyalty made a feint to escape by the only guarded way, was apprehended, not unwillingly, as is supposed, by the sentinels, and brought back, but was released on giving his parole that he would not leave the city without the permission of the convention. The ambiguous conduct of these two noblemen tended. to cool the ardour of the few remaining adherents of the king, some of whom resolved to support the new order of things, whilst others, less pliant, absented themselves wholly from the convention. That assembly, after approving of the conduct of the English convention, in requesting the Prince of Orange (now declared King of England) to take upon him the administration of the affairs of that kingdom, acknowledged their obligations to him as the assertor of their liberties, and also entreated him to assume the management of the affairs of Scotland.

Popular as the steps were which the convention were about to take for settling the government of the nation, with the great body of the people, they were not insensible to the probability of a formidable opposition being raised to their plans by a determined band of royalists in the north, who, headed by such a warlike and experienced commander as Dundee, might involve the whole kingdom in a civil war. To prepare, therefore, against such an emergency, the convention before proceeding to the important business for which it had assembled issued a proclamation, requiring all persons from sixteen to sixty, and capable of bearing arms, to put themselves in readiness to take the field when called upon; they deprived all militia officers suspected of attachment to the king of their commissions, and filled up the vacancies thus occasioned by others on whom they could rely. Sir Patrick Hume, who lay under an attainder for the part he took in Argyle’s rebellion, was appointed to the command of the horse militia, and the Earl of Leven was nominated to the command of a body of 800 men, raised for a guard to the city of Edinburgh.

Backed by these, and by about 1100 men of the Scotch brigade from Holland, which arrived at Leith from England, on the 25th of March, under General Mackay, as major-general of all the forces in Scotland, and by a force of 200 dragoons which were also sent from Englands the leaders of the convention proposed that a committee of eight lords, eight knights, and eight burgesses, should be appointed to prepare and report upon a plan of settling the government.

[General  Hugh Mackay, third son of Colonel Hugh Mackay of Scowry, was born about 1640. Soon after the Restoration in 1660, he obtained an ensign’s commission in the Royal Scots, now the Scots Greys, and accompanied it to France on that corps being lent by Charles II to the French king. In 1669 he entered the Venetian service, in which he distinguished himself. Leaving the service of that republic, he again went to France, where he obtained a captaincy in Douglas’s regiment. After serving under Marshal Turenne, in the campaign in the Netherlands, in 1672, Captain Mackay offered his services to the Prince of Orange, who gave him the commission of Major in one of the Scotch regiments, then serving in Holland. After reaching the rank of Colonel in the Dutch service, Mackay was invited to England by James II., from whom, on the 4th of June, 1685, he received the appointment of major-general, or commander in chief, of the forces in Scotland; and was admitted a member of the Scottish Privy Council, by virtue of a warrant from the king, dated the 18th of the same month. But disliking the arbitrary proceedings of James, or preferring the service of his son-in-law, Mackay resigned his commission in 1686, and returned to Holland. The prince raised him to the rank of Major-general, and gave him the command of the British regiments, with which he invaded England. By a warrant signed by William and Mary, dated from Kensington, 4th January, 1689, Mackay was appointed "Major-General of all forces whatever, within our ancient kingdom of Scotland." Mackay was raised to the rank of Lieutenant-general in 1690, and was killed at the battle of Steinkirk, 3d August, 1692.]

The throne having been declared vacant, the convention, on the motion of the Duke of Hamilton, appointed the committee to draw up an act for settling the crown of Scotland upon William and Mary, and they were also instructed to prepare an instrument or declaration for preventing a recurrence of the grievances, of which the nation complained. The Earl of Argyle on the part of the lords, Sir James Montgomery for the knights, and Sir John Dalrymple for the burghs, were thereupon despatched to London to offer the crown to William and Mary, on the conditions stipulated by the convention. The commissioners were introduced to their majesties at Whitehall, on the 11th of May, and were of course well received, but on the coronation oath being presented to them by the Earl of Argyle, William, who was rather disposed to support episcopacy in Scotland, demurred to take it, as it appeared by a clause which it contained, importing that their majesties should root out heresy, and all enemies to the true worship of God, to lay him under an obligation to become a persecutor. This difficulty, which it is evident was well founded, was however got over by the commissioners declaring that such was not the meaning or import of the oath.

The convention having thus completed the object for which it was assembled, adjourned to the 21st of May, not however till it had passed an act at utter variance with those principles of constitutional liberty, which it professed to establish. By this act the Duke of Hamilton was vested with full power and authority to imprison any person he might suspect of disaffection to the new government, a violent and arbitrary measure certainly, which nothing but the extraordinary circumstances of the times could justify. The Earl of Balcarras and Viscount Dundee were marked out as the first victims of this unconstitutional law. The latter had been already proclaimed an outlaw and a rebel by the convention, for absenting himself from its meetings, but he had hitherto made no movement, in consequence of instructions from the king, desiring him not to take the field till a force of 5,000 foot, and 300 horse, which he promised to send him from Ireland, should land in Scotland.

These instructions having come to the knowledge of Hamilton, hastened his determination to arrest Balcarras and Dundee. Balcarras was seized at his country seat, carried to Edinburgh, and imprisoned in the common jail, from which he was afterwards transferred to the castle after its surrender; but Dundee, who had received notice of the approach of the party, retired from his house at Dudhope and took refuge in the mountains.

The favourable reception which James had met with in Ireland, and the discovery which the adherents of William in Scotland had made of his intention to land an army in Scotland, joined to the fact that the great body of the Highlanders, and almost the whole of the episcopal party in the north, were hostile to the recent change in the government, could not fail to excite alarm in the minds of the partizans of the new dynasty. The brilliant achievements of Montrose had shown how inadequate the peaceful inhabitants of the south, though impelled by the spirit of religious fanaticism, were to contend with the brave and hardy mountaineers of the north; and as Dundee, as they were aware, was desirous of emulating his great predecessor, and was engaged in an active correspondence with the Highland chiefs, they must necessarily have looked forward to a long and bloody, and perhaps a doubtful contest.

As Dundee possessed the confidence of the Highland clans, ["To the regular trained officers, such an army as he commanded was as unstable and capricious as a giddy mob. If he did not study the peculiarities of the race, and of each individual clan, some untoward accident was ever occurring to vex his disciplinarian spirit, and make him suspect that the cause was ruined; and if he did not at once recognise and yield to the peculiarities as they occurred, a trifle might readily sacrifice the army or the cause,—for the Highland soldier’s immediate cause was his leader or his clan. The succession to the crown of Britain, or the preservation of the constitution were distant and secondary objects, to be sacrificed without hesitation to any question of precedence or etiquette. "—Burton’s Scotland from the .Revolution, vol. i. pp. 101—108.— "If anything good was brought him (Dundee) to eat, he sent it to a faint or sick soldier. If a soldier was weary, he offered to carry his arms. He kept those who were with him from sinking under their fatigues, not so much by exhortation, as by preventing them from attending to their sufferings. For this reason he walked on foot with the men; now by the side of one clan, and anon by that of another. He amused them with jokes. He flattered them with his knowledge of their genealogies. He animated them by a recital of the deeds of their ancestors, and of the verses of their bards. It was one of his maxims, that no general should fight with an irregular army, unless he was acquainted with every man he commanded. Yet, with these habits of familiarity, the severity of his discipline was dreadfuL The only punishment he inflicted was death. ‘All other punishments,’ he said, ‘disgraced a gentleman, and all who were with him were of that rank; but that death was a relief from the consciousness of crime.’ It is reported of him, that, having seen a youth fly in his first action, he pretended he had sent him to the rear on a message. The youth fled a second time. He brought him to the front of the army, and saying, ‘That a gentleman’s son ought not to fall by the hands of a common executioner,’ shot him with his own pistol.’ "—Dalrymple’s Memoirs, part ii. p. 47.] and as he looked chiefly to them for support in his attempt to restore the exiled monarch, Viscount Tarbat, one of the ablest politicians of the period, proposed a plan for detaching the chiefs from the cause of James, some of whom he averred were not so inimical to William nor so attached to James, as was supposed; but who, jealous of the power of Argyle, were justly apprehensive that if as appearances indicated, that nobleman acquired an ascendency in the national councils, he would make use of his power to oppress them, and would obtain a revocation of the grants of certain lands which belonged to his family, and which had been forfeited in the reign of Charles II. Besides these reasons, there was another which was supposed to influence others in their determination to restore the fallen dynasty, and thereby crush the rising power of Argyle, viz, that they were greatly in arrears to him as their superior. Tarbat, therefore, suggested to General Mackay, that an attempt should be made, in the first place to obtain the submission of these last by making them an offer to discharge Argyle’s claims against their lands, which he computed would amount to 5,000 sterling, and that a separate offer should be made to the chief of the Macleans to make good a transaction which had been in part entered upon between him and the late earl for adjusting their differences. This plan was approved of by the English government, but the affair is said to have been marred by the appointment of Campbell of Cawdor as negotiator, who was personally obnoxious to the chiefs. Mackay attempted to open a correspondence with Cameron of Lochiel on the subject, but could obtain no answer, and Macdonell of Glengary, to whom he also made a communication, heartily despising the bribe, advised the general, in return, to imitate the conduct of General Monk, by restoring James.

Dundee crossed the Dee, and entered the Duke of Gordon’s country, the inhabitants of which were friendly to the cause of James, and where he was joined by about 50 horse under the Earl of Dunfermline, who, as has been stated, was sent north by the Duke of Gordon to raise his vassals in support of his royal master. Whilst Dundee was occupied in raising forces in this district, Mackay was despatched from Edinburgh with a considerable body of troops in pursuit. Mackay appointed the town of Dundee as the rendezvous for his troops, being the best station he could select for keeping the adjoining country, which was disaffected to the new government, in awe, and whence he could send parties to the north to watch the motions of Dundee. On arriving at Dundee, Mackay, leaving a part of his troops there under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Livingston, proceeded north with a body of about 500 men, consisting chiefly of dragoons, in quest of the Viscount. At Brechin he received intelligence that Dundee, ignorant of course of Mackay’s movements, was on his return to his seat of Glenogilvie in the braes of Angus, that he had already passed the Cairn-a-mount, and that he was expected to pass the night at Fettercairn, only a few miles north from Brechin. The viscount, however, having been apprized of Mackay’s movements, recrossed the Dee.

As soon as Mackay was informed of this retrograde movement, he resolved to pursue Dundee, and, if possible, to overtake him before he should have time to collect any considerable body of forces. With a small but select body of horse and foot, therefore, he crossed the Dee at Kincardine, in the expectation of being joined in the course of his march by some country gentlemen who had given him assurances of support before leaving Edinburgh. In this expectation, however, he was sadly disappointed, for, with the exception of the Master of Forbes, who met him after he had crossed the Dee, with a party of 40 gentlemen of his name on horseback and a body of between 500 and 600 men on foot, chiefly raw peasantry, not one of them showed any inclination to join him. The fact was, that, with few exceptions, the people residing to the north of the Tay, were either indifferent to the course of events, or were opposed upon principle to any change in the hereditary succession to the crown, which many of them considered an infraction of the Divine law, and which they believed no misconduct on the part of the king could justify. No man knew these things better than Dundee, who calculated that by means of this feeling he would soon be able to arouse the warlike north against the more peaceful south. But valuable as such a body of auxiliaries as that brought by the Master of Forbes may be supposed to have been under these circumstances, Mackay, who had been accustomed to the finest troops in Europe, considered that they would be of no service to him, as, according to his own account, they were "ill armed," and appeared "little like the work" for which they were intended. He therefore declined the services of the Forbeses in the meantime, and after thanking the master for having brought them together, he ordered him to dismiss them to their homes, with instructions that they should re-assemble whenever a necessity occurred for defending their own country against the inroads of Dundee.

Having received intelligence of Dundee’s route through Strathdon towards Strathbogie, Mackay continued his march in that direction through Aberdeenshire and Moray. On arriving at Strathbogie, he was informed that Dundee had crossed the Spey with about 150 horse without opposition, although Mackay had given particular instruction to the laird of Grant, while in Edinburgh, to occupy all the fords of that river. Mackay also learned, on the following day, by a letter sent to him by the magistrates of Elgin, which had been addressed to them by Dundee, that the Viscount was at Inverness, that he had been there joined by Macdonald of Keppoch at the head of 1,000 Highlanders, and that he intended to make Elgin his head quarters preparatory to an attack upon Mackay. The accession of the Macdonalds was of immense importance to Dundee, and was as seasonable as unexpected. A deadly feud had for some time existed between Macdonald and Mackintosh, arising out of certain claims by the former upon the lands of the latter; and to such a pitch of armed violence did Keppoch carry his pretensions, that James II. felt himself called upon to interfere, by issuing a commission of fire and sword against him as a rebel. Keppoch, taking advantage of the unsettled state of the government, renewed his claims against Mackintosh; and having defeated the Mackintoshes in battle, he had advanced to Inverness, the inhabitants of which had supported the Mackintoshes against him, and was threatening to wreak his vengeance upon them if they did not purchase forbearance by paying him a large pecuniary flue. It was at this critical moment that Dundee arrived, who, anxious at once to secure the aid of Keppoch and the friendship of the citizens of Inverness, who had only a few days before proclaimed the Prince of Orange, interposed between them and their exasperated foe, and satisfied the latter’s supposed claims by collecting the amount of his demands by subscription among the inhabitants.

The news of the junction of the Keppoch Highlanders with Dundee, and of their intention to march to the south, was exceedingly disconcerting to Mackay, who had advanced into a hostile country with a handful of troops quite incapable of resisting the powerful force now opposed to them. The obvious and apparently most prudential course which presented itself, was, on the approach of the enemy, to make a sure and as slow a retreat as possible, and to bring up the forces which he had left behind him; but Mackay, rightly judging that a retreat, besides giving Dundee the command of a large tract of country favourable to his views, might create an impression that his adversary was much stronger than he really was, resolved not only to stand firm, but even to cross the Spey, and take possession of Elgin before Dundee should arrive there. Accordingly, after despatching a courier to bring up his reserves from Brechin without delay, he crossed the Spey and advanced upon Elgin, with his dragoons at a hard trot, followed by 200 veteran foot, who were so desirous of coming to action that they kept up with the horse the whole way from the river to the town. From Elgin, Mackay despatched messengers to some of the principal Whig proprietors in Moray, Ross, and Sutherland, desiring them to prepare themselves for joining him as soon as they should receive his orders.

Mackay lay a few days at Elgin in expectation of Dundee’s advance; but as the latter did not appear, Mackay, who had just received a reinforcement of horse from Brechin, left Elgin and took the road to Inverness. When he reached Forres, he ascertained that Dundee had left Inverness, and had crossed the heights of Badenooh on his way to Athole. It is said that Dundee intended to have advanced upon Elgin, and to have engaged Mackay, but he was counteracted in his design by the refusal of a party of Camerons, who were under Keppoch, to march without the consent of their chief; their real motive apparently being that they were desirous of securing what booty they had taken. Mackay continued his march to Inverness, where he was joined by 500 of the Mackays, Grants, and Rosses. From Inverness, he despatched couriers to the adherents of the new government in the north to join him; and at the same time sent an express to Colonel Balfour at Edinburgh, to despatch Colonel Ramsay north with a select body of 600 men to be drawn from the Dutch regiments. To effect as speedy a junction with him as possible, Mackay directed that Ramsay should march through Athole and Badenoch. These transactions, Burton thinks happened probably about the beginning of May.

Dundee, on the other hand, was no less busy in his preparations for the ensuing campaign. He never ceased to carry on an active correspondence with many of the Highland chieftains whose confidence he possessed; and on his march through Badenoch he received the most gratifying assurances of support from the gentlemen of that country, with the exception of Mackintosh, who had taken offence at Dundee. Having fixed upon Lochaber as the most central and convenient district for mustering his forces, Dundee appointed the friends of King James to assemble there on the 18th of May, and in the meantime he descended into Athole, with a body of 150 horse, where he met with a cordial reception from Stewart of Ballechan, factor or steward to the Marquis of Athole, and from the other vassals of the marquis. Whether Stewart and the other gentlemen of the district, in taking this decided part, acted from a private understanding with their chief; who still remained at Edinburgh, where he had given in an equivocal adherence to the government, or whether they were yet ignorant of the course he meant to follow, are questions which, for want of information, do not admit of solution. The omission on the part of the marquis to send instructions to Stewart to raise a body of 400 Athole Highlanders, to oppose the passage of Dundee through his bounds to the south, should he attempt it, to which effect he had pledged himself to Mackay, before the latter left Edinburgh for the north, raises a suspicion that the gentlemen of Athole acted agreeably to the understood wishes of their chief.

Being informed that the lairds of Blair and Pollock were lying in Perth with a troop of horse, which they had raised for the service of the government, Dundee determined to surprise them, and accordingly left Athole, and proceeded with celerity during the night towards Perth, which he entered unawares early next morning, and seized both these gentlemen and two other officers in their beds, carrying them off prisoners. He also took away 30 horses, and a sum of 9,000 merks of the public revenue which be found in the office of the collector. Leaving Perth, Dundee ranged through Angus, augmenting his cavalry, and after an ineffectual attempt to surprise Lord Rollo, who was raising a troop of horse, he appeared before the town of Dundee, then guarded by two troops of Livingston’s dragoons. Their commander, unwilling to encounter Dundee, shut himself up in the town, and the Viscount, after spending two nights at Dudhope, his country seat, returned to the Highlands, to meet his friends at the appointed place of rendezvous.

During all this time, Mackay remained at Inverness, waiting for the arrival of Ramsay’s detachment from the south, which he had long and anxiously looked for. In conformity with Mackay’s orders, Colonel Balfour immediately put the troops under Colonel Ramsay in readiness to march, but just as they were about to pass across the Frith of Forth, from Leith to Burntisland, an alarm was created by the appearance of a large number of vessels at the mouth of the Frith, which were at once supposed to be a French fleet with troops on board for the purpose of making a descent upon the coast in support of Dundee. As the seizure of the capital, it was naturally supposed, would be the first object of the invaders, the embarkation of Ramsay’s detachment, which in such an event would be necessary for its defence, was countermanded; but in two or three days the fears of the government were dispelled, by having ascertained that the fleet in question consisted of a number of Dutch herring vessels which were proceeding on their annual voyage to the fishing stations on the northern coast. This delay occasioned great embarrassment to the operations of Mackay, and almost proved fatal to him, as Dundee was thereby enabled to throw himself with a large force between Mackay’s and Ramsay’s corps, and to threaten both with annihilation.

In terms of his instructions, Ramsay, after reaching Perth, proceeded through Athole, on his way to Inverness. Though the Atholemen, many of whom he found armed, offered no opposition to his march, yet as every thing around him assumed a warlike appearance, and as reports were continually brought to him that Dundee had placed himself between him and Mackay, with a very large force, he grew alarmed, and so strong had his fears become when within a dozen of miles of Ruthven in Badenoch, that he resolved to return to Perth. He had previously despatched a letter to Mackay, informing him of his advance, and appointing a meeting at Ruthven on a given day, but he neglected to send another express acquainting Mackay of his design to return to Perth. The retreat of Ramsay was disorderly, and some of his men deserted. The Atholemen, who kept hovering about him, were desirous of attacking him, but they were prevented, though with difficulty, by the gentlemen of the district. Mackay having received Ramsay’s despatch, was so anxious to form a speedy junction with the latter’s detachment, that he left Inverness the following (Sunday) morning, taking with him only two days’ provisions. When about half-way between Inverness and Ruthven, he received an express from the governor of the castle, informing him of Ramsay’s retreat, and that Dundee acting on information contained in an intercepted despatch of Mackay’s, had entered Badenoch on Sunday morning, (the morning of Mackay’s march from Inverness,) with an immense force, and was within a few miles of the castle.

The first person who had met Dundee in Lochaber on the appointed day was Glengary, who had with him a body of between 200 and 300 men. He was followed by Macdonald of Morer, at the head of nearly 200 of Clan Ranald’s men, and by Appin and Glencoe, with about the same number. Dundee had been subsequently joined by Lochiel (now 60 years of age), who had 600 men under him, and by Keppoch, at the head of 200; but Sir Alexander Maclean, who had promised also to attend, failed to appear.

The intelligence communicated by the commander of Ruthven castle was exceedingly perplexing to Mackay, who must have felt keenly the disappointment of Ramsay’s flight. He saw himself with a handful of men surrounded by a warlike and hostile population, and within a short march of a powerful force, which he could not singly resist—with few friends on whom he could place much reliance. He had, in the unfortunate situation in which he was placed, only a choice of evils before him. To have proceeded on his march with the view of cutting his way through the enemy, would have been, even if practicable, an imprudent and very dangerous step, and to have taken up a position in a district where he would have been exposed to be surrounded and cut off from his resources, would have been equally rash. He had, therefore, no alternative which he could prudently adopt, but either to fall back upon Inverness, or retire down the vale of the Spey. He preferred the latter course; for, although such a movement would leave Inverness quite exposed to Dundee’s army, that disadvantage would be more than counterbalanced by the protection which would be thereby afforded to the laird of Grant’s lands, near the borders of which Dundee was now hovering, and by the obstruction which the interposition of Mackay’s troops would present to any attempt on the part of Dundee to recruit his army in the Duke of Gordon’s country. Besides, by making Strathspey the scene of his operations, Mackay expected to be able to keep up a communication with the south through Angus and Aberdeenshire, and the adjoining parts of Moray, which he could not maintain if he returned to Inverness.

Accordingly, after despatching an express to Inverness, apprising the garrison of his intentions, and promising assistance, should Dundee venture to attack the town, Mackay began a rapid march towards Strathspey, which he continued during the night, and did not halt till he had descended a considerable way down that vale. Dundee, who had closely pursued him, afraid of exposing his men to the attacks of Mackay’s cavalry, did not follow him after he had gained the flatter part of the Strath, but kept aloof at the distance of some miles in a more elevated position where he encamped. Notwithstanding his inferiority in point of numbers, the revolutionary general determined to endeavour to allure Dundee from his stronghold by offering him battle, and having refreshed his men, wearied by a long march of twenty-four hours, he advanced next morning to within a mile of Dundee’s camp, and, after reconnoitring the position of the enemy, made preparations for receiving them; but Dundee secure from danger, by the nature of the ground he occupied, showed no disposition to engage. It is probable that, in acting thus passively, he was influenced by the conduct of the Highlanders, who were averse to engage with cavalry, and some of whom (the Camerons, according to Mackay,) fled to the neighbouring hills on Mackay’s approach. Seeing no hope of drawing the Viscount out of his trenches, Mackay returned in the evening to his camp, which he removed the following day to Colmnakill, about six miles lower down the Spey, where he considered himself more secure from any sudden surprise or attack, and where he was speedily joined by two troops of Livingston’s dragoons from Dundee. The ground occupied by Mackay was a spacious plain, bounded on the south by the Spey, which effectually protected his rear, while at his front was covered by a wood and some marshes which skirted the plain on the north. The right of Mackay’s position was protected by a small river with a rough and stony bottom. The general himself took up his quarters at Belcastle, a summer-house in the neighbourhood belonging to the laird of Grant, whence he despatched ten or twelve of Grant’s tenants selected by Grant himself as the most intelligent and trustworthy, to watch and bring him notice of Dundee’s motions. These scouts kept up a constant communication with Mackay, who received a report from one or other of them almost every alternate hour. In the meantime, he kept his whole army under arms, and to prevent surprise, small parties of horse and dragoons patrolled the neighbouring woods, and some foot were stationed along the banks of the little river on the right. But these precautions would probably have been unavailing, if the government general had not timeously been made acquainted with the fact, that there were enemies in his camp who were watching an opportunity to betray him.

For some time, a report had been current that Livingston’s regiment of dragoons was disaffected to the government; but as Mackay could not trace the rumour to any authentic source, he disbelieved it, and to mark his confidence in its fidelity, he had ordered the two troops which were stationed at Dundee to join him in the north. But two days after two deserters from Dundee’s camp informed Mackay that, with few exceptions, all the dragoon officers had entered into a conspiracy to betray him. They said that they had heard Dundee frequently assure the chiefs of the clans that he could depend upon the dragoons, and heard him inform the chiefs, that till he saw a favourable opportunity for requiring the services of the dragoons, he would allow them to remain in the enemy’s camp, where they might be useful to him. The deserters likewise informed Mackay that they had not left Dundee’s camp altogether of their own accord, but partly at the instigation of the lairds of Blair and Pollock, who had been carried about by Dundee as prisoners ever since their capture at Perth, and who were anxious to prevent Mackay from engaging, under these circumstances, with such a small party of troops as he then had.

This information, though calculated to shake the general’s confldence in the fidelity of these dragoons, was too vague and unsatisfactory to be relied upon. Mackay appears at first to have had some doubts of the truth of the statement; but his unwillingness to believe the accusation gave place to an opposite impression when, after ordering the deserters to be confined in Belcastle, and threatening them with exemplary punishment should it turn out that they were spies sent by Dundee, they expressed themselves quite satisfied to abide the result of any investigation he might institute.

Mackay, though now satisfied that there were traitors in his camp, took no steps to secure them, but continued to remain in his position waiting for the arrival of Barclay’s dragoons and Leslie’s foot from Forfar and Couper Angus. Mackay might have retreated down the river, but he was advised to remain at Colmnakill by Sir Thomas Livingston and the laird of Grant; because by retaining his ground, his expected succours would be every day drawing nearer to him, and every day thus spent would be lost to Dundee, who was prevented, by his presence, from communicating with those places in the low country from which he expected reinforcements, particularly in horse, of which he stood in most need; Besides, by retiring, Mackay considered that he might probably be forced to recross the Grampians before the two regiments could join him, in which case he would leave the whole of the north exposed to Dundee, who would probably avail himself of the opportunity to raise a force too formidable to be encountered.

In the meantime, Dundee sent a detachment of his army to lay siege to the old castle of Ruthven, in which Mackay, on his arrival at Inverness, had placed a garrison of about 60 of Grant’s Highlanders, under the command of John Forbes, brother to Culloden. The garrison being in want of provisions, capitulated on the condition that their lives should be spared, and that they should be allowed to return to their homes on their parole. While conducted through Dundee’s camp, Forbes observed all the horses saddled, and his army preparing as if for an immediate march. In proceeding towards Cohnnakill, he met, at the distance of about a mile from Dundee’s lines, two men on horseback, one in a red, the other in a blue uniform. The latter immediately challenged him with the usual parole, "Qui vive ?" on which Forbes returning the "Yive le Roi Guilleaume," as indicative of his loyalty to the existing government, the man in red informed him that they had been despatched from Mackay’s camp to obtain intelligence of the enemy. Captain Forbes then cautioned the men of the risk they would run if they proceeded farther, but regardless of his advice, they rode forward in the direction of Dundee’s camp. Forbes having mentioned this occurrence to Mackay the same day, the latter immediately suspected that the officers of dragoons were in communication with Dundee, as he had given no such order as the man clothed in red had pretended. He, thereupon, desired inquiry to be made if any dragoons had been sent out, and by whom; and as blue was the uniform of Livingston’s men, he desired them to be instantly mustered to ascertain if any were absent; but the general had scarcely issued these instructions, when some of his scouts brought him intelligence that Dundee’s army was moving down the Strath towards Colmnakill. This movement, combined with the information which had been communicated to him by Forbes, left no doubt of the treachery of the dragoons.

Under these circumstances, Mackay had no alternative but an immediate retreat. Calling, therefore, his commanding officers together, he ordered them to put their men under arms, and to form them upon the plain in marching order. He next addressed himself to the laird of Grant, and after expressing his regret at the step he was about to take, by which Grant’s lands would be left for a short time exposed to the ravages of Dundee’s army, he requested him to order his tenants to drive their cattle down the country out of the reach of the enemy, who would probably overlook them in their anxiety to follow him in his retreat. Grant listened to this advice with becoming attention, but to show how little he regarded his own personal interest, as opposed to what he conceived his duty to his country, he observed, that though he might lose every thing by Dundee’s invasion of his country, he would not take one step prejudicial to the government.

In fixing the order of his retreat, Mackay adopted the plan he had been accustomed to follow, that he might not excite the jealousy of the dragoons, or make them suspect that he was distrustful of them. Accordingly, as was his usual practice, he divided the dragoons into two bodies, one of which, consisting of Major and Captain Balfour’s companies, he placed in the rear, and the other four companies commanded by the disaffected officers he placed in the front, that he might overawe them by his own presence. Immediately before the two troops of dragoons which formed the rear-guard, Mackay placed 200 foot, chiefly grenadiers of the three Scoto-Dutch regiments, and next to them the English horse, then scarcely 70 men strong, and between those horse and the four companies of dragoons which were led by Sir Thomas Livingston, he posted 200 of Lord Reay’s and Balnagowan’s Highlanders, having previously dismissed Grant’s men, whom he had informed their chief he would leave behind to protect their own country from Dundee’s stragglers.

There were three ways by which Mackay could retreat,—either towards Inverness, or through Strathdown and Glenlivet, a movement which would bring him near his expected reinforcements, or down Strathspey. Of these routes Mackay would have preferred the southern; but as the population of Strathdown and Glenlivet was Catholic, and of course hostile to him, and as the ground in those districts was unfavourable to the operations of cavalry in case of attack, he resolved to march down Strathspey. But as he was desirous to conceal his route from Dundee, he did not begin his march till nightfall, at which time Dundee was within three miles of his camp. In his course down Speyside he passed by the house of Grant of Ballindalloch, who was serving under Dundee, and arrived early the following morning at Balveny, where he halted to refresh his men and procure a supply of provisions. There he met Sir George Gordon of Edinglassie, from whom he obtained some men to act as intelligencers. Some of these he despatched back in the direction he had come, to ascertain if Dundee still remained in the Strath; but apprehensive that Dundee would take a southerly course, by crossing the Strath, with the view of throwing himself between Mackay and his reinforcements, he sent off others in that direction. These scouts soon returned with intelligence that Dundee was still in Strathspey. This information was satisfactory to Mackay, and relieved him from a state of the most painful anxiety; but he was still greatly perplexed by the want of provisions, which, though hourly expected, had not yet arrived.

Desirous, however, to wait for supplies as long as consistent with safety, he again despatched some of Gordon’s men in the direction he supposed Dundee would take, and at the same time sent a sergeant with a party of 12 dragoons back by the course he had marched, to bring him notice of Dundee’s motions. Mackay waited with the greatest impatience till about five o’clock in the evening for the return of the dragoons, without any signs of their appearance, a circumstance which alarmed him so much, that although a quantity of provisions and oats had just reached his camp, he would not allow time for baking bread or feeding the horses, but gave orders for an immediate march. Accordingly, the whole party moved off in the same order as before, and passed a small river about a mile above the place where they had been encamped; but they had scarcely advanced half a mile when Sir Thomas Livingston, who happened to be a little behind, observed the enemy on the other side of the river they had just passed, marching towards the ford by which Mackay’s men had crossed. On being informed of this, Mackay, after ordering Lieutenant-colonel Livingston, who was at the head of the vanguard, to continue at a pretty quick pace; galloped to the rear, and having despatched Sir Thomas Livingston to the front to lead the party, with instructions to keep up a constant pace, but without wearying the troops, he posted himself upon a rising ground with about 50 or 60 horse and dragoons in view of Dundee’s army, where he was joined by the Master of Forbes with about 50 horse.

When Dundee observed the party of dragoons drawn up on the hillock he immediately halted, drew in his stragglers, and marshalled his men into battalions, keeping up the usual distinction of the clans. In the meantime Mackay sent off his nephew, Major Mackay, to a hill which lay about a quarter of a mile to his left, from which he could obtain a nearer and more correct view of Dundee’s force said his motions. The Viscount’s horse immediately passed the river, and drew up along the bank to protect the passage of the foot, who in their turn also formed till the baggage was brought over. It was now after sunset, but the Viscount continued to advance. Mackay, who was nearly two miles behind his rear; thereupon began to ride off with his party, but he had not proceeded far when a cry of "halt I" met his ears. On turning round he observed galloping after him, Major Mackay, who, having observed a party of horse which he supposed to belong to Dundee, moving along the face of a hill to the General’s left, and which from the twilight appeared more numerous than it really was, had hastened to acquaint the General of the circumstance. It turned out, however, that this party which had occasioned such alarm was no other than the sergeant with the 12 dragoons of Livingston’s regiment which had been sent out by Mackay in the morning to reconnoitre. It was afterwards ascertained that this sergeant was concerned in the plot, and that he was the same individual in blue, whom Captain Forbes had met with within a mile of Dundee’s camp. This man pretended, however, that he had run great danger of capture; and that he had taken such a round-about way merely to avoid the enemy, though he and his party had been with Dundee the whole day, and had conducted him over the ground which Mackay had passed on the preceding day. The government forces continued their march all night till they crossed the river of Bogie, where, from pure exhaustion, they halted at four o’clock in the morning. The General then ordered the provisions which had reached the camp previous to his retreat, to be distributed among his troops, and desired the horsemen to lead their horses into an adjoining corn-field and feed them. When the men were refreshing themselves Mackay received the agreeable intelligence that Barclay and Leslie’s regiments would join him that day, but "to play sure game," as he himself says, after allowing his men two hours rest, he marched three miles further down towards his succours, and took up a position at the foot of Suy-hill upon the common road from the south to the north, by which he expected the two regiments would march.

General Hugh Mackay of ScourieHaving sent a pressing order to Barclay and Leslie to hasten their march, Mackay had the satisfaction of being joined by the former at twelve o’clock noon, and by the latter at six o’clock in the evening, after a long and fatiguing march. Resolved that no time should be lost in turning the chase upon Dundee before he should be aware of these reinforcements, Mackay put his army in marching order, and advanced towards him after ten o’clock at night. But his designs were made known to Dundee by two dragoons who had been despatched by their officers. These men, on the departure of Dundee, were discovered in a wood, and the general being satisfied that the sergeant before mentioned had had a conference with Dundee, and the two dragoons having confessed nearly as much themselves, he immediately put Lieutenant-colonel Livingston and the other suspected officers under arrest. He thereupon continued his march, and arrived at Balveny that night, and on the following day reached Colmnakill, which he had left only five days before. Here having received notice that a party of Dundee’s men was on the other side of the adjoining river, he sent orders to Sir Thomas Livingston to cross with 200 dragoons and drive them away; but Sir Thomas having been previously informed that the laird of Grant was sorely pressed by the retiring forces of Dundee, had anticipated the general’s orders, and had advanced two miles beyond the river with a greater force, in pursuit of a body of Highlanders. These were, according to Balcarras, Sir John Maclean’s men, who were on their way to join Dundee, and who, alarmed at the appearance of such a large number of dragoons, threw away their plaids and betook themselves to an adjoining hill, where they formed. They are stated by the last-mentioned author to have amounted only to 200 men, but Mackay, in his memoirs, states the number at 500. Mackay observes, that but for the indiscretion of Livingston’s adjutant, who by riding a quarter of a mile in advance, gave the Highlanders timeous notice of the approach of the dragoons, not one of them would have escaped, but being thereby enabled to gain the top of the hill before the dragoons came up with them, they sustained a loss of only 80 or 100 men. In this skirmish, a captain of Barclay’s regiment and six dragoons were killed, and some wounded.

Having been joined by Ramsay’s detachment, which during the occupancy of Strathspey by the hostile armies, had, unknown to Mackay, penetrated through Athole and Badenoch and reached Inverness, Mackay continued to pursue Dundee into Badenoch; but as the latter retired into Lochaber, Mackay gave over the pursuit on learning that Dundee had dismissed the greater part of his forces. Mackay, thereupon, marched to Inverness with Livingston’s dragoons, Leslie’s foot, and a party of Leven’s and Hastings’ regiments, and 200 Highlanders, and sent Barclay’s regiment to Strathbogie, and the three Dutch regiments to Elgin. From Inverness, Mackay despatched an express to the Duke of Hamilton, urging upon him the necessity of placing "a formidable garrison" at Inverlochy, and small ones in other places in the north, without which he considered that it would be utterly impossible to subdue the Highlanders, who, on the approach of an army, for which a fortnight’s subsistence could not be found in their mountainous regions, could easily retire to difficult passes and other places inaccessible to regular troops. He, therefore, requested that his grace and the parliament would consider the matter before the season was farther spent, and provide the necessary means for carrying such a design into effect against his arrival in the south, whither lie intended to proceed in a few days.

On his way to the south, Mackay despatched 50 horse, as many of Barclay’s dragoons, and 60 foot, to take possession of the house of Braemar, into which he intended to place a garrison to keep the Braemar men in check, and to cover the county of Aberdeen; and he ordered the captain of dragoons, after putting 20 of his men into the house, to march forward, without halting, before break of day, to the house of Inverey, about three miles farther off, for the purpose of seizing Inverey and some other gentlemen who had lately been with Dundee. But, fortunately for Inverey and his guests, the officer trifled off his time in Braemar house, refreshing his horses, till the dawn of the morning, and the approach of him and his party being perceived, Inverey and his friends escaped in their shirts to a neighbouring wood. Disappointed of their prey, the party retired to the house of Braemar, where, after setting their horses loose to graze, they laid themselves down to repose; but they were soon wakened from their slumbers by some firing from a party on a rock above, which had so alarmed the horses that they were found galloping to and fro in the adjoining fields. As soon as the dragoons had caught their horses, which they had some difficulty in doing, they galloped down the country. The party on the rock was headed by Inverey, who had collected a number of his tenantry for the purpose of expelling the dragoons from his bounds, and who, on their retreat, set fire to Braemar house, which was consumed.

The party of foot, which, having charge of a convoy of provisions and ammunition for the intended garrison, had not yet arrived, on hearing of the retreat of the dragoons, shut themselves up in a gentleman’s house, to secure themselves from attack, and the commanding officer sent an express after Mackay, who was then on his way to the south, acquainting him with the failure of the enterprise. On receiving this intelligence, Mackay, although he had not a day’s bread on hand, and was in great haste to reach Edinburgh, "to put life in the design of Inverlochy," turned off his course and crossed the hills towards Braemar, with his foot, after giving directions to Barclay’s dragoons to march up Deeside. Finding Braemar house destroyed, and the vaults of it incapable of holding a garrison, Mackay, after burning Iverey’s house and laying waste all his lands, descended the river to Abergeldie, where he left a detachment of 72 men as a check upon the Farquharsons. And having placed the other troops which he had brought from the north in quarters farther down the Dee, he posted off to Edinburgh, where he arrived in the beginning of July, about a fortnight after the surrender of the castle of Edinburgh, which capitulated on the 14th of June, after a siege of three months.

On his arrival at Edinburgh, Mackay was exceedingly mortified to find that no steps whatever had been taken by the government for putting his design into execution, of erecting a fort at Inverlochy. As the season was now too far advanced to collect materials for such an erection, he proposed that a body of 1,500 pioneers should be levied in the northern counties, each of whom should be obliged to carry a spade, shovel, or pickaxe, along with him, and that a month’s provisions of meal, with horses to carry it, should be furnished, along with a force of 400 men. But this plan, the general himself confesses, "considering the inability, ignorance, and little forwardness of the government to furnish the necessary ingredients for the advance of their service, was built upon a sandy foundation, and much like the building of castles in the air." As an instance of the slowness and irresolution of government, Mackay mentions, that after his return from the north, they took three weeks to deliberate upon the mode of conveying a fortnight’s provisions for 400 men; by which delay he says he lost the opportunity of preventing Dundee from occupying Athole, Badenoch, and other parts of the southern Highlands.

The return of Mackay to the capital, after a fruitless and exceedingly harassing series of marches and countermarches, seems to have abated the ardour of some of the supporters of the government, who, disappointed in their expectations, and displeased at the preference shown by the court to others they considered less deserving than themselves, had become either indifferent about the result of the struggle, or secretly wished for a restoration. That such an event might occur was indeed far from improbable. James was already in possession, with the exception of two cities, of all Ireland, and William was by no means popular in England. To give, therefore, a decided and favourable turn to James’s affairs in Scotland, nothing was wanting but to aid Dundee immediately with a few thousand men from Ireland; but although the necessity of such a step was urged by Dundee in his communications with the exiled monarch, the latter did not, unfortunately for himself, consider the matter in the same light. The expectation of such a reinforcement, which they confidently looked for, had, however, its due effect upon the minds of the Highlanders, who gladly endured during the recent campaign all those painful privations which necessarily attend an army scantily provided with the means of subsistence. No man was better fitted by nature than Dundee for command under such difficulties, and at the head of such troops. Whilst by his openness, frankness, and disinterestedness he acquired an ascendency over the minds of the chiefs, he was equally successful by attending personally to their wants, by mixing frequently among them, and by sharing their privations and fatigues, in securing the obedience of the clans. But valuable and important as the services were of such a bold and devoted band, it was evident that without a sudden and powerful diversion from Ireland, or a considerable rising in the lowlands, it would be impossible for Dundee, from the paucity of his forces, and the want of cavalry, to carry the war into the south with any possible chance of success.

As the Irish reinforcements were daily expected, Dundee enjoined the chiefs of the clans, who, with their men, had taken a temporary leave of absence on the departure of Mackay, to rejoin him as soon as possible, and from his head-quarters at Moy, in Lochaber, he sent expresses to the other chiefs who had not yet joined him to hasten to the approaching muster.

[The following letter to Macleod of Macleod shows Dundee’s notion of his prospects at this time

"For the LAIRD of MACLEOD.*

"Sra,—Glengaire gave me ane account of the substance of a letter he receaved from yow I shall only tell yow, that if you heasten not to land your men, I am of opinion yow will have litle occasion to do the king great service; for if he land in the west of Scotland, yow will come too late, as I believe yow will thinck yourself by the news I have to tell yow. The Prince of Orange bath wreaten to the Scots councell not to fatig his troops any more by following us in the hills, but to draw them together in a body to the west ; and, accordingly, severall of the forces that were in Pearthshire and Angus, are drawn to Edinr., and some of Mackay’s regments are marcht that way from him Some of the French fleet hath been seen amongst the islands, and hath taken the two Glasgow frigats. The king, being thus master by sea and land, bath nothing to do but bring over his army, which many people fancy is landed alraidy in the west. He will have little to oppose him there, and will probably march towards England; so that we who are in the graitest readiness will have ado to join him. I have received by Mr. Hay a commission of lieutenant-general, which miscairied by Breidy. I have also receaved a double of a letter tniscairied by Breidy to me, and a new letter, dated the 18th of May; both which are so kind, that I am asham’d to tell. He counts for great services, which I am conscious to myself that I have hardly done my deutie. He promises not only to me, but to all that will join, such marks of favor, as after ages shall see what honour and advantage there is, in being loyall. He sayes, in express terms, that his favours shall vy with our loyalty. Ho bath, by the same letters, given full power of councell to such councellors here, as shall be joined in the king’s service, and given us power, with the rest of his freends, to meet in a convention, by his authority, to counteract the mock convention at Edinr., whom he bath declaired traitours, and comanded all his loyall subjects to make warr against them ; in obedience to which, I have called all the clannes. Captain of Glenrannald* is near us these severall days; the laird of Baro is there with his men. I am persuaded Sir Donald is there by this. M’Clean lands in Morven to-morrow certainly. Apen, Glenco, Lochell, Glengaire, Keppoch, are all raidy. Sir Alexander and Largo have been here with there men all this while with me, so that I hope we will go out of Lochaber about thre thousand. Yow may judge what we will gett in Strathharig, Badenock, Athol, Marr, and the duke of Gordon’s lands, besides the loyall shires of Bamf, Aberdeen, Merns, Angus, Perth, and Stirling. I hope we will be masters of the north, as the king’s army will be of the south. I had almost forgot to tell you of my Lord Broadalban, who I suppose will now come to the feelds. Dumbeth, with two hundred hors and eight hundred foot, are said to be endeavouring to join us. My L. Seaforth will be in a few dayes from Irland to rais his men for the king’s service. Now, I have layd the whole business before yow, yow will easily know what is fitt for yew to do. All I shall say further is, to repeat and renew the desyre of my former letter, and assure yow that I am,

Your most humble servant, 

"Yew will reeeave the king’s letter to yew."

* The original of this letter, which is addressed to John Macleod of Macleod, is in possession of the present Laird of Macleod, his descendant].

About the same time he despatched a letter to the Earl of Melfort, in which, after adverting to various circumstances, he advises him to send over from Ireland a body of 5,000 or 6,000 men to Inverlochy, which he considered the safest landing-place that could be selected as being "far from the enemy," and whence an easy entrance could be obtained for an army into Moray, Angus, or Perthshire. On the return of the transports from Inverlochy, Dundee advised Melfort to send over as many foot as he conveniently could to the point of Cantyre, on hearing of whose landing he would advance as far as the neck of Tarbert to meet them, and that on the junction taking place, Dundee would march "to raise the country," and afterwards proceed to the passes of the Forth to meet the king, who, it was supposed, would follow the expedition. To deceive Mackay and the Scottish council, and to induce them to withdraw their forces from the north, and thus leave him at greater liberty to organize it, Dundee industriously circulated a report that the forces from Ireland would land altogether in some quarter south of the Clyde. To give an appearance of certainty to the rumour, he wrote a letter to Lady Errol, a warm supporter of James’s interest, acquainting her of the expected landing in the west, and to prevent suspicion of any ruse being intended, he inclosed some proclamations, which, it is presumed, he intended to issue when the Irish arrived. As wished and anticipated, this despatcli was intercepted and sent to Edinburgh. The device appears to have in part succeeded, as Dundee informs Melfort, that the government forces were afterwards withdrawn from Cantyre.


"For the EARL of MELFORT. *
"Moy in Lochaber, June 27, 1689.

After exculpating himself from a charge made against him by the Earl, of his name having been ‘made use of for carrying on designs against the Earl,’ Dundee thus proceeds:-

"When we first came out I had but fifty pounds of powder; more I could not get, all the great towns and seaports were in rebellion, and had seized the powder, and would sell none. But I had one advantage, the Highlanders will not fire above once, and then take to the broadsword . . The advocate is gone to England, a very honest man, firm beyond belief; and Athol is gone too, who did not know what to do. Earl Hume, who is very frank, is taken prisoner to Edinburgh, but he will be let out on security. Earl Breadalbin keeps close in a strong house; he has and pretends the gout. Earl Errol stays at home; so does Aberdeen. Earl Marshall is at Edinburgh, but does not meddle. Earl Lauderdale is right, and at home. The Bishops, I know not where they are. They are now the kirk invisible. I will be forced to open the letter, and send copies attested to them, and keep the original, till I can find out our primate. The poor ministers are sorely oppressed over all. They generally stand right. Duke Queensberry was present at the cross, when their new mock King was proclaimed, and I hear, voted for him, though not for the throne vacant. His brother the Lieutenant General, some say is made an Earl. He has come down to Edinburgh, and is gone up again. He is the old man, and has abused me strangely, for he swore to cue to make amends. Tarbat is a great villain. Besides what he has done at Edinburgh, he has endeavoured to seduce Lochiel, by offers of money, which is under his hand. He is now gone up to secure his faction, which is melting, the two Dalrymples and others against Skelmarly, Polwart, Cardross, Ross, and others now joined with that worthy prince, Duke Hamilton. M. Douglas is now a great knave, as well as beast; as is Glencairne, Morton, and Eglinton, and even Cassillis is gone astray, misled by Gibby. Panmure keeps right, and at home, so does Strathmore, Southesk, and Kinnaird. Old Airly is at Edinburgh under caution, so is Balcarras and Dunnsore. Stormont is declared fugitive for not appearing. All these will break out, and many more, when the King lands, or any from him. Most of the gentry on this side the Forth, and many on the other, will do so too. But they suffer mightily in the mean time; and will be forced to submit, if there be not relief sent very soon. The Duke of Gordon, they say, wanted nothing for holding out but hopes of relief. Earl of Dunfermline stays constantly with me, and so does Lord DunkeII, Pitcur, and many other gentlemen, who really deserve well, for they suffer great hardships. When the troops land there must be blank commissions sent for horse and foot, for them and others that will join."

• This letter was printed by Macpherson from the Nairne papers].

Whilst Dundee was thus maturing his plans, preparatory to another campaign, Mackay was urging the privy council to supply him with a sufficient force, for carrying into effect his favourite plan of erecting a strong fortification at Inverlochy. This leads to the supposition that "the General," a term by which Mackay distinguishes himself in his memoirs, had not taken the bait which had been prepared for him by his artful rival, for it is improbable, had Mackay believed the story invented by Dundee, that he would have insisted on carrying such a large force as 4,000 men, the number he required, into Lochaber, so very remote from the scene of the threatened invasion.

Having collected his forces, Mackay made the necessary preparations for his departure, but he was detained nearly a fortnight in Edinburgh, beyond the time he had fixed for his march, by the delays of the government, in furnishing meal for his troops, and horses for transporting it. In the meantime he was informed by Lord Murray, eldest son of the Marquis of Athole, that Stewart of Ballochin, his father’s chamberlain, and other gentlemen of the county of Angus, had taken possession of the castle of Blair Athole, belonging to the Marquis, and were fortifying it for behoof of King James. Lord Murray offered to go immediately to Athole, and do everything in his power to obtain possession of the castle of Blair, before Dundee should arrive. As Lord Murray’s wife was known to be very zealous for the presbyterian interest, and as his lordship and the Marquis his father, who was secretly hostile to the government, were at variance, Mackay gave a ready assent to the proposal, and pressed his lordship eagerly to depart for Athole without loss of time, informing him that all he required from him, was to prevent the Athole-men from joining Dundee.

Lord Murray accordingly proceeded to Athole, where he arrived about the beginning of July, and lost no time in summoning his father’s vassals to meet him. About 1,200 of them assembled, but no entreaties could induce them to declare in favour of the government, nor could a distinct pledge be obtained from them to observe a neutrality during the impending contest. His lordship was equally unsuccessful in an application which he made to Stewart of Ballochin, for delivery of Blair castle Stewart telling him that he held the castle for behoof of King James, by order of his lieutenant-general. The failure of Lord Murray’s mission could certainly occasion no disappointment, as it was not to be imagined that a body of men who had all along been distinguished for their attachment to the exiled family, were, at the call of a young man, who by marriage, and the disagreement with his father, may be supposed to have made himself obnoxious to the men of Athole, all at once to abandon long-cherished ideas and to arm in support of a cause in which they felt no interest.

About the period of Lord Murray’s arrival in Athole, intelligence was brought to Dundee that a body of 500 Irish troops, under an officer of the name of Cannon, had reached Mull. The viscount immediately proceeded to Inverlochy to give orders respecting their landing, but, although they all reached the mainland in perfect safety, the ships which carried their provisions being unnecessarily detained at Mull, were all captured by some English frigates which were cruizing amongst the western islands. The loss of their stores was a serious evil; and it embittered the disappointment felt by Dundee and the chiefs, to find that instead of an efficient force of 5,000 or 6,000 men, as they had been led to expect, not more than a tenth part had been sent, and even this paltry force was neither properly disciplined, nor sufficiently armed; so that, according to Balcarras, their arrival did "more harm than good." Such also was the opinion of Mackay at the time, as expressed in a letter to Lord Melville.

Having given the necessary orders for bringing up the Irish troops, Dundee returned to Strowan, where he had fixed his head quarters. Here he received a letter which had arrived during his absence at Inverlochy, from Lord Strathnaver, eldest son of the Earl of Sutherland, couched in very friendly terms, and advising him to follow the example of the Duke of Gordon, as the course he was following, if persisted in, would lead inevitably to his ruin. But Dundee was not the man who would allow his personal interest to interfere with the allegiance which he considered he owed to his exiled sovereign, and while in his answer he expressed a deep sense of the obligation he lay under to his lordship for his advice and offers of service, which he imputed to his lordship’s "sincere goodness and concern" for him and his family, he assured him that he (Dundee) had no less concern for him, and that he had been even thinking of making a proposal to him, but delayed doing so till his lordship should see things in a clearer point of view.

At Strowan, Dundee was made acquainted by Stewart of Ballochin, with Lord Murray’s proceedings, and with a demand made by his lordship for possession of Blair castle, a demand to which Ballochin had given the most decided refusal. The possession of this place was of vast importance to Dundee, as it commanded the entrance into the southern Highlands, and lay in the line of Mackay’s intended route to Inverlochy. To reward his fidelity, and to counteract Lord Murray’s influence in Athole, Dundee sent a commission to Ballochin, appointing him colonel of the Athole-men. The appointment, however, would probably have been conferred on Lord Murray, in whom Dundee had, on the 19th of July, two days before the date of Ballochin’s commission, despatched a letter, stating the happiness which he felt on hearing that his lordship had appointed a rendezvous of the Athole-men at Blair, and expressing a hope that he would join the viscount with his men; but, instead of answering this letter, his lordship sent it to Lord Melville, the secretary of state for Scotland. Such also was the fate of other letters, which Dundee sent to Lord Murray. Along with the last, which was written on the 25th of July, Dundee despatched Major Graham and Captain Ramsay for the purpose of obtaining a personal interview with Lord Murray; but he declined to see them, or to give any answer to Dundee’s communication. It appears that up to this time the Athole-men, who had, at the call of the son of their chief, assembled to the number of about 1,200, were ignorant of Lord Murray’s intentions; but when he refused to receive Dundee’s officers, they at once began to suspect his designs, and demanded with one voice an immediate explanation, intimating at the same time, that if he would join Dundee they would follow him to a man; but if on the contrary he refused, they would all leave him. His lordship remonstrated with them, and even threatened them with his vengeance if they abandoned him; but regardless of his threats, they left him to join Dundee, having previously filled their bonnets with water from the rivulet of Banovy, in the neighbourhood of Blair castle, and pledged themselves to King James by drinking his health.

In the meantime the government general was busily engaged at Edinburgh, making the necessary preparations for his march. He appointed his troops to rendezvous at Perth, and after completing his arrangements at Edinburgh, he went to Stirling to inspect the castle, so as to make himself acquainted with its means of defence. In a letter dated 24th July, written to Lord Melville on his arrival at Stirling, Mackay alludes to the distracted state of the government in Scotland, and the difficulty he would experience in executing the. commission which the king had given him, to keep the kingdom peaceable, in consequence of the divisions which existed even between the adherents of the government. The removal from office of Stair the president of the court of session, and his son, who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the ultra whig party, by their attempts to stretch the royal prerogative too far, appears to have been considered by that party of more importance than keeping Dundee in check. So high did the spirit of party run, that the Earl of Annandale and Lord Ross, who had just been appointed colonels of two newly raised regiments of horse, refused to accompany their regiments, and offered to resign their commissions rather than quit the parliament. This state of matters was highly favourable to James’s interests in Scotland, and if Melfort had followed Dundee’s advice, by sending over a large force from Ireland, the cause of his royal master might have triumphed, but with that fatality which attended the unfortunate monarch in all his undertakings, he allowed to slip away the golden opportunity which was here offered him, of recovering his crown.

From Stirling Mackay proceeded to Perth, after ordering the troops of horse and dragoons of the expedition to follow him. On arriving at Perth, a letter was shown him from Lord Murray, from which he learned, that Dundee, who had been solicited by Stewart of Ballochin to hasten into Athole, was already marching through Badenoch, and so anxious was he to anticipate Mackay’s arrival in Athole, that he had left behind him several chiefs and their men, whose junction he daily expected. Lord Murray added, that if Mackay did not hasten his march so as to reach Athole before Dundee, he would not undertake to prevent his men from joining the Viscount. As Mackay informs us, that before leaving Edinburgh he had begun "already to have very ill thoughts of the expedition in gross," and as on reaching Stirling, the idea that he would be straitened for provisions haunted his mind, this information was assuredly by no means calculated to relieve these fearful apprehensions. He had gone too far, however, to retrace his steps with honour, and although four troops of dragoons and two of horse had not yet joined him, he resolved, for reasons that to him, in the position in which he was then placed, seemed most forcible, to proceed immediately on his march to Athole.

The last and perhaps most important reason given by himself for this step, is that, as the possession, by Mackay, of the castle of Blair, was in his opinion the only means of keeping in awe the Athole-men, (who, from their numbers and strict attachment to the house of Stewart, were more to be dreaded than any other body of Highlanders,) and preventing them from joining Dundee, he had no alternative but to allow Dundee to roam uncontrolled through the disaffected district of Athole, gathering strength at every step, or to attempt to gain the important fortress of Blair.

Such were the grounds, as stated by Mackay in his own exculpation, which made him resolve upon marching into Athole, and which, he observes, "more capable commanders might readily be deceived in." Those who make the unfortunate result of this movement the rule of their judgment, will be apt to condemn Mackay’s conduct on this occasion as rash and injudicious, but when his own reasons are duly weighed, it is difficult to see how he could have acted otherwise than he did. There can be no doubt, that had he been as successful at Kihiecrankie as he was unfortunate, he would have been applauded for the exercise of a sound discretion, and regarded as a tactician of the highest order.

Pass of Killiecrankie

On the 26th of July, Mackay left Perth at the head of an army of 4,500 men. Of this force, notwithstanding that the four troops of dragoons and two of horse already alluded to, had not yet arrived, a fair proportion consisted of cavalry. At night Mackay encamped opposite to Dunkeld, and here, at midnight, he received an express from Lord Murray announcing the alarming intelligence, that Dundee had entered Athole, in consequence of which event he informed him that he had retreated from before the castle of Blair, which he had for some time partially blockaded; and that although he had left the narrow and difficult pass of Killiecrankie between him and Dundee, he had posted a guard at the further extremity to secure a free passage to Mackay’s troops through the pass which he supposed Dundee had already reached. Mackay seems to have doubted the latter part of this statement, and his suspicions were in some degree confirmed by the fact, that Lieutenant-colonel Lauders whom he despatched with a party immediately on receipt of Murray’s letter, to secure the entrance into the pass from the vale of Blair, did not see a single man on his arrival there.

Discouraging as this intelligence was, Mackay still determined to persevere in his march, and having dispatched orders to Perth to hasten the arrival of the six troops of cavalry he had left behind, he put his army in motion next morning, July 27th, at day-break, and proceeded in the direction of the pass, the entrance to which he reached at ten o'clock in the morning. Here he halted, and allowed his men two hours to rest and refresh themselves before they entered upon the bold and hazardous enterprise of plunging themselves into a frightful chasm, out of which they might possibly never return. To support Lauder in case of attack, the general, on halting, dispatched through the pass a body of 200 men under the command of the Lieutenant-colonel of the Earl of Leven's regiment whom he instructed to send him any intelligence he could obtain of Dundee's motions. A short way below the pass Mackay fell in with Lord Murray, who informed him, that with the exception of 200 or 300 men, who still remained with him, the whole had gone to the hills to secure their cattle, an answer which Mackay, with the open and unsuspecting generosity of a soldier, considered satisfactory, and made him, as he observes, "not so apt to judge so ill of Murray as others did".

Having received a notice from Lauder that the pass was clear, and that there was no appearance of Dundee, Mackay put his army again in motion, and entered the fatal pass. Hasting's regiment (now the 13th), and Annandale's horse were placed behind to protect the baggage, from an apprehension that Dundee's Highlanders might make a detour round the hill to attack it, or that the country people might attempt to plunder it if not so guarded. The idea that no opposition would be offered to their passage through this terrific defile, which seemed to forbid approach, and to warn the unhappy soldier of the dangers which awaited him should he precipitate himself into its recesses, may have afforded some consolation to the feelings of Mackay's troops as they entered this den of desolation' but when they found themselves fairly within its gorge, their imaginations must have been appalled as they gazed, at every successive step, on the wild and terrific objects which encompassed them on every side. They however proceeded, at the command of their general, on their devious course, and finally cleared it, with the loss of only a single horseman, who, according to an Athole tradition, was shot by an intrepid adventurer, named Ian Ban Beg MacRan, who had posted himself on a hill, from which he fired across the rivulet of the Garry and brought down his victim. A well, called in Gaelic, Fuaran u trupar, Anglice, the "Horsemans's well", is shown as the place where the horseman fell.

As soon as the five battalions and the troop of horse which preceded the baggage had debouched from the further extremity of the pass, they halted, by command of the general, upon a corn field, along he side of the river to await the arrival of the baggage, and of Hasting's regiment and the other troop of horse. Mackay then ordered Lieutenant-colonel Lauder to advance with his 200 fusiliers and a troop of horse in the direction he supposed Dundee might be expected to appear. Lauder had not advanced far when he discovered some parties of Dundee's forces between him and Blair. Being immediately apprised of this by Lauder, Mackay, after giving orders to Colonel Balfour to supply the troops with ammunition, and to put them under arms without delay, galloped off to the ground, from which Lauder had espied the enemy, to observe their motions before making choice of the field of battle. On arriving at the advanced post, Mackay observed several small parties of troops, scarcely a mile distant, marching slowly along the foot of a hill in the direction of Blair, and advancing towards him. Mackay, thereupon, sent orders to Balfour to advance immediately up to him with the foot. But these orders were no sooner dispatched than he observed some bodies of Dundee's forces marching down a high hill within quarter of a mile from the place where he stood, in consequence of which movement, he immediately galloped back to his men to countermand the order he had just issued, and to put his army in order of battle.

Dundee, who had been duly advertised of Mackay's motions, had descended from the higher district of Badenoch into Athole on the previous day, with a force of about 2,500 men, of whom about one-fifth part consisted of the Irish, which had lately landed at Inverlochy under Brigadier Cannon. Some of the clans which were expected had not yet joined, as the day appointed for the general rendezvous had not then arrived; but as Dundee considered it of paramount importance to prevent Mackay from establishing himself in Athole, he did not hesitate to meet the latter, whose force numbered about 4,000.

On his arrival at the castle of Blair, intelligence was brought Dundee that Mackay had reached the pass of Killiecrankie, which he was preparing to enter. Dundee, against the advice of most of his officers, resolved to allow Mackay to enter the pass undisputed. He appealed to the feelings of the Highlanders, whose ancestors, he said, acting upon their national maxim never to attack a foe who could not defend himself on equal terms, would have disdained to adopt the course proposed, (and in saying so he did not, he observed, mean to insinuate that the persons he addressed had degenerated from the honor and courage of their ancestors). One principal reason stated by Dundee for allowing Mackay to advance through the Pass unmolested, was the great advantage they would gain by engaging him on open ground before he should be joined by his English dragoons, who, from their being so formidable to the Highlanders, would, if allowed by him to come up, more than compensate for any accession of force which Dundee might receive. Another reason not less important was, that in the event of Mackay sustaining a defeat, his army would probably be ruined, as he could not retreat back through the Pass without the risk of evident destruction, whereas should the Highlanders suffer a defeat, he had already given orders to his friends in the neighborhood, to cut off the few remaining stragglers that might attempt to escape.

The forces which had been descried by Lauder, appear to have been a body of 400 men under the command of Sir John Maclean, whom Dundee, on learning that the advanced guard of Mackay's army, after traversing the pass, had taken up a position near its northern extremity, had dispatched from Blair castle to keep them in check. But his scouts having shortly thereafter brought him notice that the whole of Mackay's army was preparing to enter the pass, he resolved to make a detour with the main body of his army round the hill on which the castle of Lude stands, in the vicinity of the pass, and fall upon Mackay as soon as he should clear that defile. Having made himself acquainted of the country people, with the localities in the immediate neighborhood of the pass, and of the suitableness of the ground for the operations of such a force as his, he advanced at double-quick time from Blair along the present line of road, and on arriving at the river Tilt, turned off to the left round the back of the hill, and crossed that river near its confluence with the rivulet of Ald Chluan. This movement will account for the sudden and unexpected appearance of Dundee on the face of the high hill on Mackay's right.

Immediately above the ground on which Mackay had halted his troops is an eminence, the access to which is steep and difficult, and covered with trees and shrubs. Alarmed lest Dundee should obtain possession of this eminence - which being within a carbine shot from the place on which Mackay stood, would give him such a command of the ground as would enable him, by means of his fire, to force Mackay to cross the river in confusion - he, immediately on his return from the position occupied by his advanced guard, "made every battalion form by a Quart de Conversion to the right upon the ground where they stood". and then made them march each in succession before him up the hill till they reached the eminence immediately above the house of Urrard, which Dundee had reached before Mackay had completed his ascent, and on which he halted.

At this conjuncture, neither Hasting's regiment nor Annandale's troop of horse had yet come out of the pass, but Mackay, nevertheless, at once proceeded to arrange his men in fighting order on a plain between the edge of he eminence and the foot or commencement of the ascent to Dundee's position, which, from its extent, enabled him to form his men in one line along the eminence. In making his dispositions, Mackay divided every battalion into two parts, and as he meant to fight three deep, he left a small distance between each of these sub-battalions. In the center of his line, however, he left a greater interval of space, behind which he placed the two troops of horse, with the design, when the Highlanders, after the fire of the line had been spent, should approach, to draw them off by this larger interval, and flank the Highlanders on either side, as occasion should offer. Mackay assigns as his reason for placing his cavalry in his rear till the fire should be exhausted on both sides, a dread huge entertained of exposing them to Dundee's horse, with whom it could not be supposed that these newly-raised levies could cope. Hasting's regiment, which arrived after Mackay had taken up his ground, was placed on the right; and, for greater security, there was added to it a detachment of firelocks from each battalion. On the extreme left on a hillock covered with tress, Lieutenant-colonel Lauder was posted, with his party of 200 men, composed of the elite of the army. Mackay having been recognized by Dundee's men busily employed riding along his line, from battalion to battalion, giving orders, was selected by some of them for a little ball practice; but although "their popping shot", which wounded some of his men, fell around him whenever he moved, he escaped unhurt.

After his line had been fully formed, Mackay rode along the front, from the left wing, which he committed to the charge of Brigadier Balfour, to the right, and having ascertained that everything was in readiness to receive the enemy, he addressed the battalions nearest him in a short speech. He requested them to reflect that their own personal safety was involved in the issue of that day's contest; and assured them that if they maintained their ground, and kept firmly and closely united together, their assailants would quickly flee before them for refuge to the hills - that the reason for which the Highlanders stripped themselves almost naked before battle was rather to enable them to escape, than from any hopes they entertained of pursuing their foes. Should, however, his men unfortunately give way before the rabble of Highlanders whom they saw marshaled on the adjoining heights - an event which he by no means expected - there was an absolute certainty, as these naked mountaineers were more nimble-footed than they were, and as all the Athole-man were in arms, ready to take advantage of their defeat, that few or none of them, would escape with their lives. In conclusion, he warned them that the only way to avoid ruin was to stand firm to their posts, and, like brave men, to fight to the last in defense of their religion and liberties, against the invaders of both, to secure which, and not the desire of the crown, was the sole reason which had induced his majesty to send them on the present service.

Whilst Mackay was thus occupied on the lower platform, his gallant rival was equally busy flying about on the eminence above, ranging his men in battle array. He was particularly distinguished amongst his officers by a favorite dun-coloured horse which he rode, and by his plated armor, which glittered in the sun-beams. Dundee, who had arrived upon the higher platform about the same time that Mackay had gained the ground he now occupied, ranged his men in one line in the following order - On the right, he placed Sir John Maclean, with his regiment divided into two battalions. On the left, he posted the regiment of Sir Donald Macdonald, commanded by the young chief and Sir George Barclay, and a battalion under Sir Alexander Maclean. In the center were placed four battalions, consisting of the Camerons, the Macdonells of Glengary and Clanranald, and the Irish regiment, with a troop of horse under the command of Sir William Wallace, who had early that morning produced a commission, to the great displeasure of the Earl of Dunfermline and other officers, appointing him colonel of a horse regiment which the earl commanded. It may be observed, that neither Mackay nor Dundee placed any body of reserve behind their lines.

The great extent of Mackay's line, which reached considerably beyond Dundee's wings, compelled the latter, to prevent the danger of being outflanked, to enlarge the intervals between his battalions. A general movement from right to left accordingly took place along Dundee's line. Before Dundee's left halted, Mackay, imagining that the object of the movement in that quarter was to get between him and the pass, for the purpose of cutting off all communication between him and Perth, made his line make a corresponding movement to his right, but on observing that Dundee's left wing halted, Mackay brough his line to a stand. These different movements necessarily occupied a considerable time, and both armies being now finally arranged, they gazed upon each other with great composure for the space of two whole hours.

During this interval of care and anxious suspense, the feelings of both parties - their hopes or their fears - would probably be tinctured by a deeper hue of confidence or despondency as they reflected on the events or former days. Though more than forty years had elapsed since the brilliant achievements of Montrose, the Highlanders, naturally brave, had lost none of their military ardor, and the descendants of the heroes of Tippermuir, Aldearn, and Kilsyth, who now stood in battle array on the upper plain, whence, with a scowl of scorn and defiance, they looked down upon the Sassenachs below, calling to mind the recital of the heroic deeds of their fathers, to which they had listened with wonder and enthusiasm in their childhood, would burn for the moment when, at the command of their chief, they should measure their broad swords with the bayonets of their Lowland foes. On the other hand, Mackay's men had no such recollections to inspire confidence or to cheer them in their perilous enterprise, and when they beheld the Highland host ready at a moment's notice to burst like a mountain torrent upon their devoted heads, and called to mind the tales they had heard of the warlike prowess of the Highlanders, they could no but recoil at the idea of encountering, in deadly strife, such determined antagonists. There were, it is true, many men in Mackay's army to whom the dangers of the battle field were familiar, and in whose minds such reflections would doubtless find no place, but the great majority of his troops consisted of newly raised levies, who had never before seen the face of an enemy.

Mackay himself, though an old and experiences offices, and a brave man, was not without his misgivings; and as the evening advanced without any movement on the part of Dundee to commence the action, his uneasiness increased. Nor were his apprehensions likely to be allayed by the reply made by the second son of Lochiel, who held a commission in his own regiment of Scots fusiliers, in answer to a question put to him by Mackay. "Here is your father with his wild savages", said Mackay to the young man, on seeing the standard of the Camerons, putting on at the same moment an air of confidence, "how would you like to be with him?". "It signifies little", answered the son of the chief, "what I would like, but I recommend to you to be prepared; or perhaps my father and his wild savages may be nearer to you before night than you would like". The apparent irresolution of the Highlanders to begin the battle was considered by Mackay as intentional, and he supposed that their design was to wait till nightfall, when, by descending suddenly from their position, and setting up a loud shout, according to their usual custom, they expected to frighten his men, unaccustomed to an enemy, and put them in disorder. As Mackay could not, without the utmost danger, advance up the hill and commence the action, and as the risk was equally great should he attempt to retreat down the hill and cross the river, he resolved, at all hazards, to remain in his position, "though with impatience", as he observes, till Dundee should either attack him or retire, which he had better opportunities of doing than Mackay had. To provoke the Highlanders, and to induce them to engage, he ordered three small leather field pieces to be discharged, but they provided of little use, and the carriages being much too high, broke after the third firing.

Towards the close of the evening, some of Dundee's sharpshooters, who had kept up, during the day, an occasional fire in the direction in which they observed Mackay moving, by which they had wounded some of his men, as already stated, took possession of some houses upon the ascent which lay between the two armies, for the purpose of directing their aim with surer effect. But they were immediately dislodged by a party of musketeers dispatched by Mackay's brother, who commanded the general's regiment, and chased back to their main body with some loss. This skirmish Mackay supposed would soon draw on a general engagement, and his expectations were speedily realized.

It was within half an hour if sunset, and the moment was at hand, when, at the word of command, the Highlanders and their allies were to march down the hill, and with sword in hand, fall upon the trembling and devoted host below, whom, like the eagle viewing his destined prey from his lofty Eyre, they had so long surveyed. Having determined, as much to please his men as to gratify his own inclination, to lead the charge in person, at the head of the horse, Dundee exchanged his red coat, which he had worn during the day, and by which he had been recognized by Mackay's troops, for another of darker colour, to conceal his rank, and thereby avoid the risk of being singled out by the enemy. Dundee, after the manner of the ancient Greek and Roman generals, is said to have harangued his men in the following enthusiastic strain:-

"You are come hither to fight, and that in the best of causes; for it is the battle of your king, your religion, and your country, against the foulest usurpation and rebellion. And having therefore so good a cause in your hands, I doubt not but it will inspire you with an equal courage to maintain it; for there is no proportion betwixt loyalty and treason, nor should there be any betwixt the valour of good subjects and traitors. Remember that t-day begins the fate of your king, your religion, and your country. Behave yourselves, therefore, like true Scotsmen, and let us by this action redeem the credit of this nation, that is laid low by the treacheries and cowardice of some of our countrymen, in making which request, I ask nothing of you that I am not now ready to do myself. And if any of us shall fall upon this occasion, we shall have the honor of dying on our duty, and as becomes true men of valor and conscience; and such of us as shall live and win the battle, shall have the reward of a gracious king and the praise of all good men. In God's name, then, let us go on, and let this be your word - King James and the church of Scotland, which God long preserve!".

A pause now ensued and a death-like silence prevailed along the line, when, on a sudden, it appeared in motion, marching slowly down the hill. The Highlanders, who stripped themselves to their shirts and doublets, advanced, according to their usual practice, with their bodies bent forward, so as to present as small a surface as possible to the fire of the enemy, the upper part of their bodies being covered by their targets.

To discourage the Highlanders in their advance by keeping up a continual fire, Mackay had given instructions to his officers commanding battalions, to commence firing by platoons, at the distance of a hundred paces. This prder was not attended to, as Balfour's regiment, and the half of Ramsay's, did not fire a single shot, and the other half fired very little. The Highlanders, however, met with a very brisk fire from Mackay's right, and particularly from his own battalion, in which no less than 16 gentlemen of the Macdonells of Glengarry fell; but, undismayed by danger, they kept steadily advancing in the face of the enemy's fire, of which they received three rounds. Having now come close up to the enemy, they halted for a moment, and having leveled and discharged their pistols, which did little execution, they set up a loud shout and rushed sword in hand upon the enemy, before the latter had time to screw on their bayonets to the end of their muskets. The shock was too impetuous to be long resisted by men, who, according to their own general, "behaved, with the exception of Hasting's and Leven's regiment, like the vilest cowards in nature". But even had these men been more stout-hearted, their courage would not have availed them, as their arms were insufficient to parry off the tremendous strokes of the exes, and the broad and double-edged swords of the Highlanders, who, with a single blow, either felled their opponents to the earth or struck off a member from their bodies, and at once disabled them. While the work of death was thus going on towards the right, Dundee, at the head of the horse, made a furious charge on Mackay's own battalion, and broke through it, on which the English horse which were stationed behind, fled without firing a single shot. Dundee, thereupon, rode off to attack the enemy's cannon, but the officer (Sir William Wallace) who had that morning produced his commission as colonel of the horse, appears to have misunderstood Dundee, who, on arriving near the enemy's cannon, found himself alone. He, therefore, gave the horse a signal to advance quickly, on which the Earl of Dunfermline, who then served only as a volunteer, overlooking the affront which had been put upon him, rode out of the ranks, followed by 16 gentlemen, attacked the party who guarded the cannon, and captured them.

As soon as Mackay perceived that Dundee's grand point of attack was near the center of his line, he immediately resolved to attack the Highlanders in flank with the two troops of horse which he had placed in the rear of his line, for which purpose he ordered Lord Belhaven to proceed round the left wing with his own troop, and attack them on their right flank; he ordered at the same time the other troop to proceed in the contrary direction, and assail them on their left. Mackay himself led round Bellhaven's troop, but it was scarcely in front of the line when it got into disorder, and instead of obeying the orders to wheel for the flank of the enemy, after some confused firing it turned upon the right wing of Lord Kenmure's battalion, which it threw into disorder, and which thereupon began to give way.

At this critical moment Mackay, who was instantly surrounded by a crowd of Highlanders, anxious to disentangle his cavalry, so as to get them formed, called aloud to them to follow him, and putting spurs to his horse galloped through the enemy, but with the exception of one servant whose horse was shot under him, not a single horseman attempted to follow their general. When he had gone sufficiently far to be out of the reach of immediate danger, he turned round to observe the state of matters, and to his infinite surprise he found that both armies had disappeared. To use his own expression, "in the twinkling of an eye, in a manner", his own men as well as the enemy were out of sight, having gone down pell-mell to the river where his baggage stood. The flight of his men must have been rapid indeed, for although the left wing, which had never been attacked, had begun to flee before he rode off, the right wing and center still kept their ground.

Mackay now stood in one of the most extraordinary predicaments in which the commander of an army was ever placed. His whole men had, as if by some supernatural cause, disappeared almost in an instant of time, and he found himself standing a solitary being on the mountain side, not knowing what to do, or whither to direct his course. Whether had they had the courage to follow him, the timid troop would have turned the tide of victory in his favor, may indeed be well doubted; but it is obvious that he adopted the only alternative which could render success probable. Judging from the ease with which he galloped through the Highlanders, who made way for him, he thinks that if had had but 50 resolute horse such as Colchester's, he "had certainly", as he says, "by all human appearance recovered all", for although his whole line had begun to give way when he ordered the horse to follow him, the right of the enemy had not then moved from their ground. While ruminating upon the "sad spectacle" which he now beheld, his mind preyed upon by the most gloomy reflections, he fortunately espied to the right, "a small heap of red coats", which he immediately galloped for, and found it to consist of a part of the Earl of Leven's regiment, mixed with a few stragglers from other regiments who had escaped from the swords of the Highlanders. The Earl himself, his Lieutenant-colonel, the Major, and most of the other officers of the regiment, were with this body. Mackay perceived a part of Hasting's regiment marching up to the ground it had occupied at the commencement of the action. Having rode up to this party, he was informed by the Colonel that he had left his ground in pursuit of the enemy, a detachment of which had attempted to outflank him, but having wheeled to the right upon them with his pikes, they abandoned the idea of attacking him, and repaired to their main body, which they observed among the baggage at the river-side.

The plunder which the baggage offered was too tempting a lure for the Highlanders, whose destructive progress it at once arrested. It was in fact solely to this thirst for spoil that Mackay and the few of his men who escaped owed their safety, for had the Highlanders continued the pursuit, it is very probable that not a single individual of Mackay's army would have been left alive to relate their sad disaster.

As soon as Mackay had got up Hasting's battalion and joined it to that of Leven's, he dispatched his nephew, Captain Mackay, who, though he had received eight broad-sword wounds on his body, was still able to ride his horse, in quest of such of his officers as might be within his reach, about the bottom of the hill, with orders to collect as many of their men as they could, and join the general.

This mission was totally unsuccessful, for although he had fallen in with several officers, few of them took any notice of him; and all who had survived the battle were now scattered far beyond Mackay's reach. While receiving this afflicting intelligence, Mackay descried in the twilight, a large body of men, who appeared to form themselves along the edge of a wood on Balfour's left, where Lieutenant-colonel Lauder had been posted with 200 men. As he was not yet aware of the fate of Lauder's corps, which was among the first that fled, he supposed that the body he had observed might either be that party of another body of his men who had retired to the wood on the descent of the Highlanders, and he therefore rode off to reconnoiter them, after directing his officers to endeavor to put their men in a condition to fire one discharge, at least, if attacked. Mackay approached the party sufficiently near to discover that they were Dundee's men, and having turned his horse's head he walked slowly back, that he might not excite the apprehensions of the Highlanders. The ground on which Mackay stood with the wreck of his army, amounting to scarcely 400 men, was the farthest removed of any other part of the position he had selected in the morning, from the point to which he was necessarily obliged to direct his retreat, and over the intervening space he could not but expect to fall in with parties of the Highlanders, who would fall upon him. and kill or disperse his tired followers. But he extricated himself from the difficulties which beset him, with considerable adroitness. He advised them on no account to show any inclination to run, but, on the contrary, might endanger it the more, as the Highlanders, observing their terror, would certainly break in among them, and pursue them with the greater avidity. When about to retire down the hill the party was joined by Lord Belhaven, and a few other horsemen, who proved very serviceable as scouts during the retreat. Mackay then led his men slowly down the hill, and evaded the enemy so completely that he did not meet with the least interruption in his march. He retired across the Garry without molestation, and made a short halt to ascertain whether he was pursued. Seeing no disposition on the part of the Highlanders to follow him, he began to think of the best way of returning out of Athole. All his officers advised him to return to Perth through the pass of Killiecrankie, but he saw proper to reject this advice, and resolved to march several miles up Athole and cross over the hills to Stirling.

Giving orders, therefore, to his men to march, he proceeded to the west along the bank of the river, and had the satisfaction, when about two miles from the field of battle, to come up with a party of about 150 fugitives almost without arms, under the command of Colonel Ramsay, who was quite at a loss what direction to take. Mackay then continued his march along the edge of a rivulet which falls into the Garry, till he came to some little houses. Here he obtained from one of the inhabitants, information as to the route he meant to follow, and having made himself acquainted, as far as he could, by an examination of his map, with the situation of the country through which he had to pass, he crossed the stream and proceeded across the hills towards Weem castle, the seat of the chief of the clan Menzies, whose son had been in the action with a company of 100 Highlanders he had raised for the service of the government. After a most fatiguing journey, he reached the castle before morning. Here he obtained some sleep and refreshment, of which he stood greatly in need, having since his departure from Dunkeld, on the morning preceding, marched about 40 miles.

The news of Mackay's defeat had preceded his retreat; and on his march during the following day, he found the country through which he passed in an uproar, and every person arming in favor of King James. The people of Strathtay alarmed at the approach of Mackay's men, whom they took to be Highlanders, and considering their houses and cattle in danger, set up a dreadful shout, which so frightened Mackay's men that they began to flee back to the hills under an apprehension that the Highlanders were at hand. Mackay and some of his officers on horseback, by presenting their pistols and threatening the fugitives, succeeded in rallying them, but owing to the thickness of the morning more that 100 escaped, all of whom were killed, stripped, or taken prisoners by the country people. Mackay continued his march with very little halting all that day, being Sunday the 28th, and arrived late at night at Drummond castle, in which he had a garrison. Next day he reached Stirling with about 400 men.

On the morning after the battle - for night had thrown its curtain over the horrors of the scene, before the extent of the carnage could be ascertained - the field of battle and the ground between it and the river, extending as far as the pass, presented an appalling spectacle in the vast numbers of the dead which strewed the savage and unrelenting ferocity with which Mackay's men had been hewn down by the Highlanders. Here might be seen a skull which had been struck off above the ears by a stroke from a broad-sword - there a head lying near the trunk from which it had been severed - here an arm or a limb - there a corpse laid open from the head to the brisket; while interspersed among these lifeless trunks, dejectaque membra, were to be seen broken pikes, small swords and muskets, which had been snapped asunder by the athletic blows of the Lochaber axe and broad-sword.

If the importance of a victory is to be reckoned by the comparative numbers of the slain, and the brilliant achievements of the victors, the battle of Killiecrankie may well stand high in the list of military exploits. Considering the shortness of the combat, the loss on the part of Mackay was prodigious. Not less than 2,000 of his men were either killed or captured. Among the slain were Lieutenant-colonel Mackay, brother of the General, Brigadier Balfour, and several other officers. Highland tradition reports that Balfour was cut down by the Reverend Robert Stewart, a Catholic clergyman, nephew to Stewart of Ballochin, for having contemptuously refused to receive quarter when offered him by the priest. The same tradition relates that Stewart, who was a powerful muscular man, followed the enemy in their flight down to the river, and towards the pass, wielding a tremendous broad-sword, with which he cut down numbers of the fugitives, and so much did he exert himself in the use of his fatal weapon, that, at the conclusion of the carnage, his hand had swollen to such an extent, that it could only be extricated from the basket-hilt of his sword, by cutting away the net-work.

But as the importance of a victory, however splendid in itself, or distinguished by acts of individual prowess, can only be appreciated by its results, the battle of Killiecrankie, instead of being advantageous to the cause of King James, was, by the death of the brave Dundee, the precursor of its ruin. After he had charged at the head of his horse, and driven the enemy from their cannon, he was about to proceed up the hill to bring down Sir Donald Macdonald’s regiment, which appeared rather tardy in its motions, when lie received a musket shot in his side, through an opening of his armour, the ball probably passing out in front through the centre of his breastplate.  He attempted to ride a little, but was unable, and fell from his horse mortally wounded, and almost immediately expired. The loss on the side of Dundee was never properly ascertained, but is supposed to have been about 900.

Among the slain, Alister Dhu (black Alexander) the chief of Glengarry, who, at the head of his battalion, mowed down two men at every stroke, with his ponderous two-handed sword, had to lament the loss of a brother, several other relatives, and still nearer and dearer to him, of his son, Donald, surnamed Gorm, from the blueness of his eyes. This youth, who had exhibited early proofs of bravery worthy of his name, and the race whence he sprung, killed, it is said, 18 of the enemy with his own hand. No less than five cousins of Sir Donald Macdonald of the isles fell, together with the tutor of Macdonald of Largo and his sons. Colonel Gilbert Ramsay, and the brave laird of Pitcur, "who, like a moving castle in the shape of men, threw fire and sword on all sides," were also numbered with the dead on this eventful day.

In the Viscount Dundee, King James lost the only man in Scotland possessed of all the qualifications necessary for conducting to a successful issue the great and important charge which had been committed to him by his sovereign. Educated in the strictest principles of toryism, he could never divest his mind of the abstract ideas of passive obedience and hereditary right, and to him, therefore, any attempt to resist the authority of the sovereign, no matter how far that authority was abused, appeared highly treasonable. Though a sincere Protestant Episcopalian, the heresy of the successor of Charles II. as the religion of James must have appeared to him, in no respect altered his ideas of implicit fidelity to the sovereign, nor did his views undergo any change when the arbitrary and unconstitutional proceedings of James seemed to the leading men of the nation to have solved the great political problem, when resistance should commence and obedience end. In his eye, therefore, the revolution which drove the unfortunate James from his throne, was a great national sin, which could only be atoned for by restoring to him his crown, an object, in the accomplishment of which, he conceived all good men were bound to lend a helping hand. These ideas ingrafted upon a temperament peculiarly sanguine, made him an enthusiast in favour of hereditary right, and his appointment by the fallen monarch as the chosen one by whose instrumentality his restoration was to be effected, imparted a charm to his enthusiasm which dispelled every difficulty that appeared to obstruct the grand object of his ambition and his hopes. With an inflexibility of purpose, which no temptation could overcome, he steadily pursued the course which the duty he conceived he owed to his sovereign and the natural inclination of his own mind directed him to follow. But Dundee had not merely the will, but, what was of no less importance, the ability, had he lived, to have executed the commission intrusted to him, one of his highest qualifications for such a purpose—considering the fickle and unruly bands he had to command—being that he stood unrivalled among his contemporaries in the art of gaining the affections of his troops, and communicating to them a full measure of the spirit which animated himself. His death, therefore, was a fatal blow to James’s prospects, and with him the cause of the Stuarts may be said to have perished. Dundee and his friend Pitcur were interred in the church of Blair Athole. "Never vaulted roof or marble monument covered the last abode of a more restless and ambitious heart than that which has slept in this quiet spot amidst peasant dust."


In allusion to this battle, the author of the memoirs of Viscount Dundee, (in Mis. Scot., vol. iii.,) says, "Then the Highlanders fired, threw down their fusils, rushed in upon the enemy with sword, target, and pistol, who did not maintain their ground two minutes after the Highlanders were amongst them; and I dare be bold to say, that were scarce ever such strokes given in Europe as were given that day by the Highlanders. Many of General Mackay’s officers and soldiers were cut down through the skull and neck to the very breast; others had skulls cut off above their ears like night-caps; some soldiers had both their bodies and cross-belts cut through at one blow; pikes and small swords were cut like willows; and whoever doubts of this, may consult the witnesses of the tragedy."

Bonnie DundeeHis Grace the Duke of Athole has kindly sent us the following note on this matter. "Lord Dundee is reported to have been watering his horse at a spring within gunshot of Urrard House, and at the same time lifted his left arm to point or give some directions. At this instant he was shot out of a window through the dunks of his armour, i.e. between back and breast-plates, which must have gaped open. The left side of the breastplate, inside, is stained apparently with blood, and the ball must have passed out from back to front through the hole in the centre. An old woman who died near here (Blair) within the memory of persons still living, used to relate how her grandfather was skulking on the hill above and saw Lord Dundee fall; and his brother, who was the hostler at the inn at Blair, saw him carried in there, and said that Lord Dundee died in the middle room, upstairs, of the inn, I think I have seen it stated elsewhere that he was taken to the Castle, but I should be inclined to believe the country tradition."

"In this battle Lochiel was attended by the son of his foster-brother. This faithful adherent followed him like Isis shadow, ready to assist him with his sword, or cover him from the shot of the enemy. Soon after the battle began, the chief missed his friend from his side, and turning round to look what had become of him, saw him lying on his back, with his breast pierced by an arrow. He had hardly breath before he expired to tell Lochiel, that, seeing an enemy, a Highlander in General Mackay’s army, aiming at him with a bow and arrow from the rear, he sprung behind him, and thus sheltered him from instant death. This is a species of duty not often practised, perhaps, by an aid-de-camp of the present day. "—Stewart’s Sketches.

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