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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 23


Sad or glad, the news I bear you
Claims a hearing, patient, long:
Though in France the Stuart tarries,
Our good blades should make him strong.
As for George, he is king of asses;
By his gold he gained the crown.
And ere Whitsuntide shall pass us,
He must ware on German lasses
The regard Britannia scorned.

On Ardoch height, by break of dawn,
The clans were met in thick array;
And by evening word had reached us
That the foe quite near us lay.
To Kinbuck we marched so fearless,
Where we passed the night in arms,
And the breeze was cold and cheerless;
But the stacks of corn so peerless
Fed the flames to keep us warm!

On Sunday morn expecting fight,
The banners fluttered free,
And we threw off our tartain plaids,
Nor thought bf kirk and bended knee.
The word, Advance, had passed the ranks,
And on we rushed with stern-knit brows
And ardent hope. The upper banks
With red-coats glitter. Heaven have thanks,
And deil takes him who is hindmost now.
M'Leans and M'Donalds of old renown
Toss their proud symbols on high!

Beside them the band of the yellow-striped banner,
Sent by Breadalbane to conquer or die.
The claymore is smeared with the heart-blood of foemen;
And bayonet sharp,
By sinews stark,
Is driven home in the red-coat mark.
The centre reels and Whetham flies,
For those who fly not
Will never arise!
Alas! they alone stemmed the tide of war,
Alas! they alone gained the thanks of Mar,
And earned a bright name in climes afar.

Glengarry, you have well sustained
The fame your fathers aye obtained:
Warrior of the fearless eye,
And prince of hospitality!
Stern your voice rolled o'er the field
To check the useless sorrow:
Moydart bleeds upon his shield—
The glaive Glengarry fiercer wields—
"Revenge to-day, and mourn to-morrow.'
Now
your head is bending low,
And the mournful teardrops flow
Over him, your cherished mate,
Who in the onset dree'd his fate—
The hawk that made the welkin ring—
The chiefest feather in your wing—
Best of friends and captain rare—
Great M'Allan's haughtiest heir!

Chiefs of Appin and Lochiel;
Struan, from the fir woods wild,
Which Albyn's mountains bear;
A passing smart's no lasting ill,
No sad disgrace your names defiled,
Though vanquished, still with courage rare,
'Gainst fate you almost backward bore
The signs of victory!
Another day the wheel may turn;
Another day let vengeance burn;
Another day the thirsty blade
Yon red-coat ranks will yet invade
And smoke in clotted gore—
A laoich mo chri.

Huntly's Earl has proud tramping steeds
And Huntly's Earl has men. hills, and meads;
But Huntly's Earl
Is worse than a carl
If the name he enjoys, be not matched by his deeds!
Mercy and peace for the phantom wan,
Who lost a name as for life he ran!
But, Seaforth's Lord,
We can't afford
To hide thy shame, as the fate of the man
Will never atone for dishonouring the clan!

I must not omit what ought to be told 
Our loss would be gain had a captain bold
Led the van.
Oh! for thy wisdom,
Breadalbane old!
Had age given up her withering claim,
And restored thee one day, thy manhood's frame,
Thou wouldst be the man
To propose the right plan.
When coldly they stopped in the midst of the fray,
Thou would'st point to the red-coats and teach them the way
To pursue
Nor stop the halloo
Till they brushed them like dew
From the land.

Alhallows, protect the just heir of the crown:
Base might is triumphant, and right is borne down.
But Thomas the Rhymer—and sure is the tale—
Foretold that his cause over all must prevail.
By Ciutha's fair stream—so our sires have us taught—
Shall the conflict be ended, the last battle fought;
When the sons of the Gael
The standard of Stuart will wave o'er the slain,
And England at last shall submit to his reign.

THE above is an attempt to put in a foreign dress a song composed by a poetess of the M'Donalds, immediately after the battle of Sheriffmuir. The translation is necessarily very free, but the leading sentiments are retained, and that serves our purpose of showing the feelings of the Highlanders regarding the battle sufficiently well. Huntly, who discouraged fighting with Argyle at all, and afterwards fled with the beaten wing of the rebels, is lashed with bitterness. The Earl of Seaforth, who was with Huntly in the broken wing, and afterwards escaped to France, is treated much in the same way; but the chieftains who attempted to rally the confused host, and, though retreating, disputed with Argyle every foot of ground between Dunblane and the river Allan, are consoled with the hope of retrieving their credit "another day." The lowland auxiliaries are passed over with contemptuous silence. It is not only in this particular song, but in almost every effusion of the Gaelic Jacobite muse, for nearly a century, that a traditional prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer regarding a great victory to be obtained by Highlanders or Scots oh the banks of the Clyde or Cluaith—or, as it is called in Ossian, the Clutha—is appealed to as a certain ground of hope for the ultimate triumph of the cause in which they were engaged. This prophetic battle has not entirely got out of the heads of some old Highlanders to this day, though of course it is no longer connected with the Stuart cause, I was amused, during the Crimean war, to hear a veteran Celt growl out threateningly that the time for Thomas' great battle was then at hand.

Glenlyon followed Mar throughout the whole campaign. After spending much unnecessary time at Perth, the commander-in-chief of the rebels at length resolved to march against the royal forces mustering under Argyle at Stirling. Mar's force, when he arrived at Perth, was abo.ut 5,000 men, composed chiefly of his own followers, the Atholemen under the attainted Marquis of Tullibardine, elder brother of the then Duke of Athole, and the Breadalbane men under Glenlyon, with the Stuarts of Athole and Foss, the Robertsons of Struan, the Menzieses of Weem, and Glenlyon men under Menzies of Culdares, the heir of the Crowner, &c. The rebellion was in fact confined mostly to the Highlands of Perthshire. If it could have been kept for a time shut up in its own district, the rebellion would have been crushed in the bud. The taking of Perth was therefore of incalculable benefit to the Jacobite leader. He secured the country behind him, quieting the natural fears of his followers regarding their friends, wives, and children, by holding the entrance to the district on the east and west, for Glengarry and the western clans were known before then to be encamped at Strathfillan. The seizure of Perth made Mar, by the help of the rebels in the northern shires, who were quickly on the march to join him, master of the eastern coast from the Forth to Duncansbay Head. By this time communication with France, from which they expected succours, was safely open, and it wonderfully increased the alacrity of the friends of James to join Mar, though the hope thus entertained was completely frustrated by the inopportune death of Louis XIV., and the accession of the slippery Philip of Orleans to the regency. On the 5th October, the brave veteran, Brigadier M'Intosh of Borlum, with 500 men joined Mar at Perth. Next day, the Marquis of Huntly arrived with 500 horse and 2,000 foot; and a few days thereafter, arrived successively the Earls Marischal and Seaforth, with strong reinforcements of horse and foot.

Following the line of policy recommended by the precedent of the war of Montrose, and imitated at a future period by Prince Charles, from the Grampians as the base of operations, Mar conceived the project of extending his columns across the Forth, and thence of sending a strong body over the borders, to form a centre of agglomeration for the Tories of England. He was, however, one of those men whose minds could form bold plans in the closet, and with adequate comprehensiveness forecast the destiny of nations, but whose dilatory and timid conduct in the field betrayed themselves and sacrificed their followers.

The Duke of Argyle informed himself of the deliberations in the rebel Councils at Perth; and, with the decisive activity of his character, took the best plans to baffle them. The captain of the expeditionary force was, however, a match even for "Red John of the Battles," as the Highlanders called the Duke. Brigadier MTntosh of Borlum, with about 2,500 men, moved down to the coasts of Fife, determined to break through the barrier of the Forth, in spite of the Duke and his precautions. That, in the face of such difficulties, he was able to carry this determination into effect, shows of what achievements the army of Mar was capable, if led by an energetic general. To Brigadier M'Intosh and his bold band we shall have hereafter to recur, as our old acquaintances, the Stewarts of Foss and Athole, and the men of Glenlyon under their new master, Menzies of Culdares, formed a considerable part of the brave expeditionary force. In the meantime let us follow Mar and the great body of the rebels.

No sooner had M'Intosh's detachment landed in Lothian, than the Earl of Mar found it necessary at last to remove from Perth, to divert Argyle from crushing the 1,500 or 1,600 rebels who had broken through his ships of war, perplexed and confounded himself by sham movements, wearied out his soldiers by marches and counter-marches leading to nothing, and in the end crossed an arm of the sea sixteen miles broad in open boats, seized upon the old citadel of Leith, more than threatened Edinburgh, and, as a crowning climax to audacity, flung a bold defiance in the teeth of the Commander-in-Chief of the royal army !

Mar broke up the camp at Perth on the 9th November, and bivouacked that night with his forces at Auchterarder. Early next morning he was joined by the western clans, who had rendezvoused at Strathfillan, now under General Gordon. Orders were issued on Saturday, the 12th, to General Gordon and a Brigadier Ogilvie, with eight squadrons of horse and all the clans, to march and take possession of the town of Dunblane, while the main body was to follow after them at a more leisurely pace. Mar was not with the army that day, for he had gone to Castle Drummond to confer with the old Earl of Breadalbane, who, notwithstanding his infirmities, attempted to influence the proceedings of the rebels, and to keep in the wake of the army.

Finding that the royal army had crossed the Forth, and advanced their columns to Dunblane, General Gordon halted on the moor of Ardoch, and informed Hamilton, who was coming up with the main body. The army being drawn up in order of battle, near the Roman camp at Ardoch, guards were posted, and the men prepared to spend the night there. General Gordon in the meantime marched forward to Kinbuck with the clans, when the news of the royal army being at Dunblane was confirmed, and he accordingly fired the three signal guns, whereupon the main body came up, and the whole men lay under arms all night at Kinbuck, and formed early next morning, fronting towards Dunblane.

Though within two miles of each other, the view was so intercepted that neither army knew the disposition of the other until they met almost face to face in battle array. Mar had no intention to hazard all on the fate of a battle. He called a council of war, and, notwithstanding the warning anticipation of Huntly and others, who thought the sham movement of attempting to pass by Stirling Bridge had already sufficiently answered the immediate object of withdrawing the Duke's army from the Lothians, and leaving the road open to Brigadier M'Intosh's detachment, the ardour of the chiefs determined the resolution to fight. No sooner was it announced to the ranks, than the men • enthusiastically threw their bonnets into the air and demanded to be led on.

The victory was doubtful, though the consequences were quite decisive. Argyle with his right wing slowly forced back the left wing of the rebels, commanded by Gordon, Huntly, Seaforth, and several others. This advantage was altogether owing to his having been able to outflank the rebels, by leading his men across a morass, which the frost of the preceding night had rendered passable. It took the Duke three hours hard fighting to drive the Highlanders back a distance of two miles to the river Allan, and so little was it of a rout that within that space they endeavoured ten times to rally. The horse of the rebels acted shamefully, confusing the whole army by inexplicable blunders in taking up their positions in the morning, and deserting the infantry, who fought admirably, during the battle, and in such a panic, that neither the thought nor power of rallying was left to them.

While Argyle was gaining this advantage over the left of the rebels, their right had signally defeated his left under General Whetham. The Breadalbane men under Glenlyon were brigaded with the M'Donalds. Glengarry, it is said, looking over the array of his surname drawn up before the battle, turned to Glenlyon and said bitterly, "Your father has deprived me of the use of an arm"—alluding to the massacre of Glencoe, which nearly extirpated that branch of the M'Donalds. "Of that," replied Glenlyon, "I am sackless; and the only rivalry I shall have with a M'Donald is, which of us will best wreak on yon ranks today the injuries of our King." Glengarry turned round with a smile, grasped his hand, and begged to be allowed to call himself his brother. When Moydart fell in the first onset, the M'Donalds clustered around his body, and nearly got all the brigade into confusion. Glengarry immediately stepped forward flourishing his sword, and recalled the clan to their duty, shouting above the din of battle, "Revenge to-day, and mourn to-morrow." -

Rae, the contemporary historian of the rebellion, thus recounts the victory of the rebel right, and the deeds of the forementioned band that really gained that victory:— "The left of the King's army had a far different fate; for as they were advancing to alter the situation of their front according to the right (wing), they found a body of the enemy's foot, which had been concealed in a hollow way, to be just on their front and extending beyond the point of their wing, the enemy's horse being still to their left, and in condition to take them in flank. And at the very same minute of time, when the right of his Majesty's army engaged the left of the rebels, four hundred of the Earl ot Breadalbane's men, and about two hundred of the clans— making in all a confused body of 600 men—taking the signal from the fire of their left, fell on with incredible resolution upon the three regiments of foot which were on the left of the royal army while they were forming. And though they made all the resistance it was possible for them to make in that situation, yet they were broken, and a great many of them cut to pieces; and those that were not killed or taken were driven in among the dragoons, and put them likewise into confusion. Had the cavalry upon the right wing of the rebels fallen in at the same time, the whole left wing of the royal army had been cut off when it was not in the power of the rest of the foot to assist them, they being advanced after the right wing to support them, in pursuit of the left of the enemy. But so it was, that the left of the King's army having made a home charge on some of the enemy's squadrons which stood on their flank, and carried off a standard, they stood all the while looking on to our left without attempting to do anything considerable.

"The left of the King's army, commanded by General Whetham, observing a great cloud of the Highlanders break through the centre close by them, and gathering apace, could make no guess of their number, they standing so thick and confused, and intercepting their view, so as they could neither hear nor see what was acted upon the right, which the circular ground upon which the army stood would of itself have impeded without any other obstruction, and all communication or intelligence by aides-de-camp or otherwise being intercepted, made them firmly believe that the Duke and the right of the army were either entirely beat, or at least surrounded by the rebels ; nor did they find themselves in condition to resent or rescue them if it had been so. And now finding the rebels endeavouring to get behind them, and so either to march to Stirling or cut off their retreat, and themselves in no condition to keep the field, they retired at a very slow pace towards Dunblane, and from thence to Corntown, at the end of the long causeway that leads to Stirling Bridge, where they arrived about three in the afternoon."

The want of a commander who could seize on that decisive moment when the line of Whetham yielded, ruined the Jacobite cause. Mar's incapacity became conspicuous to the meanest clansman, when no attempt was made at massing together the different sections of the right, for one concentrated effort of co-operation against the retreating royal regiments. Without command, without common action, the clans stood astonished in the places to which they were appointed at the beginning of the battle, and the forces opposed to them being beaten back, knew not what they should do next. There they stuck in armed battalions on the top of the hill, and though, even as Wightman confesses, they might have disarranged the Duke's victorious right wing returning from chasing their comrades to the river Allan, by rolling down stones from their post of vantage, the imbecility of the leaders so effectually counteracted the warlike spirit of the clans, that they stood in helpless amaze, like a man under a hideous nightmare, incapable, though willing, to stretch out his arm to save himself from the most loathsome destruction !

A ludicrous anecdote has been transmitted to us regarding an honest man from Roro, Glenlyon, named Duncan M'Arthur, which deserves mention. He and his nephew had followed the banner of Glenlyon through the whole campaign. The nephew's brogues had been worn through by the time they reached Ardoch. Considering, perhaps, everything fair in war, and that he. who was not with them was against them, he insisted upon stripping a well-shod lowlander, who had the misfortune to encounter him at that place, of his stout, comfortable-looking shoes, and of giving his own tattered brogues in exchange. As the lowlander resisted the polite offer, the fiery Gael made ready to enforce the equitable barter vi et armis. Fortunately for the possessor of the shoes, honest Duncan, the uncle, came up by this time, and as he respected the laws of ineum and tuum somewhat better than the youngster, he took the stranger into his protection, and under high pains and penalties, obliged his nephew to forbear. A momentary laugh at the disappointment of the nephew, and sturdy honesty of Duncan—known to the whole band for his childlike simplicity, but who withal was not to be trifled with, as he possessed thews and sinews to strike down iniquity like an ox—and the incident passed from remembrance. But in the height of the battle, when Duncan had warmed to the work, and knocked red-coats heels over head at every blow, he raised his stentorian voice above the clashing of swords, and shouted out, "Where is my nephew? He may get plenty of shoes now."


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