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Historical Geography of the Clans of Scotland
By T. B. Johnston, F.R.G.S. and Colonel James A. Robertson
The Highland Campaigns
Glenshiel, 1719.


I am indebted to the courtesy of the Council of the Scottish History Society for permission to incorporate in this chapter a portion of the Introduction to The Jacobit’s Attemjpt of 1719, edited by me for the Society in 1895.—ED.

FOUR years later another attempt was made on behalf of the fallen dynasty. It was more complete and formidable in its preparations than either the attempt of 1715 or that of 1745; but, as it happened, it turned out so complete a failure that it has been almost ignored by most historians.

As has been said, the death of Louis XIV. put an end to the Jacobites’ hopes of help from France. After the ‘15 the Chevalier was compelled to leave Bar-le-Duc, in Lorraine, where he had resided since the Peace of Utrecht. He went first to Avignon, then he crossed the Alps and settled down in the Papal dorninions, where he spent the rest of his life. At the same time his French pension of 50,000 crowns was stopped by the Regent.

It was to Sweden that the Jacobites next turned for support. Charles XII. had long projected an invasion of Great Britain, and cordially welcomed them as allies. Baron Gortz, his able and unprincipled Minister, carried on an active correspondence with their leaders, and had projected a descent on Scotland by 12,000 Swedish troops, to be headed by Charles in person, in co-operation with a general Jacobite rising. The scheme, however, proved abortive. The British Government got wind of it; Gyllenborg, the Swedish Minister in London, was arrested, his papers were seized, and the whole project was made public.

In the autumn of 1718 a new chapter in the history of Jacobitism was opened by an offer of assistance from Philip V. of Spain, or rather from his famous Minister, Cardinal Alberoni. During the years 1717 and 1718 the relations between England and Spain had been growing more and more hostile. The military operations of the Spaniards against the Imperial territory in Italy were regarded by the British Government as a breach of the Treaty of Utrecht. Diplomatic remonstrances had proved fruitless, and on August 11 the British squadron in the Mediterranean, under Sir George Byng, attacked the Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro and almost destroyed it. The Spanish ambassador was at once recalled from London; British ships were seized in Spanish ports; British consuls were ordered to leave Spanish territory; and Alberoni determined to strike the British Government in what was believed to be its weakest point by an invasion on behalf of the exiled Stuarts.

The Duke of Ormonde, who had been Captain-General of the British army, and who had fled from impeachment after the accession of George I., and was now openly in the service of the Chevalier, was at this time resident in Paris. Alberoni sent for him to Madrid, and the result of their conferences there was that the Cardinal decided to send an expedition against England, consisting of 5000 men—4000 foot and 1000 troopers—with 300 horses, and an ample supply of money, arms, and ammunition for the English Jacobites. Ormonde himself was to command the expedition. He was to land in the west of England, the stronghold of Jacobitism, where it was expected that there would be no difficulty in raising a great army in support of the Stuart cause, and attempt an attack on London. At the same time the young Earl Marischal, who had been out in the ‘15, and was now in exile at Paris, was to land in the West Highlands and raise the Jacobite clans.

The co-operation of Sweden was also hoped for; but all prospect of this was put an end to by the death of Charles XII., on December 11, 1718, in the trenches before Frederickshall, in Norway. In the meantime James himself was invited to Spain. He left Rome in disguise, and, after a perilous voyage, landed at Rosas, in Catalonia, on March 9, 1719 (N.S.). He proceeded to Madrid, and there was received with royal honours.

The British Government had ample warning of the danger, and prompt measures were taken to meet it, The House of Commons voted the necessary funds; the troops in the west of England were reinforced; and a powerful fleet was fitted out to cruise in the Channel. As the event happened, these precautions were needless. The Spanish fleet put to sea from Cadiz on March 7. On the 29th, near Cape Finisterre, it encountered a terrible storm, which lasted for forty-eight hours. The fleet was scattered to the four winds; horses, guns, stores, and arms had to be thrown overboard. All the ships were more or less crippled, and had to make their way back to Spanish ports as best they could. The project of invading England had to be given up.

The expedition against Scotland, however, was more fortunate. The Earl Marischal sailed from Passage on March 8. Alberoni had given him two frigates and 2000 muskets, with a supply of money and ammunition, and a body of 307 Spanish regular troops to form a nucleus for the army of Highlanders who were expected to flock to James’s standard. He also carried letters from Ormonde to a number of the Highland chiefs. James Keith, the Earl’s brother, afterwards the famous Marshal Keith, went to France to warn the Jacobite exiles there of what was afoot. He was joined by Clanranald, Lochiel, Seaforth, Tullibardine, Campbell of Glendaruel, and a number of other exiles of the ‘15. On March 19 they sailed from Havre; they reached the Lewis on March 24 (O.S.), and found that the Earl Marischal had arrived before them, and that his two frigates were at anchor in the harbour of Stornoway.

Intimation of the intended invasion from Spain had been sent to the leaders of the Jacobite party in the Lowlands, but they had determined that no movement should be made until they were sure that Ormonde had landed. On hearing of the Earl Marischal’s arrival, Lockhart of Carnwath sent him a memorial expressing his views as to what ought to be done. The main point emphasised in the memorial is the universal hatred with which the Union was regarded in Scotland, and the importance of making its repeal a chief article of the Jacobite policy. It does not appear that the document ever reached its destination. A catastrophe was very nearly caused by an "unknown fellow" who came to Mr Milnes, tutor to young Macdonald of Glengarrv, representing that he was a servant of Lochiel’s, that Ormonde’s fleet had arrived, and that he had been sent ashore to warn his master’s friends to be ready to take up arms. In consequence of this news, which was confirmed by a letter from Lord Stormont, then at his house in Annandale, to the effect that Ormonde’s fleet had been seen off the coast, Lords Nairn and Daihousie prepared to take the field. Lockhart, however, was satisfied that the messenger was either a common swindler or a Government spy, and succeeded in preventing Nairn and Dalhousie from committing themselves. "As for my Lord Stormont’s information," says he, "I gave it the less credit when I perceived his Lordship’s letter was dated at one in the morning, about which time I knew he was apt to credit any news that pleased him."’

Tullibardine, who held a commission as a Lieutenant-General in James’s service, took over the command of the troops at Stornoway, the Earl Marischal retaining that of the ships, which had been expressly committed to him by Alberoni. As usual there was much discussion and difference of opinion as to what ought to be done. Ultimately it was decided to cross to the mainland, and on April 13 a landing was effected on the shores of Loch Aish. On the following day Lord George Murray, Tullibardine’s brother, arrived from France. The Jacobite chiefs in the Highlands had been communicated with, and were ready to rise as soon as there was any certain news of the coming of Ormonde’s expedition. The Earl Marischal and Brigadier Campbell of Ormidale proposed marching straight to Inverness with the Spaniards and 500 men whom Seaforth undercook to raise, but Tullibardine and Glendaruel insisted on awaiting events.

Several days passed, and there came no news of Ormonde. Tullibardine was with difficulty dissuaded from re-embarking and returning to Spain. This made Marischal resolve to burn his boats. He determined to send the two frigates back to Spain. Tullibardine tried to detain them, but they obeyed Marischal’s orders and put to sea, just in time, for within a week after their departure there arrived on the coast a British squadron consisting of five ships : the Worcester, 50 guns, Assistance, 50, Dartmouth, 50, Enterprise, 40, and Flamborough, 24, under the command of Captain Boyle. The Assistance and the Dartmouth sailed round the north of Skye and anchored in Loch Kishorn. Boyle with the Worcester, Enterprise, and Flamborough came through Kyle Rhea into Loch Alsh.

The Jacobites had fixed their headquarters at Eilean Donan Castle, the ancient stronghold of the Mackenzies. The castle, now a picturesque ivy-covered ruin, is situated on a little island close to the shore, opposite the village of Dornie, at the point where Loch Alsh branches into Loch Duich and Loch Long. It consists of an ancient and massive keep some fifty feet square, surrounded by court-yards and outbuildings. Here most of the ammunition and provisions of the expedition were stored under the guard of a garrison of forty-five Spaniards, the main body of the troops being encamped on the mainland close to the shore.

On May 10, Boyle with his three ships came up the Loch to Eilean Donan, and sent an officer with a flag of truce to demand the surrender of the Castle. The boat was fired upon and not permitted to land. At eight o’clock in the evening the ships opened fire upon the Castle. The old stone fortress, impregnable in Highland warfare, could not be held under artillery fire, and when a storming party of two boats’ crews landed, they met with little resistance. The Spanish garrison were taken prisoners, and afterwards sent round to Leith in the Flamborough, and 343 barrels of powder and 52 barrels of musket bullets were captured. The buildings in which the provisions had been stored for the use of the Jacobite camp were set on fire and the Castle was blown up. The Flamhorough went up Loch Duich in search of another magazine which had been formed near the head of the loch, which on her approach was blown up by the Highlanders.

The invaders were now in a sorry plight. Their retreat by sea was cut off. The coast was vigilantly patrolled by the boats of the British squadron. It was impossible even to cross to Skye. They had lost nearly the whole of their ammunition and provisions, and were in one of the wildest and most desolate parts of Britain, with no base of operations from which it was possible to draw any further supplies. The Government troops in Scotland were being rapidly reinforced from the South. Tullibardine now determined to do what he ought to have done at first, namely, to endeavour to raise a force from among the clans. By this time the fatal news of the dispersal of the Cadiz fleet had reached the Highlands, and naturally recruits were not very plentiful. "Not above a thousand men appeared," says Marshal Keith in his Memoirs, and even those seemed not very fond of the enterprise." On June 5 Lochiel came in with 50 men; on the 7th Seaforth brought in about 500 of his men, and on the 8th arrived a son of Rob Roy’s with some 80 more recruits.

In the meantime the garrison of Inverness had been largely reinforced, and on June 5 Major-General Wightman marched from Inverness with a force of about 850 infantry, besides 120 dragoons and some 130 Highlanders, and a battery of four cohorn mortars. He marched to the head of Loch Ness, where he halted for a day, and thence over by Glenmoriston towards Kintail.

It was decided to await Wightman’s attack in Glenshiel, the grand and desolate glen which runs inland in a south-easterly direction from the head of Loch Duich, skirting the vast southern slopes of Scour Ouran. The position selected for defence was at the place where the present road crosses the river Shiel by a stone bridge, some five miles above Invershiel. Here a shoulder of the mountain juts into the glen on its northern side, and the glen contracts into a narrow gorge, down which the Shiel, at this point a roaring torrent, runs in a deep rocky channel, between steep declivities covered with heather, bracken, and scattered birches. Above the pass the glen opens out into a little strath. Then, as now, the road ran through the strath on the north side of the river, and entered the pass along a narrow shelf between the river and the hill, from which it was entirely commanded. This position was occupied by the Jacobite forces on July 9. They were joined in the course of the day by about ioo more recruits, and next day by about 100 more.

On the evening of the 9th Lord George Murray, who commanded the outposts, reported that the enemy were encamped within four or five miles, at the head of Loch Clunie. Next morning he reported that they had struck their camp and were marching over the watershed into Glenshiel. As they advanced Murray retired before them, keeping at a distance of about half a mile. About two in the afternoon the armies came in sight of each other, about half a mile apart. Wightman halted and .deployed his troops for the attack.

The great natural strength of the Jacobites’ position had been increased by hasty fortifications. A barricade had been made across the road, and along the face of the hill on the north side of the river entrenchments had been thrown up. Here the main body was posted, consisting of the Spanish regiment, which now only paraded some 200 strong, under its Colonel, Don Nicolas Bolano, Lochiel with about 150 men, about 150 of Lidcoat’s and others, 20 volunteers, 40 of Rob Roy’s men, 50 of MacKinnon’s, and 200 of Lord Seaforth’s, commanded by Sir John Mackenzie of Coul. Seaforth himself was on the extreme left, up on the side of Scour Ouran, with 200 of his best men. The hill on the south bank of the river, the right of the position, was occupied by about 150 men under Lord George Murray. Tullibardine cornmanded in the centre, accompanied by Glendaruel. Brigadier MacIntosh of Borlum was with the Spanish Colonel. The Earl Marischal and Brigadier Campbell were with Seaforth on the left.

Wightman’s right wing was composed of 150 grenadiers under Major Milburn; Montagu’s Regiment, commanded by Lieut. - Colonel Lawrence; a detachment of 50 men under Colonel Harrison ; Huffel’s Dutch Regiment; and four companies of Arnerongen’s. On the flank were 56 of Lord Strathnaver’s men under Ensign Mackay. The whole wing was commanded by Colonel Clayton. The left wing, which was deployed on the south side of the river, consisted of Clayton’s Regiment, commanded by Lieut. - Colonel Reading, and had on the flank about 80 men of the Munroes under Munro of Culcairn. The dragoons and the four mortars remained on the road.

The engagement began between five and six o’clock, when the left wing of the Hanoverians advanced against Lord George Murray’s position on the south of the river. The position was first shelled by the mortar battery and then attacked by four platoons of Clayton’s with the Munroes. The first attack was repulsed, but the attacking party was reinforced, and Lord George’s men, who were not supported, were driven from their position, and retreated beyond the burn, which, coming down from Frioch Corrie, descends towards the Shiel in rear of the ground which they had occupied. The precipitous banks of the burn effectually checked pursuit. After the right wing of the Jacobites had been dislodged, Wightman’s right began to move up the hill to attack their left. The detachment commanded by Lord Seaforth was strongly posted behind a group of rocks on the hillside, and it was against them that the attack of Montagu and Harrison’s troops was directed. Seaforth was reinforced from the centre by the remainder of his own men under Sir John Mackenzie. Finding himself hard pressed, Seaforth sent down for further support. Another reinforcement under Rob Roy went to his aid, but before it reached him the greater part of his men had given way, and he himself had been severely wounded. Rob Roy’s detachment next gave way, and retired towards the mountain. They were followed by "Lidcoat’s" men and others. The whole force of Wightman’s attack was now directed towards the Jacobite centre, against which the fire of the mortar battery had by this time been turned. The Spanish regulars stood their ground well, but finding that most of their allies had deserted them, they also at last began to retire up the hill to the left. The whole of Tullibardine’s little army was now in retreat. The retreat soon became a flight. The victorious Hanoverians pursued, their defeated enemies over the shoulders of Scour Ouran, and only halted as darkness fell, when they had nearly reached the top of the mountain. Far up the hill there is a corrie which, to this day, the shepherds call Bealach-na-Spainnteach, "The Spaniards’ Pass."

The action had lasted some three hours. The loss of the English troops amounted to 21 men killed and 121 wounded, officers included. That of the Jacobites is difficult to estimate; it could not have been great, as Keith thought at the time that not more than 100 men on both sides had been killed or wounded. Besides Seaforth, Lord George Murray was wounded. One English officer was killed, Captain Downes, of Montagu’s Regiment. He was buried on the field of battle; his resting-place is still pointed out, on the south side of the river, just above the pass. Local tradition has transformed it into the "Dutch Colonel’s Grave." If all tales are true, his ghost still walks the glen o’ nights.

On the night after the battle the Jacobite chiefs, seeing that they had neither provisions nor ammunition, and that their few troops had not behaved so as to give much encouragement to try a further action, resolved that the Spaniards should surrender, and that the Highlanders should disperse as best they could. Accordingly next morning the Spanish commander delivered his sword to General Wightman, and "everybody else," says Keith, "took the road he liked best."

A week later Wightrnan writes to say that he is "taking a tour through all the difficult parts of Seaforth’s country to terrify the Rebels by burning the houses of the guilty and preserving those of the Honest." On June 30 he writes from Inverness, "I have used all possible means to put a Dread upon those who have been more immediately concerned in this late unnatural Rebellion, and by all just accounts am assured the Rebells are totally disperst."

The rising was over. Its leaders, after lurking for a while, with a price on their heads, in Knoydart and in Glengarry’s country, effected their escape to the Continent. The Spanish prisoners, 274 in number, were marched to Inverness, and on the 27th they set out for Edinburgh.

"When the Spanish battallion were brought prisoners to Edinburgh," says Lockhart, "the officers, who had the liberty of the town, were used by the loyall party with all the civility and kindness imaginable; but the Government for a long time refused to advance subsistance money to them, by which in a little time they were reduced to great straits, which appeared even in their looks tho’ their Spanish pride would not allow them to complain. As I was well acquainted with Don Nicolas who commanded them, I took the liberty to ask him if he wanted money; and finding it was so, I told him it was unkind in him to be thus straitned, when he knew our King, for whose cause he suffer’d, had so many friends in town that would cheirfully assist him; so I immediatly gott him credit for as much money as was necessary for himself and his men, till he gott bills from the Marquis de Beretti-Landi the Spanish ambassadour in Holland, when he thankfully repay’d what was advanced to him." In October the Spaniards were sent home to their own country.

James and Ormonde were still in Spain, hoping that the enterprise might yet be renewed. Alberoni at first professed his intention of going on with it, but the thing was hopeless. "Cardinal Alberoni," wrote Lord Stair to the British Government on May 24, "still pretends to carry on the enterprise against Great Britain. He has given orders for victualling the ships anew, and for reassembling the troops; but everybody in Spain laughs at that project and, indeed, they do so pretty much in France, except our Jacobites, who have faith enough to believe everything that makes for them, let it be ever so impossible." The fleet would have taken three months to refit, and by this time Alberoni’s hands were full of affairs at home. Spain was at war with France. The French army, under the Duke of Berwick, was making rapid progress on the Pyrenean frontier. It was evident that before long the French would be able to dictate terms of peace to Alberoni, and it was certain that one of the conditions of peace would be the departure of James from Spanish territory. Accordingly, it was suggested to him that it might be well that he should return to Italy to meet his bride, Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska, who had just escaped from captivity at Innsbruck. He sailed from Vinaros on the 14th of August, and on the 25th landed at Leghorn.


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