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The Jacobite Rebellions (1689-1746)

The following is from The Jacobite Rebellions (1689-1746) by J. Pringle Thomson, M.A.:

The Jacobite Attempt of 1719

Source--A Fragment of a Memoir of Field-Marshal James Keith, written by himself, 1714-1734, p. 35. (Edinburgh: Spalding Club, 1843)

... To explain the reasons that now carried me to Spain, its necessary to go back to the month of August of this year [1718], when the English, without any previous declaration of war, or even any good ground for it, had attacked the King of Spain's fleet on the coast of Sicily, and entirely ruined it, which so exasperated the Cardinal Alberoni, who then governed Spain with the title of first Minister, that he resolv'd to assist King James, and so revenge himself on the Whigs, who had been the occasion of the breach of faith he complained of.... One difficulty still remain'd,--which was to get the chiefs of the King's friends, who were in France, advertised of this, which the Cardinal desired me to undertake. The Earl Marischal had brought with him from the Duke of Ormonde a little billet containing these words--"Pray have entire confidence in the bearer," and signed Ormond, to be given to him who should be sent; and with this and about 18,000 crowns, I set out from Madrid the 19 of February [1719], and three days after arrived at St. Sebastian, where I deliver'd 12,000 crowns to the Prince Campo Florido, for the equipment of the frigats destin'd for Scotland, and with the little money which remain'd entered France privately....

All things being now ready, we embark'd the 19th of March in a small barck of about 25 tunns, in the mouth of the Seine, and shaped our course to pass betwixt Dover and Calais, and so round the Orkneys to the Isle of Lewis, which was our place of rendezvous; but the wind continuing at east forced us the Friday after, March 24, to alter our course, and stand away for St. George's Channel, or the back of Ireland, as we should think best.... From thence we stood for Cape Clear and the west coast of Ireland, and after favourable but blowing weather, arrived the 4 of April, N.S. in the isle of Lewis, where we enquired if no ship had touched there lately from Spain, or if there was no particular news in the country; but finding them ignorant of any thing that could give us light into what we wanted to be informed of, we remain'd there some days, and at last had accounts that two frigats were come to an anchor on the other side of the island, on which I went with all haste there, not doubting but it was those we were longing for. I found them already sailed, but a gentleman of the country informed me that they were thesame, and were gone some miles farther to Stornoway, the only toun or rather village on all the island. I went the same night there, and found them in the harbour at an anchor, and the men still aboard....

The Marquesses of Seafort and Tullibardine came and joined us next day, and in the evening held a council of war to resolve what was to be done. The Earl Marischal first asked to know what commissions each had, that the command might be regulated, and Lord Tullibardine not owning his late commissions, the command remain'd in him as eldest Major General. It was then disputed whether it was fit to go immediately to the main land of Scotland, or to continue in the island where we were till we had advice of the Duke of Ormonde's landing in England. This last party was much insisted on by Lord Tullibardine and Glenderuel, but all the rest being against it, because we might easily be block'd up in the isle by two or three of the enemies ships, it was resolved to follow the project which the Earl Marischal had proposed to the Cardinal, to land as soon as possible in Scotland, and with the Spaniards and Highlanders who should first join us, march straight to Inverness, in which there were not above 300 of the enemies foot, who would be in no condition to oppose us, and to remain there till we should be joined by such a body of horse and foot as should put us in a condition of marching to the more southern parts of the Kingdom. The council of war being at an end, the Spanish troops were order'd to debark that they might refraich themselves after a voyage of 42 days, and it was resolved to sail for the main land three days after....

We had no sooner debarked the troops and ammunition, [1] than the Earl Marischal and Brigadier Campbel proposed marching straight to Inverness with the Spaniards and 500 Highlanders, whom the Marquess of Seafort promised to give us, to surprise the enemies garison, who as yet had no accounts of us; but the same demon who had inspired them with the design of staying in the Lewis, hinder'd them from accepting this proposition. We were all in the dark what could be the meaning of these dilatory proceedings, which was discover'd to be the effects of the measures they had already taken, for before the Earl Marischal's arrival, they (not knowing but that he might have a commission superior to the Marquess of Tullibardine's) had wrote letters in a circular manner to most of their friends, acquainting them that it was the King's intentions that no body should take arms till the Spanish troops were landed in England; and therefore the Marquess declared that till then he would not stir from where he was, nor even allow any detachments to be made; and some days after, finding that we had still no accounts of the Duke of Ormonde, nor of any movement in England, he proposed that without further delay we should embark aboard the same vessels and return to Spain, from which with great difficulty he was dissuaded.

But the Earl Marischal, fearing that he might renew the same design in case the news we expected was long a coming, declared to him the day after that he was resolved to send the two fregats immediately back to Spain, they being no longer in safety where they were, for being already discover'd, it was natural to believe that the Government of England would immediately send ships to block them up, or to intercept them in their passage home, and in spight of all the arts they used to detain them, three days after they sailed; and indeed just in time, for not a week after their departure arrived three English men of war, much superior to ours both in force and equipage, who, finding we had put most of our ammunition and provisions into an old castel, situate on the shore, under the guard of a detachment of 45 Spaniards, immediately began to batter it from the three ships, and the same night obliged them to surrender prisoners of war.

Our ships were no sooner sailed than the Marquess of Tullibardine began to think of other measures. His retrait out of the island was now impracticable in the manner he had designed it, and now he resolved to draw what ships he could together, but it was too late; he had given the enemy time to draw troops not only from the remote parts of the Kingdom, but even from Holland. The regiments of Kapell, May, and Sturler, were already arrived, and his circular letters had given those who were not very willing an excellent excuse, he himself having already wrote to them that they should not take arms.

Our affairs were in this condition, when we received the news, of the entire dispersion of the Duke of Ormond's fleet; but at the same time our friends assured us that all diligence was using in Spain to put it in a condition to sail again that same spring. This left us still some hopes, and therefore we order'd the gentlemen who were nearest us to assemble their vassalls, but this last accident had disheartned them, that not above a thousand men appeared, and even those seemed not very fond of the enterprize.

The enemy was by this time within three days march of us, with four regiments of foot, and a detachment of a fifth, and 150 dragoons, and waited only for the provisions which was necessary to be carried along (into a country full of mountains and possessed by the enemy,) to march to attack us in our post which, by the situation, was strong enough had it been well defended; our right was cover'd by a rivulet which was difficult to pass, and our left by a ravine, and in the front the ground was so rugged and steep that it was almost impossible to come at us. However, the tenth of June the enemy appear'd at the foot of the mountain, and after having reconnoitred the ground he attacked a detachment we had posted on our right on the other side of the rivulet commanded by Lord George Murray, who not being succour'd as he ought, was obliged to retire, but without any loss. At the same time our center was attacked and forced with very little loss on either side; and after a skirmish of about three hours, in which not above a hundred men were killed or wounded on both sides, and of distinction only the Marquess of Seafort wounded, our troops were forced to retire to the top of the mountain, whose height hinder'd the enemies pursuit. [2] By this time it was night, which gave the chiefs of our party time to consult what was to be done in this urgency, and on considering that they had neither provisions nor ammunition, that the few troops they had had behaved in a manner not to give great encouragement to try a second action, it was resolved, that the Spaniards should surrender, and the Highlanders disperse. Don Nicolas Bolano, who commanded the detachment of the regiment of Galicia, offer'd to attack the enemy once more; but the general officers judging the attempt in vain, the first resolution was followed, and accordingly next morning the Spaniards surrender'd on condition their baggage should not be plunder'd, and every body else took the road he liked best. As I was then sick of a feavour, I was forced to lurck some months in the mountains, and in the beginning of September having got a ship, I embarcked at Peterhead, and 4 days after landed in Hollande at the Texel.

[1] On the mainland.

[2] This was the Battle of Glenshiel.

England and Scotland Contrasted (1725)


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