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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 Battle of Killiecrankie (1689)

Source--Memoirs of the War carried on in Scotland and Ireland, 1689-1691, by Major-General Hugh Mackay, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's forces. With an appendix of original papers, p. 50. (Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, 1833)

Being come up to the advanced party he [Major-General Mackay, commanding the Royal troops] saw some small parties of the enemy, the matter of a short mile, marching slowly along the foot of a hill which lay towards Blair, marching towards us; whereupon he sent orders to Balfour to march up to him in all haste with the foot. But presently upon that order, having discovered some bodies of them marching down an high hill, within a quarter of a mile to the place where he stood, when the gross [bulk] of their body appeared, fearing that they should take possession of an eminence just above the ground where our forces halted on, of a steep and difficult ascent, full of trees and shrubs, and within a carbine shot of the place whereon we stood, whereby they could undoubtedly force us with their fire in confusion over the river, he galloped back in all haste to the forces, and having made every battalion form by a Quart de Conversion to the right upon the ground they stood, made them march each before his face up the hill, by which means he prevented that inconveniency, and got a ground fair enough to receive the enemy, but not to attack them, there being, within a short musket shot to it, another eminence before our front, as we stood when we were up the lowest hill, near the river, whereof Dundee had already got possession before we could be well up, and had his back to a very high hill, which is the ordinary maxim of Highlanders, who never fight against regular forces upon anything of equal terms, without a sure retreat at their back, particularly if their enemies be provided of horse; and to be sure of their escape, in case of a repulse, they attack bare footed, without any clothing but their shirts, and a little Highland doublet, whereby they are certain to outrun any foot, and will not readily engage where horse can follow the chase any distance.... Shortly thereafter, and about half an hour before sunset, they began to move down the hill.

The General had already commanded the officers, commanding battalions, to begin their firing at the distance of 100 paces by platoons, to discourage the approaching Highlanders, meeting with continual fire: That part of their forces which stood opposite to Hastings, who had the right of all, before the Generals', Levin's and Kenmore's regiments, came down briskly together with their horse, and notwithstanding of a brisk fire, particularly from the General's own battalion, whereby many of the chief gentlemen of the name of Macdonald, who attacked it, were killed, pushed their point, after they had fired their light pieces at some distance, which made little or no execution, with sword in hand, tho' in great confusion, which is their usual way. Which when the General observed, he called to the Lord Belhaven to march up with the first troop of horse, ordering him to flank to the left hand the enemy, the fire being then past on all hands, and coming to handy strokes if our men had stood, appointing the second troop to do the same to the right; but scarcely had Belhaven got them without the front of the line, where they had orders to wheel for the flank, tho' their very appearance made the enemy turn away from the place where they saw the horse coming up, but contrary to orders, they began to pass, not knowing whereat, and presently turned about, as did also Kenmore's and the half of Levin's battalion.

The General, observing the horse come to a stand, and firing in confusion, and the foot beginning to fall away from him, thinking happily that the horse would be picked to follow his example, and in all cases to disengage himself out of the crowd of Highlanders which came down just upon the place where he was calling to the officers of the horse to follow him, spurr'd his horse through the enemy, (where no body nevertheless followed him, but one of his servants, whose horse was shot in passing).... Having passed through the crowd of attacking Highlanders, he turned about to see how matters stood, and found that all his left had given way, and got down the hill which was behind our line, ranged a little above the brow thereof, so that in the twinkling of an eye in a manner, our men, as well as the enemy, were out of sight, being got down pall mall to the river where our baggage stood....

The enemy lost on the field six for our one, the fire to our right having been continued and brisk, whereby not only Dundee, with several gentlemen of quality of the countys of Angus and Perth, but also many of the best gentlemen among the Highlanders, particularly of the Macdonalds of the Isles and Glengarie, were killed, coming down the hill upon Hastings, the General, and Levin's regiments, which made the best fire and all the execution....

The General having got the small rests of his forces safely over the river, and seeing no disposition, so far as he could discern, of the enemy to pursue him, he bethought himself which way he had best retire; and notwithstanding of the contrary advice of all the officers who would have him to descend the plain country of Athole to Dunkeld and Perth, he resolved rather to march into the Highlands three or four miles, and then over to Strath Tay and along the foot of the hills, over the Castle of Drummond, where he had a garrison, to Stirling, whither he resolved to make all the speed possible, to fall upon some present measures.

The Religious Settlement (1690)


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