The Battle of Sheriffmuir

This week saw the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Sheriffmuir which took place on 13th November 1715. As such we decided to look a little more at this key battle of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising.

First, a little bit of background just to set the scene.  In 1714, George I succeeded Queen Anne to the throne as the first ruler of the Hanoverian line. Tensions were already high in some areas following the 1707 Union which was not fully supported across the country. Following his ascension George I, a German from Hanover who could not speak English, managed to alienate more people including a range of former supporters of Anne and now there were more people willing to try to return a Stuart to the throne.

The Earl of Mar had initially been an enthusiastic supporter of George I,  but after being publicly snubbed by the new king, Mar decided to back a different horse, and on 1 September 1715 raised a standard for King James VIII at Braemar. Mar began to raise forces to march south to join with English Jacobites, in an attempt to return a Stuart to the throne. To counter the uprising the government dispatched a combination of Scottish and English regiments under the command of the Duke of Argyll. During October there were various manoeuvres between the two armies. Then on the 10th November the Jacobite army marched south from Perth, reaching Kinbuick, just north east of Dunblane on the 12th November. The Duke of Argyll had marched north and was already at Dunblane, intending to intercept the Jacobite force.

On the 13th November the Jacobites drew up in battle formation on Kinbuick Muir, presumably in order to gain control of the road north to Dunblane, but they had to move more than two kilometers south east from here to Sheriffmuir, to the east of Dunblane, to engage the government force.

Argyll led one squadron of volunteer cavalry, 10 squadrons of dragoons and eight battalions of foot (1,000 cavalrymen and 3,500 infantrymen). The elite of the government army was Portmore’s Dragoons, later to be renowned as the Scots Greys.

Mar led seven squadrons of cavalry (1,000 troopers) and 18 battalions of foot (7,000 infantrymen). Most of Mar’s men were Highlanders fighting with basket-hilted broadswords. Both armies had cannons, but neither side used them although Mar may well have lacked the gunpowder and ammunition to do so. In total there were roughly 6,000 Government forces against 12,000 Jacobite men.

Argyll was seriously outnumbered by the Jacobite army and his left wing, commanded by General Whetham, was far shorter than the Jacobites’ opposing right. However, Mar was inexperienced at commanding such a sizable army (the largest Jacobite army ever raised in Scotland) whilst Argyll was much more proficient in deploying his well trained troops. Argyll’s right wing managed to drive the Jacobites back but then his left wing was overpowered by the overwhelming Jacobite numbers. Over the course of the day the battle see-sawed between the two armies.

By evening, both armies were seriously reduced, and although Mar had a great advantage in numbers, he refused to press home his advantage and risk the entirety of his army and both armies withdrew.The battle was inconclusive with both sides claiming victory although in strategic terms Argyll had halted the Jacobite advance preventing them meeting with the Jacobites in England. The Jacobite army was demoralised by the loss and though the rising continued for another two and a half months it seemed to never truly recover from the loss at Sheriffmuir.

Hopefully you enjoyed this little insight into the Battle of Sheriffmuir. As always please like, follow, share, tweet, comment and if you have any suggestions for topics you’d like to know more about please let us know.

All the best, K & D


1715 – The rebellion that should have worked…

Culloden essentially marked the end of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and as such it is marked as one of the most well known moments in Jacobite and Scottish history. But, there were quite a few other rebellions that took place before the ’45 and this year marks the 300th anniversary of one of these – the 1715 Rebellion.

The 1715 uprising is widely considered to be the Jacobite Uprising that should have worked. It had a large amount of support, across both Scotland and England, but it failed largely due to poor management and organisation.

In 1714 Queen Anne died and the throne passed to George I and the Hanoverian line. George I thought the Tory government were pro-Jacobite and thus replaced them with a Whig government. There was widespread unrest about the new king and riots ensued in favour of the Jacobites across England.

In March of 1715 King James VIII & III petitioned the Pope for money and military aid for a Jacobite uprising to capatilise on this tension. The plan was for two Jacobite uprisings to happen in England. First a diversionary smaller uprising in the north. Once the British army had rushed north to deal with this uprising, the main uprising in the south west of England would start.

However, matters soon got complicated. In August the Earl of Mar returned to his estate in Scotland having failed to convince King George that he was not a Jacobite sympathizer. Here he held a council of war with leading Jacobites apparently unaware of James’ plans. On 6th September Mar and other local Jacobites raised the standard at Braemar and caught everyone by surprise. The timing of Mars’ independent rising could be fatal to King James’ plans. It could pull large parts of the British army North before the planned diversionary rising.

Mars’ Jacobites took Inverness, attempted to take Edinburgh and then headed south and met up with English Jacobites in Northern England. All this action lead to leading Jacobites in south west England being arrested by the Government which effectively stopped the plans for a main rising in the south.

In November 1715 the Jacobite actions came to their climax.

From 10th-12th November remaining Jacobites in the Highlands took part in the Siege of Inverness which occurred when Government forces tried to take back the town. In the process of this Government man Arthur Rose, son of Kilravock was killed and Kilravock seeked revenge. With threats to burn Inverness to the ground the Jacobites met to discuss surrender. The Jacobites wanted to march south and join Mar but this was not allowed and eventually they agreed to hand over their weapons and return home and hand Inverness back to the Government.

Meanwhile from 12-14th November the Battle of Preston occurred with the English Jacobite rising trapped in Preston and eventually forced to surrender to the Government.

Finally on 13th November the Battle of Sheriffmuir occurred, this was the main battle of 1715. The Government were seriously outnumbered by Mars’ Jacobites but Mar refused to press home the advantage and risk his entire army so allowed the Government to withdraw after a day of fighting. There was no conclusive victor but the battle caused demoralisation amongst the Jacobites who should have won based on numbers.

After this nothing major happened only a few minor skirmishes. In an attempt to maintain the rising King James VIII & III arrived in Scotland in December but by this time the Jacobite army was suffering heavily from desertions and he left in February 1716 as the rising had essentially fizzled out.

Overall Government losses for the 1715 Uprising are estimated around 1,000 men whilst Jacobites lost roughly 250 men. If the men had been more coordinated in their attacks and had formed a united front rather than seperate groups who knows what the outcome may have been?

This September we will be marking the 300th anniversary of the rising with a special 1715 exhibition . So far plans are going well and we have letters from the Highland Archive Centre to showcase and hopefully a renactment of the raising of the standard at Braemar.

Hope you enjoyed the post. As always like, share, comment, blog and follow us to your hearts content.

All the best K & D