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