The Battle of Killiecrankie

In 1689 the Battle of Killiecrankie was fought between Jacobites, led by Viscount Dundee, and Government troops, led by General Hugh MacKay. The battle was part of the first Jacobite Uprising that took place after King James VII & II was deposed and King William of Orange took the throne.

After the Scottish parliament decided, at a convention in Edinburgh, to support King William many people were upset and opposed the decision. John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee was one such man. He was a lowland Scot and Episcopalian and had been made commander of all of Scotland’s forces under King James. Leaving the convention he set out to summon another convention in Stirling, this one in King James’ name. On 13th April 1689 Dundee raised the Stuart Royal Standard on Dundee Law marking the start of the first Jacobite Rising.

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1st Viscount Dundee

 

Following this Dundee headed north to raise an army against King William and for the next couple of months the Jacobite army began to take shape. Initially recruits were slow to emerge but gradually support grew with various clan chiefs pledging their allegiance and men from Ireland coming over to add to Dundee’s men. By July the army had eight battalions of men and were performing the deadly Highland Charge manoeuvre against their enemies.

On 27th July 1689 the Jacobite men faced the Government troops at Killiecrankie. This battle would decide who would gain control over Blair Castle, a main point in the route through the Highlands. It is estimated the Jacobites had roughly 2,500 men whilst the Government stood at 4,000 men. To help them though the Jacobites held a strong position on a hilltop above the Government men and waited until the sun was setting before making their charge. The battle lasted only a few minutes with the Highland Charge so fast that, it is said, the Government men didn’t even have time to fix their bayonets, leaving them unarmed at close quarters. The Government men were quickly forced to retreat and about half of the Government army was killed as they fled the field.

Meanwhile the victory had also cost the Jacobites. It is suggested that almost a third of the Jacobite force was killed and Dundee himself was fatally wounded. Victory had come at a high price. Dundee was believed to have been hit by a musket ball which knocked him off his horse. His men carried him to the nearby St Brides Kirk where he was buried in a vault in the kirk. His helmet and breastplate, removed from the vault below the church in the 19th century, are still preserved in Blair Castle.

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Dundee burial marker at St Brides Kirk

 

For a while there was a legend that Dundee had not died from the bullet that hit him. People claimed that he had made a pact with devil who gave him a charm to make him invulnerable to lead bullets. Instead legend arose that one of the silver buttons from his own coat had been pushed into the wound and it was this that had killed him. Legends also say that Dundee rode a great black horse which was given to him by the Devil after it had been ripped from its mothers womb.

Regardless of the legends, the loss of Dundee at the head of the Jacobite army was a devastating loss and though the Jacobites continued to advance, without the strong leadership of Dundee they were defeated less than a month later at the Battle of Dunkeld.

This first step into Jacobitism did not end with Dundee though. IT would continue for years to come emerging in the 1715 and 1719 Rebellions before finally ending at Culloden at the end of the 1745 Uprising.

We hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the Battle of Killiecrankie. As always please share, comment, like, tweet and head to Killiecrankie itself where you can learn more about its history.

All the best, K & D

 

 

A Jacobite Journey through Scotland

In the National Trust for Scotland we are lucky enough to have several sites which are connected to the Jacobite story so we thought we’d look at a few of these special places and share their unique stories.

Firstly, to the majesty of Killiecrankie. This steep sided gorge was home to the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 in which the Government army was sent north to deal with Viscount Dundees newly formed Jacobite army. The Jacobites were able to rout the Government army, but it came at a cost. Roughly one third of the Highland force was killed and Viscount Dundee was mortally wounded. He died on the battlefield and was carried the few miles to the nearby parish church of St Bride, above Blair Castle where he was buried.

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Killiecrankie in the Autumn

The death of Dundee, in the midst of the confusion of a cavalry charge, became the subject of numerous legends, the best known of which was the tale that he was invulnerable to lead (due to having made a pact with the Devil) and was killed not by the government shot but by a silver button from his own coat being pushed into the wound.

Another legend of Killiecrankie is the Soldiers Leap. Along the gorge is a narrow section where it is said Donald MacBean, a government soldier, avoided capture by jumping 5.5m (18.5 feet) across the river. Despite losing his shoe on the way across, he survived and escaped, later becoming a prize fighter. You can walk out to the point at which MacBean made his famous leap but i wouldn’t fancy giving it a go myself.

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Soldiers Leap at Killiecrankie

Today the gorge is famous for its autumn colours. Its Gaelic name ‘Coille Chneagaidh’ or ‘Wood of Shimmering Aspen’ sums it up perfectly. There is a beautiful walk along the gorge or for the more adventurous there is a bungee jump off the Garry Bridge.

From gorgeous Killiecrankie to the equally stunning Glencoe. This beautiful site is considered one of the most picturesque spots in Scotland but its history is a little more on the ugly side. In 1692 the Massacre of Glencoe took place in the early morning of the 13th February. Members of the MacDonald clan were murdered by soldiers of the neighbouring Campbell clan for not pledging allegiance to William III.

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Glencoe

The Highland clan chiefs had been set a deadline of the 1st January 1692 to swear an oath of loyalty to William III to be granted an indemnity. MacDonald was late in declaring his oath and an order, signed by the King himself, was raised to enact the massacre.

Alastair MacLain, 12th Chief of Glencoe, and the man responsible for the late pledge, was killed as he tried to rise from his bed. 37 other men were murdered in their homes or as they tried to flee with as many as 40 women and children dying from exposure after their homes were burned down. Today there is a monument in Glencoe remembering the fallen MacDonald men.

Finally we couldn’t talk about Jacobites without mentioning Glenfinnan Monument.

An autumn view of the Glenfinnan Monument by Loch Shiel.
Glenfinnan Monument

It was here that Prince Charles Edward Stuart truly began his ’45 campaign on 19th August 1745. On the hills around the monument Charles raised the Jacobite standard for the first time and began his fateful campaign which would end the following year at Culloden. All the mustered clans heard as Charles claimed the Scottish and the English thrones in the name of his father, James, the Old Pretender.

In 1815 a monument was built to commemorate the raising of the standard, the monument stands 18m high and is topped with a statue of an unknown highlander.

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The Unknown Soldier on top of Glenfinnan Monument

Be sure to check out these places and even more to discover the history of the Jacobites and of course make sure you visit Culloden to complete your visit! As always please like, share, tweet, follow, comment and enjoy uncovering the pages of history as you take your own Jacobite adventure.

All the best, K & D