Highbridge Skirmish

We all know the ’45 Rising saw it’s last battle at Culloden, but the first engagement was back in August 1745 in the Highbridge Skirmish.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart had landed in Scotland and the prospect of a Jacobite Rising was suddenly a reality. In response to Prince Charles attempting to gather support and draw people towards him at Glenfinnan the commander-in-chief of the Government forces in Scotland, Sir John Cope, sent orders to dispatch two companies of men to head to Fort William where they would reinforce the garrison that stood there.

The men sent out were from the Royal Scots regiment and were commanded by Captain Scott of Clan Scott. In total roughly 85 men began to make the journey south to Fort William marching along the roads built by General Wade after the 1715 Rising. Prince Charles was not idle though. He heard of the Governments plan and informed his Jacobite supporters so they would be prepared for the men.

The Government troops marched seemingly easily along the road, encountering no resistance, until they reached the River Spean on 16th August 1745 and headed across the High Bridge. Here they found Jacobite supporters waiting. Major Donald MacDonell of Tirnadris was ready to meet the Government troops with a dozen of fellow members of Clan MacDonald of Keppoch. As Captain Scott approached it is believed that the dozen Jacobites moved swiftly about by the now demolished High Bridge Inn. They held their plaids wide and created the illusion that there was a formidable number of Jacobites waiting.

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Plaque at the location of the skirmish in 1745

 

Captain Scott approached cautiously sending forward just two of his men to try and negotiate with the Jacobites. Unfortunately for him the men were swiftly taken prisoner and Captain Scott made the decision to retreat and regroup. They fled to Loch Lochy but were caught out when some 50 Glengarry Highlanders met them with volleys of gunshot whilst the MacDonalds continued their pursuit from behind. Captain Scott was hit in the shoulder and eventually found himself and his men surrounded. He had no choice but to surrender.

The Jacobites took the remaining Government men prisoner in the Achnacarry Inn as Donald Cameron of Lochiel arrived to take charge. Captain Scott was taken to Lochiels house where reports suggest he was treated more like a guest than an enemy. The men were later marched to Glenfinnan to meet Prince Charles himself and he made the decision to pardon the prisoners of their actions. Some say the Jacobites did not lose a single man in the skirmish whilst the Government lost at least two men with several more injured. It is believed that the Government recruits were new soldiers from Ireland who perhaps were not used to the Highland terrain and were unprepared to face the local Jacobites.

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Remaining pillars of the original Highbridge

 

The skirmish however, marked the first land-based action between Government and Jacobite forces and began to set the ’45 Rising into motion. The High Bridge itself, which cost £1,087 when it was built in 1736, was superseded by a newer bridge in 1819 and now only the pillars remain of the original bridge. In 1994 the 1745 Association erected a cairn near the south side of the bridge at Highbridge to commemorate the first action of the ’45 which can still be seen today.

We hope you enjoyed this little insight into the first action of the ’45 and as always please like, tweet, share, comment and keep discovering.

All the best, K & D

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The Raising of the Standard

This week saw the 270th anniversary of the raising of the Jacobite Standard at Glenfinnan on 19th August 1745.

Last time we looked at the Princes journey as he made his way from the continent to arrive in Scotland but now we thought we’d share what happened as he made his way to Glenfinnan.

Here at Culloden Battlefield we find a lot of people believe that all of the clans joined Prince Charles Edward Stuart when he arrived in Scotland and united to form the Jacobite army but this is far from the truth. In actual fact most clans were sceptical of the Prince. Having arrived in Scotland with very few men, thanks in part to the loss of his convoy ship the Elizabeth, Prince Charles was not in a particularly strong position when he first arrived. He did however have a very strong belief in his cause and a persuasive personality.

Thanks to the Prince landing in such a remote part of the Highlands the Government were unaware of his presence for over a week giving the Prince time to unload his supplies and begin to make his way to Kinlochmoidart. The first authentic account of the Princes arrival did not reach Sir John Cope, Commander in Chief of the Scottish forces until 8th August.

Whilst Prince Charles tried to convince men to join his cause Duncan Forbes, the Chief Justice of Scotland, went to Culloden House where he began the crucial role of organising government support in the North East and setting up independent companies, disrupting Jacobite recruitment.

The first major action of the ’45 Rising occured on 16th August 1745.  The Government sent reinforcements to Fort William to prepare for the Jacobite threat but Prince Charles heard of the plan and informed his supporters and 60 men were captured by the MacDonnell’s of Keppoch. Two companies of Royal Scots government soldiers were taken prisoner at High Bridge over the River Spean. Keppoch MacDonald Highlanders later joined by some Cameron’s and MacDonald’s terrified the soldiers, who it is said were mainly raw recruits from Ireland who were not used to the Highland terrain. They fled until they reached Lagganachadrom where 50 Glengarry Highlanders met them with volleys of gunshot. Donald Cameron of Lochiel then arrived and took charge placing the soldiers in Achnacarry Inn. Royal Scots wounded in the skirmish were treated by Jacobite doctor Achibald Cameron, brother of Cameron of Lochiel. The Government prisoners were then taken with the clan to Glenfinnan where they would meet the Prince.

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The ruins of the Highbridge today

On the 19th August Prince Charles landed at Slatach having rowed up Loch Shiel with a guard of fifty men from Clanranald and made his way to Glenfinnan. There was no one waiting for him. He began to despair but then the Highlanders appeared.

Soon there were 1,500 men. Cameron of Lochiel arrived with about 600 clansmen, MacDonald of Keppoch with about 350, and MacDonald of Morar with about 150. Satisfied that he had enough support to mount his rebellion, he climbed the hill behind where the Visitor Centre now stands and raised his father’s standard. James II was proclaimed as King and Prince Charles appointed Prince Regent. The 1745 Rising had truely begun.

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

Today, the site is marked by the Glenfinnan Monument whichw as erected in 1815 by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale to commemorate the Jacobites who fought and fell during the 1745 uprising. Designed by James Gillespie Graham it shows a lone kilted highlander surveying the lands around him. There is also a visitors centre with a new exhibition which opened in 2013 to fully tell the story of the history of Glenfinnan.

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The Highlander at the top of Glenfinnan Monument

Hope you enjoyed a bit more of Prince Charles’ story and as always please like, share, tweet, comment, follow and if you have the chance head to Glenfinnan to see the monument!

All the best. K & D