The Skirmish of Tongue

In March 1746, less than a month before the Battle of Culloden, a number of those belonging to the two conflicting sides met at Tongue, a coastal village in the Highlands; there, those loyal to the Jacobite cause were captured, and their ship, Le Prince Charles Stuart, was plundered.

The ship in question had been the British HMS Hazard, but had been stolen by some Jacobites a few months earlier in Montrose, before being sailed to Dunkirk and given its new name. Louis XV of France sent it back up to Scotland, filled with around 160 French, Spanish, Irish and Scottish men. Up until this point, the Jacobites had been disappointed in King Louis’ underwhelming acts of assistance. However, along with some supplies, Louis sent £13,000 in gold, which translates to a little over £1.5 million in today’s money.

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King Louis XV of France

The sailing over to Scotland was not simple though as it experienced trouble not long after leaving Dunkirk and was forced ashore by a couple of English privateers on the coast of Belgium. It suffered some damage, but not enough to stop Captain Talbot from wanting to continue the voyage to Scotland. The intention had been to disembark at Portsoy, a harbour town located about 50 miles from Aberdeen, but soon it became clear to Talbot that Le Prince Charles Stuart was being chased.

Four Government ships pursued Le Prince. Talbot, desperate and acknowledging his lack of knowledge of the area, took aboard two local fishermen to help him escape the enemy. Eventually on ship, the 24-gunned HMS Sheerness, broke off from the other Government ships and tailed Talbot, getting closer and closer. Talbot sailed into the Kyle of Tongue, where he hoped that the larger Sheerness would not be able to fully enter, but he ended up beaching his ship on a sandbank, trapping it as the Sheerness was still close enough to shoot.

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Kyle of Tongue

After several hours of continual shots being fired between the two ships, Talbot gave the orders to unload the goods. The plan was now for the crew to carry the gold and supplies to Prince Charles’ base in Inverness. As daylight broke the men began their trek to Inverness but the captain of the Sheerness had by this point realised that Le Prince was what had been known as HMS Hazard, and sent out a group to look for Government supporters to help to capture the Jacobite soldiers.

Before long the Jacobites were surrounded by Government men, and after several deaths and the arrival of further opposition headed by Captain George Mackay, the Jacobites surrendered, but not before reportedly throwing the gold into the water.

The surviving Le Prince men were captured and imprisoned aboard the Sheerness which prevented them from being able to fight at the Battle of Culloden. Le Prince became known as HMS Hazard again, and after some repairs, it was put back into the Government navy. As for the gold, it was largely recovered and shared among the Government leaders and their men as a reward for taking it from the Jacobites.

It makes for an interesting what if? The Bellona and the Mars arrived once the Battle of Culloden had been lost, but if the gold and soldiers of Le Prince had got to Charles in time, it is difficult to say how much of an impact it would have had, how much it could have changed things for the Jacobites. Not only would Charles have had money to properly feed, equip and pay the troops he already had, as well as hire new ones, but it would also have been a morale boost for the Jacobites to feel that they had such support and that the confidence of the leader they had been following was not unfounded.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post. As always please like, share, tweet and comment.

All the best, The Culloden Team

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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