by Mowbray Morris
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About the same time happened a still more untoward thing. James was now in Ireland. He had learned how matters had gone in Scotland, and conceived that the moment for action had come. A commission was accordingly despatched to Dundee, constituting him Lieutenant-General and Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, together with a letter in James's own hand, informing him that five thousand foot and three hundred horse would presently be at his disposal. There were letters also from Melfort both to Dundee and Balcarres. Either by the folly or the knavery of the messenger the papers fell into the hands of Hamilton, who read them to the Convention. As usual, Melfort's letters were in the most foolish and violent language. "You will ask no doubt," he wrote to Dundee, "how we shall be able to pay our armies; but can you ask such a question while our enemies, the rebels, have estates to be forfeited? We will begin with the great and end with the small ones." To Balcarres he wrote in the same strain. "The estates of the rebels will recompense us. You know there were several lords whom we marked out, when you and I were together, who deserved no better fate. When we get the power, we will make these men hewers of wood and drawers of water." No man was mentioned by name, so that each man was at liberty to take these threats for himself. "You hear," cried Hamilton, "you hear, my lords and gentlemen, our sentence pronounced. We must take our choice, to die, or to defend ourselves." There was a terrible uproar, the new Whig recruits being among the loudest in their exposition of the dangers to which their love for their religion and their country was likely to expose them. Leven was ordered with two hundred of his new regiment to arrest both Dundee and Balcarres.[77] The latter was taken easily enough, and clapped into the Tolbooth. But Dundee got wind of his danger, and was off before the soldiers could reach Dudhope. He went northward still, to Glen Ogilvy, his wife's jointure-house, in the parish of Glamis, not far from the old historic castle of Macbeth; and thither Leven did not think it prudent to pursue him.


[77] During the first alarm raised by Dundee's departure the Convention had passed an order to raise and arm a regiment of eight hundred men, and had given the command to Leven. It is said that the men were found within two hours. See "An Account of the Proceedings of the Estates in Scotland," London, 1689.


Dundee had ridden out of Edinburgh with no clear plan of action before him. Balcarres afterwards declared that his friend had no intention of making for the Highlands till he learned that warrants were out for his apprehension. Yet it is probable that the idea of a Highland campaign had already begun to take shape in Dundee's mind before Mackay's advance forced him over the Grampians. His orders were, in the event of the Estates declaring for William, to keep quiet till the arrival of a regular force from Ireland should enable him to take the field with some chance of success. And, indeed, he had at that time no alternative. It was clear to him that the game was lost in the Lowlands, but it was not yet clear to him that anything was to be gained in the Highlands. The example of his famous kinsman might indeed serve to fire both his imagination and his ambition; but it could hardly serve to make him hopeful of succeeding with the weapons which had failed Montrose. A few thousand claymores would no doubt prove a useful supplement to the small body of troops James might be able to spare from Ireland; but even a mind so ardent and sanguine as Dundee's might well have shrank from facing the chances of war with no other resources than a handful of troopers and a rabble of half-armed, half-naked, and wholly undisciplined savages. And in truth experience had shown that these fierce and jealous spirits were little less dangerous as allies than as enemies. Every clan had its hereditary feud, and no one could say that on the day of battle the claymores might not be drawn against each other instead of against the common foe. Branches even of the same stock did not conceive themselves inevitably bound by the tie of blood, though it was a claim never forgotten when it was convenient to make or allow it. Sometimes a few of the smaller clans would make common cause against the oppressions of a more powerful, or the cattle of a wealthier neighbour; but it was rarely that friendship went beyond the conditions of an armed neutrality. Though the feudal system had long prevailed in many parts of the Highlands, it had never superseded the older patriarchal system. The chief of the clan might pay homage to a great lord like Argyle or Athole; but in the clan he was king, and his word was law. Moreover, brave as the Highlanders undoubtedly were, they were not a warlike race. They would rise to the signal of the fiery cross, without questioning the cause; and they would on occasion fight for their own hand, for revenge or plunder. But the long service of a regular war was little to their taste. Of military science and military discipline they knew nothing. To win the battle with the rush of the first onset, and when the battle was won to make off to their homes with all the plunder they could lay hands on,—this was their notion of warfare, and it was a notion which the chiefs were too ignorant or too prudent to interfere with. What chance could there be of inducing such spirits as these to combine in one great confederacy, and to undertake a long and desperate struggle for the sake of a king of whom the most part had never heard, and of a cause which they could not understand?

But Dundee had learned something at Dunblane which had given him fresh views. During the few hours he had passed there he had talked much with a Highland gentleman, Alexander Drummond of Bahaldy, son-in-law to Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel, the great chief of the clan Cameron. Drummond told him that Lochiel had been busy all the winter among his neighbours, that they were now ripe for war, and were only waiting a leader and some succours of regular troops and ammunition; that James had been communicated with, and had approved their plan in a letter written with his own hand to Lochiel; and that an early day had been appointed for a rendezvous of the clans in Lochaber, the headquarters of the Camerons.

It is now generally acknowledged that on this occasion, however it may have been in the next century, the action of the Highland chiefs was not inspired by devotion to the House of Stuart. Lochiel himself may indeed have been moved by some personal consideration for the exiled King. He had fought bravely under Montrose for Charles the First, and under Middleton for Charles the Second. From the latter King he had received more than one letter full of those flattering assurances Charles knew so well how to make. By James he had been graciously welcomed at Whitehall, and had received the honour of knighthood from the royal hand. He was brave, wise, generous, and faithful, and, even in a less rude society than that in which his lot was cast, his manners would have been called agreeable and his education certainly not contemptible. But even Lochiel's loyalty was not suffered to run counter to his interests. In Lochaber the name of James was as nothing compared with the name of Evan Dhu, and the law of the King of England gave place to the law of the great Chief of the Camerons. As for the rest, the dispute between Whigs and Jacobites was no more to them than the dispute between the Guelphs and Ghibellines had been to their ancestors. They cared not the value of a single sheep whether James or William sat on the throne of Great Britain, so long as neither interfered with them. No later than the previous year the authority of James had been insulted and his soldiers beaten by one of these independent lordlings—Colin Macdonald of Keppoch, familiarly known as Coll of the Cows, for his skill in tracking his neighbour's cattle over the wildest mountains to the most secret coverts.[78]

But for what loyalty to the House of Stuart was powerless to effect a motive was found in the hatred to the House of Argyle. Nearly all the chiefs of the Western Highlands were vassals to Mac Callum More, the head of the great clan of Campbell. The numerous branches of the Macdonalds, who had once been lords of the Hebrides and all the mountain districts of Argyleshire and Invernessshire, the Camerons, the Macnaghtens, the Macleans, the Stuarts of Appin, all these paid tribute (it would be probably more correct to say owed tribute) to the Marquis of Argyle, and all were ready to welcome any chance of freedom from that odious bondage. The early loyalty of Lochiel had probably been as much inspired by the fact that he was fighting against an Argyle as for a Stuart, as it is possible had been the loyalty of Montrose himself. In 1685 he had cheerfully summoned his clan to repel the invasion of another chief of that hated House; and now the Revolution had brought back from exile yet another to exercise the old tyranny. This was enough to make the Revolution a hateful thing in the eyes of Lochiel and his neighbours. But it was also believed that James had conceived the idea of buying up from the great Highland nobles their feudal rights over the clans, and had only been prevented from carrying his idea into effect by the Revolution. In the minds of these Western chiefs, then, William was the oppressor and James the deliverer. Throughout the winter they had watched eagerly for news from the South. At length they learned that the Estates had declared for William; that their prime enemy was restored to favour and power; and that Dundee, whose exploits against the party of which for three generations an Argyle had been the acknowledged head were well known to them, was an outlaw and a fugitive. In him they at once recognised the leader for whom they waited. Drummond was accordingly sent to invite him to their councils, and to promise that a sufficient escort should be ready at the proper time to convey him to the appointed meeting-place.

Meanwhile it had become necessary for Dundee to look to his own safety. A more dangerous enemy than Leven was now in the field against him. As soon as William had learned the decision of the Estates he had despatched a body of troops into Scotland under General Mackay. Hugh Mackay, of Scourie, was himself of a Highland stock. Like Dundee, he had learned the art of war first in France, and afterwards in the Low Countries, where he had risen to the command of the Scots Brigade, as those regiments were called which upwards of a century before the new Protestant enthusiasm of England had raised to support Holland against the tyranny of Spain. He was a good man, a brave if not a dashing soldier, a prudent tactician, and well skilled in all the machinery of war.

Mackay at first contented himself with sending Livingstone and his dragoons after Dundee, while he turned his attention to Gordon, who was still maintaining some show of resistance in the castle. But Livingstone was too late. He found the nest warm, but the bird had flown. Dundee had gone northwards over the Grampians into the Gordons' country, where the Earl of Dunfermline, the Duke's brother-in-law, at once joined him with a most welcome addition to his little band of troopers. Mackay foresaw that the Highlands were to be the real scene of operations, and that no danger need be apprehended from the vapouring Gordon. He sent word, therefore, to Livingstone to await him in Dundee, and marched himself for that place with some two hundred of his own brigade and one hundred and twenty of Lord Colchester's dragoons.[79]

It is as difficult for the reader to follow Dundee through these April days as Mackay found it. In the sounding hexameters of the "Grameis," his movements are indeed described with more labour than lucidity; but at this early stage of the campaign it is not necessary to track him over every mountain and river, and by every town and castle.[80] It will be enough to say that in an incredibly short space of time he beat up for recruits the greater part of the counties of Aberdeen, Inverness, and Perth, while the bewildered Mackay, whose training and troops were alike unfitted to this sort of campaigning, toiled after him in vain. He also found time for a flying visit to Dudhope, where his wife had been safely delivered of a son. He can have stayed with her but a day at most; and when he left her, he was to see her face no more.

From Dudhope Dundee crossed the Grampians again for Inverness. Here it had been arranged for him to meet Keppoch and the promised escort of Highlanders. And here, accordingly, he found them; but he also found a state of things which gave him a lively foretaste of the character and conduct of his new allies.

Between the clan of Macdonald and the clan of Mackintosh there had existed for many centuries a deadly feud, the exact origin of which had long been lost in the mists of fable. On the other hand, a good understanding had long existed between the Mackintoshes and the town of Inverness. Though the town in those days consisted only of some five hundred mean buildings surrounded by a crazy wall, the busy little colony of artisans which inhabited it, and the occasional visit of a trading vessel to its port, had invested it among the Highlanders with the reputation of vast wealth. Here was an opportunity for gratifying his love of revenge and his love of plunder which Keppoch was not the man to lose. He advanced through the territory of the Mackintoshes, harrying and burning as he marched, up to the walls of Inverness. For two days he lay before its crazy gates threatening fire and sword, while the burghers mustered to arms within, and the ministers exhorted them from the market-place. Such was the state of affairs Dundee found when he and his troopers rode into the Highland camp on the first day of May.

Keppoch tried to excuse himself. The town, he said, owed him money, and he sought only to recover his own. On the other hand, the magistrates said that he had forced them to promise him four thousand marks. Dundee answered that Keppoch had no warrant from him to be in arms, much less to plunder. But it was not yet safe for him with his handful of horse to use such brave language to the chief at the head of his eight hundred claymores. He therefore temporised. By his advice the magistrates agreed to pay two thousand dollars: half of this sum was raised on the spot with some difficulty: for the other half Dundee gave his bond to Keppoch. He also promised the magistrates that, when James was restored to his throne, the money should be refunded to them. Dundee had saved the town, but for the present he had lost his allies. Keppoch and his thieves, laden with the silver of Inverness and the cattle of the Mackintoshes, retired in dudgeon to their mountains.

But Dundee was destined to achieve something before he joined the muster at Lochaber. After he had parted from Keppoch he turned westward down the valley of the Ness, by the noble castle of Glengarry, which Cumberland destroyed after Culloden, by Kilcummin, where Fort Augustus now stands, memorable in his eyes as the spot whence Montrose had led the clans to break the power of the Campbells at Inverlochy, and so southwards again through the forest of Badenoch to the Tay. As he was painfully toiling through this vast and rugged recruiting-ground word was brought to him that a regiment of cavalry was being raised in Perth under the auspices of the Laird of Blair, a rich and powerful gentleman who had married into Hamilton's family. He determined on a bold stroke. He was sorely in need of powder, provisions, money, and especially of fresh mounts for his troopers, the long rapid marches, cold weather, and scanty forage having reduced his horses to a very sorry plight. In Perth he might lay hands on all these, and possibly on a few recruits into the bargain. He was in Blair when the messengers found him on May 10th. With his handful of sabres he swooped down on Dunkeld, which he reached just in time to relieve a tax-collector of the dues he had been successfully raising for William. At Dunkeld he rested his men till nightfall, and then rode straight for Perth. At two o'clock in the morning he entered the city, surprised Blair and his lieutenant, Pollock, in their beds, collected forty horses, a store of arms and powder, some provisions, and some of the public money, and was off again with his booty and his prisoners before the startled citizens had fairly realised the weakness of their invaders. He recrossed the Tay, and halted at Scone to refresh himself and his men at the charges of Lord Stormont, an involuntary act of hospitality on the latter's part for which he had some trouble to excuse himself in Edinburgh.[81]

While in the wilds of Badenoch Dundee had received another message which had interested him much. In the dragoons now under Livingstone's command were several of Dunmore's old officers still well affected to James. Chief among these were William Livingstone,[82] a relation of the colonel, and that Captain Creichton of whom mention has been already made. While lying in garrison at Dundee Creichton found means to get secretly into Dudhope, and to assure Lady Dundee that he and many of his comrades were only waiting an opportunity to join her husband. She sent off word of this to the wanderer, who managed to convey an assurance to Creichton of his plans, and of the strength of the reinforcements he expected from Ireland. On their landing, he added, he should expect the dragoons to join him.

This note was received by Creichton from the hands of a ragged Highlander two days after he had marched with a part of his regiment to join Mackay at Inverness. Could he have waited a little longer he would have seen his correspondent in person. On the afternoon of Monday, May 13th, the inhabitants of the town which had given this terrible Claverhouse his title saw to their amazement the crest of the high ground to the north glittering with steel-clad riders. At the same time Lord Rollo, who was camped outside the walls with some new levies of horse, came flying through the gates with the news that Dundee was upon them. The drums beat to arms: the gates were closed; and barricades hastily thrown up in the principal streets, while the citizens crowded on the walls to stare at the audacious foe.

It is possible that Dundee, who was ignorant of Creichton's departure, thought that his appearance might bring the dragoons over to his side at once. But the officer who was then in command kept his troops quiet; and after manoeuvring his men up to the very walls of the town Dundee drew off as night fell to Glen Ogilvy.[83] It is impossible that even he can have conceived the idea of a serious attack on the place; and the story of his actually entering and plundering the town is certainly apocryphal, though his men very probably made free with Rollo's camp.

Meanwhile Mackay at Inverness was busy in his turn among the clans. Lochiel had only sent the cross round among those chiefs who, like him, hated the Campbells. Dundee had gone further afield, but had not been successful. The gratitude of the Mackintoshes was not enough to do more than keep them neutral,—which was perhaps fortunate, for had they joined the muster at Lochaber they would inevitably have been at blows with the Macdonalds before a day had passed. The Macphersons also kept aloof, and the Macleods. Mackay's invitations were received with the same indifference. Some of the Grants, whose chief had suffered under the late Government for his allegiance to Argyle, joined him; and from the northern shires of Ross and Sutherland a few Mackays came to fight for a captain of their own blood. But the two sources on which the Government had mainly relied for help were both found wanting. The Campbells had suffered so severely from the invasion of Athole in the previous year that Argyle found it impossible to rally them in time to be of service in the present campaign. The Covenanters, though hailing the rule of William as a deliverance from the rule of James, were persuaded by their ministers that it was a sin to take military service, even against the abhorred Dundee, with men whose orthodoxy was, to say the least, not above suspicion. Seaforth, Lovat, Breadalbane, and the other great lords of the east and south Highlands, would not bid their vassals arm for either side. Athole had indeed once more professed allegiance to the new order, but while affairs were still in an uncertain state he would not commit himself to any decisive action. It was clear to Mackay that the name of William was no name to charm with in Scotland, and that the most he could hope to effect was to prevent a general rising of the clans for James. The sagacious Tarbat had already pointed out to him how this might be done. Five thousand pounds, he said, would be ample to satisfy all Argyle's claims upon the chiefs who owed him vassalage. If these claims were satisfied, and the clans assured that under William they would secure the freedom they had hoped for from James, though it might not be possible to persuade them to fight for the former, not a single claymore would follow Dundee to the field for the latter. William was now induced to try the experiment. But by a blunder so extraordinary as to suggest treachery somewhere, the agent entrusted to manage the affair was himself a Campbell. The chiefs naturally refused to listen to such a messenger, and treated all subsequent overtures with a contemptuous refusal or a still more contemptuous silence. It is not certain that any money was actually expended; but if so, it is very certain that not a penny of it went to any Cameron or Macdonald.

Dundee had now reached Lochaber, where he was cordially welcomed by Lochiel, and lodged in a building close to the chief's own house, a rude structure of pine-wood, but in his men's eyes a magnificent palace. The clans had proved true to their tryst. Every Cameron who could wield a broadsword was there. From the wild peaks of Corryarrick and Glen Garry, from the dark passes of Glencoe and the storm-beaten islands of the western seas, the men of Macdonald came trooping in. Sir John of Duart brought a strong gathering of Macleans from Mull, promising that more of the name were on the road. Young Stewart of Appin had led his little band from the shores of Loch Finnhe. The Macnaghtens were there from the very heart of the great enemy's country, where the hated towers of Inverary cast their shadow on the waters of Loch Fyne. Fraser of Foyers and Grant of Urquhart, disregarding the action of their respective chiefs, each brought a small following of his own vassals.

It is impossible to calculate the exact force which, at any time during his short campaign, Dundee had at his disposal. But the number of claymores which this first muster brought to Lochaber cannot have been less than two thousand. Besides these, there was his little body of cavalry, some fifty sabres in all, partly composed of his own troopers, and partly of Dunfermline's followers. That nobleman and Lord Dunkeld were of the party. Dundee's own brother, too, seems to have been with him, and a member of the Duntroon branch of the Grahams. Certain gentlemen from the Lowlands had also joined him: Sir Alexander James of Coxtone, Sir Archibald Kennedy of Cullean, Hallyburton of Pitcur, Murray of Abercairny, and others.

Still there was no sign from Ireland, and Dundee hesitated to take the field against Mackay with such capricious and irregular allies. He did not doubt the courage of his Highlanders, but he had grave doubts of their obedience. That they would fight bravely when it was their cue to fight, he knew well; but he was much less confident that they would take their cue from him. He had at first conceived the idea of putting them through some course of military training, but Lochiel urged so many and such weighty reasons against it that he gave up the plan. "There is not time," said the sagacious old chief, "for our men to learn your method of warfare. They would merely unlearn their own. This is one which must seem strange to your notions of war; but it is one which they thoroughly understand, and which makes them, when led by such a general as you, a match for the most practised veterans. Think of what they did under Montrose, and be sure that they will show the same courage and win as great victories under you." It, therefore, became more than ever necessary that the promised succours should be no longer delayed. Some regular troops, however few, would serve both as a rallying-point and as an example to the Highlanders. And, indeed, it had been only on the promise of such support that Lochiel had induced the chiefs to arm. Dundee sent letter after letter to Ireland full of cheerful accounts of the good promise of affairs, but urging the instant despatch of troops, together with a store of money, ammunition, and all the other necessaries for an army about to take the field, of which there was, in truth, a most plentiful lack in Lochaber. There were not above fifty pounds of powder in the camp; and though the Highland fashion was to trust more to the cold steel than the bullet, powder was a necessity of war that could not well be altogether dispensed with. Dundee also urged upon Melfort the good effect James' own presence would have upon his Scottish allies. If that could not be managed, he said, at least let him send the Duke of Berwick. There was no petty jealousy in Dundee's character. He would have cheerfully put himself under the command of any man if by so doing he were likely to further the cause he had at heart. But no answer came to these appeals. In one of the last letters Dundee wrote, he reminds Melfort that for three months he had received not a single line from him or from James.

Meanwhile, his tact, his good temper, courtesy, and liberality had won the hearts of his new allies. With the money he had brought with him from the Lowlands, and the supplies his wife and some of his friends were able occasionally to send him, he contrived to maintain an establishment that was at least superior to anything which most of his new friends were accustomed to. Every day he entertained some of the chiefs at his table. He made himself acquainted with the faces and names of the principal tacksmen of each clan, and mastered a few words of Gaelic to enable him to address and return salutations. In the field he lived no better than the meanest of his men, sharing their coarse food and hard lodging, and often marching on foot by their side over the roughest country and in the wildest weather. His powers of endurance extorted the wonder even of those sturdy mountaineers who had been inured from childhood to the extremes of hunger and fatigue. More than a century after his death it was still told with admiration how once, after chasing Mackay from dawn to sunset of a summer's day over the ruggedest part of the Athole country, he had spent the night in writing, only resting his head occasionally on his hands to snatch a few moments of sleep. Among the Camerons he was always spoken of as the General, and honoured next to Lochiel himself. At the same time, he was careful to maintain his authority and to exact the respect due to his position. He knew well that among those lawless spirits he who would be obeyed must be feared. On one occasion he administered a public rebuke to the arch-thief, Keppoch, who had found time for another raid on the Mackintoshes. In the presence of all the chiefs Dundee told the offender that he would sooner serve in the ranks of a disciplined regiment than command men who were no better than common robbers; that he would countenance such outrages no more, nor any longer keep in his army those who disgraced the King's cause by their private quarrels. Keppoch, who would infallibly have struck his dirk into any other man who had used such language to him, attempted some lame excuses, muttered an apology, and ended by promising for the future neither he nor any of his men would stir a foot save at the General's command. There is no stronger proof of Dundee's genius and capacity for affairs than the singular influence he was able in a few short weeks to gain over men who could not speak his language and who hated his race. When on the dark day of Culloden the wavering clans looked in vain to their Prince, an old chief, who had heard his father talk of Ian Dhu Cean (Black John, the Warrior), exclaimed in a passion of rage and grief, "Oh, for an hour of Dundee!"

But loth as he was to engage Mackay with the Highlanders alone, Dundee knew that he could not hope to keep them long together inactive. Provisions were running short. If they could not harry James's enemies, they would make free with their own. Dundee was particularly anxious to give no cause of offence to those clans whose neutrality he hoped to be able to turn into friendship. Already a serious prospect of disunion had threatened the little army. A party of the Camerons had made a raid on the Grants, in which a Macdonald of Glengarry had been killed. The man had become affiliated to the Grants, and had refused to join the muster of his own tribe. He had therefore forfeited all the right of clanship. Yet Glengarry, as much perhaps from policy as from any overpowering sense of kinship, demanded vengeance; and it needed all the combined tact of Dundee and Lochiel to prevent him from drawing out his men to attack the Camerons. When, therefore, Dundee learned that Mackay had left Inverness to join some reinforcements from Edinburgh, he determined on action.

The troops Mackay expected to find in Badenoch were six hundred men of his own Scots Brigade under Colonel Ramsay. Ruthven Castle on the Spey was the place of meeting, and May 26th the time. But Ramsay had been detained in Edinburgh by an alarm of an invasion from France, and it was not till the 27th that he entered the Athole country. Here he learned that Dundee was on the march to meet him. The population did not seem friendly: he could get no news of Mackay; and on the whole he judged it prudent to retire to Perth. That he might do this with more speed he blew up his ammunition train, to prevent it falling into Dundee's hands. Mackay, who, as soon as he learned that Ramsay was fairly on the road, had marched with all speed from Inverness, was too late to save Ruthven Castle. It had been surrendered by the governor, Captain Forbes, on the 29th, and reduced to a heap of ruins.

This was the beginning of a series of marches and counter-marches on the part of the two generals, which lasted far into June, without any advantage on either side. On one occasion a party of the Macleans of Lochbuy, marching to join Dundee in Badenoch, came to blows with some of Livingstone's dragoons; and there were other skirmishes, of no material result, at none of which was either general present in person. More than once Dundee was in striking distance of Mackay; but he never found himself in a position to engage with sufficient assurance of victory. A defeat he dared not risk; and even victory, unless complete enough to need no second blow, had its dangers. An army which considered the safe storage of his booty as the first duty of a successful soldier could not safely be trusted to make good the result of a doubtful battle. And in fact he found his forces each day diminishing as food became more scarce in those barren wilds, or as some lucky raid necessitated a departure for home with the prize. At length, wisely determining to sanction what he could not prevent, and feeling that even his iron frame and dauntless spirit were in need of rest, Dundee dismissed the clans for the present, on their giving a promise to join him again when he should require them. Keeping only some two hundred of the Macleans with him, he returned to his old quarters, on the pressing invitation of Lochiel, who swore to him that while there was a cow in Lochaber neither he nor his men should want. Mackay did not attempt to follow him. At such a game of hide-and-seek he saw that his men were no match for the active light-marching Highlanders. He accordingly put garrisons into certain fortified parts of Invernessshire and Perthshire, sent the rest into quarters, and himself repaired to Edinburgh.

From the middle of June to the end of July the war therefore languished. But Dundee was not idle. The arts of diplomacy were as familiar to him as the arts of war. He still maintained an active correspondence with the neutral chiefs, and kept Melfort well informed of all he had done and proposed to do for his master's service. I shall conclude this chapter with an extract from the last despatch he sent to Ireland. It is long; but it gives so graphic an account of his proceedings since the muster at Lochaber, of the state of the country, and the relative positions and prospects of the two parties, that its length may be excused. It also shows, what one would not perhaps have otherwise surmised, that the writer had some little touch of humour. The letter is dated from Moy, in Lochaber, June 27th, 1689. I omit the first part, which seems to refer to some complaints Melfort had made of his having been ill-spoken of by Dundee.

"My Lord, I have given the King, in general, account of things here; but to you I will be more particular. As to myself, I have sent you it at large. You may by it understand a little of the state of the country.[84] You will see there, when I had a sure advantage I endeavoured to profit on it; but on the other hand, shunned to hazard anything for fear of a ruffle. For the least of that would have discouraged all. I thought if I could gain time, and keep up a figure of a party without loss, it was my best till we got assistance, which the enemy got from England every day. I have told the King I had neither commission, money, nor ammunition. My brother-in-law and my wife found ways to get credit.[85] For my own nobody durst pay to a traitor. I was extremely surprised when I saw Mr. Drummond, the advocate, in Highland habit, come up to Lochaber to me, and gave account that the Queen had sent 2,000l. sterling to London, to be paid to me for the King's service, and that two more was a-coming. I did not know the Queen had known anything of our affairs. I received a very obliging letter from her with Mr. Crane, but I know no way to make a return. However, when the money comes, I shall keep count of it and employ it right. But I am feared it will be hard to bring it from Edinburgh.

"When we came first out I had but fifty pounds of powder. More I could not get. All the great towns and seaports were in rebellion, and had seized the powder, and would sell none. But I had one advantage—the Highlanders will not fire above once, and then take to the broadsword.

"But I wonder, above all things, that in three months I never heard from you, seeing by Mr. Hay I had so earnestly recommended it to you, and told of this way by Inverlochy as sure. If you could not have sent expresses, we thought you would at least have hastened the dispatch of those we sent. McSwyne has now been away near two months, and we know not if the coast be clear or not. However, I have ventured to advise Mr. Hay to return straight, and not go further in the country. He came not here until the 22nd, and they surrendered on the 13th.[86] It was not Mr. Hay's fault he was so long of coming, for there has been two English men-of-war and the Glasgow frigates amongst the islands till of late. For the rest of the letters I undertook to get them delivered. Most of the persons to whom they are directed are either put in bond, or in prisons, or gone out of the kingdom. The Advocate is gone to England, a very honest man, firm beyond belief,[87] and Athole is gone too, who did not know what to do. Earl Hume, who is very frank, is taken prisoner to Edinburgh, but will be let out on security. Earl Breadalbane keeps close in a strong house he has, and pretends the gout. Earl Errol stays at home. So does Aberdeen. Earl Marischal is at Edinburgh, but does not meddle. Earl Lauderdale is right, and at home. The Bishops? I know not where they are! They are now the Kirk invisible. I will be forced to open the letter, and send copies attested to them, and keep the original till I can find out our Primate. The poor ministers are sorely oppressed over all. They generally stand right. Duke Queensberry was present at the Cross when their new mock king was proclaimed, and, I hear, voted for him, though not for the throne vacant. His brother, the Lieutenant-General, some say is made an earl. He is come down to Edinburgh, and is gone up again. He is the old man, and has abused [deceived] me strangely. For he swore to me to make amends. Tarbat is a great villain. Besides what he has done at Edinburgh, he has endeavoured to seduce Lochiel by offers of money which is under his hand. He is now gone up to secure his faction (which is melting), the two Dalrymples and others, against Skelmorly, Polwart, Cardross, Ross, and others, now joined with that worthy prince, Duke Hamilton. Marquis Douglas is now a great knave, as well as beast, as is Glencairn, Morton, and Eglinton. And even Cassilis is gone astray, misled by Gibby.[88] Panmure keeps right and at home. So does Strathmore, Southesk, and Kinnaird. Old Airlie is at Edinburgh under caution. So is Balcarres and Dunmore. Stormont is declared fugitive for not appearing. All these will break out, and many more, when the King lands, or any from him. Most of the gentry on this side the Forth, and many on the other, will do so too. But they suffer mightily in the meantime, and will be forced to submit if there be not relief sent very soon. The Duke of Gordon, they say, wanted nothing for holding out but hopes of relief. Earl of Dunfermline stays constantly with me, and so does Dunkeld, Pitcur, and many other gentlemen, who really deserve well, for they suffer great hardships. When the troops land, there must be blank commissions sent for horse and foot for them, and others that will join. There must be a Commission of Justiciary, to judge all but landed men. For there should be examples made of some who cannot be judged by a council of war. They take our people, and hang them up, by their new sheriffs, when they find them straggling.[89]

"My Lord, I have given my opinion to the King concerning the landing. I would first have a good party sent over to Inverlochy; about five or six thousand, as you have convenience of boats; of which as many horse as conveniently can. About six or eight hundred would do well, but rather more. For had I had horse, for all that yet appeared I would not have feared them. Inverlochy is safe landing, far from the enemy, and one may choose, from thence, to go to Moray by Inverness, or to Angus by Athole, or to Perth by Glencoe, and all tolerable ways. The only ill is the passage is long by sea, and inconvenient because of the island; but in this season that is not to be feared. So soon as the boats return, let them ferry over as many more foot as they think fit to the point of Kintyre, which will soon be done; and then the King has all the boats for his own landing. I should march towards Kintyre, and meet, at the neck of Tarbet, the foot, and so march to raise the country, and then towards the passes of Forth to meet the King, where I doubt not but we would be numerous.

"I have done all I can to make them believe the King will land altogether in the west, on purpose to draw their troops from the north, that we may easier raise the country if the landing be here. I have said so, and written it to everybody; and particularly I sent some proclamations to my Lady Errol, and wrote to her to that purpose, which was intercepted and carried to Edinburgh, and my Lady taken prisoner. I believe it has taken the effect I designed; for the forces are marched out of Kintyre, and I am just now informed Major-General Mackay is gone from Inverness by Moray, towards Edinburgh. I know not what troops he has taken with him as yet; but it is thought he will take the horse and dragoons (except a few) and most of the standing forces; which, if he do, it will be a rare occasion for landing here, and for raising the country. Then, when they hear of that, they will draw this way, which will again favour the King's landing. Some think Ely a convenient place for landing, because you have choice of what side, and the enemy cannot be on both. Others think the nearer Galloway the better, because the rebels will have far to march before they can trouble you. Others think Kirkcudbright or thereabouts, because of that sea for ships, and that it is near England. Nobody expects any landing here now, because it is thought you will alter the design, it having been discovered. And to friends and all I give out I do not expect any.

"So I am extremely of opinion this would be an extreme proper place, unless you be so strong that you need not care where to land. The truth is, I do not admire their mettle. The landing of troops will confound them terribly. I had almost forgot to tell you that the Prince of Orange, as they say, has written to his Scotch Council, telling them he will not have his troops any more harassed following me through the hills, but orders them to draw to the West, where, he says, a great army is to land; and, at the same time, gives them accounts that eight sail of men-of-war is coming from Brest, with fifteen thousand men on board. He knows not whether they are designed for England or Ireland. I beg you will send an express before, whatever you do, that I may know how to take my measures; and if the express that comes knows nothing, I am sure it shall not be discovered for me. I have told Mr. Hay nothing of this proposal, nor no man. If there come any party this way, I beg you send me ammunition, and three or four thousand arms of different sorts—some horse, some foot.

"I have just now received a confirmation of Mackay's going south, and that he takes with him all the horse and dragoons, and all the standing foot. By which I conclude, certainly, they are preparing against the landing in the west. I entreat to hear from you as soon as possible; and am, in the old manner, most sincerely, for all Carleton can say, my lord, your most humble and faithful servant,


It appears by a postscript added on the following day, that before Dundee's messenger left Lochaber letters had arrived from Melfort. They seem to have been again full of complaints of the hard things said about him, and of the undeserved dislike with which all classes in Scotland seemed to regard him. But of help there was no more than the usual vague promises, and glowing accounts of apocryphal successes in Ireland. Dundee congratulated the Secretary on their master's good fortune, diplomatically fenced with the question of unpopularity, and reiterated his appeal for succour.

"For the number" [he wrote], "I must leave [that] to the conveniency you have. The only inconveniency of the delay is, that the honest suffer extremely in the low country in the time, and I dare not go down for want of horse; and, in part, for fear of plundering all, and so making enemies, having no pay. I wonder you send no ammunition, were it but four or five barrels. For we have not twenty pounds."


[78] The passage in which Macaulay has explained the condition and sentiment of the Highlanders at this time, will be familiar to every reader. What may be less familiar is a pamphlet entitled "Remarks on Colonel Stewart's Sketches of the Highlanders," published at Edinburgh in 1823, the year after Stewart's book.

[79] Now the Third Dragoon Guards.

[80] In Napier's third volume will be found many translations in prose from this poem, from which I have taken a few touches.

[81] Napier (iii. 552, note) quotes the following minute in the records of the Estates:—"13th May, 1689: A missive letter from the Viscount of Stormont to the President was read, bearing that the Viscount Dundee had forced his dinner from him at his house of Scone, on Saturday last, and therefore desiring that his intercommuning with him, being involuntary, might be excused." He was cited, however as a delinquent, together with his father-in-law, Scott of Scotstarvet and his uncle, Sir John Murray of Drumcairn (a Lord of Session), who had also to assist at the involuntary banquet. Throughout his short campaign Dundee was careful never to take a penny from the pocket of any private person. He considered, he said, that he was justified in appropriating the King's money to the King's use.

[82] Creichton calls him Lord Kilsyth, but he had not then succeeded to the title. He is the same who afterwards married Lady Dundee.

[83] It is doubtful who this officer was. Mackay, in his memoirs, says it was William Livingstone, calling him either a coward or a traitor for not showing fight. If Livingstone it was, he may not have felt sure enough of the men who were left with him to join Dundee in so open a manner, and to fight was not his cue. But another account puts one Captain Balfour in command. The whole account of the affair is even more confused than are most of Dundee's exploits. But that he did make a demonstration of some sort against the town is proved by the Minutes of the Estates.

[84] None of his previous despatches from the Highlands are in existence.

[85] Robert Young of Auldbar had married Dundee's youngest sister, Anne.

[86] The Duke of Gordon surrendered the Castle of Edinburgh on June 13th, after a resistance which towards the end assumed the character almost of a burlesque.

[87] Sir George Mackenzie.

[88] Gilbert Burnet, the bishop. His wife was a sister of Lord Cassilis.

[89] On Dundee's retreat from Badenoch, some of his men who had straggled for plunder had been caught and hung by Gordon of Edenglassie, Sheriff of Banff.


Mackay had now decided on a new plan of campaign. He would apply to the service of war a device employed by the Highlanders in the chase, and put in practice against them their own tactics of the tinchel.[90] A chain of fortified posts was to be established among the Grampians, and at various commanding points in Invernessshire. On the west a strong garrison was to be placed in the castle of Inverlochy, the northernmost point of Argyle's country overlooking the stronghold of the Camerons. A small fleet of armed frigates drawing a light draft was to cruise off the western coasts, and to watch those dangerous islands whence issued the long war-galleys of the Macdonalds and the Macleans. Stores and transport enough to keep a considerable force in the field for one month was to be collected; and a skilled body of pioneers, equipped with all the tools necessary for road-making, was to accompany the column.

Having already sketched out this plan in a letter to Hamilton, Mackay was in hopes to find on his arrival in Edinburgh that measures had been begun to put it into operation. He was grievously disappointed. He found nothing but quarrels and intrigues in the Parliament House and out of it. Each man was too intent on out-manoeuvring his neighbour in the great struggle for place, to spare a thought for a foe who was happily separated from them by a vast barrier of mountains and many hundreds of miles of barren moorland, deep waters, and dense forests. He saw that his plan for subduing the warriors of the Highlands must wait till the Lowland politicians were at leisure to listen to him; yet he determined to return to his duty, and to do his best with such means as he could find or make for himself. It was possible that Argyle might now have sufficiently repaired his affairs to be able to render some assistance from the West; and there was an ally in Perthshire who might, if he would, prove of even more value than Argyle.[91]

Lord Murray, Athole's eldest son, had, unlike his father, made up his mind early in the Revolution and kept to it. But it happened that there was one now in possession of Blair Castle who had also chosen his side with equal resolution. Athole had slunk off to England, leaving his castle and his vassals to the charge of his agent, Stewart of Ballechin. Ballechin was a sturdy Jacobite; and though he had not yet dared to arm the Athole men for James, he had managed on more than one occasion to do timely service to Dundee. Blair was one of the most important posts in the proposed line of garrisons. It commanded on one side the only road by which troops could march from the low country of Perth into the Highlands, and on the other the passes leading to the Spey and the Dee. Whoever held Blair practically held the key of the Highlands. Mackay therefore urged Murray, who was then in Edinburgh, to get rid of this unjust steward and make sure of so valuable a stronghold for the Government. Murray promised to do what he could. He did not profess to be very sanguine of persuading the men of Athole to fight for William; but for the castle, he could not suppose that Ballechin would dare to shut the gates of his own father's house against him. "Keep the Athole men from joining Dundee," said Mackay, "and that is all I ask, or can expect from your father's son." He pressed Murray to start at once for Blair, promising to follow as soon as he could collect the necessary force of troops and stores.

It was tedious work preparing for a campaign in Edinburgh, where, nobody feeling himself in immediate danger, nobody was concerned to guard against it. Mackay was detained longer than he had expected, and before he could take the field bad news had come down from Perthshire. Ballechin was strongly entrenched in Blair, and resolute not to budge an inch. The Athole men had gathered readily enough to their young lord's summons; but when they found he had summoned them to fight for King William they had gone off in a body shouting for King James.[92] And there was yet worse news. The fiery cross was speeding once more through the Western Highlands. There could be no doubt that Ballechin was acting under orders from Dundee. A few men had stayed with Murray, and with these he proposed to watch the castle and the pass till Mackay should come. But the clans were mustering fast. Dundee himself was said to be in the neighbourhood. Unless troops could be brought up at once, Blair would be irretrievably lost, and the key of the Highlands in the hands of Dundee.

Dundee was in the neighbourhood. He was at Struan, close to Blair, whence he wrote more than one letter to Murray, using every argument he could think likely to influence the interests or the prejudices of Athole's son. Professing to be convinced that Murray was really for James, though doubtful about the time for declaring himself, he declared that he had only sent help to Ballechin to keep the rebels at bay till Murray was able to act as his principles and education would naturally suggest. The King, he said, had seen the mistakes into which Melfort had hurried him. He had now given his word to secure the Protestant religion as by law established, to allow full liberty of conscience to all dissenters, and to grant a general pardon for all except those who had been actively engaged in dethroning him. What more might be necessary to satisfy the people, Dundee begged Murray to let him know. The King was particularly anxious for advice on these points, and ready to go all reasonable lengths; and Murray, he well knew, would advise nothing unreasonable. No more was to be feared from Melfort, who had promised to forgive all old quarrels, and even to resign his office rather than force himself upon those who were unwilling to receive him. Finally (keeping to the last the most powerful argument he could devise), he declared that it was now in Murray's power to "have the honour of the whole turn of the King's affairs." Murray would make no answer, refused to see Dundee's messengers, and sent all his letters on to Mackay.[93]

Dundee knew the importance of Blair as well as Mackay. As soon as he heard from Ballechin of Murray's action, he threw a garrison into the castle, and sent signal to the clans to join him at once. The time was short: too short even to muster all the outlying Camerons. Some days must elapse before he could expect to see round him such a force as he had commanded two months earlier, and every hour was precious. Lochiel urged him to march at once for Blair with such forces as were at hand, promising to follow with the rest. But Dundee was loth to advance without Lochiel. He relied much on the old chief's sagacity and experience, on his knowledge of the Highland character, and his tact in managing it: without his counsel and support he did not feel even now certain of his quarrelsome captains. He prayed Lochiel, therefore, to come with him, leaving his son to bring on the late musters.

As they marched through Badenoch they were joined by the long-promised succours from Ireland—three hundred ragged Irish recruits, half starved, badly armed, and entirely ignorant of war. Their leader was an officer named Cannon, who bore a commission from James giving him rank next to Dundee, a position which neither his abilities nor his experience entitled him to hold in such an army. Some stores of powder and food had been sent with them; but the vessels containing them had, through Cannon's negligence, been taken in the Hebrides by English cruisers. Dundee had neither powder nor food to spare. There had been no time to collect provisions; and for many days past his officers had eaten no bread and drunk nothing but water. The great promises of help on which the Highlanders had so confidently relied, on the assurance of which they had taken the field, and for which their general had repeatedly given his own word, had shrunk to this—three hundred empty mouths to feed, and three hundred useless hands to arm.[94]

And now word came that Mackay was approaching. He had marched by way of Stirling to Perth, at which place he had appointed his muster. At Stirling he had found six troops of dragoons, which he had ordered to follow him to Perth. On July 26th he was at Dunkeld, where he received word from Murray of Dundee's arrival at Blair, but not the dragoons he was expecting from Stirling. His own cavalry consisted of but two troops, chiefly composed of new levies. He dared no longer trust Livingstone's dragoons in the face of the enemy. Half of the officers he had been obliged to send under guard to Edinburgh as traitors: the rest of the regiment was out of harm's way in quarters at Inverness. The horses of Colchester's men were in such a plight after their marches among the Grampians that they could not carry a saddle. Mackay knew well how important cavalry was to the work before him. A mounted soldier was the one antagonist a Highlander feared; and his fear was much the same superstitious awe that a century and a half earlier the hordes of Montezuma had felt for the armoured horsemen of Cortez. But the messages from Murray were urgent, and he dared not delay. At break of day on Saturday, the 27th, he marched out from Dunkeld for the glen of Killiecrankie.

His force, according to his own calculation, was between three and four thousand strong; but barely one half of these were seasoned troops. There was the Scots Brigade, indeed, of three regiments, his own, Balfour's, and Ramsay's. But before despatching them to Scotland William had ordered them to be carefully weeded of all Dutch soldiers, that the patriotism of the natives might be offended by no hint of a foreign invasion; and the gaps thus made had been hastily filled up in Edinburgh. Besides this brigade were three other regiments of infantry: the one lately raised by Lord Leven (now the Twenty-fifth of the Line, and still recognizing its origin in its title of The Borderers), Hastings' (now the Thirteenth of the Line), and Lord Kenmure's.[95] Of these, Hastings' was manned chiefly by Englishmen, and seems to have been the only one of the three that had had any real experience of war. One troop of horse was commanded by Lord Belhaven: the other should have been commanded by Lord Annandale, whose name it bore, but Mackay could persuade neither him nor Lord Ross to take the field. Some feeling of compunction may have kept the latter from drawing his sword against an old comrade in arms; but Lord Annandale had always been fonder of wrangling than fighting. Mackay makes no mention of any artillery; but it appears that he had a few small field-pieces of the kind known as Sandy's Stoups from the name of their inventor.[96]

It is only possible to guess at Dundee's numbers. When he broke up his army early in June he seems to have had about three thousand claymores under him. The second muster was, we know, much smaller than the first; and though it was slightly increased on the march, and while he waited at Blair, the whole force he led at Killiecrankie cannot have much exceeded two thousand men. Over and above the claymores he had not four hundred. The Irish were three hundred, and his cavalry mustered about fifty sabres. Highland tradition puts the claymores at nineteen hundred; and this is probably much about the truth. Artillery, of course, he had none.

As soon as it was known that Mackay was at the mouth of the pass, Dundee called a council of war. Three courses, he told his officers, were before them: to harass Mackay's advance with frequent skirmishes, avoiding a general engagement till the reinforcements a few days would certainly bring had made the numbers more equal: to attack him in the pass; or to wait till he had reached the level ground above it. His own officers, and the Lowland gentlemen generally, were in favour of the first plan. Some of the chiefs were in favour of the second. Dundee listened courteously to all, and then turned to the old chief of the Camerons who had not yet spoken. What, he asked, did Lochiel advise? Lochiel had no doubt. They must fight and fight at once, were the enemy three to one. Their men were in heart: they would have all the advantage of the ground: let Mackay get fairly through the pass that the Highlanders might see their foes, and then charge home. He had no fear for the result; but he would answer for nothing were the claymores to be kept back now the Saxons were fairly at their feet.

Those who watched Dundee saw his eye brighten. He answered that he agreed with every word Lochiel had spoken. Delay would bring reinforcements to Mackay as well as to them, and Mackay's reinforcements would almost certainly include more cavalry. To fight them in the pass was useless. In that narrow way the weight of the Highland onset would be lost. The claymores would not have room for their work, and half the column would escape. They must fight on open ground and on fair terms, as Montrose would have fought.[97]

There was no more opposition. The word for battle went through the clans, and was hailed with universal delight. Then Lochiel spoke again. He had always, he said, promised implicit obedience to Dundee, and he had kept his promise; but for once he should command. "It is the voice of your Council," he went on, "and their orders are that you do not engage personally. Your Lordship's business is to have an eye on all parts, and to issue out your commands as you shall think proper. It is ours to execute them with promptitude and courage. On you depends the fate not only of this little brave army, but also of our King and country." He finished by threatening that neither he nor any of his clan should draw sword that day unless his request were granted. Dundee answered that he knew his life to be at that moment of some importance, but he could not on that day of all days refuse to hazard it. The Highlanders would never again obey in council a general whom they thought afraid to lead them in war. Hereafter he would do as Lochiel advised, but he must charge at the head of his men in their first battle. "Give me," he concluded, "one Shear-Darg (harvest-day's work) for the King, my master, that I may show the brave clans that I can hazard my life in that service as freely as the meanest of them."[98]

Mackay had reached the mouth of the pass at ten in the morning. Here he found Murray and his little band, who had not judged it prudent to remain longer in the neighbourhood of Blair. Two hundred picked men were accordingly sent forward to reconnoitre under Colonel Lauder; and at noon, the ground having been reported clear in front, the whole column advanced.

The pass of Killiecrankie is now almost as familiar to the Southron as to the Highlander. It forms the highest and narrowest part of a magnificent wooded defile in which the waters of the Tummel flowing eastward from Loch Rannoch meet the waters of the Garry as it plunges down from the Grampians. Along one of the best roads in the kingdom, or by the swift and comfortable service of the Highland railway, the traveller ascends by easy gradations from Pitlochrie, through the beautiful grounds of Faskally to the little village and station of Killiecrankie, where a guide earns an unlaborious livelihood by conducting the panting Saxon over the famous battle-field and to various commanding points of the defile. How the scene must have looked in those days, and what thoughts it must have suggested to men either ignorant of war or accustomed to pursue it in civilised countries, has been described by Macaulay in a passage which it were superfluous to quote and impertinent to paraphrase. Near sixty years later, when some Hessian troops were marching to the relief of Blair Castle, then besieged by the forces of Prince Charles, the stolid Germans turned from the desperate sight and, vowing that they had reached the limits of the world, marched resolutely back to Perth. The only road that then led through this Valley of the Shadow of Death was a rugged path, so narrow that not more than three men could walk abreast, winding along the edge of a precipitous cliff at the foot of which thundered the black waters of the Garry. Balfour's regiment led the van of this perilous march: the baggage was in the centre, guarded by Mackay's own battalion: Annandale's horse and Hastings' foot brought up the rear.

For about the last mile and a half the pass runs due north and south; but at the summit the river bends westward, and the mountains sweep back to the right. As the head of the column emerged into open air it found itself on a small table-land, flanked on the left by the Garry, and on the right by a tier of low hills sparely dotted with dwarf trees and underwood. Above these hills to the north and east rose the lofty chain of the Grampians crowned by the towering peaks of Ben Gloe and Ben Vrackie. In front the valley gradually opened out towards Blair Castle, about three miles distant, and along this valley Mackay naturally looked for the Highland advance. He sent some pioneers forward to entrench his position, and as each regiment came up on to the level ground, he formed it in line three deep. Balfour's regiment thus made the left wing resting on the Garry, while Hastings was on the right where the ground began to slope upwards to the hills. Next to Balfour stood Ramsay's men, and then Kenmure's, Leven's, and the general's own regiment. The guns were in the centre, and the two troops of horse in the rear of the guns.

In the meantime Dundee had not been idle. Sending a few men straight down the valley, he led his main body across the Tilt, which joins the Garry just below the castle, round at the back of the hills till he had reached the English right. Mackay was in front with his skirmishers, watching what he supposed to be the approach of Dundee's van, when word was brought to him that the enemy were occupying the hills on the right in force. Mackay saw his danger at a glance. The Highlanders would be down like one of their own rivers in flood on his right flank, and roll the whole line up into the Garry. On one of the hills overlooking his position stood what is now known as Urrard House, but was then called by its proper name of Renrorie.[99] Immediately below this stretched a piece of ground large and level enough in Mackay's judgment for his army to receive, though not to give, the attack. He made no change in his line, but wheeling it as it stood upon the right wing, he marched it up the slope on to this new ground in the face of the enemy.[100] His position was now better than it had been; but it was bad enough. The river was in his rear, and behind the river the inhospitable mountains. His only way of escape, should the day go against him, lay through that terrible pass up which, with no enemy to harass him, he had just climbed with infinite toil. He could hardly hope to make good his retreat down such a road with a victorious army maddening in his rear. In the preliminary game of tactics he had been completely out-manoeuvred by his old comrade.

The clans were now forming for battle. The Macleans of Duart held the post of honour on the right wing. Next to the Macleans stood Cannon with his Irish. Then came the men of Clanranald, the men of Glengarry, and the Camerons. The left wing was composed of the Macdonalds of Sleat and some more Macleans. In the centre was the cavalry, commanded not as hitherto by the gallant Dunfermline, but by a gentleman bearing the illustrious name of Wallace. He had crossed from Ireland with Cannon; but nothing is heard of him till apparently on the very morning of the day he produced a commission from James superseding the Earl of Dunfermline in favour of Sir William Wallace of Craigie. What would otherwise appear one of those inexplicable freaks by which James ever delighted to confound his affairs at their crisis, is amply explained by the fact that the new captain was the brother of Melfort's second wife. Fortunately Dunfermline was too good a soldier and too loyal a gentleman to resent the slight. As Mackay's line was much longer than his, Dundee was compelled to widen the spaces between the clans for fear of being outflanked, which left for his centre only this little cluster of sabres. Lochiel's eldest son, John, was with his father, but Allan, the second, held a commission in Mackay's own regiment. As the general saw each clan take up its ground, he turned to young Cameron and said, pointing to the standard of Lochiel, "There is your father with his wild savages; how would you like to be with him?" "It signifies little what I would like," was the spirited answer; "but I recommend you to be prepared, or perhaps my father and his wild savages may be nearer to you before night than you would like!"[101]

Each general spoke a few words to his men. Dundee reminded his captains that they were assembled that day to fight in the best of causes, in the cause of their King, their religion and their country, against rebels and usurpers. He urged them to behave like true Scotchmen, and to redeem their country from the disgrace cast on it by the treachery and cowardice of others. He asked nothing of them but what they should see him do before them all. Those who fell would fall honourably like true and brave soldiers: those who lived and conquered would have the reward of a gracious King and the praise of all good men. Let them charge home then, in the name of King James and the Church of Scotland. Mackay urged the same honourable duty on his battalions; but he added one very practical consideration which suggests that he was not so confident of the issue as he afterwards professes to have been, and which was perhaps not very wisely offered. They must fight, he said, for they could not fly. The enemy was much quicker afoot than they, and there were the Athole men waiting to pounce on all runaways. Such thoughts would hardly furnish the best tonic to a doubtful spirit. Nevertheless the troops answered cheerfully that they would stand by their general to the last; which, adds the brave old fellow ruefully in his despatch, "most of them belied shortly after."[102]

A dropping fire of musketry had for some time been maintained between the two lines, and on the English left there had been some closer skirmishing between Lauder's sharpshooters and the Macleans. Mackay was anxious to engage before the sun set. He doubted how his raw troops would stand a night-attack from a foe to whom night and day were one: still more did he fear what might happen in the darkness during the confusion of a retreat down that awful pass. But he could not attack, and Dundee would not, till his moment came. The darkness the other feared would be all in his favour. A very short time he knew would be enough to decide the issue of the battle. Should that issue be favourable to King James, as he felt confident it would be, he had determined that before the next morning dawned there should be no army left to King William in the Highlands.

The sun set, and the moment he had chosen came. The Southrons saw Dundee, who had now changed his scarlet coat for one of less conspicuous colour, ride along the line, and as he passed each clan they saw plaids and brogues flung off. They heard the shout with which the word to advance was hailed; but the cheer they sent back did not carry with it the conviction of victory. Lochiel turned to his Camerons with a smile. "Courage!" he said, "the day is our own. I am the oldest commander in this army; and I tell you that feeble noise is the cry of men who are doomed to fall by our hands this night." Then the old warrior flung off his shoes with the rest of them, and took his place at the head of his men. Dundee rode to the front of his cavalry. The pipes sounded, and the clans came down the hill.

They advanced slowly at first, without firing a shot, while Mackay's right poured a hot volley into their ranks, and the leathern cannon discharged their harmless thunder from the centre. A gentleman of the Grants, who was fighting that day among the Macdonalds, was knocked over by a spent ball which struck his target. "Sure, the Boddachs are in earnest now!" he said, as he leaped to his feet with a laugh. It was not till they had reached the level ground that the Highlanders delivered their fire. One volley they poured in, and then, flinging their muskets away, bounded forward sword in hand with a terrific yell. The soldiers had not time to fix their bayonets in the smoking muzzles of their muskets before the claymores were among them and the battle was over.[103] On the left wing scarcely a trigger was pulled: the men broke and ran like sheep. The famous Scots Brigade, in fact, set the example of flight. Their officers behaved like brave soldiers. Balfour, abandoned by his men, defended himself for a time against overwhelming odds, till he was cut down by a young clergyman, Robert Stewart, a grandson of Ballechin. Eight officers of Mackay's own regiment were killed, including his brother, the colonel; and many of Ramsay's. In vain was the cavalry ordered to charge. In vain did Belhaven like a gallant gentleman gallop to the front. In vain did Mackay place himself at their head, and, calling on them to follow him, spur into the thick of the flashing claymores. Before his horse they fell back right and left in such a way as to justify his boast to Melville that with fifty stout troopers he could have changed the day even then; but one of his own servants alone followed him. A few of the dragoons discharged their carbines at random. Then all turned and spurred off among the crowd of footmen to the mouth of the pass. Some of the fugitives tried to cross the Garry, and were either drowned in its swift waters, or cut down as they scrambled drenched and unarmed through its fords. Down the pass to Pitlochrie the rout went. The men of Athole, no longer doubtful of the issue, pounced from their lair upon the easy prey; and even women lent their hands to the butchery.[104]

Well might Mackay bitterly complain, "There was no regiment or troop with me but behaved like the vilest cowards in nature except Hastings and my Lord Leven's."[105] For on the right matters had fared rather better with the Lowlanders. Many of Leven's Borderers had stood firm and Hastings' Englishmen; and where the Southrons stood firm the Highlanders wavered. But they were too few for Mackay to have any hopes of retrieving the fortune of the day. The Highlanders were now busy with the baggage, which offered a more tempting and less troublesome prize than the struggling mass of fugitives. Mackay therefore collected the few men he could get together, and led them across the Garry by a ford above the field of battle over the mountains towards Stirling. On his march he overtook some more of his runaways whom Ramsay was leading in the same direction. Mackay did all it was possible for a brave man to do to encourage his men and keep them together. But many were too frightened to heed his words, or even the pistol with which he threatened to shoot the first man he saw leaving his ranks. The news of his defeat had spread with marvellous rapidity: the whole country was up: every glen and mountain sent out its reapers to the rich harvest. And where enemies did not exist, the fears of these poor wretches found them. Every drover with his herd, every shepherd with his flock, was magnified into a fresh array of the terrible Highlanders. On the evening of Monday, the 29th, Mackay reached Stirling with barely one-fifth of the force with which he had marched out of the town a week earlier.

The Highland loss was calculated at nine hundred men. The Macdonalds and Camerons were the principal sufferers, their position on the left and left-centre having brought them in contact with the battalions who had kept their ground. Glengarry's brother was among the killed, with Macdonald of Largo, and no less than five cousins of Macdonald of the Isles. Among the Lowlanders fell Hallyburton of Pitcur, and Gilbert Ramsay, Dundee's favourite officer, who had dreamed overnight of the victory and of his death. But though the battle had been won for James, he had suffered a greater loss than William. A fresh army could replace Mackay's broken battalions; but no one could replace Dundee, and Dundee was dead.

He had ridden at the head of his cavalry straight on Mackay's centre. But for some unexplained reason his troopers had not followed him close; whether their new captain did not like the guns, or had misunderstood his orders, is not clear. Dunfermline, seeing his general's plumed hat waving above the smoke, had spurred out of the ranks with sixteen gentlemen, and with these sabres the guns were taken and silenced. Dundee, seeing that all went well on the right wing, turned to the left where the Macdonalds were wavering before the firmer front of Hastings' Englishmen. As he galloped across the field to bring them to the charge, a shot struck him in the right side immediately below his breastplate. For a few strides further he clung swaying to his saddle, and then sank from his horse into the arms of a soldier named Johnstone. Like Wolfe on the heights of Abraham, he asked how the day went. "Well for the King," said the man, "but I am sorry for your Lordship." And like Wolfe, Dundee answered, "It is the less matter for me, seeing the day goes well for my master." As his officers returned from the pursuit they found him on the field, and it is said, though one would be glad to disbelieve it, stripped by the very men whom he had led to victory. By his side was found a bundle of papers. Among them was a letter from Melfort, bidding him be sure that both he and James would feel themselves bound by no promise of toleration circumstances had induced them to make. Well might Balcarres, who knew his friend's disposition better than Melfort, tell James how such foolish and disingenuous dealing had grieved Dundee and all who wished honestly to the cause.[106]

Dundee's body, wrapped in a plaid, was carried to the castle, and a few days later buried in the old church of Blair. In 1852 some bones, believed to be his, were removed from Blair to the Church of Saint Drostan in the parish of Old Deer, in Aberdeenshire; and eleven years later a window of stained glass was placed in the same church, bearing, on a brass plate in the window-sill, this inscription: "Sacred to the memory of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, who died in the arms of victory, and whose battle-cry was 'King James and the Church of Scotland!'"

As no stone was ever known to mark his first grave; there is, of course, ample room for the incredulous to smile over this late tribute to his memory. But in truth the shadow of doubt broods over him in death as in life. It is certain only that he received his death-wound on the field of battle, and in the moment of victory. What else fell with him there was well expressed by William. When the news from Killiecrankie came down, the King was urged at once to send a large army into the Highlands. "It is needless," he answered, "the war ended with Dundee's life."


[90] See the sixth canto of "The Lady of the Lake."

"We'll quell the savage mountaineer, As their tinchel cows the game."

The tinchel was the name given to the circle of hunters which, gradually narrowing, hemmed the deer into a small space, where they could be easily slaughtered.

[91] Mackay complains bitterly in his Memoirs of "the unconcerned method of the Government in matters which touch them nearest as to their general safety, each being for his particular, and fixed upon his private projects, so as neither to see nor be concerned for anything else."

[92] "When in front of Blair Castle their real destination was disclosed to them by Lord Tullibardine [the heir of Athole did not assume this style till 1695]. Instantly they rushed from their ranks, ran to the adjoining stream of Banovy, and, filling their bonnets with water, drank to the health of King James; and then, with colours flying and pipes playing, 'fifteen hundred of the men of Athole, as reputable for arms as any in the kingdom' [Mackay's words], put themselves under the command of the Laird of Ballechin and marched off to join Lord Dundee." Stewart's "Sketches of the Highlanders of Scotland," i. 67. But this is not strictly true. They joined neither Ballechin nor Dundee, but went off on their own account to the mountains to watch the issue of events.

[93] Probably Dundee wrote more confidently than he felt. He owned that Murray might "have more to do to believe" Melfort's assurance than James's; but, in fact, there was too good reason to disbelieve both. From the first letter written from Struan it appears that the despatch from James which had fallen into Hamilton's hands was much more temperate and conciliatory than the earlier one brought to the Convention by Crane. Dundee had not seen this despatch; and it is possible that he described it rather as his own good sense urged him to believe it must have been, than as it really was. The letters to himself, which he summarises for Murray's benefit, must have been those acknowledged in the postscript to Melfort of June 28th. It is, as we shall presently see, certain that about this time James was induced to assume, as he had before assumed when it was too late, the virtue of toleration. How much of these promises Dundee really believed, it is impossible to say. The history of our own time has shown, and is every day showing, that neither wisdom nor experience will always avail to prevent a man from believing that which it is his interest to believe.

[94] Memoirs of Balcarres and of Lochiel.

[95] I have given the modern style of these regiments as they were before the last freak of the War Office. What they may be now, I do not know; nor is the knowledge important, for the style I have used will probably be most familiar to my readers. "My Uncle Toby," it will be remembered, was of Leven's regiment. There exists a letter from Schomberg to Lord Leven, especially commending to the latter's care a gentleman of the name of Le Fevre. See the "Leven and Melville Papers."

[96] Mackay says in his Memoirs that he left Edinburgh with two troops of horse, and four of dragoons. It is certain that only the former were engaged at Killiecrankie. But the general's narrative is throughout extremely confused, and sometimes barely intelligible. Perhaps the larger force was that he had counted on having; or the four troops of dragoons may have been those he ordered to follow from Stirling.

Alexander Hamilton, who commanded the artillery in the Covenanter's army with which Leslie and Montrose made the famous passage of the Tyne in 1640. From Burton's description of them they can hardly have been very dangerous, at least to the enemy. "They seem to have been made of tin for the bore, with a coating of leather, all secured by tight cordage. A horse could carry two of them, and it was their merit to stand a few discharges before they came to pieces." "History of Scotland," vi. 302.

[97] It is said that one of Dundee's arguments against attacking in the pass was, that it did not become brave soldiers to engage a foe at disadvantage, an argument which I should imagine Dundee was much too sensible a man to employ to Highlanders. Had his force been sufficient for him to close up the mouth of the pass after the Lowlanders had entered, it is hard to imagine he would have lost the chance of catching Mackay in such a trap. But his force was too small to divide: while the nature of the ground would of course have told as much against those who made as against those who met a charge, besides inevitably offending the jealous point of honour which forbad one clan to take precedence of another. It may be, too, that Dundee was not very well served by his scouts. Mackay certainly seems to have got well on his way through the pass before the other knew that he had entered it. See the "Life of Mackay," and the "Rebellions in Scotland."

[98] Memoirs of Lochiel.

[99] For long afterwards the battle was known among the Highlanders as the battle of Renrorie.

[100] Mackay's Memoirs: "a quart de conversion" is his own phrase for this change of front.

[101] "Sketches of the Highlanders."

[102] Among the Nairne Papers is what purports to be a copy of Dundee's speech. It has been contemptuously rejected by some writers as a manifest forgery, on the ground that no Highlander would have understood a word of it. But there were Dundee's own officers and men to be addressed; and, moreover, his language would have been perfectly intelligible to some, at least, of the chiefs, who would have conveyed its purpose to their men. It was still the fashion for a general to harangue his troops before leading them into action, and it was a fashion particularly in vogue among the Highlanders. I see no reason, therefore, to doubt the general authenticity of this speech. Exactly as it stands in the Nairne Papers probably Dundee did not deliver it; the style being somewhat more grandiloquent than he was in the habit of employing. But its general purpose, which I have endeavoured to give in a paraphrase, seems to be very much what such a man would have said at such a moment. The authority for Mackay's speech will be found in his own despatch to Lord Melville after the battle.

[103] It was the disastrous experience of this day that led Mackay to devise a plan of fixing the bayonet to the musket so that each could be used, as now, without interfering with the other.

[104] "History of the Rebellions in Scotland." Even the men who had stood by Lord Murray joined in the slaughter. He did his best to keep them quiet, but was forced to own afterwards to Mackay that he had not been very successful. "It cannot be helped," he wrote, "of almost all country people, who are ready to pillage and plunder whenever they have occasion." See the Bannatyne edition of Dundee's Letters, &c.

[105] Mackay's opinion was that "the English commonalty were to be preferred in matter of courage to the Scots."

[106] One tradition, for a long while current among the Lowlands, declares him to have been shot by one of his own men in the pay of William Livingstone, who afterwards married Lady Dundee; Livingstone having been for some weeks a close prisoner in Edinburgh with the other disaffected officers of his regiment. Lady Dundee, the story goes on to say, was aware of his intentions, and on the following New Year's day sent "the supposed assassin a white night-cap, a pair of white gloves, and a rope, being a sort of suit of canonicals for the gallows, either to signify that she esteemed him worthy of that fate, or that she thought the state of his mind might be such as to make him fit to hang himself." Another tradition makes Dundee fall by a shot fired from the window of Urrard House, in which a party of Mackay's men had lodged themselves. He was watering his horse at the time at a pond called the Goose-Dub, where the Laird of Urrard's geese were wont to disport themselves. This story is evidently part of the old nurse's prophecy mentioned on page 3. For these and many other anecdotes of the battle, see the "History of the Rebellions in Scotland." I have taken my account of Dundee's death from the memoirs of Balcarres and Lochiel, and from the depositions, printed by Napier, of certain witnesses examined afterwards at Edinburgh, among them being an officer of Kenmure's regiment, who was carried prisoner into the castle after the battle and heard Johnstone's story. As for the letter said to have been written by Dundee to James after the battle, and now among the Nairne Papers, there is more to be said for it than some have allowed. Macaulay, alluding to it as dated the day after the battle, calls it as impudent a forgery as Fingal. But in fact it bears no date at all: the handwriting is declared on the best authority to be beyond question contemporary; and there is no absolute proof that Dundee did not live long enough at least to dictate an account of his victory to James. It is tolerably certain that he would have done so had his strength permitted him. But in a letter written from Dublin in the following November by James to Ballechin, there is no mention of any letter from Dundee, and his death is there alluded to as having occurred at the beginning of the action. This, of course, is not conclusive; James's actual words are, "the loss you had ... at your entrance into action," which need not imply instant death. On the whole, however, the balance of evidence seems to me to prove that Dundee died where he fell, and that the letter is not genuine, though certainly no forgery of Macpherson's. Those who are still curious on a point which is, after all, of no very great importance, will find it amply discussed in a note to the edition of Dundee's letters published for the Bannatyne Club, and in an appendix to Napier's third volume. A stone still marks the spot where Dundee is said to have fallen, and was seen by Captain Burt less than fifty years after the battle.

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