Thursday, March 17, 2011

On the Braes of Atholl

Rampant Scotland, and other sites, note that on March 17, 1746, the pro-English Campbell militia was attacked and defeated by Jacobite forces; clans Murray and MacPherson, under Lord George Murray and Cluny MacPherson.  The Battle of Culloden is only a month away at this point, and this raid provided for some Jacobite optimism.  A history of Bonnie Prince Charlie's campaign of 1745/46 is contained in James Johnstone Johnstone's "Memoirs of the rebellion in 1745 and 1746", including events around the Braes of Atholl:

'As all the male vassals of the Duke of Athol were in our army, with his brother Lord George, the Duke of Cumberland sent a detachment of his troops into their country, who committed the most unheard-of cruelties, burning the houses of the gentlemen who were with the Prince; turning out their wives and children in the midst of winter, to perish in the mountains with cold and hunger, after subjecting them to every species of infamous and brutal treatment. As soon as these proceedings were known at Inverness, Lord George set off instantly, with the clan of Athol, to take vengeance for this treatment; and he conducted his march so well, passing through bye-ways across the mountains, that the enemy had no information of his approach. Having planned his march so as to arrive at Athol in the beginning of the night, the detachment separated, dividing itself into small parties, every gentleman taking the shortest road to his own house; and in this manner all the English were surprised in their sleep. Those who found their wives and daughters violated by the brutality of these monsters, and their families dying from hunger and the inclemency of the season, made no prisoners. All the English received, while they slept, the punishment which their inhumanity merited. Thus they were all either put to the sword or made prisoners, except two or three hundred men, who barricadoed themselves in the castle of the Duke of Athol, which could not be forced without cannon. It was impossible to transport cannon across the mountains, by the paths which it was necessary to take to succeed in such a surprise. The clan of Athol was the most numerous in our army, amounting to from twelve to fifteen hundred men.

...there came to Inverness various complaints of oppression by the soldiers, upon the families of the Athol gentlemen who were with the Highlanders; and they all agreed to come off and redress them, and got leave of absence for eight or ten days. They came south to the braes of Athol, and remained there until, as they calculated, they could reach their houses about midnight; and then they separated, every laird with his own men, taking the road to his own house. He accompanied his uncle, and they arrived at his uncle's house about one in the morning.—All was quiet, and having somehow or other got in, they first took possession of the room where the arms were, and collected all the soldiers from different rooms and out-houses, one after another, and put them into some room or house, with a declaration that if there was the least noise they should be put to death. His uncle and he went to the room where the commander of the party Duke of Athol, at Blair. '

According to "A Critical Dictionary of English Literature, and British and American Authors" by Samuel Austin Allibone, the Chevailer de Johnstone, as he was known, was the 'son of a grocer of Edinburgh, became Aide-de-Camp to Lord George Murray, and Assistant Aide-de-Camp to Prince Charles Edward the Pretender.'

That same work records Sir Walter Scott's opinion of Johnstone's account of the '45: "We suspect our friend the Chevalier to be somewhat of a Gasconader, and we are not willing to take away the character of Charles for courage upon such suspicious authority. . . . We happen to know that some of his stories are altogether fictitious."—SIR Walter Scott : Life and Works of John Home.

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