Sunday, May 1, 2011

Battle of Cromdale

'During the course of the winter 1689 - 90, King James made an effort to reanimate the war in the Highlands, which had almost died away after the repulse of the Highlanders at Dunkeld. He sent over General Buchan, an officer of reputation, and who was supposed to understand the Highland character and Highland warfare. The clans again assembled with renewed hopes; but Buchan proved as incapable as Cannon had shown himself the year before, of profiting by the ardor of the Highlanders.
With singular want of caution, the Jacobite general descended the Spey, as far as a level plain by the river-side called Cromdale, where he quartered his army, about eighteen hundred men, in the hamlets in the vicinity.

Sir Thomas Livingstone, an excellent old officer, who commanded on the part of King William, assembled a large force of cavalry, some infantry, and a body of the clan Grant, who had embraced William's interest. The general's guide on this night's march was Grant of Elchies, who conducted him from Forres, down the hill above castle Grant, and through the valley of Auchinarrow, to the side of the Spey, opposite to the haugh of Cromdale. Elchies then, with the advanced guard of Grant, forded the broad and rapid river. He next killed, with his own hand, two of the Highlanders, outposts or sentinels, and led his own party, with Sir Thomas Livingstone and his cavalry, through a thicket of beech-trees, and thus surprised Buchan and his army asleep in their quarters. They fought gallantly, notwithstanding, with their swords and targets, but were at length compelled to to take to flight. The pursuit was not so destructive to the defeated party as it would have been to the soldiers of any other nation, if pursued by the cavalry of a successful enemy. Light of foot, and well acquainted with their own mountains, the Highlanders escaped up the hills, and amongst the mists, with such an appearance of ease and agility, that a spectator observed, they looked more like men received into the clouds, than fugitives escaping from a victorious enemy.

But the skirmish of Cromdale, and the ruin of King James's affairs in Ireland, precluded all hopes on the part of the Jacobites, of bringing the war in the Highlands to a successful termination. A fort near Inverlochy, originally erected by Cromwell, was again repaired by Livingstone, received the name of Fort William, and was strongly garrisoned, to bridle the Camerons, MacDonalds, and other Jacobite clans. The chiefs saw they would be reduced to maintain a defensive war in their own fastnesses, and that against the whole regular force of Scotland. They became desirous, therefore, of submitting for the present, and reserving their efforts in behalf of the exiled family for some more favorable time. King William was equally desirous to see this smouldering fire, which the appearance of such a general as Montrose or Dundee might soon have blown into a destructive flame, totally extinguished. For this purpose, he had recourse to a measure, which, had it been duly executed, was one of deep policy.'

The Battle of Cromdale, which Sir Walter Scott covered in his "Tales of a Grandfather" (text above), ended on May 1, 1690 (from the day before).  It was a defeat for King James II's Jacobite forces under Major-General Buchan; victory for King William III's troops under Sir Thomas Livingstone.

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