The Battle of Killiecrankie, the first Jacobite rising

Firelocks later known as muskets used at the Battle of Killiecrankie The Battle of Killiecrankie story is about the first Jacobite rising of 1689, told through the eyes of two combatants. The commander at the first Jacobite rising for the William and Mary Scottish Government Army was General Hugh Mackay. Cameron of Lochiel, Chief of Clan Cameron tells the story from James VII’s Highland Clan army. Through the series it becomes very apparent that the two armies reflect the two societies and cultures that existed in Scotland in the 1680s.

Book references -
1. Memoirs of Sir Ewen Cameron of Locheill, Chief of the Clan Cameron: With an Introductory Account of the History and Antiquities of that Family and of the Neighbouring Clans. Book by John Drummond.
2. Memoirs of the War Carried on in Scotland and Ireland, M.DC.LXXXIX‑M.DC.XCI - by Hugh Mackay
3. The art of warfare in the age of Marlborough by David G. Chandler.
4. Ballistics of 17th Century Muskets - MSc THESIS by DAVID P MILLER - A very interesting paper on the capability of 17th Century muskets for anyone interested in understanding the Battle of Killiecrankie. The work was done in connection of the English Civil War, but we believe ;also relevant to the 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie. The author says "This Project is an investigation to determine the position that a 17th Century musket ball was fired from a musket, when given the position it was found on the battlefield.The knowledge gained during this investigation will re-establish more accurate information to be obtained on the firing positions of opposing forces during conflicts in the English Civil War."

Coronavirus 2020 lock down - This Battle of Killiecrankie story was told during Coronavirus 2020 lock down, using Facebook Live Stream.


The Causes of the Jacobite Rebellion

Killiecrankie Battlefield location in Scotland Killiecrankie Battlefield Film Locations Session 1 - Who was fighting who? What were they fighting about?

General Hugh McKay and Cameron of Lochiel describe the events that led up to William and Mary Scottish supporters taking control of Scotland and offering the Scottish Crown to William and Mary. They did this through the Scottish Convention of Estates, as King James VII had dissolved the Scottish Parliament two years before, as he believed in the Divine Right of Kings (the King's authority comes from God). His supporters were later to be called as Jacobites hesitated.

What is the meaning of Jacobite? The name is derived from Jacobus, the Latin version of James. Hence James VII's supporters were known as Jacobites, supporters of James.

We learn of the events that dictated the battle being fought here at Killiecrankie. We also learn how a Highlanders General Hugh McKay commanded a Lowland Scots-English speaking Scottish Government army and how a Lowlander, Viscount Dundee, commanded a Gaelic speaking Highland Clan army. The two societies in Scotland at this time, choosing to support different monarchs in their struggle to rule Scotland.

Session 2 - We cover the race to the Castle of Blair and why both armies saw it as strategically important. What both armies leave behind? Who would get there first? And the organisation of the Highland Clan army (James VIIs) Jacobite War Council. The issues confronting both commanders at the Pass of Killiecrankie. The first shot of the battle is fired in the Pass.

The first Jacobite rebellion is about the struggle of the two monarchs, a Catholic James VII and Protestant William and Mary, trying to gain the control of Scotland. The Lowland Scots-English speaking culture supported Protestant William and Mary. The Clan Gaelic speaking culture supported Catholic King James VII (II of England). The two cultures did not specifically set out to fight each other, it is just that they chose to support different monarch's in their struggle to control Scotland.

Unfortunately for the Highlanders and Gaelic culture they chose the Jacobite cause which would ultimately loose out in 1746. Being on the loosing side resulted in the destruction of their culture. During the Jacobite Wars the Scottish and English Parliaments were dissolved and the UK Parliament was created in 1707. We have to remind ourselves that there were English Jacobites too. This was not an English Scottish struggle, it was a UK wide conflict. The ultimate sanctions on the Jacobite supporters were imposed by the UK parliament in 1746, after the battle of Culloden.

The Jacobite Army chooses the battlefield

Battle of Killiecrankie Battlefield film locations Session 3 - How Viscount Dundee chose the field of battle and maneuvered General Hugh McKay’s Scottish Government William and Mary army to a position, where his opponent was unable to attack, nor retreat. The Highland Jacobite Clan army controlled the battlefield, all be it with considerably less men.

General Hugh McKay explains that his options were limited once he lost the raced to take control of the higher ground above the river and his 1200 horse and mule baggage train below him.

European warfare soldiers, weapons and tactics

Session 4 - Before looking at the battle we discuss 1680s warfare. How did conventional European armies fight? The soldiers, the weapons, the tactics. The Highland Clan Regiments fighting techniques, Clan structure and the Highland charge.

“The 60 years between 1688 and 1748 form the watershed in the history of the development of (European) warfare,” a quote from 'The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough'. The Jacobite Wars exactly mirror this period of history, with the first Jacobite rebellion in the 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie. The last the 1745 which ended the Bonnie Prince Charlie giving up after the April 1746 battle of Culloden Moor, by Inverness. The Jacobite Battles over this period reflect the evolution of European warfare. It is an important story to tell and understand. These tactics were later used in India and North America.

The Battle of Killiecrankie Battle lines

mcKays-Scottish-Government-battle-line Session 5 - General Hugh McKay tells us how he organised his Scottish Government army, The battle line. He was for ever hopeful that extra troops of horse, cavalry and dragoons would join him, he felt these would give him an advantage against the highlanders.

McKay was a highlander and knew how the Jacobite army fought, explaining many of his battalion commanders did not. He explains his battle strategy to deal with the Gaelic Highlanders tactics.

General Hugh McKay served in the Anglo-Scots Brigade, an infantry brigade in the Dutch army, comprising six infantry regiments, three recruited primarily from Scotland and three from England. The Dutch at this time are recognized as being the leading exponents in European warfare. McKay knew his fellow Gael and organised his army to counter their unconventional fighting techniques. McKay's tactics, although not successful in winning the battle, led to a massive loss of life in the Highland clan regiments, with one in three dying on this battlefield.

Jacobite and Scottish Government Army Battle Lines 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie Session 6 - Cameron of Lochiel tells us how he helped Viscount Dundee organise The Highland Jacobite Clan Army battle line. How each of the Jacobite clan regiments were each assigned a specific Scottish Government army regiment to attack. Viscount Dundee was an experienced and proven leader.

Cameron of Lochiel describes the Highland Gaelic armies shout and how this was a good omen for the coming battle. He also describes an an amusing incident when one the Clan Grant was his by a cannon ball from the Scottish Government William and Mary army.

Pre-battle Jacobite snipers

Session 7 - We find the location of the Jacobite snipers on the battlefield using the archaeology work from the 2003 Two Men in the Trench investigation carried out by Dr Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver.

General Hugh McKay’s tells us how these snipers were in advance of the Highland Army Battle line, using this forward position to fire on his army's battle line. McKay explains how he sent a Captain from his own regiment commanded by his brother to flushed out the Jacobite snipers. He was desperate for the battle to commence and hoped this incident would provoke the Jacobite army to attack.

The first Jacobite Battle commences

Session 8 - The Battle commences - both combatants describe the battle and how it unfolded. In an era when everything was done on foot, it is not surprising that the two accounts vary slightly. The actual period of fighting must have been a very short period of time, commencing once Viscount Dundee issued the order to charge. According to Cameron of Lochiel, Dundee issued the order 30 minutes before sunset.

A vivid account of the highland charge and its destructive power is given. How Sir William Wallace's decision not to take the Jacobite cavalry in to battle behind their General led to his death and from the loss of their leader, the ultimate failure of the 1689 Jacobite revolution.

General Hugh McKay describes how he saw his 3,500 strong Scottish Government army disappear in an instant. He discussed the options he had once he had gathered the last few remnants of his army and marched off the battlefield.

Jacobite attack the Scottish Government army at the 1689 battle of KilliecrankieBattle of Killiecrankie map 2 of the 1689 Jacobite battleMcKays Scottish Goverment army retreat from Killiecrankie Battlefield

Killiecrankie battlefield fiercest fighting and heaviest loss of life

Session 9 - After the battle assessments from Cameron of Lochiel and General Hugh McKay’s. Both narrators agree the location of the fiercest fighting and heaviest loss of life on the battlefield. The inadequacies of the plug bayonet was exposed here, it led Hugh McKay developing the modern bayonet, the principles of which are still in use today, by armies across the world.

Failure of the Scottish Battlefield Inventory to protect Killiecrankie Battlefield

We talk about the failure of the current Scottish Government's battlefield protection legislation, 'Scottish Battlefield Inventory', to protect this important battlefield from the nation's road developer, Transport Scotland. Soldiers of Killiecrankie express their disappointment at the lost opportunities. The issues of the misinformation and one sided nature of the January 2020 Scottish Government Planner led Public Inquiry.

These diagrams show the ludicrous argument put forward by Transport Scotland at the Public Inquiry. In their arguments, Transport Scotland located the main fighting in a position, furthest from the proposed new road, that was impossible due to the topography of the land in front the red coat soldier's battle and firing line. The diagrams show it is impossible for musket balls to reach positions on the battlefield from the position suggested by Transport Scotland. Here is a link to the video that clearly demonstrates the ludicrous argument put forward by Transport Scotland  

In a later video, we use Transport Scotland's own archaeology to locate the true position of the Scottish Government red coat army that day. Here is the link

Killiecrankie BattlefieldKilliecrankie BattlefieldKilliecrankie Battlefield

Stepped ground GIS

Implications of the Jacobite victory for Scotland

Session 10 - Here we talk about the burial of Viscount Dundee. Cameron of Lochiel and General Hugh McKay’s assess the wider implications of the Jacobite victory for Scotland. Three days after the battle, the Highland Clan army swelled to a 5,000 men as Gaels rushed to join the cause. How the new Jacobite leadership squandered the victory, while McKay dashed back to Stirling, to return with new cavalry and troops. This concludes the story of the first Jacobite rising.

The Jacobite Wars - There is a great deal of misunderstanding concerning the Jacobite Wars. Over the centuries the Jacobite history has been hijacked and used to suit the objectives of the various narrators. Here James Rattray, the Chairmen of the Soldiers of Killiecrankie group, has tried to remain honest to the two accounts of the events leading up and after the battle. These accounts were written over 330 years ago in a form of English that is quite different to that spoken today. This series experienced some of the turmoil and anguish that Scotland went through at that time with the first Jacobite rebellion.