The Battle of Sheriffmuir

A Historical Poem

’TWAS in the year 1715, and on the 10th of November,
Which the people of Scotland have cause to remember;
On that day the Earl of Mar left Perth bound for Sheriffmuir,
At the same time leaving behind a garrison under Colonel Balfour.

Besides leaving a force of about three thousand men quartered in different parts of Fife,
To protect the people’s property, and quell party strife,
The army along with him amounted to three thousand foot and twelve hundred cavalry,
All in the best of order, a most pleasant sight to see.

The two armies bivouacked near Sheriffmuir during the night,
And around their camp-fires they talked concerning the coming fight.
The Duke of Argyle’s English army numbered eight thousand strong,
Besides four hundred horse, posted in the rear all along.

And the centre of the first line was composed of ten battalions of foot,
Consisting of about four thousand, under the command of Clanranald and Glengarry to boot;
And at the head of these battalions Sir John Maclean and Brigadier Ogilvie,
And the two brothers of Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, all in high glee.

The Marquis of Huntly’s squadron of horse was also there;
Likewise the Stirling squadron, carrying the Chevalier’s standard, I do declare;
And the Perthshire squadron formed the left wing,
And with their boisterous shouts they made the welkin ring.

The centre of the second line consisted of eight battalions of infantry,
And three of the Earl of Seaforth’s foot, famous for their bravery;
There were also two battalions of the Marquis of Huntly,
Besides the Earl of Panmure’s battalion, all men of high degree.

And those of the Marquis of Tullibardine, commanded by the Viscount of Strathallan,
And of Logie Almond, and likewise Robertson of Strowan;
Besides two squadrons of horse under the Earl Marischal,
And the Angus squadron was on the left: these include them all.

During this formation, the Duke of Argyle was watching all the time,
But owing to the ground occupied by them he couldn’t see their line,
Which was unfortunately obstructed by the brow of a hill,
At the thought thereof the Duke’s heart with fear did fill.

The hill was occupied by a party of Earl Mar’s troops looking towards Dunblane,
Which the Earl of Mar no doubt resolved to maintain;
Then the Duke returned to the army, and ordered the drums to beat,
But an hour elapsed before his army were ready Mar’s to meet.

As soon as the Earl of Mar perceived Argyle’s line was partially formed,
He gave orders that Argyle’s army should be instantly stormed.
Then Mar placed himself at the head of the clans, and led forward his men,
As a noble hero would do, which no one can condemn.

Then he pulled off his hat, which he waved in his right hand,
And when he arrived within pistol-shot the Highlanders made·a bold stand,
And they poured in a volley upon the English infantry,
And to the dismay of the Highlanders the English returned fire instantly.

And to the horror of the Highlanders Alan Muidartach was wounded mortally,
Then he was carried off the field, a most pitiful sight to see;
And as his men clustered around him they stood aghast,
And before he died he told them to hold their posts fast.

While lamenting the death of the Captain of Clanranald most pitifully,
Glengarry at this juncture sprang forward right manfully,
And throwing his bonnet into the air, he cried, heroically,
Revenge! revenge! revenge to-day ! and mourning to-morrow ye shall see!

No sooner had he pronounced these words than the Highlanders rushed forward, sword in hand,
Upon the royal battalions with the utmost fury, which they could not withstand,
And with their broadswords among the enemy they spread death and dismay,
Until the three battalions of Argyle’s left wing instantly gave way.

Then a complete rout ensued, and the Earl of Mar pursued them half-a-mile;
Then he ordered his men to halt and rest a while,
Until he should put them into order right speedily,
Then follow the enemy at the double-march and complete the victory.

Then the Highlanders chased them and poured in a volley,
Besides they hewed them down with their broadswords mercilessly;
But somehow both armies got mixed together, and a general rout ensued,
While the Highlanders eagerly the English army hotly pursued.

The success on either side is doubtful to this day,
And all that can be said is, both armies ran away;
And on whichsoever side success lay it was toward the Government,
And to allay all doubts about which party won, we must feel content.

Whitehall, November 18. This Morning an Express arrived with the following Letter from Stirling.

Stirling, Nov 13, 1715

BY my Lord Duke of Argyll’s Commands I give you the Relation of this Day’s Action as far as I can remember. My Lord Duke having Intelligence of Mar’s marching all his Body from Perth to Auchterarder to join the Clans, marched the Army yesterday to the Fields beyond Dumblain; when he came there he was informed that the Rebels whole Body, consisting by our best Accounts, of about 9000 Horse and Foot, was coming within 3 Miles of Dumblain on a full March thither; as soon as they were informed of our being come forward, they stopped, and both they and we lay (on our Arms all Night within two Miles distance one from the other. About break of Day this Morning their Army formed where they had lain last Night, and marched towards us; their Left Wing about 11 in the Forenoon came up with our Right, where my Lord Duke was. After an Engagement which lasted scarce half an Hour, their Left gave way, and our Right drove them right off the Field, and had them in Chase about 3 Miles to the side of the River of Allan. On the brink of this River my Lord Duke was forming, when he was advertised that the Enemy’s Right stood in a Body behind us, whicb made his Grace march the Troops that were with him to attack them, but having no Notice what had become of our Left, he thought it proper to March towards Dumblain; here my Lord got Notice that our Left had been attacked while they were forming by the Rebel’s Right, had given way and marched off the Field with our Train of Artillery, and our Horse in their Rear, and had gone strait to Stirling; upon which my Lord Duke sent thither to order them to re turn and join him, which they have by this time done; when Night came on my Lord Duke with our Right stood formed on  the Field above Dumblain, and the Rebels to the Number of 4000, as near as I could reckon, stood on the top of the Hill about a Mile from us; if they continue where they are till Day break, I am very hopeful to Morrow may in a great measure put an End to this Rebellion. I cannot give you the Numbers of the killed and wounded; for some time our Dragoons gave no Quarter. Of our side the Earl of Forfar I am afraid is killed; my Lord Hay is shot through the Right Arm, and in the Right side; Colonel Hawley of Evans’s is shot through the Body; we have not lost any great Number of private Men; no more of our great Men are hurt; the Dukes of Roxburg and Douglas, Rothes, Hadinton, Lowdoun, Lauderdale, and Belhaven I left standing on the Field, with my Lord Duke of Argyll very safe and well. Of the other side, Strathmore is killed; Panmure is taken; I saw him on the field so very ill of his Wounds, that it is probable be is Dead by this time; Walkingshaw of Barrowfield, Drummond of Logie, young Murray of Auchtertyre, and some other Gentlemen, and about 80 private Men, are likewise taken, with 8 Colours; we were in possession of their Cannon, but had not Horses to carry them off. I am, &c.

Whitehall, November 18. This Evening arrived another Express from Edinburgh, with Letters of the 15th giving an Account, that Porthmore and Evans’ Dragoons drove the Rebels before them with great Slaughter for two Miles. The Earl of Forfar is alive, but his Life doubted: He had received two wounds and was allowed Quarter, but afterwards the Rebels finding they could not carry him off, did in a barbarous manner give him Seventeen Wounds more. There is hope that the Earl of Islay and Lieutenant-Colonel Hawley will recover of their Wounds. In the Night between the 13th and 14th that Body of the Rebels which had made a stand after their Left Wing was beaten retired with great Precipitation beyond Auchterarder, and as some say to Perth. Upon which his Grace the Duke of Argyll, who designed to have attacked them the Morning, finding all the Forage about Dumblain consumed, and that he should have Difficulties to get Provisions there for his Majesty’s Troops, returned that Evening to Stirling, and brought with him all the Artillery of the Rebels, with several Standards and Colours, and some Baggage.

London Gazette, 15th November 1715

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