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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Wednesday 10 April 2019

Battle of Glenshiel 1719

This year is the 300th anniversary of a lesser known Jacobite uprising, which ended at the Battle of Glenshiel on 10 June 1719.

After the failed 1715 rebellion, the government attempted reconciliation by pardoning many of those involved through the Indemnity Act. However, some were excluded, most notably Rob Roy and the MacGregors. Britain and Spain had settled their differences at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, but war broke out again in 1718 when the Spanish occupied Sicily.

As a way of distracting the British, the Spanish planned to support a Jacobite rebellion with landings in England and Scotland. 300 Spanish troops landed on the west coast of the Highlands and occupied Eilean Donan Castle. They were joined by the MacGregors and a few other clans, although most clans opted out when the Spanish fleet with 5,000 troops was wrecked in a storm. No one could claim the Jacobites were lucky!

The Jacobite commander, William Murray, Earl of Tullibardine, left a small garrison at the castle and moved to the narrow pass at Glenshiel, which was easier to defend against the advancing government troops. The Royal Navy moved up the west coast in support and captured the castle with the Jacobite supplies.

Murray had around 1000 men, mostly from Clans Cameron, MacGregor, MacKenzie, MacKinnon and Murray. Plus 200 Spanish troops, the rest were left to garrison the castle. General Wightman, commanding the government forces, had 850 infantry, 120 dragoons and mortar teams.

Wightman used his dragoons to screen the set up of his mortars. They bombarded the Jacobite right followed by an infantry attack, which dislodged the Jacobites and exposed the centre. This led to a general attack on the Jacobite left which collapsed. The clans fled to avoid capture, while the Spanish executed a fighting retreat.  

Peace with Spain ended any prospect of continuing the rebellion. In the aftermath, General Wade built his military roads and forts in Inverness, Fort Augustus and Fort William.

I built up small wargame armies of the period for the 1715 anniversary and most of these will work for the 1719 rebellion - I'll pass on the Spanish. The armies are small and suit small battle rules like Rebels and Patriots. I did succumb to the Flags of War Kickstarter for troops of the '45. Kidding myself on that while these are a little late for the period, you can never have enough Highlanders. Either way, they are very nice figures!

P.S. Helion Books has published a book on the battle by Jonathan Worton. I haven't read it, but there is a very positive review in the latest edition of the journal 'Arquebusier'.


  1. I visited the site of this battle a few years back... except for the road being tarmacked, the site is as it was... there's a small pull off and an info board about the battle. The slopes/ridges run steeply down to the road at a narrow gap...