25th July 1689: The Two Armies Close

Dundee and his army have been camped at Castle Cluny in Badenoch for 2 days.  Although Cluny and his Mackintosh clansmen had been out with the army in the earlier part of the campaign two months previously, they had returned to Badenoch and Cluny had since resisted all Dundee’s efforts of persuasion to march once again to the King’s standard.

Such comings and goings were simply the way that the chieftains conducted themselves and while it grated with Dundee whose military career hitherto had been spent in considerably more disciplined surroundings, he adapted himself to the harsh facts of the situation and exercised his significant gifts of charm and personal authority.

While he was often able to demonstrate this in person, much of his communication with recalcitrant chieftains and potential allies had needed to be done by letter. During the four months of the campaign to date he had written dozens of such letters. And now with the decisive battle just 2 days away he bends once more to his pen.

Lord John Murray of Atholl had consistently refused Dundee’s persuasive efforts to support King James’ cause and indeed was now effectively in arms against him, Dundee did not yet give up on him. He writes to him one more time, outlining the success the King was achieving in Ireland, the likely size of the military support which would shortly arrive thence and the benefits which would inevitably ensue for the House of Atholl were Lord John to decide, even at this late hour, to place his support firmly with Dundee.

In truth things did not go well in Ireland for the Jacobite cause and any hopes that fresh troops would be sent to his assistance were in all probability his and his alone. Nonetheless, battle beckoned and Atholl’s support was required.

Dundee despatched the letter to BlairCastle, which Lord John was besieging, in the care of Major William Grahame and Gilbert Ramsay, an Edinburgh advocate, with clear instructions to wait for Murray’s reply. On their arrival Murray simply refuses to see them. As they wait they speak with the Atholl men in the siege lines around their master’s house. The support for King James among the common soldiery is clear to all.

Grahame and Gilbert return to Dundee’s camp this same day. It’s clear now that not only will Murray not rally to him but is in full cooperation with McKay. Dundee realises he must now head for BlairCastle directly or Patrick Stewart will be overwhelmed. The final rally for those not yet with the standard is still 4 days away but MacKay’s move north has pre-empted him. And his army is barely half that of McKay.

General MacKay, meanwhile, has reached Perth. His army comprises 4000 foot and 4 troops of horse. He also writes to Murray, outlining his expectations of him in the successful prosecution of his siege and that he is heading Murray’s way.

Its 2 days to the Battle of Killiecrankie.


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