Battle of Killiecrankie (1689)

 The Battle of Killiecrankie by Alan B Herriot© National Trust for Scotland 

Battle of Killiecrankie

On 27 July 1689, the Battle of Killiecrankie was fought between Jacobites loyal to King James VII and II and troops supporting the Protestant King William.

The Jacobites, led by John Graham of Claverhouse, 'Bonnie Dundee', were mainly Highland Scots gathered by the clan chief Cameron of Lochiel.

The Government troops, loyal to King William, were under the command of the Highlander General Hugh Mackay of Scourie. Most of the Government troops were Lowland Scots.

The forces met at the Pass of Killiecrankie near Blair Castle. The Jacobites held a strong position on a hilltop and waited for the sun to set behind the Government troops before they charged. The Highland charge smashed into the centre of the Government lines and General Mackay's troops faltered and fled. Within minutes the battle became a rout.

The Jacobites won the battle, but at a terrible cost - a third of their number were killed including John Graham of Claverhouse 'Bonnie Dundee' who was fatally wounded during the Jacobite charge. Cameron of Lochiel fought barefoot alongside his men at Killiecrankie. He survived the battle and lived to be 89.

Ultimately the first Jacobite rising, 'the Dundee Rising', was unsuccessful. John Graham of Claverhouse was dead, and the Jacobites scattered after defeat at the hands of the Government forces at the Battle of Dunkeld on 21 August 1689.

Jacobite Viewpoint

Gregor Leslie gives us a Jacobite viewpoint of the battle:

Bonnie Dundee has made a valiant battle speech but nobody really cared, we all just jostled around to face the Redcoats below us. They can't possibly hide their fear, even when there are over 1500 more soldiers in their army.
We all slipped away into the forest upon the hill above the River Garry. Everyone is eager to make the charge because of the promises of gold from Bonnie Dundee. McKean won't stop going on about the new pistol he will buy off MacKay!
The horn has sounded, I make sure that all my weapons are ready before we charge. I hold my Catholic cross around my neck tightly, knowing this might be the last breath I take.
The sea of tartan and thunderous feet is met by an inaccurate wave of musket fire from the bottom of the hill. The screaming voices of my fellow men encourages me to charge further. Suddenly a wall of red face us. We hack our swords across the first cowards we meet.

Chasing MacBean!

The sun going down caused the Highlandmen to advance on us like madmen, without shoe or stocking, covering themselves from our fire with their targes.

At last they cast away their musquets, drew their broadswords, and advanced furiously upon us, and were in the middle of us before we could fire three shots apiece, broke us, and obliged us to retreat.

Some fled to the water, and some another way (we were for the most part new men). I fled to the baggage and took a horse in order to ride the water.

There follows me a Highlandman with sword and targe, in order to take the horse and kill myself. You'd laugh to see how he and I scampered about. I kept always the horse betwixt him and me: at length he drew his pistol, and I fled, he fired after me.

I went above the Pass, where I met with another water very deep; it was about 18 foot over betwixt two rocks. I resolved to jump it, so I laid down my gun and hat and jumped, and lost one of my shoes in the jump.

Many of our men were lost in that water.

Battle of Killiecrankie

Bonnie Dundee
John Graham of Claverhouse, Bonnie Dundee

General Mackay
General Hugh Mackay

After Killiecrankie
 After Killiecrankie - The Death of Claverhouse by George Ogilvy Reid (1897)
 © Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture

Modern map
 The Battle of Killiecrankie
  © Copyright 2011


'The Braes of Killiecrankie',
performed by the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch - The Ladies From Hell (CD) CDTRAX162 (September 1998), Greentrax Recordings.