Battle of Sheriffmuir
The Battle Of Sheriffmuir came at a time when Jacobitism was on the rise. The movement gathered momentum amid a climate of change. The kingdoms of Scotland and England were united in 1707 – a move that caused a considerable amount of political turbulence. By 1714, when the Hanoverian King George I arrived to replace Queen Anne , dissent would spread through the country – after all, he could barely speak English, and was hardly the most charismatic of fellows. More would gravitate to Jacobitism; there was rebellion brewing.
On November 13th, 1715, 12,000 men would fight to restore the exiled King James Stuart to the throne. Under John Erskine , 6th Earl Of Mar, the Jacobites outnumbered government forces two to one. Mar led something of a charmed existence. A signatory of the Act Of Union, he was a politician of some repute. It was not until the Hanoverian rule was in full swing that he would change sides, corresponding with the exiled James Stuart and plotting rebellion. Mar was fortunate to have such a huge army behind him, it would hide his deficiencies as a general, and his foe, John Campbell, 2nd Duke Of Argyll , led the government’s army on a sure footing.
Sheriffmuir was a case of what might have been. On September 6th, 1715, Mar declared James Stuart king, raised the standard at Braemar and rallied the clans. The Highlanders would form the spine of his army. Their charge was a fearsome spectacle that preyed upon those ingrained fears of the feral Highlander held by Lowlanders and government forces alike.
With unprecedented number, the Jacobites marched on Perth , taking the city and headed south. Argyll’s men were proving to be a durable lot. The months preceding Sheriffmuir were peppered with hostility. Worryingly for Mar, Argyll had failed to yield, but he still drove his men south towards Stirling , Argyll’s stronghold.
An army of that size could not go unnoticed, and Argyll would learn of their movements. Argyll’s men set off to halt the Jacobites. When the two sides clashed at Sheriffmuir, two miles east of Dunblane both sides lost hundreds of men. Victory would have secured a foothold for the Jacobites – taking Stirling would have been a huge fillip. Argyll stood firm. His army was outnumbered, but it was an inexperienced fighting unit, and after see-sawing battle of attrition the Jacobites were left gnawing on frustration.
Although it was a battle that no-one won, the Jacobites certainly lost ground and purpose. Their failure to secure victory sank the rebellion’s moral. The bluster and spirit amassed on the road to Sheriffmuir waned. Mar joined James Stuart, exiled in France, and the Jacobite rebellion went into hibernation, cocooned until 1719.
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