The Battle of Dunkeld, 1689: Blackadder’s Letter #History #Scotland

The exact copy of a Letter written and sent by Lieutenant John Blackader, in E[arl]. of Angus his Regiment, [to his brother, William] about two hours after the Ingagement.

Lieutenant Colonel John Blackadder

A later portait of the then Lieutenant-Colonel John Blackadder

‘Dunkell, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 1689.

D[ear]. B[rother].—I have taken this first opportunity to shew you I am in good health, because I believe many false reports will, by this time, be come to your ears anent our Ingagement, which was this same day; but for your certain information, the manner and way was thus: On Saturday last [17 August] we came to this town at night, and camped within some walls between the church, and a house belonging to the M[arquis]. of Athol.

On Sabbath morning [18 August], the country people, and Atholmen appeared on the Hills round us in tens and twenties; and about four afternoon a party of 60 or 80 men drew up on a hill above us, and within a little while, sent down a letter to our Lieut. Coll. [William Cleland] full of threatenings and boastings, the which he answered as briskly, and after carried up the Indempnity, and proclaimed it in the Messenger’s hearing, and so he retired. Mean time notice had been given to St. Johnstown [i.e., Perth], to the forces there, to come up to our help, and accordingly on Monday morning [19 August] came [Henry Erskine,] Lord Cardros with four troops of dragoons and one troop of horse; upon which, the Lieut. Coll. [William Cleland] detatched out the most part of the Regiment, who, with the Horse, went to meet the Enemy, who appeared in several parties, to the number of about 5 or 600 men (ours being about the same number) Some small parties went out and skirmished; but Cardros, after an Hour or two’s stay, brought in his men to the Town [of Dunkeld]; our Lieut. Coll. did the like. An hour after, Cardross told the Lieut. Coll. he must needs go back to St. Johnstown, being expressly ordered by Coll. Ramsay so to do.

Our men were mightily discouraged to hear this; but whatever could be said, the Horse would not stay, and it was much for us to keep our men from going along with them whether we would or not, but the Lieut. Coll. compelled them and told them, That tho’ every man went away, he resolved to stay himself alone; so we past Tuesday night [20 August] also in Arms.

This morning [21 August] about six of the Clock, the Enemy appeared on the Hills, and whereas we expected only the Enemy we had seen the day before, we saw to the number of 3 or 4000 Men draw up above us, which proved to be the whole [Jacobite] force of Coll. [Alexander] Cannon, the which one of the prisoners we took, gave out to be 4000 men, besides the addition of the Countrey.

Our Lieut. Coll, making a virtue of necessity, being nothing discouraged, posted the men so as they might most annoy the enemy, planting them behind dykes and ditches, which he caused to be cast up, and in the Church and Steeple, and in Athol’s house. When he had done so, the enemy approached very fast, the Highlanders came running on like desperate villains, firing only once, and then came on with sword and target; a troop of the Enemies horse, (brave horse, and all gentlemen) beset one side, on purpose, we think to have cut us off when we fled, which they nothing doubted off.

A Party was sent out under the command of Capt. [William] Hay (Park Hay’s Son) to keep them up, which fired on them, and then retired, not being able to restrain their great number and fierceness, pressing in upon us to the very cross in the middle of the town, where another party of our men fired on them, and they retired in order.

After which, the Highlanders came swarming in on all sides, and gave a desperate assault in four places all at once, first firing their guns, and then running in on us with sword and target. But it pleased God, that they were also bravely repulsed, our men still firing on them, where they came on thickest. In this hot service we continued above three hours, the Lord wonderfully assisting our men with courage, insomuch that old soldiers, that were with us said, They never saw men fight better, for there was not the least sign of fear to be seen in any of them, every one performing his part gallantly.

But (which is never enough to be lamented) our dear and valiant Lieut. Coll. [William Cleland] at the beginning of the action going up and down encouraging his men, was shot in the head and immediately died; our Major [James Henderson] also received three wounds, so that I fear he will not live.

Notwithstanding all these discouragements, our men fainted not, but fought so, that the Enemy at last found themselves necessitated to flee back on all hands, leaving a number of their dead carkasses behind them, and a great many of them getting into houses to fire upon us, our men went and sett fire to the houses, and burnt and slew many of them.

One of the prisoners we have taken, told us, That after they were gone off, their officers would have had them come back, and give us another assault, but they would not hear of it, for they said we were mad and desperate men.

Upon their retreating, our men gave a great shout, and threw their caps in the air, and then all joined in offering up praises to God a considerable time for so miraculous a victory.

I must really say, The Lord’s presence was most visible, strengthening us, so that none of the glory belongs to us, but to His own great name; for we clearly saw, It was not by might, or our power, nor by conduct, (our best officers being killed at first, or disabled) so that we have many things to humble us, and to make us trust and eye him alone, and not Instruments. I pray God help me, not to forget such a great mercy I have met with, not receiving the least hurt, notwithstanding several falling on my right and left hand.

This is a true and impartial account of the whole affair, which you may communicate to others in case of misrepresentations. The Enemy retired, as we hear, to the Castle of Blair, We expected still they would assault us again, but word being sent to St. Johnstown at 12 o’Clock, we expect speedy help from thence, This in haste from

Your affectionate Brother,

(Sic Subscribitur) J. BLACKADER.’ (Crichton, Life and Diary of Lieut. Col. John Blackadder, 102-105.)

Lieutenant John Blackadder was the son of the minister and field preacher, John Blackadder, who died while imprisoned on the Bass Rock in 1685. The lieutenant’s brother, William Blackadder, was one of Argyll’s faction.

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Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on December 12, 2015.

One Response to “The Battle of Dunkeld, 1689: Blackadder’s Letter #History #Scotland”

  1. […] novel Lochinvar (1897) by S. R. Crockett contains a description of the Battle of Dunkeld found between the Cameronian Regiment, made up of the Society people, and the Jacobites, many of […]

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