The Battle of Glen Shiel

by Ellen Castelow

Britain had been at war with Spain for a year when in March 1719 the Spanish dispatched an invasion fleet carrying some 6,000 men destined for the southwest coast of England.

Around the same time a smaller force of around 270 Spanish marines under the command of George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal, set sail for the West Highlands of Scotland. Their mission was to join forces with the Scottish Jacobites and encourage a general rising through the western clans which could then march south to support the main invasion. At the very least, it would divert and occupy government forces.

Unfortunately for the Jacobites, the same fate befell the main Spanish invasion fleet as that of the more famous Armada that had set sail for English shores more than a hundred year earlier; it was decimated in a storm.

Left with no other alternative, the combined Scottish-Spanish force, now totalling just 1,000 men, decided to continue with their quest. However things went from bad to worse when three Royal Navy warships arrived in Loch Alsh and spent the next two days bombarding Eilean Donan Castle, where most of the Jacobite ammunition was stored.

On hearing that a government force of a similar size led by Major General Wightman had left Inverness to confront them, the Jacobites established a defensive position on a natural bottleneck through the pass at Glen Shiel. Although the government force was similar in terms of numerical size, they had the added advantage of possessing four mortar batteries.

The battle began late in the afternoon of 10th June 1719, when the government forces advanced on the Jacobite defences.

In an attempt to soften-up the enemy, Wightman first used his mortars to bombard the Jacobite position. He then ordered his infantry to attack the Jacobite flanks, whilst continuing to shell the enemy centre, keeping the Spanish troops pinned down in their defences on the northern slopes of the glen.

After three hours of stubborn resistance, the Jacobites were eventually driven from their defensive position and forced into retreat. The Spanish marines, finding that most of their allies had deserted them, were forced in to an orderly fighting retreat and later surrendered.

Key Facts:

Date: 10th June, 1719

War: Jacobite Rising

Location: Glen Shiel, Scottish Highlands

Belligerents: Great Britain (Hanoverians), Jacobites and Spanish

Victors: Great Britain

Numbers: Both sides around 1,000

Casualties: Great Britain 121, Jacobites and Spanish unknown

Commanders: General Wightman and Colonel Clayton (Great Britain), Lord George Murray and the Earl of Seaforth (Jacobites)

Location:

The Battle of Glen Shield

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