Following the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, the English Parliament had replaced the Catholic King James VII with William of Orange and his wife Queen Mary, the Protestant daughter of James.
The following year the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of doing the same with the crown of Scotland. Many Scots, mainly the Catholic and Episcopalian Highlanders, took exception to this and in response John Graham of Claverhouse, ‘Bonnie Dundee’ (pictured at the top of this article), raised a force of mainly Highlanders loyal to James (called Jacobites) to contest this decision.
In response, the Scottish government assembled an army of mostly Lowland Scots to counter the rebellion. Under the command of General Hugh Mackay, the Government troops marched to intercept the rebels at the Killicrankie Pass near Blair Castle, on the key route into the Highlands from Perth.
The Jacobites, who had arrived first, took up a commanding position on a ridge above the pass. Realising the futility of a frontal attack on such a strong defensive position, Mackay formed his troops in a line and simply ordered them to fire their muskets at the enemy.
As the sun sank on the horizon on 27th July 1689, Dundee ordered his men to advance and, true to form, the Highlanders charged the Government line.
Surprised by the rapid change in tactics, Mackay’s troops did not have time to fix bayonets and so were ill equipped for the close quarter hand to hand fighting that would follow.
The battle quickly turned into a rout. Although the Jacobites had secured their first victory of the rebellion, they had lost a third of their number as well as their inspirational leader Bonnie Dundee, who had been killed alongside his men in the charge.
Just one month later the Jacobite rising, the ‘Dundee Rising’, would collapse following their defeat by Government forces at the Battle of Dunkeld on 21st August.
Date: 27th July, 1689
War: Jacobite Rising
Location: Killiecrankie, Perthshire
Belligerents: Jacobites, Orange Royalists
Numbers: Jacobites 3,000, Orange Royalists 4,000
Casualties: Jacobites 600, Orange Royalists around 2,000
Commanders: James Graham of Claverhouse (Jacobites), Hugh Mackay (Orange Royalists)