Thursday, 17 March 2011

Lord George Murray besieges Blair Castle - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1746

The Jacobites had reached Inverness on 19th February 1746 but the Hanoverian forces had not followed them. The Duke of Cumberland wanted to prepare his army for the advance along the Moray coast in the Spring, and was content to leave the Jacobites in their base in Inverness whilst he received his supplies via the sea into Aberdeen.

His main body of troops were in Aberdeen but he had a detachment of Campbell Militia at Blair Castle. Others from his army were at Castle Menzies near Aberfeldy, and there were detachments strung along the two Wade roads running north. Cumberland also had his Hessian reinforcements at Perth and other Hanoverians troops had arrived at Stirling. Finally there were loyal troops in Sutherland under the Earl of Loudon.

With the Hanoverians sitting tight the Jacobites took the initiative. By mid-March Cameron of Lochiel had taken Fort Augustus and was preparing to advance on Fort William. Lord George Murray proposed a further audacious plan to move south to retake his family home of Blair Castle and recruit more men from the Atholl lands.

On 15th March Murray made a rapid march into Perthshire with his Atholl Regiment. At Ruthven he was joined by Archibald Menzies of Struan, and Cluny MacPherson. He had 700 men in total and by the night of 16th March he had reached Bunrannoch (near what is now Kinloch Rannoch).

The first Hanoverian outpost at Rannoch fell within minutes and throughout the rest of the night and the early hours of the 17th the Jacobites captured thirty government outposts across Perthshire. By noon on this day 265 years ago Lord George Murray's force was at the gates of Blair Castle.

Some Hanoverian garrisons had fought, some had given up quickly and some had even mutinied and gone over to the Rebels. Most posts were commandeered farm houses and offered little protection to the defenders. They were no match for a determined force of several hundred Jacobites itching for a fight.

The Jacobites had struck a blow against Cumberland's forces in the Southern Highlands. Prince Charles's army may have retreated north but they could still fight back.

It was not all going the Jacobites way on this day. Lieutenant Colonel Sir Andrew Agnew and his 300 Campbell Militia in Blair Castle had no intention of surrendering. They were in a strong position with arms and supplies and Lord George Murray would have to conduct a siege to retake his ancestral home.

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