Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Rout of Loudon from Dornoch - On this day in Scottish Military History – 1746

When Loudon retreated north from Inverness he chose as his base the land of Southeast Sutherland around Dornoch. The Kyle of Sutherland and River Shin protected his flanks and by placing most of his men along the two rivers his aim was to stop the Jacobites reaching their sympathisers in Caithness and Orkney. Whilst at Dornoch Loudon had also been reinforced by nearly 400 clansmen of the Earl of Sutherland and 100 men from Lord Reay’s Clan Mackay.

The Jacobites were not happy to have such a large force of Hanoverian troops threatening their flanks and hampering the recruitment of new supporters from the North. It was decided that a frontal attack was out of the question, Loudon was in too strong a defensive position. Instead the Jacobites would land men by fishing boats across the Dornoch Firth from Tain to the sands at Lonemore, two miles west of Dornoch

Fishing boats were rounded up from the Moray coast under the noses of the Royal Navy, and the Duke of Perth took a force of 1,800 Jacobites north from Dingwall. Loudon was not expecting a seaborne invasion and had split his force in positions along the Kyle of Sutherland and River Shin to repel any landward attacks between Bonar and Lairg. A small number of Loudon’s troops guarded Meikle Ferry near Skibo but there were not enough to stop a large attack.

As the day broke on this day 265 years ago the Mackays guarding Meikle Ferry would have been shocked to see boat loads of Jacobites approaching them. Heavily outnumbered the Mackays fled. A company of the 64th Highlanders tried to intercept the Jacobites whilst they disembarked but in a highly professional operation the Jacobites landed hundreds of men in good order and secured their landing ground.

Loudon’s men knew they were in a very difficult position. Retreating through Dornoch they headed for Little Ferry at Loch Fleet. At the same time word was sent to Loudon who was inspecting his defences at Invershin.

Knowing the rest of his force was now in an untenable position Loudon scattered his troops. He sent the local recruits of Mackay and Sutherland men north through Lairg with some of his 64th Highlanders under the command of Lord Reay. Loudon took the rest of his regiment west with his loyal MacDonald and Macleod volunteers and eventually reached Skye a week later.

In a surprisingly efficient operation the Jacobites had routed Loudon’s small army with very little loss. They had opened up the North for supplies and recruits, captured a large number of prisoners and as a bonus they had found four ships hiding in Loch Fleet with valuable cargoes of arms and ammunition.

The Jacobites were still a force to be reckoned with.

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