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The Battle of Strone Nevis

Circa 1654

Cameron of Lochiel's Own Website

Once more, after opposing the Cromwellian garrison of Inverlochy at the battle of Achintore, Ewen Cameron, XVII Captain and Chief of Clan Cameron returned to join the army of General Middleton.  Nothing of special importance took place for some time after this, but Ewen was kept constantly in action, daily becoming a greater terror to the enemy.  Middleton was anxious to force a battle, but his principal officers openly opposed him.  In consequence of these internal divisions his army soon after almost melted away.

Meanwhile, Ewen received information that once again the Governor of Inverlochy was taking advantage of his absence, cutting down large quantities of his woods at Lochaber for the purpose of providing the garrison with an ample supply of fuel during the upcoming winter.  Annoyed at this, Ewen asked for and received permission from Middleton to return home with about one hundred and fifty men - leaving the main body of his followers at headquarters - to punish the Governor for stealing his wood.  He marched at night, going by the most unfrequented paths through the mountains and soon arrived in the vicinity of the garrison, undiscovered by the enemy.  He was soon afterwards informed by his friends of circumstances which enabled him to execute his designs of revenge almost immediately.

The woods on which the Cromwellians were employed occupied the shoulder of Ben Nevis, about one mile eastward from the garrison.  Ewen marched to this point, called Strone Nevis, early on the following morning after his arrival.  He carefully posted his men and gave then the necessary instructions.  Ewen kept sixty, under his own immediate command, in a tuft of wood at a point opposite where the soldiers sent out from the garrison with the hewers of the wood always took up their position.  Two other bodies of thirty men each were told off to his right and left, respectively, where they were concealed.  They were instructed to rush forth as soon as the concerted signal was given, which was to be a great shout of "Advance, Advance!," as if the wood was full of men.  The remainder of his men he placed in a pass between the wood and the garrison, to lie in ambush and not to move out of that unless they found that the enemy was making a successful resistance when attacked by the Highlanders in front.  If these men laying in ambush noticed their enemies running away, in retreat, they were to rush forward in advance of them, place them between two fires by giving them a volley in front and then attack them with their broad-swords.  The object was to kill as many as they could.  They were, however, specially ordered to give quarter to any who offered to lay down his arms and surrender.

About four hundred Cromwellians marched out of the garrison, taking their usual position, quite innocent of the fate which immediately awaited them.  Everything turned out as Ewen anticipated; a general slaughter at once ensued.  The Highlanders, issuing forth from their places of concealment, made a great noise, loudly echoed by the surrounding mountains.  This, accompanied by the simultaneous sounds of several bagpipes, frightened the enemy, who in consequence made no resistance.  They truly believed themselves surrounded by large bodies of Highlanders pouring in upon them from all sides and immediately fled at their highest speed.

More than one hundred of the Cromwellians were killed on the spot and the remainder, having been attacked unexpectedly by those in ambush between them and the garrison, were part of a second slaughter.  Not more than a third of the four hundred escaped.  These were pursued to the walls of the garrison and the whole battle was over so quickly that it became a matter of history before the Governor actually knew that his men had even been attacked.  Not one single Cromwellian officer escaped, they being the only men among the garrison troops who had the courage to offer any resistance to the Camerons.  Among them was a young gentleman, a great "favorite" of the Governor who, exasperated at the loss of his friend and that of his men, became furious and swore immediate revenge upon Ewen and the entire Clan Cameron.

The next morning the Governor ordered out the entire garrison, some 1,500 men.  Ewen, as usual, obtained advance notice of this action and moved his men to higher ground, keeping in view of the enemy as he himself "marched round the mountains, with pipes playing and colors flying."  He made every effort to induce the Cromwellian commander to follow him, to get him entangled in the woods, narrow paths and other obstructions abounding in the area, where he could be successfully attacked.  The Governor was too wary to fall into the trap prepared for him.  After traversing many difficult and rugged paths the Cromwellian forces turned right about and by the help of good guides found their way back to the garrison, heartily fatigued and disgusted with the fruitless expedition.  The Camerons, following closely on their heels, repeatedly insulted the Governor and his followers.  Whenever the nature of the ground favored, and when they came to close quarters, they invited the Cromwellians to advance "for their Chief was there, ready to receive their Governor, if he wished to speak to him."  They were also said to have uttered several other "very tantalising and insulting remarks."  Needless to say, after this the garrison of Inverlochy was on better guard when they dared to venture from their fortification.