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The Battle of Dunkeld

August 21, 1689

Cameron of Lochiel's Own Website

Immediately following the tragic death of Viscount Dundee in the midst of the Jacobite victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie the Highlanders were led on the field of battle by Colonel Cannon (known in history as "Dundee's inept successor.")  It is not known with any degree of certainty whether Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, XVII Captain and Chief of Clan Cameron led Clan Cameron after Killiecrankie or his son, John Cameron, XVIII Captain and Chief.  Some accounts have Sir Ewen returning to Lochaber immediately after Killiecrankie, others have him remaining with the army until after Dunkeld.

Regardless of the Cameron leadership, the Jacobite army did keep together for an attack on Dunkeld, which was held by a single regiment, the newly-mustered Cameronians, 1200 men strong.  These soldiers, originally formed by and named in honor of the fanatical Scottish religious reformer and covenanting leader Richard Cameron (1648-1680) hailed from the Lowlands.  They had absolutely no connection to the Clan Cameron.

As the town had no walls round it, the Jacobites made their way into the streets and the Cameronians had to take refuge behind the walls of the cathedral and mansion-house, near at hand.  The Jacobites, then concealed in the houses of the town, kept up a constant fire upon the enemy.

Unfortunately for the Jacobites, these Cameronians had no thought of surrender.  When their musket-balls were exhausted, they tore the lead from the roof of the cathedral.  At last, with burning branches at the end of their pikes, they rushed out on the houses where the Jacobites were concealed, setting fire to them and locking the doors.  Many Highlanders perished.  In one house as many as sixteen perished, and after a fight that had lasted for approximately four hours the Jacobite Highlander survivors made off across the neighboring hills.  

The Cameronians were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William Cleland. a brave young man who had once mocked the "Highland Host" in derisive doggerel and who had fought with the "godly" at Drumclog and Bothwell Brig.  He was killed by a Highland bullet in the liver and another in the head within an hour of the first assault.  A few months before, these Covenanting zealots had been outlawed men, but ironically now they were saviours of the Revolution.  In the aftermath they stood in the smoke wearing their bloody red coats, singing psalms of praise to a triumphant Sabbath.  "The Bloody Irishes," as the Cameronians called the Jacobite army, dispersed, with the men of Clan Cameron returning to Lochaber.  By no means were the Camerons the lone clan disgusted with their Colonel Cannon's leadership in comparison to Dundee.