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The Battle of Cromdale

April 30/May 1, 1690

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After their defeat at Dunkeld in 1689, the Highland clans, including the Camerons, had returned to their homes, disgusted in the leadership of Colonel Cannon.  Supposedly Sir Ewen Cameron, XVII Chief of Clan Cameron assumed control over the army's remnant.  Sir Ewen and the other Jacobite chiefs soon represented to King James VII the precarious state of his affairs in Scotland, and the necessity of sending them aid.  Unfortunately, James was occupied with preparations for resisting a threatened invasion of Ireland.  To support his loyal Highlanders, James sent clothing, arms, ammunition and provisions.  He also directed a few Irish officers to Lochaber, among whom was Major-General Buchan, as commander-in-chief of the Jacobite forces in Scotland.

On Buchanís arrival, a meeting of the chiefs and principal officers was held at Keppoch, to formulate a plan of action.  While some of the clans proposed to submit to the government, this proposition was resisted by Sir Ewen, who had great influence with his fellow chiefs. He stated that the Camerons had adhered to the cause of King Charles II at a time when it was more desperate than that of his royal brother now was, who was still at the head of an army in Ireland, and who had many friends in Britain, ready to declare themselves.  The meeting unanimously resolved to continue the war, but not until the labors of the spring season were complete in the Highlands.  The large scaled muster of the clans was postponed.  In the mean time a detachment of 1,200 foot was to be placed at Buchan's disposal, to weaken the enemyís quarters along the borders of the Lowlands.  An indeterminate number of Camerons, not including the gentry of the clan, were included within this detachment.

Meanwhile, General Mackay assembled approximately 3,000 men at Perth, that they might be in readiness to resist a general rising in favour of King James.  At the same time a battalion of Ramsayís regiment, the Cameronian regiment and five troops of horse and dragoons were also readied, along with the garrison of Inverness.

Major-General Buchan soon advanced through Badenoch, intending to march down Speyside into the Duke of Gordonís country, where he expected to muster additional forces.  Somehow, by this time Buchanís force did not exceed 800 men, possibly due to his unpopularity.  Ignoring counsel from the Highland officers, to not advance past Culnakill, Buchan marched down the Spey as far as Cromdale, where he encamped on the last day of April.

He was met at Cromdale by forces under Sir Thomas Livingston, commander of the garrison of Inverness.  As Livingston approached with his men, on the opposite bank of the Spey, the Highlanders were already in retreat.  Livingston's cavalry crossed the river and intercepted the Jacobites, who made a brief stand at the foot of the hill of Cromdale.  They soon took to retreat once again, having to turn frequently to defend themselves.  Fortunately for the outnumbered Jacobites, a thick fog came down the side of the mountain and enveloped them, compelling Livingston to discontinue the pursuit.  According to General Mackay's report, the Highlanders had 400 men killed and taken prisoners.  Livingston's losses were reported as between none and 100 killed, with many of Livingstonís dragoons possibly falling.

An unfortunate party of the Camerons and Macleans, who had in the flight separated from their companions in arms, crossed the Spey the following day.  Being pursued by some of Livingstonís men, they were overtaken and dispersed on the moor of Granish near Aviemore, where some of them were killed. The rest took shelter in Craigelachie.  They were joined by Keppoch and his Highlanders, and made an attempt to seize the castle of Lochinclan in Rothiemurchus, but were repulsed with loss by the proprietor and his tenants.

Despite a famous song that expresses a contrary view, the defeat at Cromdale effectively ended the rebellion in Scotland.