Sheriffmuir Battlefield

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Sheriffmuir, a battlefield in Dunblane parish, Perthshire, on the north-western slope of the Ochils, 2½ miles E by N of Dunblane town. The battle was fought on 13 Nov. 1715-the same day on which the Pretender's forces surrendered at Preston in England. The Duke of Argyll commanded the royalist troops, and the Earl of Mar those of the Pretender. The Earl, having just taken up his quarters at Perth, and received strong reinforcements from the north, got intelligence which led him to believe that the Duke was insecurely posted at Stirling. Accordingly, he conceived the idea of forcing the passage of the Forth, and marching southward in defiance of the Duke, so as to form a junction with the Pretender's friends in the south. He left Perth on 11 Nov., and rested that night at Auchterarder. Argyll, getting information of his movement, determined instantly to intercept him, and give him battle. He accordingly passed the Forth at Stirling on the 12th, and took post in the neighbourhood of Dunblane, with his left resting on that town, and his right extending towards Sheriffmuir. Mar arrived the same evening within 2 miles of Argyll, and encamped for the night in order of battle. His troops amounted to 8400; while those of Argyll did not exceed 3500. General Whetham commanded the left wing of the royal army, and Argyll himself commanded the right. Early on the 13th the right wing of the rebel army commenced the battle by a furious attack on the royalist left. They charged sword in hand with such impetuosity as at once to break General Whetham's array, and drive his troops into complete rout, with prodigious slaughter. Whetham fled at full gallop to Stirling, and there announced that the royal army was totally defeated. But, in the meantime, Argyll, with the right wing of the royalist army, attacked and broke the rebels' left, and drove them 2 miles back to the Allan. He pushed his advantage chiefly by the force of his cavalry, and was obliged to resist no fewer than ten successive attempts to rally. A part of his infantry was following hard to support him, when the right wing of the rebel army, suddenly returning from the pursuit of Whetham, appeared in their rear, and threatened to crush both them and the cavalry. Argyll faced about, with all his strength, to repel this new and great danger. The antagonist forces, however, looked irresolutely at each other, neither of them seeming disposed to rush into fresh conflict; and after cooling completely down from the fighting point, they retired quietly from each other s presence, Argyll to the town of Dunblane, and Mar to the village of Ardoch. Both armies laid claim to the victory, and hence the well-known sarcastic lines:-

'There's some say that we wan,
and some say that they wan,
And some say that nane wan at a', man;
But ae thing I'm sure
That at Sheriffmuir,
A battle there was. that ? saw. man;
And we ran and they ran, and they ran and we ran,
And we ran, and they ran awa, man.'

For Argyll, however, this ineffectual conflict had all the results of a victory. On the field of battle is a large block of whinstone, the 'Gathering Stone of the Clans,' on which the Highlanders are said to have whetted their dirks and claymores, and which in 1840 was enclosed in a strong iron grating by the late Mr Stirling of Kippendavie.—Ord. Sur., sh. 39, 1869.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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