The bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee!

The Bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee!

The Battle of Killiecrankie, July 27th 1689 is of enduring interest to me. It has all of the romanticism of a Hollywood mini series. A hero, who was long seen as a traitor and villain by his co-religionists and had both the sobriquet of Bluddy Clavers and Bonnie Dundee. A fractious army held together by the strength of his personality and that of other giant human beings like Cameron of Lochiel the 'Ulysses of the Highlands' who allegedly once ripped a man's throat out with his teeth!

It is much misunderstood and surrounded in myth. Tourists seem preoccupied with trivia such as Soldier's Leap and Blair Atholl Castle whereas the real detail is far more fascinating. Having walked the breath-taking field, attended the Soldiers of Killicrankie Event, painted all the units and wargamed the battle many times, I thought it was an appropriate subject for a How to video.

The video covers a bit of the history but mostly, getting the troops on the tabletop. I cover this battle in both 4Play (with six small scenarios in two packs) and in A Taste of Victory with the full battle under the title Conquer or Die!  4Play 003: One Thousand Irish covers the landing of Dundee's Irish troops and the raising of the Western Clans under Maclean. 4Play 016: The Bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee takes three distinct elements of the battle breaking them down into smaller, short wargames.

The main actors are extremely interesting - The leader of the Catholic leaning Jacobite army is a Lowland Protestant lord and the leader of the Williamite force is a Highland lord! The 'English' (sic) army has only a single English regiment, that of the venal Ferdinando Hastings a man later cashiered for nefarious activities. The other units include three Scots-Dutch regiments which in addition to Scotsmen undoubtedly contained Dutch, English and possibly German soldiers. Of the two Lowland units one, Leven's, would go on to have a long and distinguished career as the King's Own Scottish Borderer's (KOSB). 

Apart from the trecherous A9 road running strait across it - battlefield is unchanged.

Casualty rates at the battle were off the chart when compared with contemporary engagements. Of the 3,500 men under Mackay only 500 made it back to Stirling. The Jacobite army had two conventional regiments - Cannon's Irish (formerly from Lord Bophin's Regiment) and Sir Alexander Maclean's Scots/Irish/Highland regiment - reputedly the best in the army. With a volatile mixture of clan regiments and around 1,500 religiously motivated Lowland Whigs on the other side, this made for explosive action. 

One of scenarios from 4Play 016

It should be noted that some of these Highlanders and Dundee himself when a captain of Dragoons, were used in a suppression similar to Louis XIV's Dragonnades against the Huguenots in the 1680s. 

During the Convenanter Insurrections of the 1670s officers such as Monmouth and Graham - (Claverhouse-Dundee) were involved in leading King Charles II's army at Bothwell Brig, Drumclog and Aird's Moss against Cameron's South West Covenanters. The Highlanders were accused of all sorts of brutality when policing the Lowlands from Stirling to the Border with England.

simmering hatred for Dundee drove these men into military service - The Cameronians

Killiecrankie is a multi layered battle in terms of emnities and as anyone who knows use will attest - We Scots have long memories!

The death of George Ramsay - pinned to a tree by a blade allegedly.

I have been researching other clan battles pointed out to me by Dave O'Brien and I hope to publish them as a 4Play Clan pack soon. For now, I thoroughly commend the Battle of Killiecrankie to you as much more than a freak-show sideline to the Nine Years War. Less than 2,000 men not only routed but utterly destroyed, nearly twice their number. Whatever writer's say (a modern interpretation has the clans as reluctant, poorly equipped slave-soldiers) the battle happened, the victory was spectacular and total and it makes exciting wargaming. It is a must on the Jacobite trail and for me, more interesting than Culloden.