Argyll on Sherrifmuir

This is a more detailed account of the battle of Sheriffmuir from Lord Argyll who led the government army. Lord Argyll used a very wide spy network to help him decide where to move his troops. He feels that they have won this battle, but does not see it an end to Jacobite resistance and warns the King to be prepared for the future (SP 54/10 f.48).

Sterling 14th November 1715

My Lord

I had the honour to receive your Lordship’s letter of the 8th yesterday morning for which I return your Lordship my most humble thanks. The 10th Instance in the morning upon Intelligence [reports from spies] that the Rebells designed [planned] to take the camp at Dumblain [Dunblane] I immediately marched and posted myself with my Left at Dumblain and my Right towards the Sherif Moor [Sheriffmuir], and that might received positive Intelligence [information] that the Enemy were advanced within about two miles of me. Next morning at break of Day a Guard that I had in the Sherif Moor advertised [informed] me that the Rebells were actually forming along the side of the River Allen [Allan] fronting as if they designed to take me in Flank, upon which I immediately went to the place, where I saw their Army very distinctly, and judged them to be about 9,000 men rather over than under they were forming when I arrived, which they did in very good order, and afterwards begun their march from their left into two columns towards the Sherif Moor, which left me longer in Doubt that they designed from thence to march straight upon my flank [side], the Moor being passable by means of the Frost

Which has continued some days, I therefore immediately returned to the right of our Troops, and ordered the Army to march by the Right in the following order, Three Squadrons of Dragoons upon right and left of the Front Line, and Six Battalions of Foot in the Center. My Second line was composed of two Squadrons of Dragoons in the Center, one Battalion of Foot on their Right and another on their Left, and one Squadron of Dragoons behind each Wing of the Horse in the first Line.

I marched by my Right so fast, as to get my Right very soon over against their Left, which they had put to a Morass [area of soggy ground], & finding them not entirely formed, I judged it was necessary to lose no time and accordingly begun the action on the Right with the Dragoons, charged both their Horse and Foot without fireing [firing] one shot, and [though] they received us with a very good countenance [responded quickly] and gave us their fire pretty close, we broke [through] them, and five Battalions of our Foot followed our example so that we drove their left wing near three miles, and over the River Allen and took one Standard & ten pair Colours [regimental flags] with severall officers.

When I came to the River side by the vast number of Rebells we drove before us I could not… but judge it an entire Rout [victory] and thought of nothing but persuing them as long as we had daylight, when Mr. Wightinan who was a little behind me with the fve Battallions of Foot, sent me word, that he did not know what was become of the Troops on our Left, and The account they give of their [separation] from me is this. It seems the Enemy while we pushed their left wing broke [through] Morisons Regiment who were not quick enough in forming upon which the two Battalions on their Left gave way & ran in among our Horse on the Left, one Squadron of which had charged and taken a Standard and they all Retired together towards Dumblain, where being positively assured by different persons who said they had seen it, that I had been invested by the Rebells with my Dragoons, and that not a soul had escaped and being further told, that the Rebells had made a strong Detachment of Foot to possess themselves of the avenues to this Town, they marched to Stirling to defend that pass as long as they could.

This morning at Break of Day, I went over the whole field of Battle, where I met a Soldier of ours who they had taken prisoner, and made his escape from their Rear Guard this morning before day, who told me that Body of theirs that marched of entire were retired at Achterairder. That their left Wing that was drove over the Allen [River Allan] is quite dispersed upon which I have taken the party to Return this evening to this Side of the Forth, where I have put the Troops to under cover as to be able to draw them together in a very few hours. As for advancing our circumstances would by no means admit of it. It is impossible to ly [lie] any number of days encamped by reason of the season of the year, provisions we cannot depend upon having further in the country, the Ground is almost everywhere bad for Horse, and our numbers so very small that in my judgement it is impossible for us to do any more.

This Victory we have got is owing to providence [careful management], for my own part I pretend to no farther merit than having done my best. The officers and soldiers to whose behaviour I was witness was such as to deserve his Majesties favour, but my Lord if my judgement were fit to be depended on, I would humbly beg of his Majesty not to put his affairs to so great a risque as they have been long, and are even still in this country, for if these people reassemble, depend upon it my Lord, we cannot hope always to beat three times our number, of People who all the Officers here will allow, behaved themselves yesterday very much like soldiers.
I count their Dead my Lord to be 500, and I believe the number of their wounded to be considerable, we have prisoners that we already know of, two Collonells, two Lieutenants Collonells, one Major, Nine Captains, four Lieutenants, two Ensigns and one Adjutant. I was in possession of their whole Artillery and Baggage. Four piece of cannon, some Tumbrills [two wheeled carts] with ammunition, 13 pair of colours [regiment flags] and one Standard [army flag, raised on a pole to mark the rallying point in battle]

I have brought hither. Our Troops upon the Left lost one Colour. I have not as yet received the List our killed & wounded. Poor Lord Forfar who was with the Foot on the Left was most barbarously butcher’d after he was taken prisoner, having eighteen wounds & cannot possibly live. Mr. Evans has a slight wound in the forehead, and my Brother is wounded in two places, but we hope not dangerously.

I must ask your Lordship a thousand pardons for the confusdness of this account. Mr Harrison who will deliver it to your Lordship will be able having been present in the action to give his Majesty a clearer account than my fatigue will permit me to do at present. I cannot omit doing this Gentleman the justice to tell your Lordship that he has showed a very hearty zeal for his Majesties service ever since he has been here with me and behaved extreamly well yesterday.

My Lord I cannot but hope out of my zeal for his Majesties service every moment to hear of the 3000 Dutch being landed in Scotland. I am with the Greatest respect

Your Lordship’s
Most obedient and most
Humble Servant


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