Killiecrankie is a narrow gorge near Blair Atholl in Scotland, the scene of a major battle between Jacobite and Williamite forces on 27 July, 1689. The Jacobite forces ambushed the superior numbers of government redcoats, giving them a clear victory under the leadership of Viscount Dundee, John Graham of Claverhouse, but Dundee was injured and would later die.


When William of Orange, a protestant, invaded England and deposed the catholic King James II in November, 1688, James fled to France to be with his wife and son. On 13 April, 1689, however, John Graham raised James's standard on Dundee Law, announcing his intention to fight. By the 27th July, Graham had 2,400 Jacobite troops, as opposed to the 3,500 Whig forces led by General Hugh Mackay.

The battle

Dundee was joined on the day of the battle by 240 Camerons under Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, chief of Clan Cameron, and by 300 Irish troops under a Major-General Cannon. This gave him a total fighting force of about 2,400.

He arrived at the pass of Killiecrankie before Mackay and the Williamites, and took position on a ridge above the pass. Mackay saw Dundee's positional advantage, and deployed in a line, firing with muskets.

The Jacobites held their position until the evening, when they charged the Williamite line. The Camerons broke through the enemy's centre, and Mackay's forces turned and fled, 2,000 men including Mackay being killed. One celebrated soldier is supposed to have leapt between two rocks at Soldier's Leap in his haste to escape. About a third of the Jacobites were also killed, including their own leader, Dundee.

After Killiecrankie

The loss of Dundee was to prove a heavy blow for the Jacobites, and they were defeated a month later at Dunkeld. May, 1690, would see a further defeat at Cromdale in Strathspey, and in June, 1691, the Jacobites negotiated terms with John Campbell of Breadalbane, acting for William. This led to the massacre of Glencoe in February, 1692, and the Jacobites would rise again in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

The Oxford Companion to Scottish History, ed. Michael Lynch, Oxford University Press, 2001
Chronicle of Britain, Chronicle Communications Ltd, 1992
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc, 1994-2000

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