Battle of Glen Shiel

The Battle of Glen Shiel (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Ghleann Seile) took place on 10 June 1719 in the West Scottish Highlands, between a Jacobite army of Highland levies and Spanish marines and a government force of regular troops, plus a Highland Independent Company.

Battle of Glen Shiel
Part of Jacobite rising of 1719
War of the Quadruple Alliance
Glen shiel.jpg
The Battle of Glenshiel 1719 by Peter Tillemans.
Wightman (centre), Spanish troops in the mid-ground
Date10 June 1719
Glen Shiel, West Scotland

57°9′59″N 5°19′2″W / 57.16639°N 5.31722°W / 57.16639; -5.31722
Result British government victory
 Great Britain Jacobite Standard (1745).svg Jacobites
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great BritainJoseph Wightman
Kingdom of Great Britain Colonel Clayton
Kingdom of Great BritainMunro of Culcairn
Jacobite Standard (1745).svg Tullibardine
Jacobite Standard (1745).svg Seaforth (WIA)
Jacobite Standard (1745).svg George Keith
Enlightenment in Spain de Castro Bolaño
850 infantry
120 dragoons
130 Highland levies
4 Coehorn mortars
ca 1,200 Highland levies
240 Spanish marines
Casualties and losses
21 dead
121 wounded
Estimated 10 to 100 total dead and wounded[1]
Designated21 March 2011
Reference no.BTL10
Battle of Glen Shiel is located in Scotland
Battle of Glen Shiel
Location within Scotland

The most significant military action of the 1719 Jacobite Rebellion, it resulted in a government victory that ended the rebellion. Glen Shiel is also unique as the only battle in Scotland between 1689 and 1746 where the Jacobites remained on the defensive, rather than employing the Highland Charge.

The rising was backed by Spain, then engaged in the 1718 to 1720 War of the Quadruple Alliance with Britain. Intended to support a landing in South-West England, only the Scottish segment took place and the manner of its failure was widely viewed by contemporaries as having damaged the Jacobite cause.

The battlefield is included in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland and protected by Historic Scotland under the Historic Environment (Amendment) Act 2011.[2] The mountain where the battle took place is called Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe and has a subsidiary peak named Sgurr nan Spainteach or 'Peak of the Spaniards' in honour of the Spanish marines who fought there.[3]


Marquess of Tullibardine, Jacobite commander at Glen Shiel

Spain lost its Italian possessions of Sicily and Sardinia under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and recovering them was a priority for Giulio Alberoni, their Chief Minister. Sardinia was reoccupied in 1717 but when they landed on Sicily in July 1718, the Royal Navy destroyed the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape Passaro, beginning the War of the Quadruple Alliance.

The 1719 Rising was a Spanish-backed attempt to divert British resources from the Mediterranean; the plan was for 7,000 Spanish troops to land in South-West England, march on London and restore James Stuart. A simultaneous rising in Scotland would capture Inverness, allowing a Swedish expeditionary force to disembark; this was due to Sweden's dispute with Hanover. This provides an example of the complexity caused by its ruler George I also being British monarch.[4]

Delayed by bad weather, when the Spanish fleet left Cádiz in March, it was battered by a ferocious Atlantic storm and forced to take refuge in Coruña.[5] In the end, only two frigates carrying George Keith and 300 Spanish soldiers reached Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis.[6]

Here they were joined by exiles from France, including the Earl of Seaforth, James Keith, the Marquess of Tullibardine, Lord George Murray and Cameron of Lochiel. On 13 April, they learned of failure elsewhere; as commander of Jacobite land forces, Tullibardine recommended retreat, but as commander of the two frigates, Keith prevented this by ordering them back to Spain.[7]

With no other option, the main force of around 1,000 Highlanders plus the Spanish troops prepared to march on Inverness, leaving their excess stores at Eilean Donan guarded by 40 Spaniards.[8] On 10 May, a British naval squadron captured the castle, blocking any escape by sea, while Joseph Wightman's force of around 1,000 men with four Coehorn mortars advanced towards Glen Shiel. On 9 June, they reached Loch Cluanie, less than 8 miles (13 km) from the Jacobite camp.[a]

The battle of Glen ShielEdit

A replica of the Coehorn mortars used by Wightman's troops which the Highlanders had not encountered before

John Henry Bastide, a subaltern in Montague's regiment who had a long career as a military engineer drew a detailed plan of the battlefield and the movements of the opposing forces soon after the battle. The section detailing the battle itself is missing but it is possible to reconstruct the main elements.[9]

Tullibardine prepared a strong position near the Five Sisters hills, with the Spanish in the centre and the Highlanders on the flanks behind a series of trenches and barricades. Wightman's force arrived about 4:00 pm on 10 June and began the attack an hour later by firing their mortars at the Jacobite flanking positions. This caused few casualties but the Scots had not encountered mortars before, allowing four platoons of Clayton's and Munro's to advance up the hill to their lines, then use grenades to bomb them out of their positions.[10]

Once the Jacobite right had been dislodged, Harrison and Montague attacked the Jacobite left under Lord Seaforth. This was strongly entrenched behind a group of rocks on the hillside but skilful use of the mortars forced Seaforth's men to give way while he himself was badly wounded. The Spanish in the centre stood their ground but had to withdraw up the mountain as their flanks gave way.[11]

The battle lasted until 9:00 pm; several accounts claim the heather caught fire and smoke combined with failing light enabled the bulk of the Scots to disappear into the night. The Spanish surrendered next morning and as regular troops were shipped home; Lord George Murray, Seaforth and Tullibardine were wounded but the Jacobite leaders also managed to escape. An analysis by historian Peter Simpson attributes Wightman's victory to skilful use of mortars, the superior firepower of his grenadiers and the aggression shown by his infantry.[12]


Battle of Glen Shiel Memorial

Jacobite casualties were hard to estimate since few bodies were left on the field and the wounded managed to escape, including Seaforth and Lord George Murray; Wightman lost 21 killed and 120 wounded. Lord Carpenter, commander in Scotland, advised London that pursuing the rebels was impractical and it was best to let them go, arguing the Rising had simply damaged the Jacobite cause.[13] Tullibardine concurred; in his letter of 16 June 1719 to the Earl of Mar he provides a description of the battle and states 'it bid fair to ruin the King's Interest and faithful subjects in these parts.'[14]

The government took Carpenter's advice; senior Jacobites like Bolingbroke, Seaforth and Lord Murray returned home, while the Keith brothers took service with Prussia. James became a general and was killed at Hochkirch in 1758, while George became a diplomat; he refused to join the 1745 Rising and was Prussian ambassador to Spain from 1759 to 1761. Allowed home in 1763, he repurchased his estates but sold them in 1766 and died in Potsdam in 1778.[15]

Conservation of battlefieldEdit

Two stone breastworks have been designated as a scheduled monument.[16]

The conservation organisation the National Trust for Scotland owns part of the battlefield.[17] In advance of the 300th anniversary of the battle, the National Trust for Scotland was involved in an archaeological survey of the site.[18] Finds included ammunition from the mortars which were deployed against the Jacobite forces.[19]


  1. ^ Order of Battle;[citation needed] Jacobite Government Order of Battle; right wing under Colonel Clayton: Left wing, south side of the river, consisted of:
    • Clayton's Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Reading.
    • 100 men of the Independent Highland Company from the Clan Munro, under George Munro, 1st of Culcairn.
    • The Government dragoons and the four mortars remained on the road


  1. ^ "The Inventory of Historic Battlefields – Battle of Glenshiel" (PDF). Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Inventory battlefields". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  3. ^ The Battle of Glenshiel - June 10, 1719 Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  4. ^ Thompson, Ralph. "1717 and the invasion that never was". National Archives. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  5. ^ "The battle that decided Britain's fate". The Times. Times Newspapers Limited. 11 June 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  6. ^ Lenman 1980, p. 191.
  7. ^ Lenman 1980, p. 192.
  8. ^ Lenman 1980, pp. 193.
  9. ^ "Map of the Battle of Glen Shiel, 1719". Royal Collection Trust. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  10. ^ "The Inventory of Historic Battlefields – Battle of Glenshiel" (PDF). Historic Scotland. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  11. ^ Maggs, Stephen. "The Jacobite Rising and the Battle of Glen Shiel, 10 June, 1719" (PDF). G9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  12. ^ Simpson 1996, p. 103.
  13. ^ Lenman 1980, pp. 195.
  14. ^ Dickson, William Kirk. "The Jacobite Attempt of 1719; Letters of the Duke of Ormonde to Cardinal Alberoni". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  15. ^ Fugrol, 2006 & Online.
  16. ^ "Glenshiel, earthworks associated with battle of 1719". Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  17. ^ "New survey to be made of Battle of Glen Shiel site". BBC. 9 June 2015.
  18. ^ Campsie, A (12 June 2018). "Study at battlefield glen". The Scotsman. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  19. ^ Cassidy, Jane (10 June 2019). "Jacobite battle remains uncovered". The Scotsman.


External linksEdit