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Thomas Pennant

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Appendix VI: The Life of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel

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A P P E N D I X.



THIS memoir, so descriptive of the manners of the times, and the wild war carried on between the Hero of the piece, and Cromwel's people, was communicated to me by a gentleman of Lochaber . It merits preservation not solely on account of its curiosity; but that it may prove an instructive lesson to the present inhabitants of that extensive tract, by shewing the happiness they may enjoy in the present calm, after the long storm of war and assassination their forefathers were cursed with.

SIR Ewen Cameron was born in February , 1629. He lived with, his fosterfather for the first seven years, according to an old custom in the Highlands, whereby the principal gentlemen of the clan are entitled to the tuition and support of their chief's children during the years of their pupillarity. The fosterfathers were also frequently at the charge of their education during that period; and when the pupils returned home, these fathers gave them a portion equal to what they gave their own children; as the portion confided in cattle, before they came to age it increased to a considerable height.

Before his years of pupillarity expired, he was put under the charge and management of the Marquises of Argyle , the same who was executed soon after the restoration. The Marquiss, intending to bring him up in the principles of the Covenanters, put him to school at Inverara , under the inspection of a Gentleman of his own appointment. But young Lochiel preferred the sports of the field to the labours of the school. Argyle observing this, brought him back to himself, and kept a watchful eye over him, carrying him along with him wherever he went.

After the defeat of the Royalists at Philiphaugh , in 1645, it happened that as the parliament sat at St Andrew's , on the trial of the prisoners of distinction there seized, Lochiel , who went there with the Marquiss, found means to pay a visit to Sir Robert Spotswood , one of the prisoners, a few days before his execution. Then and there it was he received the first intelligence concerning the state and principles of parties in Scotland . Sir Robert , happy to see his young visitant, the son of his old acquaintance John Cameron , took the opportunity to relate in an eloquent manner, the causes of the present rebellion, and its history from its first breaking out, with a view of the tempers and characters of the different factions that had conspired against the Crown. He explained the nature of our constitution, insisted much on the integrity and benevolence of the King, but inveighed bitterly against his Scotch enemies; and concluded with expressing his astonishment how Lochiel's friends could put him under the charge of Argyle , and conjuring him to abandon that part as soon as he could. This discourse had such an impression on the mind of Lochiel , that it continued all his life time.

Some time after, Argyle addressed his pupil in a different tone, but had little influence over him: he never could be satisfied why so many brave fellows were executed, as he heard no confessions of guilt, as thieves and robbers are wont to make; but dying with the courage and resolution of Gentlemen. After this, Lochiel was anxious to return to his country, inflamed with a desire of exerting himself in the Royal cause, and of joining Montrose for that end. Upon the application of his uncle Breadalbane , and the Camerons, Argyle parted with his pupil; and he returned to Lochaber , to head his clan in the 18th year of his age.

An opportunity of acting the Chief soon occurred. Glengary and Reppoch , Heads of two numerous tribes of the McDonald's , refused to pay Lochiel certain taxations for some lands they held of him: Lochiel armed a body of the Camerons , with a view to compel them; Glengary and Reppoch , finding him thus bold and resolute, thought proper to settle their affairs amicably, and gave him no further trouble for the future. By such determined conduct, Lochaber enjoyed a profound peace for some little time, while the whole of Scotland besides was a scene of war and bloodshed.

In 1651, Lochiel was honored with a letter from King Charles II. inviting him and his clan to use and put themselves in arms, for the relief of their country and sovereign; in consequence of which, early in spring 1652, after collecting his men, he was the first who joined Glencairn , who had just then set up the royal standard in the Highlands. In the different encounters his Lordship and the Royalists had with Lilburne, Morgan , and others, Lochiel displayed more conduct and vigor than could be expected from one so young, and as yet unexperienced in the art of war. He distinguished himself in a particular manner in a skirmish which happened between Glencairn and Col. Lilburne , at Brea-mar , where he was posted at a pass, which he defended with great spirit, till Glencairn and his army retreated to a place of security. Lilburne , in the mean time, getting between Lochiel and the army, and finding it impossible to draw out the General to an engagement, made a violent attack upon Lochiel: Lochiel , after making a bold resistance for some time, at last retreated gradually up the hill, with his face to the enemy, who durst not pursue him, on account of the ruggedness of the ground, and the snow that then covered it. Glencairn's army was at this time full of factions and divisions; occasioned by the number of independent chiefs and gentlemen in his army, who would not condescend to submit to one another, either in opinion or action. Lochiel was the only person of distinction that kept himself disengaged from these factions; for in order to avoid them, he always chose the most distant parts, where his frequent successes had endeared him to the General, who recommended him in a strong manner to the King, as appears by the following Letter his Majesty sent him.

To our trusty and well beloved the Laird of Lochiel .


Trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. We are informed by the Earl of Glencairn with what notable courage and affection to us you have behaved yourself at this time of trial, when our interest and the honor and liberty of your country is at stake; and therefore we cannot but express our hearty sense of such your good courage, and return you our princely thanks for the same; and we hope all honest men who are lovers of us and their country will follow your example, and that you will unite together in the ways we have directed, and under that authority we have appointed to conduct you for the prosecution of so good a work, so we do assure you we shall be ready, as soon as we are able, signally to reward your service, and to repair the losses you shall undergoe for our service, and so we bid you farewell. Given at Chantilly, Nov . 3. 1653. In the fifth year of our reign.

When General Middleton came from Holland , 1654, to take the command of the King's troops in Scotland, Lochiel joined him with a full regiment of good men, while many of the other heads of clans made their peace with General Monk , who had marched into the Highlands at the head of a small army, giving another composed of horse and foot to General Morgan . Many trifling conflicts ensued between these two generals and the Highlanders; but Lochiel being of the party who had opposed Morgan , an active and brave officer, run several hazards, and encountered many difficulties; but his presence of mind and resolution never forsook him.

Monk left no method unattempted to bribe him into a submission. These proposals were so engaging, that many of his friends importuned him to accept of them; but he despised them all, and would not submit. Monk finding all his attempts ineffectual, resolved to plant a garrison at Inverlochy , where Fort William now stands, in order to keep the country in awe, and their chief at home. Lochiel being informed of this design, thought the most advisable plan would be to attack the enemy on their march from Inverness , imagining they would come from that place or that way; but the sudden arrival of the English at sea disconcerted all his measures. They brought with them such plenty of materials, and were in the neighborhood of so much wood, that in a day's time after their landing, Col. Bigan , their commander, and the governor of the new fort to be erected, had secured his troops from all danger.

Lochiel saw all their motions from a neighboring eminence, and seeing it impracticable to attack them with any probability of success, retired to a place three miles westward, to a wood on the North side of Lochiel , called Achdalew ; from this he could have a full view of his enemy at Inverlochy . All his men he dismissed to remove their cattle farther from the enemy, and to furnish themselves with provisions: excepting about 38 persons whom he kept as a guard. He also had spies in and about the garrison, who informed him of all their transactions. Five days after their arrival at Inverlochy , the governor dispatched 300 of his men on board of two vessels which were to sail Westward a little, and to anchor on each side of the shore near Achdalew. Lochiel heard their design was to cut down his trees and carry away his cattle, and was determined if possible to make them pay well for every tree and every hide; favored by the woods, he came pretty close to the shore, where he saw their motions so perfectly that he counted them as they came out of the ship, and found the number of the armed exceed, 140, besides a number of workmen with axes and other instruments.

Having fully satisfied himself, he returned to his friends, and asked their opinion. The younger part of them were keen for attacking; but the older and the more experienced remonstrated against it, as a most rash and hazardous enterprise. Lochiel then enquired of two of the party who had served for some time under Montrose if ever they saw him engage on so disadvantageous terms; they declared they never did. He, however, animated by the ardor of youth, or prompted by emulation, (for Montrose was always in his mouth) inlisted in a short but spirited harangue, that if his people had any regard for their King or their Chief, or any principle of honor, the English should be attacked: "for," says he, "if every man kills his man, which I hope you will do, I will answer for the rest." Upon this, none of his party made further opposition, but begged that he and his brother Allan should stand at a distance from the danger. Lochiel could not hear with patience the proposal with regard to himself, but commanded that his brother Allan should be bound to a tree, and that a little boy should be left to attend him; but he soon flattered or threatened the boy to disengage him, and ran to the conflict. The Camerons being some more than thirty in number, armed partly with musquets, and partly with bows, kept up their pieces and arrows till their very muzzles and points almost touched their enemies' breasts, when the very first fire took down above 30. They then laid on with their swords, and laid about with incredible fury. The English defended themselves with their musquets and bayonets with great bravery, but to little purpose. The skirmish continued long, and obstinate: at last the English gave way, and retreated towards the ship, with their faces to the enemy, fighting with astonishing resolution. But Lochiel , to prevent their flight, commanded two or three of his men to run before, and from behind a bush to make a noise, as if there was another party of Highlanders to intercept their retreat. This took so effectually, that they stopped, and animated by rage, madness, and despair, they renewed the skirmish with greater fury than ever, and wanted nothing but proper arms to make Lochiel repent of his stratagem. They were at last, however, forced to give way, and betake themselves to their heels; the Camerons pursued them chin deep in the sea; 138 were counted dead of the English , and of the Camerons only five were killed.

In this engagement Lochiel himself had several wonderful escapes. In the retreat of the English , one of the strongest and bravest of the officers retired behind a bush, when he observed Lochiel pursuing, and seeing him unaccompanied with any, he leaped out, and thought him his prey. They met one another with equal fury. The combat was long, and doubtful. The English gentleman had by far the advantage in strength and size; but Lochiel exceeding him in nimbleness and agility, in the end tript the sword out of his hand: upon which, his antagonist flew upon him with amazing rapidity; they closed, and wrestled till both fell to the ground in each other's arms. The English officer got above Lochiel , and pressed him hard; but stretching forth his neck by attempting to disengage himself, Lochiel , who by this time had his hands at liberty, with his left hand seized him by the collar, and jumping at his extended throat, he bit it with his teeth quite through, and kept such a hold of his grip, that he brought away his mouthful; this, he said, was the sweetest bite he ever had in his life time . Immediately afterwards, when continuing the pursuit after that encounter was over, he found his men chin deep in the sea; he quickly followed them, and observing a fellow on deck aiming his piece at him, plunged into the sea, and escaped, but so narrowly that the hair on the back part of his head was cut, and a little of the skin ruffled. In a little while a similar attempt was made to shoot him: his fosterbrother threw himself before him, and received the shot in his mouth and breast, preferring his Chief's life to his own.

In a few days afterwards, resolving to return to Gen. Middleton , he ordered all his men to assemble and join him; but while he waited for their return, he cut off another party of the garrison soldiers, who were marching into the country, at Auchentore , within half a mile of the fort, killed a few, and took several prisoners. His former engagements with the General obliged him at last to join, which he did, with a great number of his clan; but was not long with him when he had certain information, that the Governor of Inverlochy availed himself of Lochiel's absence, by making his troops cut down the woods, and collect all the provisions in the country. His return to Lochaber being necessary, Middleton agreed to it, upon condition he would leave the greatest part of his men behind him. This he did, and set out privately for his country with only 150 men. He soon found his information was too true: in order to obtain redress, he posted his men, early in the morning of the day after his arrival, in different parts of a wood called Stronneviss , within a mile of the garrison, where the soldiers used to come out every morning, to cut and bring in wood. Four or five hundred came in the ordinary manner. Lochiel , observing them from a convenient part of the wood where he rested, gave the signal at a proper time. His men soon made the attack, the enemy were soon routed, and a great slaughter made; 100 fell upon the spot, and the pursuit was carried on to the very walls of the garrison. It is remarkable, that not an officer escaped, they being the only active persons, that made resistance. Thus continued Lochiel for some time a pest to the garrison, frequently cutting off small detachments, partly by stratagem, partly by force; but his name carried so much terror with it, that they gave him no opportunity for some time of doing them much harm.

Gen. Middleton being at this time extremely unsuccessful in some of his adventures, particularly in an action, some of his troops had lately with Major Gen. Morgan , at Lochgarry , where they were totally defeated, sent an express to Lochiel , supplicating his presence, that measures might be concerted how to conclude the war in an honorable manner. Lochiel resolved to go at the head of 300 men, and made the proper preparations for his journey with all imaginable secrecy; yet the Governor gets notice of his intended expedition, and orders Morgan if possible to intercept him. Middleton was at Brae-mar , in the head of Aberdeenshire , between which place and Lochaber there is a continued range of hills for upwards of 100 miles. Over these did he travel, sleeping in shellings, (huts which the herds build for shelter when in the mountains) on beds of hedder with their crops turned upwards, without any covering but his plaid. In the course of this expedition, he was like to be surprized by the activity of Morgan once and again; but getting up to the tops of the mountains, he always escaped the enemy, but frequently not to their profit, as his men often run down the hill, and after discharging a few pieces or arrows among them, would as easily ascend.

Soon after his junction with Middleton , the war was given over, and Middleton retired to France , having presented Lochiel with a most favorable declaration, signed at Dunvegan , in Sky, March 31. 1665. But though the war was thus given over in general, and many of the nobility and heads of clans had submitted to Monk , upon getting their estates restored, Lochiel still stood out, not able to bear the insolence of the troops quartered in a garrison so near him. For the governor, encouraged by the departure of Middleton , and taking the advantage of Lochiel's absence in Sky , used to allow his officers to go out frequently in hunting parties, well guarded with a good number of armed men, destroying the game. Lochiel , on his return, having learned this, soon put a stop to their insolence; for convening a party of the Camerons , he watched one day at a convenient place, while he saw one of these hunting parties coming towards the hill whereon he sat, and having divided his men, and given them proper instructions, the attack was made with success: most of the party were slain, and the rest taken prisoners. The loss of so many officers afforded new matter of grief and astonishment to the Governor, and prompted him to make some attempts to obtain redress, but they were all in vain. He, however, by this time became acquainted with the situation and manners of the country, and procured a number of mercenary desperadoes around him, who gave him exact intelligence of whatever happened. This obliged Lochiel to flit his quarters to a farther distance from the fort, while he employed such of his clan as continued faithful, as counter-spies near the garrison; and by their means, the resolutions and plans of the Governor were not only made public, but many of his spies were detected and apprehended, whom Lochiel ordered to be hung up, without any ceremony or form of trial.

Soon after his encounter with the hunting party, an express came to him from the Laird of M'Naughtin , a true Royalist in Cowal , a country opposite to Inverara , in Argyleshire , acquainting him, that there were in that country three English , and one Scotch Colonel, with other Officers, who were deputed by Gen. Monk to survey the forts and forfeited places in that part of the Highlands; and that it was possible to seize them with a few stout fellows. Lochiel , rejoiced at this intelligence, picked out 100 choice Camerom , with whom he marched for Cowal , still keeping the tops of the mountains, lest his designs should be discovered and published. There he met his friend M'Naughtin , who informed him that the Officers lay at a certain inn, well guarded with armed soldiers. Upon which, he gave the proper orders to his men, who executed them with so much expedition and skill, that the officers, servants, and soldiers were all apprehended, and carried, almost without halting, to a place of security, before they well knew where they were. This place was a small island in Loch-Ortnick> a fresh water lake 12 miles in length, about 10 miles North of Inverlochy .

The prisoners, though terrified at first, were soon undeceived. The horrible executions which Lachiel's men made in the several rencounters they were engaged in, made his enemies believe him to be cruel and sanguinary in his disposition; but the gentle treatment, and the great civility the prisoners met with, soon convinced them of the contrary: he omitted nothing that could contribute to their happiness; but particularly he proposed and exhibited several hunting matches, which gave them great satisfaction. During their imprisonment, they took the liberty now and then to represent to Lochiel the expediency and the prudence of a treaty with the General. He at first rejected the motion, and scorned the advice; but being often repeated, he began to give way to their reasonings, but still said, that no wise man should trust his safety in the hands of their pretended Protector, whose whole life was a continued scene of ambition, rebellion, hypocrisy, and cruelty; and that though he was able to do little for the service of the King or his country, yet would he always preserve his conscience and honor unstained, till perhaps a more favorable opportunity of restoring the King might offer. These conferences being often renewed, brought Lochiel to declare himself in a more favorable manner. For the truth is, that he dissembled his sentiments at first, wanting nothing so much as an honorable treaty; for his country was impoverished, and his people almost ruined. He still, however, protested, that before he would consent to disarm himself and his clan, abjure his King, and take oaths to the usurper, he would live as an outlaw and fugitive, without regard to consequences. To this it was answered, that if he only shewed an inclination to submit, no oath should be required, and he should have his own terms.

In consequence of this affirmation, Lochiel , with the advice of his friends, made out a draught of his conditions, which were transmitted to Gen. Monk , by Col. Campbel , one of the prisoners, he having given his word of honor he would soon return. Upon receipt of this, the General made out a new set of articles, of much the same nature with the draught sent, which he returned to Lochiel , signifying to him, if he agreed thereto they would stand good, otherwise not. After making some small alterations, Lochiel consented, and the Marquiss of Argyle became his guarantee. This treaty was burned in a house of Lochiel's , which was consumed by accident. However, the most material articles are preserved in Monk's letters to him, and are as follows.

No oath was required of Lochiel to Cromwell , but his word of honor to live in peace. He and his clan were allowed to keep their arms as before the war broke out, they behaving peaceably. Reparation was to be made to Lochiel for what wood the Governor of Inverlochy cut on his grounds. A free and full indemnity was granted him for all riots, depredations, and crimes committed by him or his men preceding the present treaty. Reparation was to be made to the tenants for all the losses they sustained from the garrison soldiers. The tithes, cess, and other public burdens which had not been paid during the wars, were remitted, on condition they should be paid afterwards, with several others of the like nature.

All that was demanded by Monk of Lochiel , was, that he and his clan should lay down their arms in name of King CHARLES II. before the Governor of Inverlochy , and take them up again in name of the States, without mentioning the Protector; that he would afterwards keep the peace, pay publick burdens, and suppress tumults, thefts, and depredations.

These articles being agreed to, and subscribed by Monk and Lochiel , the prisoners were discharged, but Lochiel begged they would honor him with their presence at the ceremony of laying down their arms, which they complied with. Having convened a respectable number of his clan, he ranged them into companies, under the command of the Captains of their respective tribes, and put himself at their head. In this manner he marched to Inverlochy , in the same order as if going to battle, pipes playing, and colors flying. The Governor drew out the soldiers, and put them in order on a plain near the fort; placing them in two lines opposite to the Camerons. Lochiel and the Governor first saluted each other as friends. The articles of the treaty were then read, and the ceremony of laying down and taking up the arms performed. Both parties afterwards partook of a splendid entertainment, prepared by the Governor for the occasion, to the great satisfaction of all present. Thus did Lochiel , the only Chief in the Highlands that continued to support the Royal cause after it was agreed the war should be given over, at last submit in an honorable way. Monk sent him a letter of thanks for his chearful compliance, dated at Dalkeith, 5 June 1655.

During the remaining part of Oliver's life, and the reigns of King CHARLES II. and JAMES II., Lochiel lived chiefly at home, in a broken kind of tranquility, occasioned by the distractions of the times, and the pretensions of neighboring Chiefs and Lairds to parts of his estate: but he always shewed so much prudence and courage on every emergency, as gained him the friendship of the great and the esteem of all. He was held in particular favor by the two brothers CHARLES and JAMES, and received from them many marks of their royal regard. It may not be unworthy the attention of the curious to narrate the following incident.

Lochiel and the Laird of M'Intosh had a long dispute concerning some lands in Lochaber. M'Intosh claimed them in consequence of a grant of them he had from the Lord of the Isles , afterwards confirmed by K. David Bruce: Lochiel's plea was perpetual possession. The contest was often renewed, both at the law courts and by arms. Many terms of accommodation were proposed to the contending parties, but in vain. King CHARLES II. himself would needs be the mediator; but nothing but superior force would prevail. In 1665, M'Intosh , with his own clan and the M'Phersons , convened an army of 1500 men, with which he sets out for Lochaber. Lochiel , aided by the M'Gregors , raises 1200, 900 of which were armed with guns, broad swords and targets, and 300 with bows and arrows. (It is remarked, this was the last considerable body of bowmen that ever was seen in the Highlands.) Just as they were in view of one another, and almost ready to fight, the Earl of Breadalbane , who was Cousin German to both, arrived at the head of 300 men, and immediately sent for the two Chiefs. He declared whoever should oppose the terms he was to offer, he should join the contrary party with all his power, and be his foe while he lived. Accordingly proposals of agreement were made, and submitted to by both parties. Lochiel continued in possession of the lands; for which a sum of money was given to M'Intosh , to renounce all claims for the future. The articles of agreement were signed 20th September 1665, about 360 years after the commencement of the quarrel; and next day the two Chiefs had a friendly meeting, and exchanged swords. The leading Gentlemen of both clans performed the same friendly ceremony.

It must appear strange, that now not a bow is to be seen in the Highlands, nor any propensity towards that kind of armour. One might imagine, when the disarming act took place, bows and arrows would have been a good substitute for guns; and, if I recollect right, there is no prohibition of bows in the act.

At the revolution, Sir Ewen , who was always prepossessed in favor of the hereditary right, and particularly for JAMES, whose friendship he had often experienced, and was resolved to support his cause, as far as he could, at all hazards. In this resolution he was confirmed by a letter he had from JAMES, dated 29 March 1689, then in Ireland , soliciting his aid, and that of his friends. Upon receipt of this letter, he visited all the neighboring Chiefs, and wrote to those at a distance, communicating to them the King's letter, and calling a general meeting to concert what measures should be taken. They assembled on May 13th, near his house, and mutually engaged to one another to support his Majesty's, interest against all invaders. When Viscount Dundee got a commission from King JAMES to command his troops in Scotland, Lochiel joined him with his clan, notwithstanding that Gen. M'Kay made him great offers, both in money and titles, to abandon JAMES'S interest.

He made a distinguished figure at the skirmish of Killikrankie , under Lord Dundee , against Gen. M'Kay , though then above the age of sixty-three. He was the most sanguine man in the council for fighting; and in the battle, though placed in the centre opposite to Gen. M'Kay's own regiment, yet spoke he to his men one by one, and took their several engagements either to conquer or die. Just as they began the fight, he fell upon this stratagem to encourage his men: He commanded such of the Camerons as were posted near him to make a great shout, which being seconded by those who stood on the right and left, run quickly through the whole army, and was returned by the enemy. But the noise of the musquets and cannon, with the echoing of the hills, made the Highlanders fancy that their shouts were much louder and brisker than that of the enemy; and Lochiel cried out,

Gentlemen, Take courage, the day is ours: I am the oldest Commander in the army, and have always observed something ominous and fatal in such a dull, hollow, and feeble noise as the enemy made in their shout, which prognosticates that they ate all doomed to die by our hands this night; whereas ours was brisk, lively, and strong, and shews we have vigor and courage.

These words spreading quickly through the army, animated the troops in a strange manner. The event justified the prediction: the Highlanders obtained a complete victory. The battle was fought, 1689. Lochiel continued for some time with that army; but being dissatisfied with the conduct of Cannon and some of the principal Officers, retired to Lochaber , leaving his son in his place during the rest of the campaign.

When terms of submission were offered by King WILLIAM to the outstanding Chiefs, though many were glad to accept of them, yet Lochiel and a few others were determined to stand out, untill they had King JAMES'S permission, which was at last obtained, and only a few days before King WILLIAM'S indemnity expired.

There is nothing else memorable, in the publick way, in the life of Sir Ewen Cameron . He outlived himself, becoming a second child, even rocked in a cradle; so much were the faculties of his mind, and the members of his body, impaired. He died A.D. 1718.

Thomas Pennant, A Tour in Scotland 1769 (London: Benjamin White, 1776)

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