Battlefield Blog: Glenshiel

Stepping outside the car, I could feel the rough gravel grate against the soles of my worn-out hiking shoes. The wind, funneled through valley’s steep slopes, clawed at my sweater and ruffled my hair. Leaving the parked Toyota behind, I headed towards the nearby flat-topped knoll rising from the valley floor. The boggy ground suctioned my shoes with surprising strength and squelched beneath every step. Ascending to the summit, I turned to appraise the battlefield.

The first and final battle of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising, the battle of Glenshiel was a serious setback for the Jacobite cause. The Jacobite forces and their Spanish allies had occupied the valley floor, their battle line centered on the small knoll beneath my feet, to defy the approaching Government army. Advancing toward the knoll from the East, the government column would have followed the meandering Glensheil river, a historic terrain feature, flowing through the valley floor before me. The Spanish and Jacobite forces responded by occupying the steep slopes on either side of the valley to create a cross-fire.

“Je zit naar neits te kijken” My brother Marcus had followed me up the rise and his terse words pulled me back into the present. I shook my head in silent exasperation at the well-established banter “you can at least appreciate the dramatic landscape,” I responded, switching to English, “and as it happens, Glenshiel does have upstanding remains related to the fighting.” Marcus grimaced, clearly still unimpressed. Leaving him behind, I scrambled up the steep slopes to the North where the Spanish troops had survived fire from a government cohorn mortar.

Along the high ground, hidden from view from the valley floor, I found the remnants of the low stone walls created by the Spanish troops. Unfortunately for the Jacobites, the fortifications failed to hold back the assault by the Government troops towards the end of the fighting. Peering back down into the valley floor, I envisioned the landscape covered by a haze of smoke and the morning stillness broken by the crackle of musket fire. Then my eyes rested on the small figure of my brother waiting by the parked car far beneath and I turned back to retrace my steps.

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