1692 - Massacre of Glencoe

The Massacre of Glencoe

Without a charismatic leader, Jacobite resistance in Scotland died down. The government, however, was determined to make an example of any Highland clans who stood out against them. It was decreed that all clan chiefs must take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary by New Year 1692. Delayed by a snowstorm and by having found the wrong government official to take his oath, the chief of clan MacIan (a sept of the MacDonalds) missed the crucial date. Little did he know that a deadly example was to be made of his clan. Here are two reports of the massacre. The first was written the day after the event by the Governor of Fort William, whose second in command, Campbell of Glenlyon, carried out the massacre. The second is a popular account circulated in 1695 at a time when demands to punish the culprits were being heard in the Scottish Parliament.

Fort William
14th February 1692

My Lord,
This is to give your Lordship an account that the house off Invergary was surrendered to my order on Thursday last, at which tyme I sent an officer and a partie to take possession off Island Donan, which a strict and positive order from Major Generall Buchan to those who keepe it, to surrender it to my order which I beleeve is done ere this (if the horrid storme on Fryday night did not retard him). I have alsoe ruined Glencoe. Old Glencoe and Achtriaton (the two Cheifes off the two familyes off the Clanean in Glencoe) being killed with 36 more, the rest by reason off an extraordinary storme escaped, but their goods are a prey to the souldiers and their houses to the fire, who may get other broken men to joyne them and be very troublesome to the countrey, off which (not to give your Lordship too great trouble) I have written more fully to the Commander in Chief and aboute a proclamation which will be necessary to be issued out against them. They come from all partes to submit to the King's mercy, and take the oath of allegiance and soe (according to my orders) save their lifes. I hope this example off justice and severity upon Glencoe will be enough.

The next will be to thinke of a civill jurisdiction which will be most likely to compleat the settlement off which I have given formerly several memorandums to the councell and the secretaryes. This is what is requisite at present from him who covets the honor of your Lordship's commands and is
My Lord,
Your Lordship's most humble and obedient servant
[John Hill]

'Yester papers', MS. 7014, f.13.

Gallienus Redivivus or Murther will out

The soldiers being disposed five or three in a House, according to the number of the Family they were to assassinate, had their orders given them secretly. They had been all receiv'd as Friends by those poor People, who intending no Evil themselves, little suspected that their Guests were designed to be their Murtherers. At 5 a Clock in the Morning they began their bloody Work, surprised and butchered 38 persons, who had kindly received them under their Roofs. Mac-ian himself was murthered, and is much bemoan'd; he was a stately well-favoured Man, and of good Courage and Sense: As also the Laird Archintrikin, a Gentleman of more than ordinary Judgment and Understanding, who had submitted to the Government, and had Collonel Hill's Protection in his Pocket, which he had got three Months before. I cannot without horror represent how that a Boy about Eight Years of Age was murthered; he seeing what was done to others in the House with him, in a terrible Fright run of the House, and espying Capt Campbell, grasped him about the Legs, crying for Mercy, and offering to be his Servant all his Life. I am inform'd Capt Campbell inclined to spare him, but one Drummond; an Officer, barbarously run his Dagger through him, whereof he died immediately. The rehearsal of several Particulars and Circumstances of this tragical Story, makes it appear most doleful; as that Mac-ian was kill'd as he was drawing on his Breeches, standing before his Bed and giving orders to his Servants for the good Entertainment of those who murthered him; while he was speaking the words, he was shot through the Head, and fell dead in his Ladies Arms, who thro' the grief of this, and other bad Usages she met with, died the next day. It is not to be omitted, that most of those poor People were kill'd when they were asleep, and none was allowed to pray to God for Mercy. Providence ordered it so, that that Night was most boisterous; so as a Party of 400 Men, who should have come to the other end of the Glen, and begun the lie Work there at the same hour, (intending that the poor Inhabitants should be enclosed, and none of them escape) could not march that length, until it was Nine a Clock, and this afforded to many any opportunity of escaping, and none were kill'd but those in whose Houses Campbell of Glenlyon's Men were Quartered, otherwise all the Male under 70 Years of Age, to the number of 200, had been cut off, for that was the order; and it might have easily been executed, especially considering that the Inhabitants had no Arms at that time; for upon the first hearing that the Soldiers were coming to the Glen, they had conveyed them all out of the way: For tho' they rely'd on the Promises which were made them for their Safety; yet they thought it not improbable that they might be disarm'd. I know not whether to impute it to difficulty of distinguishing the difference of a few Years, or to the Fury of the Soldiers, who being once glutted with Blood, stand at nothing, that even from above Seventy Years of Age were destroyed. They set all the Houses on Fire, drove off all the Cattle to the Garison of Inverlochy, viz. 900 Cows, 200 Horses, and a great many Sheep and Goats, and there they were divided among the Officers. An how dismal may you imagine the Case of the poor Women and Children was then! It was lamentable, past expression; their Husbands and Fathers, and nearest Relations were forced to flee for their Lives; they themselves almost stript, and nothing left them, and their Houses being burnt, and not one House nearer than six Miles, and to get thither they were to pass over Mountains, and Wreaths of Snow, in a vehement Storm, wherein the greatest part of them perished through Hunger and Cold. It fills me with horror to think of poor stript Children, and Women, some with Child, and some giving Suck, wrestling against a Storm in Mountains, and heaps of Snow, and at length to be overcome, and give over, and fall down, and die miserably.

You see in Hamilton's Order to Duncanson, there's a special Caution, that the old Fox, nor none, of his Cubs should escape; and in Duncanson's Order to Capt Campbell of Glenlyon, that the old Fox, nor more of his Sons escape; but notwithstanding all this wicked Caution, it pleased God that the two young Gentlemen, Mac-ian's Sons escaped: for it happened that the younger of these Gentlemen trusted little to the fair Promises of Campbell, and had a more watchful Eye over him than his Father or Brother, who suffered themselves by his reiterated Oaths to be deluded into a Belief of his Integrity: He having a strong Impression on his Spirit, that some mischievous Design was hidden under Campbell's specious Pretences, it made him after the rest were in Bed, remain in a retired Corner, where he had an advantageous prospect into their Guard. About midnight perceiving several Soldiers to enter it, this encreased his Jealousie; so he went and communicated his Fears to his Brother, who could not for a long time be persuaded there was any bad Design against them, and asserted, that what he had seen was not a doubling of their Guards in order to any ill design, but that being in a strange place, and at a distance from the Garrison, they were to send out Sentinels far from the Guard, and because of the Extremity of the Weather relieved them often, and that the Men he saw could be no more but these. Yet he persisting to say, that they were not so secure, but that it was fit to acquaint their Father with what he had seen, he prevailed with his Brother to rise, and go with him to his Father, who lay in a room contiguous to that they were in. Though what the younger Son alledged made no great Impression on his Father, yet he allowed his Sons to try what they could discover. They well knowing all skulking places there, went and hid themselves near to a Sentinel's Post, where instead of one they discovered eight or ten Men; this made them more inquisitive, so they crept as near as they could without being discovered, so near that they could hear one say to his Fellows, that he liked not this Work, and that had he known of it he would have been very unwilling to have come there; but that non, except their Commanders, knew of it till within a quarter of an hour. The Soldier added, that he was willing to fight against the Men of the Glen, but it was base to murder them: But to all this was answered, All the blame be on such as gave the Orders; we are free, being bound to obey our officers. Upon hearing of these words the young Gentlemen retired as quickly and quietly as they could towards the House, to inform their Father of what they had heard; but as they came nigh to it they perceived it surrounded, and heard Guns discharged, and the People shrieking; whereupon, being unarm'd, and totally unable to rescue their Father, they preserved their own Lives in hopes yet to serve their King and Country, and see Justice done upon those Hell-hounds, treacherous Murtherers, the Shame of their Country and Disgrace of Mankind.

I must not forget to tell you, that there were two of these Officers who had given their Paroll of Honour to Mac-ian, who refused to be concerned in that brutal Tragedy, for which they were sent Prisoners to Glascow, where if they remain not still, I am sure they were some Weeks ago. Thus, Sir, in obedience to your Commands I have sent you such account as I could get of that monstrous and most inhuman Massacre of the Laird of Glenco, and others of this Clan. You desire some Proofs of the Truth of the Story; for you say there are many in England who cannot believe such a thing could be done, and publick Justice not executed upon the Ruffians: For they take it for granted, that no such Order could be given by the Government; and you say they will never believe it without a downright Demonstration. Sir, As to the Government; I will not meddle with it, or whether these Officers who murdered Glenco, had such Orders as they pretended from the Government; the Government knows that best, and how to vindicate their own Honour, and punish the Murtherers who pretended their Authority, and still stand upon it. But as to the Matter of Fact of the Murther of Glenco, you may depend upon it, as certain and undeniable: It would be thought as strange a thing in Scotland for any man to doubt of it, as of the Death of my Lord Dundee, or with you that the Duke of Monmouth lost his Head. But to Put you out of all doubt, you will e'er long have my Lord Argyle's Regiment with you in London, and there you may speak with Glenlyon himself, with Drummond and the rest of the Actors in that dismal Tragedy; and on my Life, there is never a one of them will deny it to you; for they know that it is notoriously known all over Scotland, and it is an admiration to us that there should be any one in England who makes the least doubt of it. Nay, Glenlyon is so far from denying it, that he brags of it, and justifies the Action publickly: He said in the Royal Coffee-house in Edinburgh, that he would do it again; nay, that he would stab any Man in Scotland or in England, without asking the cause, if the King gave him orders, and that it was every good Subject's duty so to do; and I am credibly informed, that Glenlyon and the rest of them have address'd them selves to the Council for a Reward for their good Service, in destroying Glenco pursuant to their Orders. There is enough of this mournful subject: If what I have said satisfie you not, you may have what Proof, and in what manner ye please to ask it.

Gallienus Redivivus Or Murther Will Out, Edinburgh, 1695.

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