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Battle of Loch nan Uamh during the Jacobite ’45

The Royal Navy's attack on French privateers landing arms and supplies for the Jacobites in Arisaig during the Jacobite Rising of 1745

On 3 May 1746, three Royal Navy warships sailed into Loch nan Uamh in Arisaig and engaged two French privateers that had arrived to deliver weapons and money for the Jacobites.

The French privateers, Le Bellone (34 guns) captained by Antoine Rouillé and Le Mars (32 guns) captained by Claude Lory had sailed from Nantes carrying a cargo of muskets, ammunition, gunpowder and money for Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite army. On 30 April 1746, they anchored in Loch nan Uamh in Arisaig and began to unload the chests of muskets and barrels of powder and ammunition.

The French privateers took fire from parties of Jacobite highlanders on the shore who believed they were Royal Navy vessels and the mistake was realised when the ships raised the French flag. Both captains were unaware of the Jacobite defeat at Culloden on 16 April and soon found themselves taking on board Jacobite fugitives including James Drummond, Duke of Perth, his brother Lord John Drummond, David Wemyss, Lord Elcho and John Cameron of Locheil.

Upon hearing of the bad situation, they refused to deliver the money ashore but were forced by threats of violence to hand it over. John Murray of Broughton, Charles Edward Stuart’s private secretary, took possession of what amounted to £40,000 and had it sent inland to Loch Arkaig.1

In late April, His Majesty’s Ship Greyhound (20 guns) commanded by Captain Thomas Noel had sailed from Belfast to the western highlands to assist with anti-Jacobite operations. On 1 May while anchored in Aros Bay off the Isle of Mull, Captain Noel received information about two French ships anchored in Loch nan Uamh. The following morning Greyhound, accompanied by Baltimore (14 guns) captained by Commander Richard Howe, made sail for Arisaig and was joined en route by Terror (14 guns) commanded by Commander Robert Duff. At daybreak on 3 May, they sailed into Loch nan Uamh.2

Shortly after 0400, the engagement began with Greyhound closing in with Le Mars before delivering a devastating broadside which inflicted numerous casualties. Greyhound then turned to engage Le Bellone firing another close-range broadside which caused casualties and badly damaged the vessel’s foremast. Le Bellone returned fire on Greyhound as Baltimore and Terror joined the fight.

Royal Navy warship of 20 guns similar to Greyhound | Image: National Maritime Museum

Sailing between Le Mars and Le Bellone, Baltimore received cannon and small arms fire from both vessels and Commander Howe took a musket ball to the head. Believing that their captain had been killed his crew carried him below deck, however on receiving medical attention from the ship’s doctor he soon showed signs of life. The musket ball was removed, his wound was bandaged up and he returned to his post.3

The wind drove the French vessels to the southern end of the loch where they cast anchor. The Royal Navy ships stood off and cannonaded them for a few hours before Greyhound, who had taken on additional crew from Baltimore and Terror, closed with Le Bellone in an attempt to board the vessel. The boarding attempt was repulsed and Greyhound sailed out of the loch.4

At around 0900 Greyhound, Baltimore and Terror withdrew from the action after suffering extensive damage to their masts and rigging on account of the French gunners firing high as was their custom. The French privateers remained masters of the loch but had suffered severe hull damage and had taken heavier casualties as a result of the Royal Navy gunners firing low into the decks to disable guns and crew. Greyhound, Baltimore and Terror sailed to Aros Bay to carry out repairs while Le Mars and Le Bellone carried out emergency repair work to their hulls and set sail for France on the evening of 3 May.

Early in the morning of 6 May, Greyhound, Baltimore and Terror, having repaired their masts and rigging in the best manner they could, set sail again for Loch nan Uamh intending to continue the fight. Joined en route by Raven (12 guns) captained by Commander Edward Parker and Furnace (8 guns) captained by Commander John Fergusson, they arrived there at around noon and discovered that the French privateers had sailed off.

They then proceeded to sail on to the Isle of Canna to ascertain the whereabouts of the French ships and were informed there that they had passed by on the 4th en route to the Isle of Barra. They searched around the coast of Barra and then on to Stornoway before Captain Noel ordered Baltimore to sail to Dublin for repair work.5

On 9 May, Captain Fergusson of Furnace received intelligence that arms and money were being stored in the home of Archibald Macdonald of Barisdale on Loch Nevis. Fergusson sent a party of sailors and Argyllshire militia ashore to burn the house and they returned to the ship having seized 150 muskets. The following day a shore party from Furnace skirmished with a party of Macdonalds at Loch Ailort and then returned with over 600 muskets and cases of ammunition.6

Terror and Furnace returned to Loch nan Uamh on 19 May with parties of Argyllshire militia sent ashore to search for the arms and ammunition that had been delivered by the French privateers. Around eighty muskets and twenty barrels of gunpowder were found. They burnt the home of Angus Macdonald of Borrodale where Charles Edward Stuart had spent his first night on arriving on the mainland on 25 July 1745.7

Notes:

  1. Intelligence from Mingary Castle, The London Gazette, 27 May 1746, no. 8540. ↩︎
  2. RA CP/MAIN/14 f.337-337a: Captain Robert Duff to Archibald Campbell, 4 May 1746, Aros Bay; SP 54/31/6B: Captain Thomas Noel’s dispatch; Captain Noel to Major-General John Campbell, The London Gazette, 13 May 1746, no. 8536. ↩︎
  3. The Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1799, Vol 86, p 805. ↩︎
  4. David, Lord Elcho, A Short Account of the Affairs of Scotland in the Years 1744, 1745, 1746, p 442. ↩︎
  5. ADM 106/1029/148 ↩︎
  6. RA CP/MAIN/14 f.399-399c: Captain John Fergusson to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, 12 May 1746. ↩︎
  7. RA CP/MAIN/16 f.59-59b: Captain John Fergusson to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, 11 June 1746, Tobermory Bay. ↩︎

Cite this article: Ritchie, N. (6 May 2024). Battle of Loch nan Uamh during the Jacobite ’45. https://www.scottishhistory.org/articles/battle-loch-nan-uamh/

Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie is the founder and editor of ScottishHistory.org. Neil has a keen interest in the military history of Scotland and in particular the military history of the Jacobite risings. He is also the editor of other online publications covering military history, defence and security.

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