Skirmish at Highbridge

Jacobite Rising of 1745

highbridge skirmish
A soldier of the Royal Scots c.1745

On 16th August 1745, two companies from the 2nd Battalion of St Clair’s 1st Regiment of Foot (Royal Scots) were ambushed by a small party of Jacobites at Highbridge north of Fort William. The newly-levied soldiers who were led by Captain John Scott were marching to reinforce Fort William at the onset of the Jacobite rebellion. It was the first military engagement of the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

After the landing of Charles Edward Stuart in Moidart in the Western Highlands was confirmed, the military authorities in Scotland began to move to crush the Jacobite rising before it could gather sufficient strength. On 10th August, Captain Scott received orders from Lieutenant-General Sir John Cope, commander-in-chief for Scotland, to march two companies of the Royal Scots from Perth to Fort William and reinforce the isolated garrison there. On the 16th, after passing through Fort Augustus and with just 8 miles to their destination, the way was blocked at High Bridge on the River Spean, by a small force of Jacobites under Donald Macdonell of Tirindrish. Constructed in 1736, High Bridge was part of General Wade’s military road network, built to facilitate the movement of government troops in the highlands.

Using the High Bridge Inn and the surrounding woodland for concealment, the Jacobites were able to give the appearance of a much larger force and Captain Scott sent a sergeant and a servant forward to investigate and negotiate. Both men were captured. Unnerved, the Royal Scots began to fall back towards Fort Augustus, taking fire from the Jacobite positions. Jacobite reinforcements under Donald Macdonnell of Keppoch began to arrive and assisted in the pursuit. Scott’s men began to return fire and formed a hollow square which made the Jacobites unwilling to close with the sword. As he was withdrawing up the side of Loch Lochy, Captain Scott was possibly intending to make for Invergarry Castle, the nearest place of refuge, however, with the arrival of more Jacobites on his line of retreat near Laggan, he soon found himself surrounded. With his troops running low on ammunition and with a wound to his shoulder, Captain Scott surrendered.

Captain Scott had lost around six men killed and more than a dozen wounded. The Jacobites had not lost a single man in the engagement. Scott was taken to Achnacarry House, the home of Jacobite clan chief Donald Cameron of Lochiel where his wound was tended to by Lochiel’s wife. The captured Royal Scots were taken to the nearby Achnacarry Inn before being marched to Glenfinnan where they met Charles Edward Stuart and would witness the raising of the Jacobite standard on the 19th August. Lochiel later released Scott on parole so that he could receive medical treatment at Fort William.

A cairn commemorating the event was erected in 1994 by the 1745 Association and is situated near the south side of the now ruined bridge, of which only the pillars remain.