When in course of erection, the ball on the top of the flag-staff fell off.
This was regarded by the Highlanders as a bad omen, and it cast a gloom over the proceedings of the day.
Meanwhile Colonel Sir Hector Munro, who bad served as Captain in the Earl of Orkney's Regiment with reputation in the wars of Queen Anne, raised his followers, who, along with a body of Rosses, numbered about 600 men. With these, in November, 1715, he encamped at Alness and on the 6th of October following he was joined by the Earl of Sutherland, accompanied by his son, Lord Strathnaver, and by Lord Reay, with an additional force of 600, in the interest of the Whig Government, and to cover their own districts and check the movements of the Western clans in effecting a junction with the Earl of Mar, whom Earl William and Sir Donald Macdonald had publicly espoused, as already stated, at the pretended hunting match in Braemar. The meeting at Alness was instrumental in keeping Seaforth in the North. If the Earl and his mother's clans had advanced a month earlier the Duke of Argyll would not have dared to advance against Mar's united forces, who might have pushed an army across the Forth sufficient to have paralyzed any exertion that might have been made to preserve a shadow of the Government. It may be said that if Dundee had lived to hold the commission of Mar, such a junction would not have been necessary, which amounts to no more than saying that the life of Dundee would have been tantamount to a restoration of the Stuarts Mar was not trained in camp, nor did he possess the military genius of Dundee. Had Montrose a moiety of his force things would have been otherwise. Mar, trusting to Seaforth's reinforcement, was inactive, and Seaforth was for a time kept in by the collocation of Sutherland's levies, till he was joined by 700 Macdonalds and detachments from other clans, amounting, with his own followers, to 3000 men, with which he promptly attacked the Earl of Sutherland, who fled with his mixed army precipitately to Bonar-Bridge, where they dispersed. A party of Grants on their way to join them, on being informed of Sutherland's retreat, thought it prudent to retrace their steps. Seaforth, thus relieved, levied considerable fines on Munro's territories, which were fully retaliated for during his absence with the Jacobite army, to join which he now set out; and Sir John Mackenzie of Coul, whom he had ordered to occupy Inverness, was, after a gallant resistance, forced by Lord Lovat, at the head of a mixed body of Frasers and Grants, to retire with his garrison to Ross-shire. "Whether he followed his chief to Perth does not appear; but on Seaforth's arrival that Mar seems for the first time to have resolved on the passage of the Firth--a movement which led to the Battle of Sheriffmuir--is evident and conclusive as to the different features given to the whole campaign by the Whig camp at Alness, however creditable to the noble Earl and his mother's confederates. But it is not our present province to enter on a military review of the conduct of either army preceding this consequential conflict, or to decide to which party the victory, claimed by both parties, properly belonged suffice it to say that above 3000 of Seaforth's men formed a considerable part of the second line, and seem from the general account on that subject to have done their duty." [Bennetsfield MS.] A great many of Seaforth's followers were slain, among whom were four Highlanders who appear to have signally distinguished themselves. They were John Mackenzie of Hilton, who commanded a company of the Mackenzies, John Mackenzie of Applecross, John Mac Rae of Conchra, and John Murchison of Achtertyre.
Their prowess on the field had been commemorated by one of their followers, John MacRae, who escaped and returned home, in an excellent Gaelie poem, known as "Latha Blar an t-Siorra," the " Day of Sheriffmuir." The fate of these renowned warriors was keenly regretted by their Highland countrymen, and they are still remembered and distinguished amongst them as "Ceithear Ianan na h-Alba," or The four Johns of Scotland.
During the preceding troubles Ellandonnan Castle got into the hands of the King's troops, but shortly before Sheriffmuir it was again secured by the following clever stratagem:--A neighbouring tenant applied to the Governor for some of the garrison to cut his corn, as he feared from the appearance of the sky and the croaking of ravens that a heavy storm was impending, and that nothing but a sudden separation of his crop from the ground could save his family from starvation. The Governor readily yielded to his solicitations, and sent the garrison of Government soldiers then in the castle to his aid, who, on their return, discovered the ruse too late for the Kintail men were by this time reaping the spoils, and had possession of the castle. "The oldest inhabitant of the parish remembers to have seen the Kintail men under arms, dancing on the leaden roof, just as they were setting out for the Battle of Sheriffmuir, where this resolute band was cut to pieces." [Old Statistical Account of Kintail, 1792.]
Inverness continued meanwhile in possession of the Mackenzies, under command of the Governor, Sir John Mackenzie of Coul, and George Mackenzie of Gruinard. Macdonald of Keppoch was on the march to support Sir John at Inverness, and Lord Lovat, learning this, gathered his men together, and on the 7th of November decided to throw himself across the river Ness and place his forces directly between Keppoch and the Governor. Sir John, on discovering Lovat's movement, resolved to make a sally out of the garrison and place the enemy between him and the advancing Keppoch, where he could attack him with advantage, but Macdonald became alarmed and returned home through Glen-Urquhart, whereupon Lord Lovat marched straight upon Inverness, and took up a position about a mile to the west of the town. The authorities were summoned to send out the garrison and the Governor, or the town would be burnt and the inhabitants put to the sword. Preparations were made for the attack, but Sir John Mackenzie, considering that any further defence was hopeless, on the 10th of November collected together all the boats he could find and at high water safely effected his escape from the town, when Lovat marched in without opposition. His Lordship advised the Earl of Sutherland that he had secured possession of Inverness, and on the 15th of November the latter, leaving Colonel Robert Munro of Fowlis as Governor of Inverness, went with his followers, accompanied by Lord Lovat with some of his men, to Brahan Castle, and compelled the responsible men of the Clan Mackenzie who were not in the South with the Earl of Seaforth to come under an obligation for their peaceable behaviour, and to return the arms previously taken from the Munros by Lord Seaforth at Alness; to release the prisoners in their possession, and promise not to assist Lord Seaforth directly or indirectly in his efforts against the Government; that they would grant to the Earl of Sutherland any sum of money he might require from them upon due notice for the use of the Government; and, finally, that Brahan Castle, the principal residence of the Earl of Seaforth, should be turned into a garrison for King George.
Seaforth returned from Sheriffmuir, and again collected his men near Brahan, but the Earl of Sutherland with a large number of his own men, Lord Reay's, the Munros, Rosses, Culloden's men, and the Frasers, marched to meet him and encamped at Beauly, within a few miles of Mackenzie's camp, and prepared to give him battle, which, when my Lord Seaforth saw, he thought it convenient to capitulate, own the King's authority, disperse his men, and propose the mediation of these Government friends for his pardon. Upon his submission the King was graciously pleased to send down orders that upon giving up his arms and coming into Inverness, he might expect his pardon; yet upon the Pretender's Anvil at Perth and my Lord Huntly's suggestions to him that now was the time for them to appear for their King and country, and that what honour they lost at Dunblane might yet be regained; but while he thus insinuated to my Lord Seaforth, he privately found that my Lord Seaforth had by being an early suitor for the King's pardon, by promising to lay down his arms, and owning the King's authority, claimed in a great measure to an assurance of his life and fortune, which he thought proper for himself to purchase at the rate of disappointing Seaforth, with hopes of standing by the good old cause, till Seaforth, with that vain hope, lost the King's favour that was promised him; which Huntly embraced by taking the very first opportunity of deserting the Chevalier's cause, and surrendering himself upon terms made with him of safety to his life and fortune. This sounded so sweet to him that he sleeped so secure as never to dream of any preservation for a great many good gentlemen that made choice to stand by him and serve under him that many other worthy nobles who would die or banish rather that not show their personal bravery, and all other friendly offices to their adherents." [Lord Lovat's Account of the taking of Inverness. Patten's Rebellion.]
In February, 1716, hopeless of attaining his object, the unfortunate son of James II. left Scotland, the land of his forefathers, never to visit it again, and Earl William followed him to the common resort of the exiled Jacobites of the time. On the 7th of the following May an Act of attainder was passed against the Earl and the other chiefs of the Jacobite party. Their estates were forfeited, though practically in many cases, and especially in that of Seaforth, it was found extremely difficult to carry the forfeiture into effect. The Master of Sinclair is responsible for the base and unfounded allegation that the Earl of Seaforth, the Marquis of Huntly, and other Jacobites, were in treaty with the Government to deliver up the Chevalier to the Duke of Argyll, that they might procure better terms for themselves than they could otherwise expect. This odious charge, which is not corroborated by any other writer, must be looked upon as highly improbable." [Fullarton's Highland Clans, p. 471.] If any proof of the untruthfulness of this charge be required it will be found in the fact that the Earl returned afterwards to the Island of Lewis, and re-embodied his vassals there under an experienced officer, Campbell of Ormundel, who had served with distinction in the Russian army; and it was not until a large Government force was sent over against him, which he found it impossible successfully to oppose, that he recrossed to the mainland and escaped to France.