British '˜spy' map of 18th Century Jacobite threat revealed

An intelligence map drawn up after a British government reconnaissance trip into the Highlands to establish the threat of Jacobite unrest in the early 18th Century has been revealed in a new book.

Scotland’s military history has been retold through a fascinating array of plans and maps drawn up over 500 years in Scotland: Defending the Nation by Christopher Fleet and Carolyn Anderson.

Among them in a map drawn up after General George Wade was dispatched to the Highlands by George I to investigate claims that Highlanders were growing “averse to all notions of peace and tranquillity” and remained ready to “disturb the government on the first occasion.”

Hide Ad
Read More
Map shows 400 British Army camps in Scotland after Culloden
Section of map drawn up after General Wade's reconnaisance mission to the Highlands where he recorded the lands held by clans, their allegiances and the number of men they could raise. PIC: National Library of Scotland.
Hide Ad

Mr Fleet, curator of maps at National Library of Scotland, wrote: “There was much to alarm the government in Wade’s report.”

Wade found that the number of men who supported the Jacobites and could raise arms was more than double that who supported the King.

Hide Ad

Wade’s intelligence was used to draw up a map to illustrate the clans that held lands across the Highlands, their allegiances and the number of men that each clan raised during 1715 rising.

An explanation of the map which lists the clans, their allegiance to the King or Jacobites and the number of men they raised during the 1715 rising. PIC: National Library of Scotland.

The Hanoverians are marked in black on the map, which shows the Duke of Argyll was able to raise 1,700 men while the Frasers, followers of Lord Lovat, had 800 men at their disposal.

Marked in red are the Jacobite supporters, such as the Earl of Seaforth, who could raise 3,000 men and Clan Mackintosh, who could raise 700 men.

Hide Ad

Two key concerns were raised by Wade’s first report.

“The first related to the loyalty of the Highlanders . Of the 22,000 men in the Highlands capable of bearing arms, only 10,000 were found to be favourable disposed towards the government,” Mr Fleet said.

Hide Ad
The planned fortification of Edinburgh Castle designed in 1690, the year after the Battle of Killiecrankie. PIC: Courtesy of British Library.

Wade also reported that attempts to disarm the clans after 1715 had been “so ill executed, that the Clans the most disaffected to your Majesty’s Government remain better Arm’d than ever.”

The threat of Jacobitism triggered a new period of military map making with the state urgently requiring details on fortifications, landscapes, roads and rebels.

Plans for four new forts in the Highlands after the 1715 rising, a detailed map of Glenshiel where the government clashed with Jacobites in 1719 and a rare early drawing of Eilean Donan castle which came under Royal Navy bombardment, also in 1719, are among those included in the book.

Hide Ad

Maps which detail the growing network of military roads, the major battles and the campaigns and routes taken by armies also feature.

Fort William was built as a show of strength in the Jacobite heartlands of Lochaber following the first rising with this extensive design put forward, but never adopted. A more modest fortification was built PIC: Courtesy of British Library.
Hide Ad

Mr Fleet said: “Just from the perspective of the surviving maps, its clear that Jacobitism posed a very real threat at this time.

“This was appreciated by those in Scotland, particularly the military engineers who drew the maps, but taken less seriously by their superiors in London.”

“There was a dramatic rise in military map-making in Scotland straight after the succession of William and Mary to the throne and the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, with detailed plans for the construction of Fort William and proposed works on the major existing castles at Edinburgh, Blackness and Stirling.

“There were further peaks of military map-making during the ‘Fifteen and ‘Forty-five risings, which were in direct response to Jacobite concerns.”

Hide Ad

Scotland: Defending the Nation also details the projects that were proposed to bolster defences against the Jacobite threat, but which never left the drawing board.

They include an elaborate scheme by John Slezer to fortify Edinburgh Castle in 1690, extensive designs for Fort William that were ditched in favour of a more modest fortification and a citadel at Perth which was designed following the city’s capture in 1715.

Hide Ad
The five-tower citadel proposed for Perth after the city was captured by Jacobites in 1715. The building never went ahead. PIC: National Library of Scotland.

The Perth defence was to be formed in a pentagon shape with five bastions overlooking the city and surrounding countryside.

Designs for a road to connect Aberdeen with Ruthven barracks were also abandoned.

Mr Fleet said the Board of Ordnance, which had responsibilities for defences across the growing British Empire in the 18th century, limited projects due to financial constraints.

Hide Ad

He added: “In the early the 18th century, most Scottish defensive works were intended only “to prevent an insult” rather than a full-blown attack with proper artillery.

“However, after the ‘Forty-five, for a brief period, almost no expense was spared on the incredible new Fort George at Ardersier, a deliberately impressive military and political statement.

Hide Ad

“It took 23 years to build and cost over £200,000 in 18th century money, before the Board of Ordnance finally cut off funds.”

In addition, was the “monumental and impressive” military survey of all of mainland Scotland by William Roy between 1747 and 1755, Mr Fleet added,

“It reflected real needs to reconnoire Scotland so that the major Hanoverian embarrassment of the ‘Forty-five might never reoccur,” he said.

Many of the printed battle plans of the 1745 rising as well as general maps of Scotland were used as news-maps and propaganda at the time.

Hide Ad

With significant interest in events in London, maps were printed to retell events on the battlefield in order to justify failures, such as defeats at Prestonpans and the ability of the Jacobites to reach Derby, just over 100 miles from London.

Mr Fleet added: “As the maps were made by those directly involved at the time, particularly by Hanoverian military engineers, they give us a vital insight into this era, portraying the Jacobite threat as a very real and alarming problem that required urgent solutions.

Hide Ad

“We are very lucky that these manuscript maps survive today through the Board of Ordnance’s archive, as many other manuscript maps from this time period have not survived.”

The book also includes details on the mid-15th Century map used to support an English invasion of Scotland and detailed plans of cities and coastal areas drawn up by Russia in the 1980s. Sections on the Rough Wooing and both World Wars are featured.

Scotland: Defending the Nation, Mapping the Military Landscape by Christopher Fleet and Carolyn Anderson, is published by Birlinn Books in association with the National Library of Scotland.