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gave directions for securing every pass by which the victims could escape, and warned the soldiers that it were better to leave the thing unattempted, than fail to do it to purpose. "To plunder their lands, or drive off their cattle, would," say his letters, "be only to render them desperate; they must be all slaughtered, and the manner of execution must be sure, secret, and effectual."
These instructions, such as have been rarely penned in a christian country, were sent to Colonel Hill, the Governor of Fort William, who, greatly surprised and grieved at their tenor, endeavoured for some time to evade the execution of them. At length, obliged by his situation to render obedience to the King's commands, he transmitted the orders to Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton, directing him to take four hundred men of a Highland regiment belonging to the Earl of Argyle, and fulfil the royal mandate. Thus, to make what was intended yet worse, if possible, than it was in its whole tenor, the execution of this cruelty was committed to soldiers, who were not only the countrymen of the proscribed, but the near neighbours, and some of them the close connexions, of the MacDonalds of Glencoe. This is the more necessary to be remembered, because the massacre has unjustly been said to have been committed by English troops. The course of the execution was as follows.
Before the end of January, a party of the Earl of Argyle's regiment, commanded by Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, approached Glencoe. Maclan's sons went out to meet them with a body of men, to demand whether they came as friends or foes. The officer replied, that they came as friends, being sent to take up their quarters for a short time in Glencoe, in order to relieve the garrison of Fort William, which was crowded with soldiers. On this they were welcomed with all the hospitality which the chief and his followers had the means of extending to them, and they resided for fifteen days amongst the unsuspecting Macdonalds, in the exchange of every species of kindness and civility. That the laws of domestic affection might be violated at the same time with those of humanity and hospitality, you are to understand that Alister Macdonald, one of the sons of MacIan, was married to a niece of Glenlyon, who commanded the party of soldiers. It appears also, that the intended cruelty was to be exercised upon defenceless men; for the Macdonalds, though afraid of no other ill treatment from their military guests, had supposed it possible the soldiers might have a commission to disarm them, and therefore had sent their weapons to a distance, where they might be out of reach of seizure.
Glenlyon's party had remained in Glencoe for fourteen or fifteen days, when he received orders from his commanding officer, Major Duncanson, expressed in a manner which shows him to have been the worthy agent of the cruel secretary. They were sent in conformity with orders of the same date, transmitted to Duncanson by Hamilton, directing that all the Macdonalds, under seventy years of age, were to be out ofT, and that the government was not to be troubled with prisoners. Duncanson 'a orders to Glenlyon were as follows: .,
"You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, and put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have especial care that the old fox and his cubs do on no account escape your hands; you are to secure all the avenues, that no man escape. This you are to put in execution at four in the morning precisely, and by that time, or very shortly after, I will strive to be at you with a stronger party. But if I do not come to you at four, you are not to tarry for me, but fall an.. Tins is by the King's special command, for the good and safety of the country, that these miscreants be cut off root and branch. See that this be put into execution without either fear or favour, else you may expect to be treated as not true to the King or government, nor a man fit to carry a commission in the King's service. Expect- iing that you will not fail in the fulfilling hereof, as you love yoursulfj I subscribe these with my hand.
This order was dated 12th February, and addressed, "For their Majesties' service, to Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon."
This letter reached Glenlyon soon after it was written; and he lost no time in carrying the dreadful mandate into execution. In the interval, he did not abstain from any of those acts of familiarity which had lulled asleep the suspicions of his victims. He took his morning draught, as on every former day since he came to the Glen, at the house of Alister Macdouald, Marian's second son, who was married to lus (Glenlyon's) niece. He, and two of his officers named Lindsay, accepted an invitation to dinner from Maclan himself, for the following,day,on which they had determined he should never seethe sun, rise. To complete the sum of treachery, Glenlyon played at cards in his own quarters, with the sons of Maclan, John and Alister, both of whom were also destined for slaughter.
About four o'clock, in the morning of 13th February, the scene of blood began. A party, commanded by one of the Lindsays, came to Maclan's house and knocked for admittance, which was at once given. Lindsay, one of the expected guests at the family meal of the day, commanded this party, who instantly shot Maclan dead by his own bedside, as he was in the act of dressing himself, and giving orders for refreshments to be provided for his fatal visitors. His aged wife was stripped by the savage soldiery, who, at the same time, drew off the gold rings from her fingers with their teeth. She died the next day, distracted with grief, and the brutal treatment she bad received. Several domestics and clansmen were killed at the same
The two sons of the aged chieftain had not been altogether so confident as their father of the peaceful and friendly purpose of their guests. They observed, on the evening preceding the massacre, that the sentinels were doubled, and the mainguard strengthened. John, the elder brother, had even heard the soldiers muttering amongst themselves, that they cared not about fighting the men of the Glen fairly, but did not like the nature of the service they were engaged in; while others consoled themselves with the military logic, that their officers must be answerable for the orders given, they having no choice save to obey them. Alarmed with what had been thus observed and heard, the young men hastened to Glenlyon's quarters, where they found that officer and his men preparing their arms. On questioning him about the suspicious appearances, Glenlyon accounted for them by a story, that he was bound on an expedition against some of Glengarry's men; and alluding to the circumstance of their alliance, which made his own cruelty more detestable, he added," If any thing evil had been intended, would I not have told Alister and my niece?'' Reassured by tin"s communication, the young men retired to rest, but were speedily awakened by an old domestic, who called on the two brothers to rise and fly for their lives. "Is it time for you," he said, " to be sleeping, when your father is murdered on his own hearth?" Thus roused, they hurried out in great terror, and heard throughout the glen, wherever there was a place of human habitation, the shouts of the murderers, the report of the muskets, the screams of the wounded, and the groans of the dying. By their perfect knowledge of the scarce accessible clifls amongst which they dwelt, they were enabled to escape observation, and fled to the southern access of the glen.
Meantime, the work of death proceeded with as little remorse as Stair himself could have desired. Even the slight mitigation of their orders respecting those above seventy years, was disregarded by the soldiery in their indiscriminate thirst for blood,and several very aged and bedridden persons were slain amongst others. At'the hamlet where Glenlyon had his own quarters, nine men, including his landlord, were bound and shot like felons; and one of them, Maodonald of Auchentriaten, had General Hill's passport in his pocket at the time. A fine lad of twenty had, by some glimpse of compassion on the part of the soldiers, been spared, when one Captain Drummond came up, and demanding why the orders were transgressed in that particular, caused him instantly to be put to death. A boy, of five or six years old, clung to Glenlyon's knees entreating for mercy, and offering to become his servant for life, if he would spare him. Glenlyon was moved; but the same Drummond stabbed the child with his dirk, while he was in this agony of supplication.
At a place called Auchnaion, one Barber a sergeant, with a party of soldiers, fired on a group of nine Macdonalds, as they were assembled round their morning fire, and killed four of them. The owner of the house, a brother of the slain Auchintriaten, escaped unhurt, and expressed a wish to be put to death rather in the open air than within the house. "For your bread which I have eaten," answered Barber, "I will grant the request." Macdonald was dragged to the door accordingly; but he was an active man, and when the soldiers were presenting their firelocks to shoot him, he cast his plaid over their faces, and, taking advantage of the confusion, escaped up the glen.
The alarm being now general, many other persons, male and female, attempted their escape in the same manner as the two sons of Maclan and the person last mentioned. Flying from their burning huts, and from their murderous visitors, the half-naked fugitives committed themselves to a winter morning of darkness, snow, and storm, amidst a wilderness the most savage in the West Highlands, having a bloody death behind them, and before them tempest, famine, and desolation. Bewildered in the snow-wreaths, several sunk to rise no more. But the severities of the storm were tender mercies compared to the cruelty of their persecutors. The great fall of snow, which proved fatal to several of the fugitives, was the means of saving the remnant that escaped. Major Duncanson, agreeably to the plan expressed in his orders to Glenlyon, had not failed to put himself in motion with four hundred men, on the evening preceding the slaughter; and had he reached the eastern passes out of Glencoe by four in the morning, as he calculated, he must have intercepted and destroyed all those who took that only way of escape from Glenlyon and his followers. But as this reinforcement arrived so late as eleven in the forenoon, they found no Macdonald alive in Glencoe, save an old man of eighty, whom they slew; and afterburning such houses as were yet unconsumed, they collected the property of the tribe, consisting of twelve hundred head of cattle and horses, besides goats and sheep, and drove them off to the garrison.
Thus ended this horrible deed of massacre. The number of persons murdered was thirty-eight; those who escaped might amount to a hundred and fifty males, who, with the women and children of the tribe, had to fly more than twelve miles through rocks and wildernesses, ere they could reach any place of safety or shelter.
This detestable execution excited general horror and disgust, not only throughout Scotland, but in foreign countries, and did King William, whose orders, signed and superscribed by himself, were the warrant of the action, incredible evil both in popularity and character. Stair, however, seemed undaunted, and had the infamy to write to Colonel Hill, while public indignation was at the highest, that all that could be said of the matter was, that the execution was not so complete as it might have been. There was, besides, a pamphlet published in his defence, offering a bungled vindication of his conduct; which indeed amounts only to this, that a man of the Master of Stair's high place and eminent accomplishments, who had performed such great services to the public, of which a laboured account was given; one also, who.it is particularly insisted upon, performed the duty of family worship regularly in his household, ought not to be over-severely questioned for the death of a few Highland Papists, whose morals were no better than those of English highwaymen.
No public notice was taken of this abominable deed until 1695, three years after it had been committed, when, late and reluctantly, a Royal Commission, loudly demanded by the Scottish nation, was granted, to inquire into the particulars of the transaction, and to report the issue of their investigations to parliament.
The commission was of a different opinion from the apologist of the Secretary of State, and reported, that the letters and instructions of Stair to Colonel Hill and others, were the sole cause of the murder. They covered the King's share of the guilt by reporting, that the Secretary's instructions went beyond the warrant which William had signed and superscribed. The royal mandate, they stated, only ordered the tribe of Glencoe to be subjected to military execution, in case there could be any mode found of .separating them from the other Highlanders. Having thus found a screen, though a very flimsy one, for William's share in the transaction, the report of the Commission let the whole weight of the charge fall on Secretary Stair, whose letters, they state, intimated no mode of separating the Glencoe men from the rest, as directed by the warrant; but, on the contrary, did, under a pretext of public duty, appoint them, without inquiry or distinction, to be cutoff and rooted out in earnest and to purpose, and that " suddenly, secretly, and quietly." They reported, that these instructions of Stair had been the warrant for the slaughter; that it was unauthorized by his Majesty's orders, and, in fact, deserved no name save that of a most barbarous murder. Finally, the report named the Master of Stair as the deviser, and the various military officers employed as the perpetrators, of the same, and suggested, with great moderation, that Parliament should address his Majesty to send home Glenlyon and the other murderers to be tried, or should do otherwise as his Majesty pleased.