INFORMATION SHEET No. 10


Clan Strengths as a Fighting Force


A list of pro-Government Clans in 1715 shows Munros with a strength of 400, while Rosses had 500, Mackays 500, Sutherland 700, Roses 200, Forbes (Culloden) 200, Grant 1000, Duke of Argyll (Campbell) 4000 (Lempriere Map, 1731). General Wade's report quoted in Burt's Letters puts Rosses and Munros totalling 700, Roses 300, Grant 800, Sutherland (including Strathnaver) 1000.

Figures for 1745 are given (Stewart of Garth, Sketches & c ii app C) as Munros 300, Rosses 500, Mackays 800, Sutherland 2000, Frasers (Lovat) 900, Grant 700, Duke of Argyll (Campbell) 3000. A fighting force was usually reckoned as a fraction of total numbers and was almost certainly somewhat exaggerated.

A description of the Hebrides in James VI's reign says no 'labourers of the ground' were permitted to go to war with their masters' so that the tilling of the ground and gathering of harvest might not be neglected, and a similar arrangement may be supposed for mainland clans, (though it is often said that a Highland army faded away when the harvest was due). A document amongst the Foulis archives dated September 24th 1599, signed by James VI and addressed 'to our richt traist friend the Laird of Foulis' states that the King has decided that all those holding land directly from the crown 'shall ascertain the force that they can count on in war; choose someone trained in foreign wars ..... , and see them properly armed, and appoint weekly exercises in arms and hold monthly reviews'. Having heard praise of Hector's willingness in the royal service, the King asks him to prepare his own people ... and encourage his neighbours etc to do the same and report by November 15 the number he can raise and how they are armed.

The funeral of Simon Lord Lovat at Kirkhill in 1632 was attended by 600 Mackintoshes, 800 Grants, 900 Mackenzies, 1000 Rosses, 1000 Frasers, and 'not under 1000' Camerons, Macdonalds and Munros, according to the local minister; there had been 100 Munros at the funeral of Hugh Fraser of Lovat in 1577.

At Sir Robert Munro's funeral in 1668 at Kilteam, there were 1000 Rosses, 600 Munros, 50 mounted Frasers and a poor showing of Mackenzies. The Funeral of a Highland Chief was always an opportunity for the neighbouring Clans to muster in strength and attend. As a result it was also a time of vulnerability. Col. D Mackenzie the commander of one of the Government Independent Companies writes in 1711 to Sir Robert Munro (1684-1746) that his company are at their posts and ready to give assistance to protect the 'beastes of the cuntrie' while Sir Robert's people are attending him at 'Ballnagowannes (Ross) burriall'.

 

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