On the 6 September 1715, the 6th Earl of Mar, John Erskine, declared himself for James Francis Edward Stewart, the Old Pretender, and left Braemar carrying the Stewart standard to head south to the Jacobites in England. By the end of the month he had taken over Inverness with twelve thousand men behind him.
When November came he had brought the east of Scotland as far as Perth under Jacobite control. While this was happening, the 2nd Duke of Argyll, John Campbell, assembled four thousand pro-Hanovarians to halt Mar moving any further south than the Forth. Two thousand of Mar’s army had been sent with William MacKintosh of Borlum to Edinburgh so that when Argyll was confronted at Sheriffmuir on the Ochils slopes near Dunblane in Perthshire, the numbers were ten thousand to four thousand.
Argyll assembled the right flank of his army uphill, with General Whetham administrating over the left flank. The middle and right flanks of the Jacobites were commanded by MacDonald of Clanranald, MacDonnell of Glengarry and MacLean of Duart, who charged their men into Whetham’s in an attack so ferocious that ‘a complete rout and prodigious slaughter’ commenced immediately.
Whetham fled to Stirling to tell of the total defeat of the King’s men. While he was doing this however, Argyll had swept down into Mar’s right flank and battered them back into two miles of retreat and into the Allen Water.
The battle ended in this situation with both sides’ left flanks defeated. Argyll withdrew to Dunblane, Mar pulled back to Perth, and both proclaimed themselves victorious. Still with superior numbers, Mar’s next move had to be to finish off Argyll, but he did not.
When the French and Spanish heard of Mar’s indecision, their faith in the Rising was lost and their support withdrawn. Argyll had won the battle in propaganda terms. The Earl of Mar, known also as ‘Bobbing John’, lost interest in the disintegrating Rising, fled to France, and betrayed many of his Jacobite colleagues by revealing their identities.