Photograph of a hand holding a piece of Coehorn mortar shell found during a dig marking the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Glenshiel.
A piece of Coehorn mortar shell found during a dig marking the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Glenshiel. (PHOTO: National Trust for Scotland)

Remnants from the Battle of Glenshiel – the Highland battle that ended the 1719 Jacobite Rising and James Francis Edward Stuart’s ambitions of sitting on the throne from which his father, James II and VII, had been deposed – were recently discovered during an excavation marking the 300th anniversary of the battle.

Led by the National Trust for Scotland, the team first uncovered a musket ball. As Derek Alexander, the NTS’s Head of Archaeology, explained: ‘We were excavating just below the Spanish position, where there is quite a large outcrop of bedrock with a vertical face. We picked up a strong signal with the metal-detector and, working with Historic Environment Scotland, we were allowed to excavate four or five objects. The first that we looked at was the musket ball. It had been fired from below, up at the Spanish position. It hit the bedrock, flattened, fell to the ground, and lay there for 300 years.’

Several large fragments of a Coehorn mortar shell were also found in a trench on the south side of the river, having been fired at the Jacobite right wing. A Coehorn was a small, lightweight mortar, originally developed by the Dutch engineer Menno van Coehoorn and first used at the turn of the 18th century for siege warfare. The Battle of Glenshiel was the first time they were ever used on British soil, operated by the government forces in order to cause noise and disorder among the Jacobite factions.

Derek continued: ‘These represent the first positive piece of evidence that we have found from the battle. Finds like this are really important. They are the tangible remains of historic events, which can be quite rare. When we hold something in our hands that we know came from a single event, 300 years ago – that is incredibly powerful.’

It is hoped that post-excavation analysis will be able to determine the calibre of the musket ball and what type of gun it was fired from in order to provide a fuller picture of the details of the battle.

This article appeared in CA 354.

Leave a Reply