It was a battle which put an end to the Jacobite rebellion and saw the Highlanders' hopes of toppling the British throne die a lonely death in the Scottish Highlands.

But unlike the Battle of Culloden 37 years later, whose legacy is still mourned by some today, the Battle of Glensheil has largely been forgotten to history, fading to a footnote in Scotland's often bloody national story.

Now, during the month of the conflict's 300th anniversary, historians say it is time to re-evaluate the significance of the 1719 rising and its aftermath, arguing there were lessons the British Government should have learned about the best way to pacify rebellious Scots.

Had the British army showed the same restraint in 1746 as the Redcoats at Glenshiel did, the legacy of bitterness which surrounds the Battle of Culloden to this day may never have come into being.

A pass between two mountains where the A87 road to the Isle of Skye runs, Glenshiel today is a lonely and rarely visited place. There are few clues to show that it was once the high-water mark of a rebellion whose roots stretched as far as Spain and France.

The 1719 Jacobite rebellion, like the 1745, was an attempt by supporters of the ousted Stuart dynasty to place the progeny of James VII on the throne, this time in the form of his son, James Francis Edward Stuart - the father of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

It was a precarious time for the British state, which was fighting in the War of the Quadruple Alliance against a Spanish Crown attempting to regain possessions it had lost in the Mediterranean.

And it was to Spain, then a waning world superpower, that the Jacobites turned for support. A plan was hatched to land 5,000 battle-hardened Spanish troops on the Kyle of Lochalsh where they would be joined by rebellious Highlanders to march on London.


The Battle of Gelnshiel, by Lionel Edwards

But things unravelled almost immediately. The invasion fleet was scattered by a fierce storm and the armada eventually limped back to Spain.

Instead, just 300 Spanish troops from Galicia made it to Scotland, where they seized Eilean Donan Castle and met up with a rag-tag army of 1,000 clansmen, including a group led by the infamous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor.

Here they were joined by Jacobite exiles from France, including the Earl of Seaforth, James Keith, Lord George Murray and Cameron of Lochiel. The Marquess of Tullibardine took overall command.

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A decision was taken to capture Inverness and the army marched off leaving just 40 Spaniards in charge of the castle and the majority of their gunpowder and ammunition.

Within days Eilean Donan was captured by the Royal navy, who bombarded the defences from the sea, took the Spanish troops prisoner and demolished the castle in an explosion for good measure.

Cut off from the sea an any hope of resupply, the Jacobite army pressed on only to learn that a Government force commanded by General Joseph Wightman was on the way.

The two armies would meet at the pass of Glenshiel on the 10th of June, as reckoned by the old Julian Calendar (under the modern calendar, the anniversary falls on 22 June).


The ruins of Eilean Donan after the bombardment

Michael Nevin, Chairman of the 1745 Association, has conducted a detailed study of the events of the day, and recently held a talk on the battle at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

He said: "The Jacobites were in a very tight spot. Their headquarters had been destroyed, their route to the sea had been stopped, and their munitions had been captured by the enemy and their main expedition was back in Spain.

"What is Tullibardine to do? Well, he decides to fight his way out of trouble, and he makes his last stand here in the valley at Glenshiel."

Unusually, the Jacobites decided against a deploying the traditional Highland charge against the Redcoats, but instead dug in in two groups - one on the hill of Sgurr a'Chuillin, and the other on the left at Sgurr na Cist Dhuibhe. The Spaniards took up position behind stone barricades, the remnants of which still stand today, in the centre of the pass.

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But their defensive position was a mistake. Wightman's Government forces, which included a contingent of 300 Dutch allies, Highland militia from Clan Munro and Clan Sutherland and professional Dragoons, carried out a meticulous attack in two phases.

Using Coehorn mortars - state-of-the-art artillery pieces for the time - they bombarded first Lord George Murray's troops on the right before dislodging them with a series of frontal attacks, despite suffering casualties.

Raining shells down on the Jacobite's position, the mortars caused havoc among the Highlanders, with Lord George among those wounded by the shrapnel. Soon, fires were blazing on the hills and the thick smoke enveloped the battlefield.


Michael Nevin

Mr Nevin said: "The Redcoats have set the heather alight. These mortar shells are cast-iron, filled with gunpowder and they are exploding in the air and falling to the ground.

"It is a dry June day and the bracken catches alight. The Jacobites can't see who's coming at them and from where. There's smoke and there's fire.

"Even worse, Lord George is wounded in the leg by an exploding mortar shell and has to withdraw."

General Wightman used the same tactics to clear off the Earl of Seaforth's Highlanders on the left and succeeded despite reinforcement by Rob Roy MacGregor's men.

That left the way open to attack the Spanish troops in the valley, but these troops were able to hold off the Government forces and give the Scottish troops time to withdraw.

The Highlanders melted into the hills, concealed by the smoke and the covering fire from the Spaniards. Once they were safely off the field, the Galician regiment retreated across what is known to this day as Beulach-na-Spainnteach – Spaniard's Pass – in their memory. They reached a fortified position and made a formal surrender the next day.

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What is unusual, however, is that General Wightman did not pursue the defeated clansmen or try to run them to ground. This act, Mr Nevin reluctantly concludes, makes him the hero of the story.

In the Government commander's own account of the battle, he simply said that the Highlanders were better at climbing the rocks than his men, and so escaped.


A fragment of shell found by archeologists

Mr Nevin said: "If the Highlanders are captured, they are traitors, and they are subject to execution and that's why the Galicians gave covering fire and allowed their comrades to get off the field.

"Wightman was telling the truth, but was he telling the whole truth? I do wonder how energetically and vigorously he pursued the fleeing Highlanders.

"After all, what strategic advantage would be gained by taking a few fleeing stragglers down to Edinburgh to be hung, drawn and quartered."

He added: "So I believe that Wightman more or less colluded .... he didn't want to take any Highland prisoners, and he did not want them to be taken down to Edinburgh and executed.

"The grass grows green on the battlefield, as it has at Glenshiel. It does not grow green on the scaffold. And it is not the fate of those who fall on the battlefield in action that leaves resentment and bitterness.

"It is the summary execution of prisoners of war, and of innocent civilians who pose no threat at all."

After Glenshiel, there were no reprisals on the local population, no deportations or executions of captured officers or soldiers. The Spaniards were treated as prisoners of war, held for four months in Edinburgh, and then sent home by ship.

Mr Nevin says it is Wightman's "just" treatment of the defeated which allowed Glenshiel to slip from the national consciousness in a way that Culloden has not.

By contrast, Wounded Jacobites at Culloden were shot where they lay, while the period after 1746 saw a series of brutal reprisals on the Highland population, with villages burned, people driven from the land and "rebel lords" sent to the scaffold.

Mr Nevin said: "Unlike the butcher [General] Cumberland after Culloden, Wightman does not pursue a senseless scorched earth policy of vengeance and slaughter. He applies the precepts of 'Just War' set down by St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas many centuries before, whose rules were well known at the time to Cumberland, and with which honourable officers always sought to comply.

"The result of this restraint was that there was no enduring legacy of bitterness after the battle, unlike after Culloden. In the quarter of a century after 1719, the turbulent Highlands of Scotland enjoyed a period of relative peace with law and order maintained within their territories by the great clan chieftains."


The battle, caught on canvas

PAINTED by the London-based Dutch master Peter Tillemans, the artwork which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh depicting the Battle of Glenshiel was based on first-hand accounts.

Although Tillemans never visited the battlefield, he accurately captured the mountainous terrain where the Government forces clashed with the 1719 rebels, and staged the action in as realistic fashion as he could.

However, the painting is not meant to be viewed a single moment in time, but instead shows the action as it played out over the course of a hot June afternoon.

Staged from the Government lines, in the foreground General Joseph Wightman is seen in a traditional victorious pose, rearing on a charger with his sword aloft.

On the left, the government troops storm Lord George Murray's position - with Lord George clearly visible at the front of his troops.

On the hill to the right, white-coated Dutch troops mingle with Redcoats in the attack on the Earl of Seaforth's division, although this happened after Lord George had retreated.

Finally, in the centre, troops battle with the Spanish regiment in two stages. In the middle foreground squares of infantry with mortars fire on the entrenched Galicians, while at the 'rear' of the scene the retreating Spaniards take up a fortified position on a third hill, and lower their standard.