Lord Loudon failed in an attempt to capture Bonnie Prince Charlie at Moy Hall on the 16th of February, 1746.
At the tail end of January, 1746, after their victory at the Battle of Falkirk and the fiasco of trying to reduce Stirling Castle, the Jacobites began their retreat north. The Jacobite army crossed the Fords of Frew and, by way of Crieff, where it split into two columns, headed for Inverness. One column, under the command of Lord George Murray, took the coast road by Perth, Dundee, Montrose, and Aberdeen, while the other, under Bonnie Prince Charlie himself, went straight through the mountains by Blair Atholl. On the 16th of February, the Prince reached Moy Hall, near the eponymous Loch and village, the seat of the chief of the MacIntoshes, where he was to spend the night. Angus, the twenty-second Laird of MacIntosh was with the Hannoverian forces in Inverness, but his wife, Lady Anne Farquharson-MacIntosh, was a staunch Jacobite who had called out the Clan for the Prince in her husband’s absence.
Not too far away, in Inverness, the 4th Earl of Loudon formed a plan of surprising and capturing Charlie at Moy Hall, no doubt encouraged by the promise of a £30,000 reward. He posted sentries all round Inverness to stop anyone trying to escape and warn the Prince. Then, later that evening, he set out with a force of fifteen hundred men to surprise the castle. Meanwhile, the daughter of innkeeper Mrs Bailly overheard some English officers discussing the plan whilst she served them drink. As soon as she was able, she left the inn, escaped from the town, despite the vigilance of the sentinels, and took the road to Moy, running as fast as she could in bare feet. She was intent on warning the Prince of the danger he was in. This girl, the 18th Century’s answer to Liz McColgan, reached Moy gasping for breath, but well ahead of Loudon’s force.
Charlie, having no suspicion of any such daring attempt on his life or capture, had very few people with him in the Castle of Moy. However, as soon as the girl had spread the alarm, the blacksmith of the village of Moy, Donald Fraser, encouraged by ‘Colonel Anne’, assured the Prince that he had no need to abandon the castle. He, the blacksmith, would ensure that Loudon and his troops would be obliged to return faster than they came. Nevertheless, the Prince didn’t have enough confidence in these assurances – or more like any real faith in the small number of men at his disposal. He then promptly escaped, presenting a somewhat ludicrous ‘Wee Willie Winkie’ kind of figure, still in his ‘robe-de-chambre’, night-cap, and slippers. He fled to the neighbouring mountains, where he passed the night in concealment. It was a night of keen frost and the freezing night air meant that puir Charlie ended up contracting pneumonia. That happenchance may even have endangered his life, but it certainly put him out of action as he spent the rest of the month recuperating in Inverness.
Back at Moy, the blacksmith continued with his plan, stationing a dozen or so of his comrades (some reports suggest only five or six men and others that it was merely the blacksmith, the son of Lady MacIntosh and just two retainers) on each side of the moor road to wait the arrival of the detachment of Lord Loudon. The martial blacksmith ordered them not to fire until commanded, and then not to fire all at once, but one after another. When the head of Loudon’s detachment of Hanoverian troops approached, the blacksmith called out, “Fire, my lads; do not spare them; give no quarter!” Muskets were discharged in proper order and the blacksmith’s men then ran about and beat their broadswords against their targes, making an almighty clamour; seemingly enough noise to have been made by an entire company of Highlanders. They called out to a host of imaginary Clansmen to advance and Loudon's men, having come under fire and assuming that a horde of Camerons, Frasers, MacDonalds and the like from Clan Chattan were upon them, ran off in panic. Thus ended the Rout of Moy; an ignominious defeat for the Government forces and Lord Loudon. The cunning plan to capture Bonnie Prince Charlie was foiled by the bravery and cunning of a few good men and true; retainers of Lady MacIntosh. The blacksmith and his opportunistic companions had put Lord Loudon and fifteen hundred regular troops to flight.
An interesting addition to the story is that the hereditary piper to the MacLeod, Domhnall Bàn MacCrimmon, who was reputed to have the second sight, had composed 'Cha til me tuille' when he left Skye, with the chorus of the song predicting that he would never return – “McLeod shall come back, but MacCrimmon never”. Unfortunately, for MacCrimmon, the prediction came true as the luckless piper was the only person on either side killed at the Rout of Moy, when he was travelling in the company of the MacLeod and Lord Loudon in their attempt to capture the Prince. Subsequently, on the 18th of February the Prince’s men entered Inverness, whereupon Loudon evacuated the town and crossed over to the Black Isle. Two days later the garrison surrendered; the day after the Prince was joined by Lord George Murray. Soon after, in early March, Angus MacIntosh and three hundred of Loudon’s men were captured north of Inverness. The Prince paroled Captain MacIntosh into the custody of his wife, Lady Anne, commenting “he could not be in better security, or more honourably treated.” She famously greeted her man with the words, “Your servant, Captain” to which he replied, “your servant, Colonel” thereby being the source of her nickname, ‘Colonel Anne’. Prince Charlie also gave her a nickname; he called her ‘La Belle Rebelle’ (the beautiful rebel).
Inverness remained the headquarters of the Jacobite army till the end, at Culloden, which was by then less than two months distant. After the Battle of Culloden, Lady Anne was arrested and turned over to the care of her mother-in-law. Later on, she met the Duke of Cumberland at a social event in London, which she attended with her husband. Cumberland, with no sense of irony, asked her to dance to a pro-Government tune, whereupon she jauntily returned the compliment by asking him to dance to a Jacobite tune. ‘Colonel Anne’ MacIntosh died in 1787. As a further postscript, Moy Hall is now in the Highland Council Parish of Daviot and Dunlichity, and when recent works associated with a new wind farm were carried out on part of the battle site, no evidence of the clash was found. Ach well, it wisnae much of a battle.