"We're All Mad Here…."
In the late morning of the 16th April 1746 a Jacobite Army commanded by General George Murray fighting for Prince Charles Edward Louis John Severino Mario Stuart stood ready to charge into the teeth of its enemies guns. Fathers stood with sons and some even with their grandsons. Not all the men present were there out of nationalist fervor however, as the reverend James Robertson of Ross-shire wrote “I saw boys dragged from their plows, one young man tried to make a run for it but was overtaken by speed of foot, once informed he had just joined the Jacobite cause he stated he would rather die than join the rebellion, the Highlanders then clubbed him across the head with their muskets and took him away all bleeding”, however some whole villages had sent every man available to fight against a red coated army of Government troops who were also commanded by a Prince, the Duke of Cumberland, Prince William Augustus. Son of George II of Britain. His ascension to the throne was part of the result of the Glorious Revolution in the late 1600’s, where Catholic James II had been ousted by the Government who planted Protestant William of Orange and his wife Queen Anne on the throne, they had no children so they had George of Hanover crowned . After over 100 years of civil wars and rivals for the throne it had all come down to this day, this final cataclysmic crash of steel and blood in which the future of every living Briton swung in the balance.
This last phase of fighting saw the return to Britain of a foreign Prince. Charles Stuart had been born in Bologna near Rome, Italy, in 1720. His father fed his dreams with the glory of the Stuarts, and of the nightmares of failure. James II had seen his own hopes crushed in rebellion after rebellion and now turned to his son James III known as the pretender to restore his family name to that of King of England and all of its dominions, however James III was not to succeed and so wanted his son to help him become King. Charles needed help and he was to find it in the court of the French who promised ships, men, arms and money for Charles to start a war in Scotland. The French were having trouble with the English in Holland where the Protestant Dutch and the Protestant English were beating back the French time and again. Just as in the 100 years war the French planned to open up another front North of the English / Scottish Border. Charles set off from Belle Isle with two ships, one had gold and arms, the other had the troops. Unfortunately the English Cruiser HMS Lion spotted the two ships and attacked the larger of the two French vessels, both the English and the French Troop ship were badly mauled in the ensuing fight, both limped back to their home ports. Charles now had no troops to land in Scotland with, he would have to rely on his Scottish allies to bear the brunt of the fight to come.
Charles landed at Loch nan Uamh, Eriskay, on the 5th July 1745 with a grand total of Seven supporters, the local Lord told him to go home his reply was “I am come home”. The ship which brought him to Scotland was called the Doutelle , skippered by Antoine Walsh. His grandfather was Philip Walsh, the Captain who had taken Prince Charles’ own grandfather James II into exile from his defeat in Ireland in 1690. He raised the standard at Glenfinnan in hope of the local clans coming to his aid. And they did but only at a trickle, the Government knew exactly what was going on but its main army was off overseas fighting against the French all over the world, from North America to India. The Commander of the Government troops in the north of Scotland, Sir John Cope, had little more that two and a half battalions at his disposal, and those were distributed throughout the many castles in Scotland. What little forces he could muster met with defeat at the battle of Prestonpans on the 21st September 1745. Jacobite forces swelled after this victory and Charles promised them more glory, on their march to London.
At Prestonpans the Jacobites had won by sheer luck, firstly they had marched throughout the night to get around the rear of the Government troops. This had not worked exactly to plan, the Jacobite forces split into two groups unintentionally, however this meant that when they charged the two groups hit the Government line at its weakest points. Its flanks were protected by Dragoons, mounted Infantry, the Jacobites hit the two flanks at roughly the same time and the men on horseback kicked back their heels and took flight, leaving the Infantry in the centre pointing their muskets at an empty cornfield, but with Scottish Clansmen hacking away at their flanks. These men too fled but many were caught trapped against a walled enclosure of a large estate building called Preston House. The slaughter was immense and little quarter was given.
With Cope defeated the Jacobites were in the mood now for Invasion. The French promised more troops (some had arrived, Irish troops in French Regiments had volunteered for a Jacobite Unit called the Roi-Eccosois, or Royal Scots). And the French even planned an invasion of the Thames area in 1745. Charles promised more however, he said that the North of England would rise up against the Government if the Scottish would invade and so they did. By the 15th November they had taken Carlisle, on the 28th they stood outside Manchester. All except one Sergeant called John Dixon, his Girlfriend and a twelve year old drummer boy. Getting lost in the night they entered Manchester and the towns garrison of Government troops surrendered to this solitary Jacobite soldier. By the 5th of December Derby had fallen, but then disaster struck. A spy in the service of the Government told the Jacobites that he was a volunteer and he had just come from London where a massive army was waiting to pounce upon them. Not only this but Government forces had landed troops at Newcastle to catch the Scots in a massive pincer movement. These were all lies however as the majority of Government troops were still in Holland, in fact at Newcastle the only troops were Dutch who were obliged by the rules of their pardon (having been paroled when captured in Holland by the French, whom they were fighting) not to fight against the French and so could not march away from Newcastle at all.
The Jacobite commanders argued that Charles had led them astray, not many volunteers had volunteered for the Stuarts’ cause south of the border, a hundred or so had volunteered from Manchester, whilst only three had done so in Derby. Worse than that no French Invasion had taken place in the south, but unknown to them the French were loading the boats to invade. The Jacobites turned back for home on the 6th December, when the French heard of this they abandoned their own invasion plans. All because of one Spy. James Bond eat your heart out. On the 18th December a small Government force of Dragoons sent to shadow the Jacobites home came into contact with the Jacobite rearguard at Clifton in Cumbria (another haunted battlefield). By the 20th the Scots and their French, Irish and very few English allies crossed the border back into Scotland.
In January the Jacobites met another Government army, another scratch force of Redcoats, at the Battle of Falkirk on the 17th. Both sides lost heavily but the Jacobite threat remained. More volunteers turned up every day, but some also left. While all the time Government forces were building and training too. At Prestonpans survivors told how they had fled before the Jacobites wild Highland charge. The new commander, the Duke of Cumberland trained his men to fight as a unit, instead of attacking the man directly ahead the Redcoats were told to strike for the man 45 degrees to their right. This was based upon the fact that as a Jacobite soldier makes contact he first sweeps away his opponents Bayonet with his targe (small shield) then in an overhand cut brings his claymore sword down onto the undefended redcoat. As he raises his right hand to deliver this blow his entire right flank from hip to arm-pit is unprotected and so makes the ideal place to hit with the Bayonet. Historians have always said that this tactic won the following battle of Culloden but I disagree in part. Firstly it would mean the Jacobites would have to charge in a single long line abreast for the tactic to work enmasse, but they didn’t. They would engage as fast as their legs would carry them. Uncoordinated and uncontrollable. The only reason I think it helped is because it gave the Government soldier the confidence to stand and fight, not to run away and be slaughtered.
Over the first few months of 1746 both sides made for the north of Scotland, the Jacobites held Inverness and stocked it full of supplies. The Government troops took Aberdeen and did the same. Then in April they sought to out manouevre the other. On the 15th April the Government troops encamped near Nairn. The Jacobites camped close by Culloden Park Estate. But they were not there long. The Jacobite commander, Lord George Murray, was persuaded to a night march to attack the Government troops, much the same as had happened at Prestonpans. However it was a shambles. As dawn was breaking only half the Army had reached its starting points, the other half commanded by Murray had gone back to their camp. Murray had not even told the rest of the army he had sent his men back. Government soldiers woke up to find the Jacobites on the march, but not marching towards them. They were marching back to Culloden. Orders were issued and men dressed their ranks and marched off to give battle. This force was mostly English who fought for the Government, though quite a lot were Scotsmen, three whole Regiments were 100% Scottish, more men than the whole of the Jacobite Army. These Government troops had been brought back from Holland to sort out Bonnie Prince Charlie once and for all.
As the Jacobites formed up for battle the McDonald clan were dismayed to find that the most honorable position (the right wing) had been taken up by the Atholl Regiment, Murray’s own men. The McDonald’s had fought as the right wing in every major Scottish battle since Bannockburn 400 years earlier, this was the part of the battlefield where the best men were stationed and it was always a great honour to fight on the “right of the line”. The McDonald’s at Culloden however were pushed out to the left, in the centre were the Mackintosh’s, Lovats and Stewart’s of Ardsheals. On the right were the Regiments of Locheil and the Brigade of Lord Atholl. Opposite them Government troops marched in unison to form their three lines of regiments. At this time they were named both by number but also their Colonels name, for example the 20th Foot were also known as Bligh’s Foot. The ground in between was not good for the Jacobites, at Prestonpans they had a clear field of corn-stubble to cross with the odd coal mound or slag heap from the small industrial estate as well as a wooden railway line (which a few men tripped over).
But here at Culloden it was not the same, in the north where the McDonald’s had the furthest to go there were large boggy areas, whilst in the south there was a wall in the way and so the Atholl men would run into Locheil’s men in the charge to come. The French Ambassador, the Marquis d’Eguilles went down on his knees and begged Prince Charles not to order an attack but the Prince didn’t reply either way. Both sides now employed their artillery, which the Jacobites had very few pieces of, and even then there were few artillerymen to cause effective casualties on the red-coated lines facing them. The Government troops however had a lot of artillery and the men manning the guns were the best in the world. In the Infantry and Cavalry a man was promoted if he could afford to do so, in the Artillery it was done purely on merit. The Artillery barrage may have only lasted five to ten minutes and may not have caused that many casualties but it would have stirred the Jacobites into activity. As in all Civil Conflicts families often were split between both sides, Lord Kilmarnock commanded one of the Prince’s second rank regiments, while his son stood wearing a red coat across the moor. Also split were the McIan family, “old” McIan was chief of the Chisholms, his youngest son, Roderick Og, led the clan for the Prince, whilst his other two sons, John and James, were officers in the Royal Scots regiment standing just in front of the Duke of Cumberland. The commander of each Jacobite Regiment would have been on horseback so the troops could see where to stand, as they were still doing this the leader of the Monaltrie Regiment was killed. A cannonball hit him in the back and burst from his stomach, nearly cutting him in two. For moments he sat on his horse with his own guts across the horse’s back, then the horse bolted and the top half of him fell to the ground whilst his legs stayed on the horse and were found to be still on the horses back days later. His own two grandsons and two sons witnessed this, and in fact went into battle covered in his blood.
The first Jacobite troops to charge were Lady Mackintosh’s Regiment in the centre, they did so without orders and so must have taken casualties for the Jacobites to be stung enough to charge forwards, orders to charge had been issued but in the bombardment Charles’ courier had been killed. At the south of the line Atholl and Locheil had 500 metres to cross before hitting the redcoats, in the north the McDonald regiments had 700 metres to cross. At 300m range the Government artillery turned from firing Roundshot Cannonballs (Solid spheres of iron) to Cannister Grapeshot. Small cartridges packed with seventy musketballs would burst forth from the mouths of the Government Cannon in massive shot-gun like explosions. The results were devastating. Because Atholl and Locheil’s men had to cross one another’s paths they had to slow down and took a bad mauling from the artillery as they did. In the north the McDonald’s were slowed down by the boggy ground (water up to the waist in some parts) and too took a heavy toll. The majority of the Grapeshot found by archaeologists however is in the south, where the ground was best for an assault and from where the charge had begun. Very few of Lady Mackintosh’s Regiment made it to the next phase of the charge.
At 100m range the Infantry opened fire, after the first massive salvo the front rank of Redcoats stood with bayonets fixed at the enemy ready to receive the charge whilst their colleagues behind kept up the rate of fire. Also at this distance the Clansmen stopped running and swung up their own muskets and fired their single volley, throwing down their musket and drawing their swords ready for the final sprint, teeth snarling, eyes glaring and cursing the Government troops in ancient Gaelic languages. In the North the McDonald’s had not even reached halfway, in the centre the Jacobites had been decimated. But in the south, partly protected by the wall and with a more assured footing on drier ground the Atholl Brigade and the Locheil Regiment came on and on to hit the Government line at its southern point.
Barrel’s 4th Foot bore the brunt of this assault, each soldier had bullet cartridges, these cartridges had a bullet at one end and gunpowder at the other, the infantryman bit off the bullet and held it in his mouth, then poured the gunpowder down the barrel, followed by the paper to act as wadding, then he spat the bullet down the muzzle finally ramming it to the bottom. He had to do this three times a minute, by the time the Jacobites were on Barrels men the soldiers would have fired thirty times. Now it was the butchers job, messy, sticky and very bloody. Cut and thrust, jab and poke. The ground would be slick with blood, wounded men and boys would be screaming and cursing as they died slowly, trampled by their friends and family still fighting around them. Barrels 4th Foot did not break, but it sure did buckle, the Jacobites smashed into the rear ranks of the 4th and pushed on, Captain Lord Robert Kerr of the 4th was cleft from Crown to collar bone by Gillies McBean of the MacIntosh Regiment. Barrels commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rich tried to save his Regiments colours (Flags), his left hand was cut off and his right arm taken off at the elbow, he also received six cuts to the head and yet still survived! Reinforcements were rushed from the second line of Government troops and surrounded the Highlanders on three sides pouring bullet after bullet into the mass of tartan clad men. The battle had only lasted maybe twenty minutes to half an hour and it was already lost for Prince Charles, he ordered a general retreat. The McDonald’s had only just got to firing positions when they began to stream back, pursued by Government Dragoons. Locheil and Atholl’s men began to retreat, many could not, if they turned they would die anyway. The Roi-Eccosois stood in the centre and kept up a steady rate of fire, as their Red-coated counterparts were hammering away at them too. The Roi-Eccosois were the only regular infantry in the Jacobite force, wearing uniforms like the Government army except they had blue coats and blue bonnets. Many of these men were Irish who had gone to France to fight the English in Holland and now they found themselves in the Highlands of Scotland, fighting a mixed force of Scots and English, for a lost cause.
As the Jacobite charge had floundered the Government commander had sent a force of Dragoons and Loyalist Highlanders (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Campbell of Mamore) through the walled up fields to the south and around the Jacobite flank, as the Atholl and Locheil men fled they were attacked by these forces from the side, the Roi-Eccosois fought a hard skirmish with these troops as they too had to pull back, many were captured and most of the Irish were killed. The French survivors in the Regiment were sent to prison. The retreat turned into a rout and the cause was lost forever, Charles eventually went back to Italy and died a grumpy alcoholic in 1788. Murray and a lot of the Jacobite clansmen went back to Loch nan Uamh were they found French ships and £35’000. They decided to continue the fighting in the Highlands. Prince William did not want to follow the clansmen into the Highlands but he was ordered to do so by Government and over the next 30 years the clan system was effectively wiped out by the Government. Scottish Clansmen would join the British Army (or starve) and fight all over the world, their tactics were used to great effect in the wars of the late 18th and early 19th century. Culloden was the last major Battle fought on British soil, it kept the King on his throne and meant that Britain could be truly united in its wars against the French to come.
Paranormal History of Culloden.
In July 1974 men clearing trees away were shocked to see an eight foot tall man dressed in Jacobite clothing resting on his massive sword. He turned to them and said “defeated” then vanished. This figure has been seen all over the battlefield and is the most common known phenomena at Culloden.
Close to Leanach Farm there used to stand a barn which, legend has it, was used to house wounded Jacobites after the battle. Government forces burned it to the ground with the Jacobites still inside. Whether this story is true or not red lights have been seen dancing around close to the ground near to the farm where the red-barn is thought to have stood.
During the night march before the battle a Jacobite Commander riding his horse saw coming out of the ground a massive black raven with no eyes, it flew from out of the ground straight into the air and vanished. He took this to be a bad omen and indeed it was, he died the next day. This Bird has been seen many times since.
In the Car Park area sounds of Battle have been heard and the figure of the Eight Foot tall Jacobite have been seen. Also the Black Raven has been seen here too. There is a strange AA Guide to car-parks which states that Culloden’s car-park is the scariest.
The Battlefield has changed a little since 1746. Most of the stone walls have gone to the south, in the north the ground is still boggy. In 1746 the ground was used by tenant farmers for their cattle to feed and so mostly it would have been low grass covered land, now though it is heather covered with shrubs here and there. During the early 1900’s the whole area was forested but most of this has been taken away to allow people to look around the battlefield. In the early 2000’s an Archaeological dig for a TV Show called “Two Men in a Trench” discovered that the group of stones close to Leanach Farm is not the site of the Red Barn, it is natural stone simply coming up from the ground.
Culloden is a fantastic and special place in British history, Inverness is close by and its a nice addition to any weekend holiday to that city. Its a place where you can almost feel the pressure of history rest on your shoulders, where people from all over the world have come to stand where their ancestors once stood, and fought, for their own causes, for their lords, their friends, their king, their prince… where they are now remembered for their bravery.