No visit to Scotland is complete without visiting Culloden. I was fortunate enough to turn around at the site of the British lines and face the site of the Clansmen, only to find a rainbow over their lines…and graves. I cannot begin to describe how moving this site is to anyone who knows the history of it, whether of any Scottish blood or not.
Culloden, (located on what was once called Drumossie Moor, is the site of the last battle, and end, of the Jacobite rising. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aka “Bonnie Prince Charlie” personally directed the attack, under advisement of his personal aides, rather than the more seasoned Clan Chieftains standing with him. No Chieftain would have selected the broad open moor for battle, as it put them at a great disadvantage.
Their foes, the British troops under the command of the Duke of Cumberland, the second son of King George II, as young but seasoned commander, had artillery and guns, while the Clans mainly used broadswords and claymores. On Tuesday, April 16 (just so happened the day after the birthday of the Duke of Cumberland) the battle was engaged.
The Clans that were represented included Cameron, Chisholm, Drummond, Farquharson, Ferguson, Fraser, Gordon, Grant, Innes, MacDonald, Mac Donell, McGillivray, MacGregor, MacInnes, MacIntyre, Mackenzie, MacKinnon, Mackintosh, MacLachlan, MacLeod of Raasay, MacPherson, Menzies, Murray, Ogilvy, Robertson, and Stewart of Appin. In total, the Prince had fewer than 5000 men.
The Duke, on the other hand, had between 2000 to 3000 more men at his command, including 15 regular regiments of infantry, 800 mounted dragoons, and an artillery train of ten three-pounder guns. All this firepower was to prove devastating.
At 11:00 that morning the Jacobites opened fire, barely missing the Duke of Cumberland. The artillery of the British opened fire to devastating effect. Some shots were lobbed over the Scots front line in hopes of killing the Prince…which almost happened. His servants were killed and his horse shot out from under him. Because the messenger sent to tell the Jacobite troops to use the claymores was killed they never opened fire.
The Dukes front lines were designed to enfilade the charge with musket fire at right angles to the Highland lines. When the charge did come, it was over treacherous boggy ground, due to heavy rain. They were mercilessly raked with fire from the British troops. On the other flank, the British began using grapeshot, to cruel effect.
Although the carnage was appalling, the clansmen, yelling their war-cries, charged on with their broadswords, axes, and scythe blades, climbing over their own dead and wounded to attack their foes. The devastation was complete. Defiant, but defeated, the remaining clansmen withdrew with as many of their wounded as could move or be moved. The Prince, in tears and bewildered at the outcome, was lead from the field on horseback.
The British took advantage of this retreat and began a massacre along the road to Inverness. One British historian described this mass mutilation as “such as never before has disgraced a British army.” Women and children, even a man and his son plowing a field, were killed. Men watching the battle were not distinguished from the attackers and were mercilessly cut down.
While surgeons of the British army treated the Dukes wounded, the infantry clubbed and often mutilated and tortured the Prince’s wounded left behind on the battlefield. Guards were posted on the moor that night to keep away relatives looking for their dead. The Duke triumphantly entered Inverness and resided in the house recently vacated by the Prince.
The British then systematically locating the hiding clansmen, as the killing continued for days. The atrocity stories are legion. Houses lay in ruin, livestock killed or sold. Many of the surrounding folk now faced starvation. There is no official count of the dead, but it is estimated that 1000 of the Prince’s troops died. There is no count of the locals who lost their lives or were wounded. There is no estimate of those who later died of starvation.
The Scottish History Society lists 3470 known to be in custody. They may have fought, but many were prominent people know to have supported the Prince, even those accused of drinking to the Prince’s health were taken into custody. 120 prisoners were executed, 936 were transported to the colonies to be sold to the highest bidder, 222 were allowed to pick the country to which they would be exiled, 1287 were released or exchanged, others died, escaped or were pardoned; the remainder could not be accounted for.
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