Thursday, April 15, 2010

Culloden Part 1

"THE BATTLE OF CULLODEN was fought on this moore 16th of April 1746. 
The Graves of the Gallant Highlanders who fought for SCOTLAND & PRINCE CHARLIE are marked by the names of their clans."

This is the inscription on the Memorial Cairn on Culloden Moore, erected in 1881. Culloden used to be called Drumossie Moor; it was a bleak place, covered in heather and bracken and boggy ground. A typical Highland moore perhaps, but it is the place of one of the most remembered battles that ever happened in Scotland's history.

The battle was actually supposed to happen the day before on the 15th. After Prince Charlie and his Scottish troops came back up north into the Highlands, they took Inverness up by Loch Ness, and made that the army's headquarters. The troops were hungry. Their supplies and reinforcements, coming from the French, were blockaded by the British Navy and waylaid. William, Duke of Cumberland, was leading the English army closer and closer by the day. Charlie was faced with the decision to either flee farther into the Highlands, or make a stand. Obviously, they decided it best to fight. On April 14th, Cumberland reached Nairn, twenty kilometers from Inverness and the Jacobites knew that if they were to abandon their position now, it would mean loosing all their ammunition stores in Inverness and the precious little food they had left. 

Messages were sent to recall all units who had gone out on missions, and on the 14th of April, Prince Charlie rode out of Inverness at the head of his men to go to Culloden House, just to the east of Inverness and quickly made it his new headquarters. 

At six o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, April 15th, the Jacobite army formed up on the moor and waited for the English army to come. Prince Charlie was determined to meet The Duke of Cumberland in pitched battle. The day was cold and wet in the spring weather, and the moore, being low ground must have pooled freezing water around the unprotected feet of the Highland men; the freezing, sleety rain soaking their wool tartans. They waited there all day, but the Duke never showed. It was only found out later that he had ordered a rest day for his troops in celebration of his twenty-fifth birthday. If you thought Johnny Cope was bad, what do you think about this? Absolutely appalling!

When they realized that he wasn't going to appear, Lord George Murray, one of the commanders, urged the Jacobites to take the upper hand while they had it and make an offensive attack on the English. Prince Charlie liked the idea, so they set off for a night attack. The men, who had been standing in the rain and cold all day were exhausted and heavy-hearted, and this sudden plan, didn't go over to well in their minds. They started out at mine o'clock that night and by two in the morning, they had only gotten six kilometers. They were traveling over rough terrain, keeping off the rode, and no one knew where they were going. By dawn, they were still six kilometers away from the enemy, and all their chances of surprise were taken away by the coming of the morning light, so the officers called a retreat. When Prince Charlie heard this, he shrugged and said, "It is no matter, then; we shall meet then and behave like brave fellows."

When they men got back to Culloden, they immediately fell to the ground and slept, exhausted and starving. Soon though, the pipes skirled out a muster and the clans were roused to take their positions once again on the moore in battle fashion. Cumberland's troops were spotted only six kilometers away and were coming in fast...

That was part one, I will post part two tomorrow and talk about the real Battle of Culloden.

Here's your song for the day: The Wee Grey Finch

Slainte, Hazel


  1. Thank you.

    The song is Ghosts of Culloden. Much of the footage in the video is from a BBC series called Battlefield Britain, a History series which gives a lot of detail about battles. As you can see it uses a lot of computer generated "soldiers" but the footage gives a flavour of what it must have been like. some footage shows MacDonald messengers carrying the sign of Charles landing. Some of the footage shows the victory at Prestonpans and of course the cairns/graves where the highlanders are buried.

  2. I have heard that song, it is beautiful and haunting. There's also a song called Culloden's Harvest. I'll have to see if I can find the video. I have heard about it, but have not yet seen it. Thank you for commenting again!

  3. Hello Hazel, nice to see an ancestor of mine being written about in sympathetic fashion! And I notice from your profile that you're a Rosemary Sutcliff fan - at least as far as her Scottish book is concerned! I think I could probably learn something about Scottish history from your blog, so I'll keep checking back.

  4. Hello Linda! I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I enjoy writing it! I have read more of Rosemary Sutcliff's books besides Bonnie Dundee and found that she is an amazing writer! Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  5. Hazel, as you profess to be something of an expert on the 45, do you not feel it is rather sloppy to use the phrase "English" to refer to the Government troops and "Scottish" for Charlie's Troops?

    There were many Highland and Lowland Scottish troops fighting for the government - for example the Highland Campbell Argyll Militia who broke down the wall on the right flank of the Jacobite Army to allow the Government Cavalry to charge the fleeing Jacobites, or the Royal Scots (St Claires) which was the senior regiment of foot in the British army and as such had the claim to the Right of the Line at Culloden.

    Also the Jacobite cause enjoyed support from various English quarters - for example Lacashire was well known for its Jacobite sympathies.

    There were more Scots ranged in Battle against Charles than for him. The battle was not the "English Vs Scots" myth some believe - it truly was a civil war with brothers serving on both sides.

  6. Might I also recommend if you have not read John Prebbles excellent work that you direct your attentions towards it?