Friday, April 16, 2010
Culloden Part 2
Yesterday, we left off with the Highlanders standing on Drumossie Moor, awaiting the English under the Duke of Cumberland and his army to come and give them battle. The mustering was confusion; officers were riding around, trying to get the Highland men into proper battle formation. There were many deserters, leaving the field because they lost hope that there would be a fight at all. Highlanders are not very patient when it comes to fighting. By ten o'clock in the morning, about five thousand exhausted and weary Highlanders stood on the moor. It was sleeting and gusty and they had not been fed for lack of provisions and time.
Cumberland, on the other hand had fed his men on bread and cheese and brandy and was taking his own sweet time to get to the moor, his men in good order; weapons at the ready. He had fifteen infantry regiments, eight hundred mounted dragoons and artillery of ten three pounder guns and six mortars (Cannons).
By eleven o'clock a.m. the two armies could see each other across the field, Cumberland's troops in two lines with the flanking dragoons and their guns in front. The Jacobite army was outnumbered by about two to three thousand men and they were drawn up loosely, with the clansmen in the center and the lacking cavalry at the rear. There were about five hundred meters between the two armies of boggy moorland. The officers had been in much debate about the choice of place for their pitched battle. Highlanders had been accustomed to fighting in the hills with fantastic result (as in the Battle of Killiecrankie), and were devastating when charging down hill. Lord George Murray, one of the officers, saw Culloden as a death trap. He knew that charging on flat ground against English cannon was not an ideal way to win a battle.
The engagement started around noon. Cumberland ordered for his artillery to open fire on the Scotsmen and the cannonballs were soon plowing into the ranks of the massed Highlanders, just standing on the field awaiting an order to charge. The line of communication was in turmoil and it took forever to issue the order.
Finally, with a shout of "CLAYMORE!" the signal to charge, all the clansmen surged forward, shouting their clans' war cries and throwing off their heavy, sodden tartans so they would have more freedom of movement. They ran forward right into the line of fire. The English were now using grapeshot (a deadly canister of musket balls and metal bits that scattered widely) and it reeked havoc among the Highland troops. Nothing was to stop the Jacobites though, they ran right to the line of English soldiers, with their swords and dirks and targes.
The English had been trained against the Highland charge, by attacking the Scotsman coming up on their right instead of the one right in front of them. It was a bit of a tricky situation, for if the man standing next to you failed to dispatch the Highlander coming right at you, then you would both die. Obviously, they were not all successful, because the Highlanders were able to break the line if only briefly.
Many of the Highlanders now were laying dead and wounded on the field. Despite their fury, they were no match for English guns and they were soon forced to retreat the field or all be slain. The last resistances were put down by the English dragoons who chased the Jacobites off the field. The Scots had lost about 1,500; far too outnumbered to fight against the Hanoverian troops again.
There were many losses for the Highland clans. The chief of the MacDonalds of Keppoch was killed and Cameron of Lochiel, a loyal follower of the Bonnie Prince was carried off the field by his clansmen after both his ankles had been shattered by a cannonball. Lord George Murray managed to rally some of the men and withdraw in a more orderly fashion. He was the last to leave the field. It is recorded that Prince Charlie was escorted off the field in tears after he saw the destruction and deaths of the men who followed him faithfully.
The men were forced to disperse into the Highland hills where they could escape from the English dragoons sent to follow them and kill as many as they could. All the wounded left on the battlefield were soon put to the sword.
The battle itself marked the decline of the clan system. The English proclaimed that Highland dress including tartan, kilts, and even bagpipes were outlawed and anyone who had taken part in the Jacobite Uprising was hunted down and executed in London at Tyburn. The last resistance of men hid in the Highlands where the Bonnie Prince was now too in hiding. he eventually escaped and was able to get away back to France with the hopes of coming back to fight again someday.
Culloden, as you can see, was one of the darkest milestones in Scotland's history. It is still remembered today and anyone who goes to Culloden can feel the horror that happened there. It's still a forlorn looking place. Empty and barren. Commemorations are held every year for the brave men who fought and died there for the right of Scotland's freedom against English tyranny.
Here is your song for the day: Culloden's Harvest
This is a very sad but beautiful song that I think captures the feelings perfectly.
I'll be back next week for more Jacobite related posts. Have a good weekend!