Tales of a Grandfather, by Walter Scott

Chapter 83

THE final act of this great domestic tragedy was now about to begin, yet there remain some other incidents to notice ere we approach that catastrophe. The outposts of the principal armies were extended along the river Spey, and the Highlanders appeared disposed for a time to preserve the line of that river, although a defensive war is not that which Highlanders could be expected to wage with most success. It is probable they did not expect the Duke of Cumberland to make a serious advance from his headquarters at Aberdeen, until the summer was fairly commenced, when their own army would be reassembled. Several affairs of posts took place betwixt General Bland, who commanded the advance of the Duke’s army, and Lord John Drummond, who was opposed to him on the side of the Chevalier. The Highlanders had rather the advantage in this irregular sort of warfare, and in particular, a party of a hundred regulars were surprised at the village of Keith, and entirely slain or made prisoners by John Roy Stewart. About the same time, Prince Charles sustained a heavy loss in the Hazard sloop of war, which made her appearance in the North Seas, having on board 150 troops for his service, and, what he needed still more, a sum of gold equal to L.10,000 or L.12,000. This vessel, with a cargo of so much importance, being chased by an English frigate, was run ashore by her crew in the bay of Tongue, and the sailors and soldiers escaping ashore, carried the treasure along with them. They were, however, in a hostile, as well as a desolate country. The tribe of the MacKays assembled in arms, and, with some bands of Lord Loudon’s army, pursued the strangers so closely as to oblige them to surrender themselves and the specie. It is said only L.8000 of gold was found upon them, the rest having been embezzled, either by their captors or by others, after they came ashore. This loss of the Hazard, which was productive of injurious consequences to the Highland army, was connected with a series of transactions in Sutherland, which I will here briefly tell you of.

Lord Loudon, you will recollect, had retreated from Inverness into Ross-shire, at the head of about 2000 men, composed of the Whig clans. In the beginning of March, Lord Cromarty had been despatched by the Prince, with his own regiment, together with the MacKinnons, MacGregors, and Barrisdale’s people, to dislodge Lord Loudon; this they effected by the temporary aid of Lord George Murray. Lord Loudon, retreating before an army which now consisted of the flower of the Highlanders, disposed his forces at various ferries upon the Frith which divides the shire of Sutherland from that of Ross, in order to defend the passage.

On the 20th of March, however, the rebels, under Lord Cromarty, pushed across near a place called the Meikle Ferry, and nearly surprised a party that kept guard there. The Earl of Loudon, informed of this invasion, concluded that, as his forces were inferior in number, and much scattered, there was no possibility of drawing them together for the purpose of making a stand; he therefore sent orders to the officers commanding the different posts, to provide for their safety, by marching the men whom they commanded into their several districts. Loudon himself, with the Lord President, and other persons of rank, who might be supposed particularly obnoxious to the insurgents, embarked with the MacLeods and MacDonalds, and returned with them to the isle of Skye. The army, therefore, might be said to be dispersed and disbanded. Owing to this dispersion, it happened that some of Lord Loudon’s soldiers were in the MacKays’ country, and assisted in taking prisoners the crew of the Hazard sloop of war when they landed.

Lord Cromarty was now in full possession of the coast of Sutherland and of the castle of Dunrobin, which the Earl of Sutherland had found it impossible to defend. The Jacobite general could not, however, exercise much influence in that country; the vassalage and tenantry not only declined to join the rebels, but kept possession of their arms, and refused the most favourable terms of submission. The Earl of Cromarty, indeed, collected some money, emptied the Earl of Sutherland’s stables of nineteen or twenty good horses, and cut his carriages to pieces in order to convert the leather and brass mounting into targets; but the country itself being hostile to the Jacobite cause, obliged the Earl, though a mild good-natured man, to use some severity on this occasion. The houses and property of two of the captains of the militia were plundered and burnt, in order to strike terror into other recreants. This was alien to the inclinations of some of the Highlanders, the gentleness of whose conduct had hitherto been the subject of surprise and panegyric. “ I like not this raising of fire,” said an old Highlander, who looked on during the devastation; “ hitherto five of us have put twenty to flight, but if we follow this inhuman course, we may look for twenty of us to fly before five of our enemies.” In fact, the prophecy was not far from its accomplishment. The Earl of Cromarty extended his operations even into the islands of Orkney, but received as little encouragement from the inhabitants of that archipelago as from the people of Sutherland. In Caithness a few gentlemen of the name of Sinclair adopted their cause; but it is said that not above forty-three men in all from that country joined the Chevalier’s standard. The beginning of April was now come, and the indications of the Duke of Cumberland’s advance in person made it plain that the insurgents would be no longer permitted to protract the campaign by a war of posts, but must either fight, or retire into the Highlands. The last measure, it was foreseen, must totally break up Prince Charles’s Lowland cavalry, many of whom had already lost their horses in the retreat; it was necessary, therefore, to form them into a body of foot-guards. The Prince did not hesitate a moment which course to pursue. He entertained, like others who play for deep stakes, a tendency to fatalism, which had been fostered by his success at Preston and Falkirk, and he was determined, like a desperate gamester, to push his luck to extremity. The kind of warfare which he had been waging for some weeks past, had necessarily led to a great dispersion of his forces, and, intent upon the impending contest, he now summoned his detachments from every side, to join his own standard at Inverness. The powerful body of men under the Earl of Cromarty received similar orders. MacDonald of Barrisdale, in great haste to obey, set out on his march upon the 14th of April. On the 15th he was to have been followed by the Earl of Cromarty and his regiment. This projected evacuation of Sutherland, which ought to have been kept secret, was imprudently suffered to transpire; and the Sutherland men resolved to annoy the rear of their unwelcome visitants as they left the country. With this view, a great many of the armed militia collected from the hills, in which they had taken shelter, and prepared to take such advantage of the retreating insurgents as opportunity should permit. About two hundred men assembled for this purpose, and approached the coast. One John MacKay, a vintner in Golspie, had a division of about twenty to act under his own separate command. The Earl of Cromarty, for whom the militia were lying in ambush, was far from suspecting the danger he was in. He remained, with his son Lord MacLeod, and several other officers, at the castle of Dunrobin, witnessing, it is said, the tricks of a juggler, while his men, three hundred and fifty in number, were marched, under the command of subaltern officers, and with little precaution, to the ferry where they were to embark. The consequences were fatal. John MacKay with his twenty men, threw himself between the rear of the main body and Lord Cromarty and his officers, who were following in imagined security, and suddenly firing, with considerable execution, upon the Earl and his attendants, forced them back to Dunrobin castle, which they had just left. The same active partisan contrived to gain admittance into the castle without a single follower, and boldly summoned the Earl and his officers to surrender, which at length, under a false apprehension of the amount of force by which they were surrounded, they were induced to do. The Earl of Cromarty, Lord MacLeod, and the other officers of Lord Cromarty’s regiment, who had not marched with their men, were thus made prisoners, and put on board the Hound, a British sloop of war. The rebellion, therefore, was thus extinguished in Sutherland on the 16th of April, the very day on which it was put an end to throughout Scotland, by the great battle of Culloden. Having given a short account of these distant operations, we must return to the motions of the main armies.

The Duke of Cumberland, with the last division of his army, left Aberdeen on the 8th of April, with the intention of moving upon Inverness, being Charles’s headquarters, in the neighbourhood of which it was understood that the Prince designed to make a stand. As he advanced northward, the Duke of Cumberland was joined by Generals Bland and Mordaunt, who commanded his advanced divisions, and the whole army assembled at the town of Cullen, about ten miles from the banks of the Spey.

An opinion had been entertained, to which we have already alluded, that the Highlanders intended to defend the passage of this deep and rapid river. A trench and some remains of works seemed to show that such had been their original purpose, and a considerable division of the Lowland troops were drawn up under Lord John Drummond, with the apparent purpose of maintaining these defences. The Prince’s ultimate orders, however, were, that Lord John should retreat to Elgin as soon as the enemy should approach in force the south-eastern bank of the river. He did so, and the Duke of Cumberland forded the Spey with his army in three divisions, his music playing a tune calculated to insult his antagonists. Several lives were lost, owing to the strength of the stream; they were chiefly females, followers of the camp.

On the 13th of April, the Duke of Cumberland’s army marched to the moor of Alves, and on the 14th advanced to Nairne, where there was a slight skirmish between their advance and the rearguard of the Highlanders, who were just leaving the town. The last were unexpectedly supported in their retreat, about five miles from Nairne, by the Chevalier himself, who arrived suddenly at the head of his guards and the MacIntosh Regiment, at a place called the Loch of the Clans. On the appearance of this additional force, the vanguard of the Duke’s army retreated upon their main body, which was encamped near Nairne. It is now necessary to examine the state of the contending armies, who were soon to be called upon to decide the fate of the contest by a bloody battle.

The Duke of Cumberland was at the head of an army of disciplined troops, completely organized, and supported by a fleet, which, advancing along the coast, could supply them with provisions, artillery, and every other material requisite for the carrying on of the campaign. They were under the command of a Prince, whose authority was absolute, whose courage was undoubted, whose high birth was the boast of his troops, and whose military skill and experience were, in the opinion of his followers, completely adequate to the successful termination of the war. On the other hand, the army of Prince Charles lay widely dispersed, on account of the difficulty of procuring subsistence; so that there was great doubt of the possibility of assembling them in an united body within the short space afforded them for that purpose. The councils also of the adventurous Prince were unhappily divided; and those dissensions which had existed even in their days of prosperity, were increased in the present critical moment, even by the pressure of the emergency. The first difficulty might be in some degree surmounted, but the last was of a fatal character; and I must once more remind you of the causes in which it originated. The aversion of the Prince to Lord George Murray has been already stated; and although the fact may seem surprising, the unwarranted suspicion with which this individual was regarded by the Chevalier, is pretty well understood to have extended itself about this period to a great part of his other Scottish followers, more especially as the present state of the contest, joined to the private disaffection, or rather discontent, among the clans, tended to weaken the confidence of the commander. Such sparks of disagreement assume more importance in the time of adversity, as lights, little distinguished of themselves, are more visible on the approach of darkness. Since the council at Derby, the Prince had convoked or advised with no public assembly of his chiefs and followers of rank, as he had formerly been wont to do, if we except the council of war held near Crieff, which was in a manner forced on him by the retreat from Stirling. During all that time he had, in the fullest sense, commanded the army by his own authority. His trust and confidence had been chiefly reposed in Secretary Murray, in Sir Thomas Sheridan, his former tutor, and in the Irish officers, who made their way to his favour by assenting to all he proposed, and by subscribing, without hesitation, to the most unlimited doctrine of the monarch’s absolute power. On the other hand, the Scottish nobility and gentry, who had engaged their lives and fortunes in the quarrel, naturally thought themselves entitled to be consulted concerning the manner in which the war was to be conducted, and were indignant at being excluded from offering their advice, where they themselves were not only principally interested, but best acquainted with the localities and manners of the country in which the war was waged.

They were also displeased that in his communication with the court of France, announcing his successes at Preston, and at Falkirk, the Prince had intrusted his negotiations with the court of France to Irishmen in the French service. They suspected, unjustly, perhaps, that instead of pleading the cause of the innsurgents fairly, and describing and insisting upon the amount and nature of the succours which were requisite, these gentlemen would be satisfied to make such representations as might give satisfaction to the French ministers, and insure to the messengers their own advancement in the French service. Accordingly, all the officers sent to France by Charles received promotion. The Scots also suspected that the Irish and French officers, willing to maintain themselves in exclusive favour, endeavoured to impress the Prince with suspicions of the fidelity of the Scottish people, and invidiously recalled to his memory the conduct of the nation to Charles I. It is said that Charles was not entirely convinced of the falsehood of these suspicions till the faithful services of so many of that nation, during the various perils of his escape, would have rendered it base ingratitude to harbour them longer.

There was another subject of discontent in the Prince’s army, arising, perhaps, from too high pretensions on the part of one class of his followers, and too little consideration on that of Charles. Many of the gentlemen who served as privates in the Prince’s cavalry, conceived that they were entitled to more personal notice than they received, and complained that they were regarded more in the light of ordinary troopers than as men of estate and birth, who were performing, at their own expense, the duty of private soldiers, to evince their loyalty to the cause of the Stewarts. Notwithstanding these secret jealousies, Charles remained unaltered in the system which he had adopted. Neither did the discontent of his followers proceed further than murmurs, or in any case break out, as in Mar’s insurrection, into mutiny, or even a desire on the part of the gentlemen engaged to make, by submission or otherwise, their separate peace with Government. Notwithstanding, however, what has been said, the gallant bravery and general deportment of the Prince secured him popularity with the common soldiers of his army, though those with higher pretensions were less easily satisfied, when mere civility was rendered instead of confidence.

The Chevalier had been unwell of a feverish complaint during several days of his residence at Elgin in the month of March. On his retreat to Inverness, he seemed perfectly recovered, and employed himself by hunting in the forenoon, and in the evening with balls, concerts, and parties of pleasure, in which he appeared in as good spirits, and as confident, as after the battle of Preston. This exterior show of confidence would have been well had there been good grounds for its foundation; but those alleged by Charles rested upon a firm conviction that the army of the Duke of Cumberland would not seriously venture to oppose in battle their lawful prince; an idea which he found it impossible to impress upon such of his followers, as were in the least acquainted with the genius and temper of the English soldiery.

While the Prince was at Inverness, two gentlemen of the name of Haliburton arrived from France, with tidings of a cold description. They informed him that the court of that country had entirely laid aside the thoughts of an invasion upon a large scale, and that his brother, the Duke of York, who had been destined to be placed at the head of it, had left the coast, being recalled to Paris. This put a final end to the most reasonable hopes of the unfortunate Adventurer, which had always rested upon a grand exertion of France in his favour; although, indeed, he might have been convinced, that since they had made no such effort during the time of his inroad into England, when his affairs bore an aspect unexpectedly favourable, they would not undertake any considerable risk to redeem him from the destruction which seemed now to be impending.

Besides the discords in the Prince’s camp, which, like a mutiny among the crew of a sinking vessel, prevented an unanimous exertion to secure the common safety, the separation of his forces, and the pecuniary difficulties which now pressed hard upon him, were material obstacles to any probability of success in an action with the Duke of Cumberland. Charles endeavoured, indeed, to concentrate all his army near Inverness, but without entire success. General Stapleton, who had been engaged in attempting to reduce Fort William, abandoned that enterprise and returned to the Prince’s camp, together with Lochiel and the other Highlanders by whom that irregular siege had been supported. But the Master of Fraser, who was employed in levying the full strength of his clan, together with Barrisdale and Cromarty, engaged as we have seen in Sutherland, were absent from the main army. Cluny, and his MacPhersons, had been despatched into Badenoch, with a view to their more easy subsistence in their own country, and were wanting in the hour when their services were most absolutely necessary. There were besides 800 or 1000 men of different Highland clans, who were dispersed in visiting their own several glens, and would certainly have returned to the army, if space had been allowed them for so doing. It is also proper to mention, that, as already hinted, the cavalry of the Prince had suffered greatly. That of Lord Pitsligo might be said to have been entirely destroyed by their hard duty on the retreat from Stirling, and was in fact converted into a company of foot-guards. Now, although these horsemen, consisting of gentlemen and their servants, might have been unable to stand the shock of heavy and regular regiments of horse, yet from their spirit and intelligence, they had been of the greatest service as light cavalry, and their loss to Charles Edward’s army was a great misfortune. The force which remained with the Prince was discontented from want of pay, and in a state of considerable disorganization. The troops were not duly supplied with provisions, and, like more regular soldiers under such circumstances, were guilty of repeated mutiny and disobedience of orders. For all these evils Charles Edward saw no remedy but in a general action, to which he was the more disposed, that hitherto, by a variety of chances in his favour, as well as by the native courage of his followers, he had come off victorious, though against all ordinary expectation, in every action in which he had been engaged. On such an alternative then, and with troops mutinous for want of pay, half starved for want of provisions, and diminished in numbers from the absence of 3000 or 4000 men, he determined to risk an action with the Duke of Cumberland, at the head of an army considerably outnumbering his own, and possessed of all those advantages of which he himself at the moment was so completely deprived. The preparations for the engagement were not made with more prudence than that which was shown in the resolution to give instant battle. Charles drew out his forces upon an extensive moor, about five miles distant from Inverness, called Drummossie, but more frequently known by the name of Culloden, to which it is adjacent. The Highlanders lay upon their arms all the night of the 1,4th; on the next morning they were drawn up in order of battle, in the position which the Chevalier proposed they should maintain during the action. On their right there were some park walls, on their left a descent which slopes down upon Culloden house; their front was directly east. They were drawn up in two lines, of which the Athole brigade held the right of the whole, next to them Lochiel. The clans of Appin, Fraser, and Macintosh, with those of MacLauchlan, MacLean, and Farquharson, composed the centre; and on the left were the three regiments of MacDonalds, styled, from their chiefs, Clanranald, Keppoch, and Glengarry.

As if a fate had hung over the councils of Charles, the disposition of this order of battle involved the decision of a point of honour, esteemed of the utmost importance in this singular army, though in any other a mere question of idle precedence. The MacDonalds, as the most powerful and numerous of the clans, had claimed from the beginning of the expedition the privilege of holding the right of the whole army. Lochiel and Appin had waived any dispute of this claim at the battle of Preston; the MacDonalds had also led the right at Falkirk; and now the left was assigned to this proud surname, which they regarded not only as an affront, but as an evil omen.1 The Prince’s second line, or reserve, was divided into three bodies, with an interval between each. On the right were Elcho’s, FitzJames’s and Lord Strathallan’s horse, with Abbachie’s and Lord Ogilvy’s regiments of infantry. The centre division was formed of the Irish picquets, Lord John Drummond’s regiment, and that of the Earl of Kilmarnock. The left wing of the second line consisted of the hussars, with Sir Alexander Bannerman’s and Moir of Stonywood’s Lowland battalions. The number of the whole first line might be about 4700 men; that of the second line 2300, of which 250 were cavalry; but, as I will presently show you, the numbers which appeared at the review were very considerably diminished before the action.

A great error on the part of the commissaries, or such as acted in that capacity, in the Highland army, was exhibited in the almost total want of provisions; a deficiency the more inexcusable, as it was said there was plenty of meal at Inverness. The soldiers, however, received no victuals, except a single biscuit per man during the whole day of the 15th, and this dearth of provisions was such, that whether the army had been victorious or vanquished, upon the day of the 16th, they must have dispersed to distant quarters for the mere purpose of obtaining subsistence.

Early on the 15th of April, Lord Elcho was despatched to reconnoitre the camp of the Duke of Cumberland, situated near the little town of Nairne. It was the anniversary of the royal Duke’s birth-day, which was apparently dedicated to festivity and indulgence on the part of the soldiers whom he commanded. Lord Elcho remained within view of the enemy until high noon, and then retired to announce that to all appearance the English army did not mean to move that day.

Upon this report the Prince assembled the chief officers of his army, being the first council of war which he had held since that in which the retreat from Derby was resolved upon, excepting the meeting at Fairnton, near Crieff. Charles opened the business by asking the opinion of the council what was best to be done. There was a diversity of opinions. The want of provisions alone rendered a battle inevitable, but the place and mode of giving that battle were matter of discussion. Lord George Murray, as usual, was the first to give his opinion, and enlarged much on the advantage which a Highland army was sure to possess in taking the enemy by surprise, and in darkness rather than in daylight. Regular soldiers, he said, depend entirely on their discipline, an advantage of which they are deprived by darkness and confusion. Highlanders, on the contrary, had, he observed, little discipline but what was of an intuitive nature, independent either of light or regularity. He concluded by giving his opinion, that the first line, should march in two divisions at the dusk of the evening; he himself offered to lead that composed of the right wing of the first line, with which he designed to march round the town of Nairne, and attack the Duke of Cumberland’s camp in the rear; at the same time he proposed that the Duke of Perth, with the left division of the first line, should attack the camp in front, when he did not doubt that the confusion occasioned by the sudden onset on two points, joined to the effects of the past day’s festivity, would throw the regulars into total confusion, and afford the Prince a complete victory. This plan also included a march of the whole second line, or body of reserve, under the command of the Prince himself, to support the front attack. To this proposal several objections were made; one was, that it was a pity to hazard any thing until the MacPhersons, a great part of the Frasers, MacDonald of Barrisdale, Glengyle, with his MacGregors, the Earl of Cromarty, whose misfortune was not known, and other reinforcements at present absent, should have joined the army. It was also stated, that in all probability the Duke would receive notice of the intended movement, either by his spies or his patrols; that in either case it would be difficult to provide against the necessary consequences of such discovery; and that, if the Highlanders were once thrown into confusion in a night attack, there would be no possibility of rallying them. The principal answer to these objections was founded on the exigency of the moment, which required a considerable hazard to be incurred in one shape or other, and that the plan of the night attack was as feasible as any which could be proposed.

Another objection strongly urged, was the impossibility of marching twelve miles, being the distance between Culloden and the enemy’s camp, between nightfall and dawn. To this Lord George Murray returned for answer, that he would pledge himself for the success of the project, provided secrecy was observed. Other plans were proposed, but the night march was finally resolved upon. Between seven and eight o’clock, the Chevalier ordered the heath to be set on fire, that the light might convey the idea of his troops being still in the same position there, and got all his men under arms, as had been agreed upon.

It was explained by the Prince’s aide-decamp, Colonel Ker of Gradon, that during the attack on the camp the Highlanders were not to employ their fire-arms, but only broadswords, dirks, and Lochaber axes, with which they were instructed to beat down the tent poles, and to cut the ropes, taking care at the same moment to strike or stab with force wherever they observed any swelling or bulge in the fallen canvass of the tent. They were also instructed to observe the profoundest silence during the time of the march, and the watchword assigned to them was “ King James the VIII.” Thus far all was well; and for resolute men, an attempt so desperate presented, from its very desperation, a considerable chance of success. But an inconvenience occurred on the march, for which, and the confusion which it was sure to occasion, due allowance seems scarcely to have been made in the original project. It had been proposed by Lord George Murray that the army should march in three columns, consisting of the first line in two divisions, and the whole reserve, or second line, under the Prince himself. But from the necessity of the three columns keeping the same road as far as the house of Kilravock, where the first division was to diverge from the others, and cross the river Nairne, in order to get in the rear of the enemy’s camp, it followed that the army, instead of forming three distinct columns of march, each on its own ground, composed only one long one, the second line following the first, and the third the second, upon the same track, which greatly diminished the power of moving with rapidity. The night, besides, was very dark, which made the progress of the whole column extremely slow, especially as there was a frequent necessity for turning out of the straight road, in order to avoid all inhabited places, from which news of their motions might have been sent to the Duke of Cumberland.

Slow as the march was, the van considerably outmarched the rear. A gap, or interval, was left in the centre of the whole, and messages were sent repeatedly to Lochiel, who was in front, and to Lord George Murray, who commanded the head of the line, requesting them to halt until the rear of the columns should come up. Fifty of these messages were brought to the van of the column before they had marched above eight miles, by which time they had reached Kilravock, or Kilraick House, within four miles of the Duke of Cumberland’s camp.

Hitherto Lord George Murray had not halted upon his line of march; but had only obeyed the aides-decamp by marching more slowly, in the hope that the rear might come up. But at this place the Duke of Perth himself, who commanded the second division, came up to Lord George Murray, and putting his horse across the road, insisted that the rear could not advance unless the van was halted. Lord George Murray halted accordingly, and many of the principal officers came to the head of the column to consult what was to be done. They reported that many of the Highlanders had straggled from the ranks, and lain down to sleep in the wood of Kilravock; which must have been owing to faintness, or want of food, since an eight miles’ march could not be supposed to have fatigued these hardy mountaineers to such an excess. It was also said, that more gaps were left in the line than one, and that there was no possibility of the rear keeping pace with the head of the column. Watches were next consulted. It had been proposed to make the attack before two o’clock in the morning; but that hour was now come, and the head of the column was still four miles distant from the English camp. The object of the expedition, therefore, was frustrated. Some of the gentlemen volunteers were of opinion that they ought to proceed at all risks; but, as they must have marched for at least two miles in broad light, all hopes of a surprise must have been ended. In these doubtful circumstances Mr O’Sullivan found the officers at the head of the column, when he came to Lord George Murray with orders from the Prince, expressing it to be his desire, if possible, that the attack should proceed; yet referring to Lord George, as nearest to the head of the column, to form his own judgment whether the attempt could be made with advantage or not. At this moment the distant roll of the drums from the Duke of Cumberland’s camp announced that his army was upon the alert, and that the moment was gone by when the camp might have been taken by surprise. “ They are awake,” said Lord George.-” I never expected to have found them otherwise,” said Mr Hepburn of Keith, who had joined the van as a volunteer; “ but we may yet find them unprepared.” Lord George applauded Hepburn’s courage, but considered that, from the lateness of the hour, and the great diminution of the strength of the attacking column, the plan could not be persevered in with any hope of success. He therefore ordered the troops to march back with as much expedition as possible.

As this retreat, though apparently unavoidable, was executed by Lord George Murray without the express orders of the Prince, though in execution of an optional power reposed in Lord George himself, it was at the time, and has been since, used as a handle by those who were inclined to accuse that nobleman of treachery to a cause, which he had served with so much valour and talent. It may be here remarked that the Duke or Cumberland’s army took no alarm either from the march or countermarch of the enemy, and that but for the inauspicious circumstances which delayed the movement, the attacking column had a great chance of success.

The retreat was executed with much more rapidity than the advance, it being unnecessary to take any precautions for concealing their motions; so that the whole army had regained the heights of Culloden moor before five o’clock in the morning. The disadvantages of the night march, and of the preceding day’s abstinence, became now visible. The men went off from their colours in great numbers, to seek food at Inverness and the neighbouring villages. They were unpaid, unfed, exhausted with famine and want of sleep, and replied with indifference to the officers who endeavoured to force them to return to their colours, that they might shoot them if they chose but that they would not return till they had procured some food. The principal officers themselves were exhausted from want of rest and sustenance. They went as if instinctively, to the house of Culloden, where they had previously assembled, but were so worn out, that, instead of holding a council of war, each laid himself down to sleep, on beds or tables, or on the floor where such conveniences were not to be had. The time was now arrived for putting into execution the alternative proposed in the council of war of the preceding day, which was only postponed to the proposed march to Nairne. This was, that the Highland army should retire, and take up a strong position beyond the river Nairne, inaccessible to cavalry. Such a movement would have been no difficult matter, had the confused state of the Chevalier’s army, and the total want of provisions, permitted them to take any steps for their preservation. All, however, which looked either like foresight or common” sense, seemed to be abandoned on this occasion, under the physical exhaustion of fatigue and famine. The army remained on the upper part of the open moor, having their flank covered on the right by the park-walls which we have mentioned, their only protection from cavalry, and, as it proved, a very slight one. About two hours after the Prince had again reached Culloden, that is, about seven or eight o’clock, a patrol of horse brought in notice that a party of the Duke of Cumberland’s cavalry was within two miles, and the whole of his army not above four miles distant. Upon this alarm, the Prince and the Duke of Perth, Lord George Murray and Lord John Drummond, mounted their horses, and ordered the drums to beat, and the pipes to play their respective gatherings. This sudden summons to arms caused much hurry and confusion amongst men half dead with fatigue, and roused from the sleep of which they had so much need. The chiefs and officers did what was possible to get them together; but, as they were dispersed in every direction, as far as Inverness itself, nearly two thousand of the Highlanders who were at the review of the preceding day, were absent from the battle of the 16th.

It would have been yet time to retreat by the right of their line, to cross the water of Nairne, and to draw up upon ground inaccessible to the Duke of Cumberland’s army, when they might, after sunset, have renewed, if it was thought advisable, the attempt to surprise his camp; for it is believed that the Duke was not, till some time afterwards, made aware of their purpose of the previous night. No motion, however, was made to this effect. The Chevalier talked confidently of a battle and a victory; and those who did not share his hopes were prepared to die, if they did not expect to conquer. The Duke of Cumberland’s army now appeared about two miles off, advancing straight in front of the Prince’s line of battle. His Royal Highnesses force consisted of fifteen battalions of foot, viz. Pulteney’s, 500; The Royals, 500; Cholmondely’s, 500; Price’s, 500; Scots Fusileers, 500; Dejean’s, 500; Burrel’s, 500; Battereau’s, 500; Blakeny’s, 500; Howard’s, 500; Fleming’s, 500; Sackville’s, 500; Sempill’s, 500; Conway’s,500; Wolfe’s, 500; and 600 Campbells; which, with Lord Mark Ker’s dragoons, 300, Cobham’s, 300, and Kingston’s horse, 300, made 8100 foot, and 900 horse. The day of the battle they were drawn up in two lines, seven battalions in the first, and eight in the second line, supported by the two squadrons of horse on the right, and four squadrons of dragoons on the left. The Campbells were on the left with the dragoons. There were two pieces of cannon betwixt every battalion in the first line, three on the right, and three on the left of the second. The army was commanded in chief by the Duke of Cumberland, and under him by lieutenant-generals Earl of Albemarle, Hawley, and Bland, major-general Huske, brigadiers Lord Sempill, Cholmondely, and Mordaunt.

Had the whole Highland army been collected, there would have been very little, if any difference in numbers between the contending parties, each of which amounted to about 9000 men; but we have already shown that the Prince was deprived of about 2000 of his troops, who had never come up, and the stragglers who left his standard between the time of the review and the battle amounted to at least 2000 more; so that, upon the great and decisive battle of Culloden, only 5000 of the insurgent army were opposed to 9000 of the King’s troops. The men who were absent, also, were chiefly Highlanders, who formed the peculiar strength of the Chevalier’s army. There was no appearance of discouragement on either side; the troops on both sides huzza’d repeatedly as they came within sight of each other, and it seemed as if the Highlanders had lost all sense of fatigue at sight of the enemy. The MacDonalds alone had a sullen and discontented look, arising from their having taken offence at the post which had been assigned them. As the lines approached each other, the artillery opened their fire, by which the Duke of Cumberland’s army suffered very little, and that of the Highlanders a great deal; for the English guns, being well served, made lanes through the ranks of the enemy, while the French artillery scarcely killed a man. To remain steady and inactive under this galling fire, would have been a trial to the best disciplined troops, and it is no wonder that the Highlanders showed great impatience under an annoyance peculiarly irksome to their character. Some threw themselves down to escape the artillery, some called out to advance, and a very few broke their ranks and fled. The cannonade lasted for about an hour; at length the clans became so impatient, that Lord George Murray was about to give the order to advance, when the Highlanders from the centre and right wing, rushed without orders furiously down, after their usual manner of attacking sword in hand. Being received with a heavy fire, both of cannonade and grape-shot, they became so much confused, that they got huddled together in their onset, without any interval or distinction of clans or regiments. Notwithstanding this disorder, the fury of their charge broke through Monro’s and Burrel’s regiments, which formed the left of the Duke of Cumberland’s line. But that General had anticipated the possibility of such an event, and had strengthened his second line, so as to form a steady support in case any part of his first should give way. The Highlanders, partially victorious, continued to advance with fury, and although much disordered by their own success, and partly disarmed by having thrown away their guns on the very first charge, they rushed on Sempill’s regiment in the second line with unabated fury. That steady corps was drawn up three deep, the first rank kneeling, and the third standing upright, They reserved their fire until the fugitives of Burrel’s and Monro’s broken regiments had escaped round the flanks, and through the intervals of the second line. By this time the Highlanders were within a yard of the bayonet point, when Sempill’s battalion poured in their fire with so much accuracy, that it brought down a great many of the assailants, and forced the rest to turn back. A few pressed on, but, unable to break through Sempill’s regiment, were bayoneted by the first rank. The attack of the Highlanders was the less efficient, that on this occasion most of them had laid aside their targets, expecting a march rather than a battle. While the right of the Highland line sustained their national character, though not with their usual success, the MacDonalds on the left seemed uncertain whether they would attack or not.1 It was in vain the Duke of Perth called out to them, “ Claymore!” telling the murmurers of this haughty tribe, “ That if they behaved with their usual valour, they would convert the left into the right, and that he would in future call himself MacDonald.” It was equally in vain that the gallant Keppoch charged with a few of his near relations, while his clan, a thing before unheard of, remained stationary. The chief was near the front of the enemy, and was exclaiming with feelings which cannot be appreciated, “ My God! have the children of my tribe forsaken me!” At this instant, he received several shots, which closed his earthly account, leaving him only time to advise his favourite nephew to shift for himself. The three regiments of MacDonalds were by this time aware of the rout of their right wing, and retreated in good order upon the second line. A body of cavalry, from the right of the King’s army, was commanded to attack them on their retreat, but was checked by a fire from the French picquets, who advanced to support the MacDonalds. But at the same moment another decisive advantage was gained by the Duke’s army over the Highland right wing. A body of horse, making 600 cavalry, with three companies of Argyleshire Highlanders, had been detached to take possession of the park walls, repeatedly mentioned as covering the right of the Highlanders. The three companies of infantry had pulled down the east wall of the enclosure, and put to the sword about a hundred of the insurgents, to whom the defence had been assigned; they then demolished the western wall, which permitted the dragoons, by whom they were accompanied, to ride through the enclosure, and get out upon the open moor, to the westward, and form, so as to threaten the rear and flank of the Prince’s second line. Gordon of Abbachie, with his Lowland Aberdeenshire regiment, was ordered to fire upon these cavalry, which he did with some effect. The Campbells then lined the north wall of the enclosure so often mentioned, and commenced a fire upon the right flank of the Highlanders’ second line. That line, increased by the MacDonalds, who retired upon it, still showed a great number of men keeping their ground, many of whom bad not fired a shot. Lord Elcho rode up to the Prince, and eagerly exhorted him to put himself at the head of those troops who yet remained, make a last exertion to recover the day, and at least die like one worthy of having” contended for a crown. Receiving a doubtful or hesitating answer, Lord Elcho turned from him with a bitter execration, and declared he would never see his face again. On the other hand, more than one of the Princess officers declared, and attested Heaven and their own eyes as witnesses, that the unfortunate Adventurer was forced from the field by Sir Thomas Sheridan, and others of the Irish officers who were about his person.

That Lord Elcho and others, who lost rank and fortune in this disastrous adventure, were desirous that the Chevalier should have fought it out to the very last, can easily be imagined; nor is it difficult to conceive why many of the public were of the same opinion, since a fatal tragedy can hardly conclude so effectively as with the death of the hero. But there are many reasons besides a selfish desire of safety, which may dictate to a defeated chieftain the task of preserving himself for a better day. This is particularly the case with those in the rank of Kings and Princes, who, assured by the unanimous opinion of those around them that their safety is of the last importance to the world, cannot easily resist the flattering and peculiar reasons which may be assigned in support of the natural principle of self-preservation, common to them with all mankind.

Besides, although the Chevalier, if determined on seeking it, might certainly have found death on the field where he lost all hopes of empire, there does not appear a possibility that his most desperate exertions could have altered the fortune of the day. The second line, united with a part of the first, stood, it is true, for some short time after the disaster of the left wing, but they were surrounded with enemies. In their front was the Duke of Cumberland, dressing and renewing the ranks of his first line, which had been engaged, bringing up to their support his second, which was yet entire, and on the point of leading both to a new attack in front. On the flank of the second line of the Chevalier’s army were the Campbells, lining the northern wall of the enclosure. In the rear of the whole Highland army, was a body of horse, which could be greatly increased in number by the same access through the park wall which had been opened by the Campbells. The Highlanders of the Prince’s army, in fact, were sullen, dejected, and dispirited, dissatisfied with their officers and generals, and not in perfect good humour with themselves. It was no wonder that, after remaining a few minutes in this situation, they should at last leave the field to the enemy, and go off in quest of safety wherever it was to be found. A part of the second line left the field with tolerable regularity, with their pipes playing and banners displayed. General Stapleton also, and the French auxiliaries, when they saw the day lost, retreated in a soldier-like manner to Inverness, where they surrendered to the Duke of Cumberland on honourable terms. Many of the Highland army fled in the direction of Inverness, but the greater part towards Badenoch and the Highlands. Some of these never stopped till they had reached their own distant homes; and the alarm was so great, that one very gallant gentleman told your Grandfather, that he himself had partaken in the night march, and that, though he had tasted nothing for twenty-four hours, he ran near twenty miles ere he took leisure to sit down and eat a biscuit which had been served out to him at the moment the battle was to begin, and which he had put into his sporran, or purse, to eat when it should be ended.

The Duke of Cumberland proceeded with caution. He did not permit his first line to advance on the repulsed Highlanders till he had restored their ranks to perfect order, nor to pursue till the dispersion of the Highland army seemed complete. When that was certain, Kingston’s horse, and the dragoons from each wing of the Duke’s army, were detached in pursuit, and did great execution. Kingstone’s horse followed the chase along the Inverness road. They did not charge such of the enemy, whether French or Highlanders, as kept in a body, but dogged and watched them closely on their retreat, moving more or less speedily as they moved, and halting once or twice when they halted. On the stragglers they made great havoc, till within a mile of Inverness.

It was in general remarked, that the English horse, whose reputation had been blemished in previous actions with the Highlanders, took a cruel pleasure in slaughtering the fugitives, giving quarter to none, except a few who were reserved for public execution, and treating those who were disabled, with cruelty unknown in modern war. Even the day after the battle, there were instances of parties of wounded men being dragged from the thickets and huts in which they had found refuge, for the purpose of being drawn up and despatched by platoon-firing; while those who did not die under this fusilade, were knocked on the head by the soldiers with the stocks of their muskets. In a word, the savageness of the regulars on this occasion formed such a contrast to the more gentle conduct of the insurgents, as to remind men of the old Latin proverb, that the most cruel enemy is a coward who has obtained success.1 It was early found necessary to make some averment which might seem to justify this unheard-of cruelty; and, accordingly, a story was circulated, concerning an order said to have been issued by Lord George Murray, commanding the Highlanders to give no quarter if victorious. But not one of the insurgent party ever saw such an order; nor did any of them hear of it, till after the battle. In this decisive action, the victors did not lose much above 300 men, in killed and wounded. Lord Robert Ker, captain of grenadiers, was slain at the head of his company.

The loss of the vanquished army was upwards of 1000 men. The Highlanders on the right wing, who charged sword in hand, suffered most severely. These were the MacLeans, and MacLauchlans, the MacIntoshes, the Frasers, the Stewarts, and the Camerons. The chief of MacLauchlan was slain in the action, together with MacLean of Drimnin, MacGillivray of Drumnaglass, several of the Erasers, and other persons of distinction. Lochiel was wounded, but borne from the field by his two henchmen. In short, the blow was equally severe and decisive, and the more so, that the heaviest of the loss fell on the high chiefs and gentlemen, who were the soul of the Highland army.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00