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The Battle - Chapter 4


Battle of Culloden

Battle of Culloden

NOTICE of the approach of the Duke's army was brought to the Prince at Culloden House shortly before noon on Wednesday the 16th April, and he hurried to the Moor to put the battle in array. The call to arms had ever a charm for the Clans, and all within reach, some from as far as Inverness, hurried eagerly to the field, where they were cheered by the arrival of MacDonald of Keppoch with his men, and of a division of the Frasers numbering about 300. About an equal number under the Master of Lovat were on their way, but barely reached Inverness when they met the fugitives seeking safety in flight. Not above 5000 men mustered on this eventful day.

The English army had commenced to march as soon as the dawning day had enabled them to break their fast. Their course was directed along the south side of Kildrummie Moss, and thence by the range. of hillocks or ice-formed moraines between that and the north side of the Loch of the Clans and of Loch Flemington, and to the north of Dalcross Castle. They were ordered in three parallel divisions, each of five battalions of foot, with a fourth column of cavalry on the left, the artillery and baggage following on the right. They could thus at once be deployed into line.

The best means of matching the redoubled broadsword of the Highlanders, — whose mode of attack was, after a single discharge of their firearms, to throw these weapons aside and make a furious, and generally resistless, onset sword in hand — had occupied the anxious attention of military men for some time back, and the Duke gets the credit of a truly dexterous expedient. The soldiers of his army were instructed and enjoined, instead of each confining himself to his immediate opponent, to thrust with the bayonet at the adversary of his right-hand man. The point in this way, instead of being caught on the round target with which the clansmen were equipped on the left arm, holding at the same time a dirk in the left hand, would find an unprotected way to the sword-arm and right breast of the foemen, all unprepared to parry so unwonted a danger. Whether this specious manoeuvre was really practised to any extent in the deadly conflict does not appear. It may be fairly doubted whether men in a death-struggle could preserve sufficient presence of mind and mutual reliance to intrust every man his own well-being to the fidelity and promptness of his left-hand man. Besides, the swordsmen and firelock-men would not be pitted man to man, the former requiring more elbow-room. Still the lesson may, and is said in some instances to have done its effectual work. A more practical and efficacious instruction, carefully inculcated on the soldiers, was to reserve their fire till the attacking Highlanders should be close at hand. The following extract from the Duke of Cumberland's Orderly Book shows how closely he had studied the habits of those whom it was his lot to conquer, and marks also his contempt for the "Lowlanders and arrant scum," who, he asserts, sometimes made up the lines behind the Highlanders.

EDINBURGH, 12th January, 1745-6.

"Sunday parole, Derby. — Field-officer for the day; to-morrow, Major Wilson. The manner of the Highlanders' way of fighting, which there is nothing so easy to resist, if officers and men are not prepossessed with the lyes and accounts which are told of them. They commonly form their front rank of what they call their best men, or true Highlanders, the number of which being always but few. When they form in battalions, they commonly form four deep, and these Highlanders form the front of the four, the rest being Lowlanders and arrant scum. When these battalions come within a large musket shots or threescore yards, this front rank gives their fire, and immediately throw down their firelocks and come down in a cluster with their swords and targets, making a noise and endeavouring to pierce the body or battalion before them, — becoming twelve or fourteen deep by the time they come up to the people they attack. The sure way to demolish them is, at three deep, to fire by ranks diagonally to the centre, where they come, the rear rank first, and even that rank not to fire till they are within ten or twelve paces; but if the fire is given at a distance, you probably will be broke, for you never get time to load a second cartridge, and, if you give way, you may give your foot for dead, for they being without a firelock, or any load, no man with his arms, accoutrements, etc., can escape them, and they give no quarter; but if you will but observe the above directions, they are the most despicable enemy that are." (Memoirs of the Jacobites, by Mrs. Thomson, in Life of Cameron of Lochiel).


Duke of Cumberland (The Butcher)  

Duke of Cumberland (The Butcher)


When within about two miles of the Highland army, the Duke formed his troops in order of battle. But the others remaining in position, the column-formation and march were resumed, and by and by the advancing army again formed into line. The arrangement was highly approved by military authorities; there being three lines, the foremost composed of six regiments at short intervals, the second line of five regiments covering the open spaces and over- lapping the contiguous regiments in front, while four regiments in reserve formed a third line, which, in like manner, at the outset reached across the interstices of the second line. Each line was three deep. The several lines were respectively under the command of the Earl of Albemarle, General Huske, and Brigadier Mordaunt. Two regiments of dragoons, Lord Mark Kerr's, under Lord Ancrum's command, and Cobham's, headed by Generals Hawley and Bland, and accompanied by 3 portion of the Argyleshire Highlanders, and of such of Lord Loudoun's Independent companies as had joined (the rest of whom had charge of the baggage) were moved to the left, with an eye to a movement on the enemy's flank,  and  a  body  of  horse was placed with the reserve. Eventually,

however, the right wing becoming uncovered by reason of the recession of some marshy ground which had served to protect it, three of the reserve regiments were moved, one into the front and two into the second line, and the rest of the cavalry, Kingston's light horse and a troop of Cobham's, to the right flank. The portion of marshy ground in question is apparently what lies along a slight hollow, which from the west joins a more perceptible marshy hollow, in the course of the runlet percolating from the Well of the Dead, which, threading its way in a northerly direction, obliquely intersected the Duke's line of march. Two field- pieces, short 6-pounders, some of which had been got through this last-mentioned wet ground with difficulty, as the horses stuck fast and had to be unharnessed, and the guns dragged through by the soldiers, were placed in each of the front open spaces; while between the extreme regiments of the second line, as originally composed, there were batteries of three guns in each.

The Prince's army was marshalled in two lines, each also three deep, with a small reserve. There is considerable diversity in the order of arrangement of the component regiments as given by different writers, and on different plans of the battle — rather, however, as to the second line and reserve. The chief discrepancy as to the front line is, that some place John Roy Stuart's regiment in it, some in the second line; but the majority and most authoritative assign it a place in front, where, as a Highland regiment, it certainly ought to have been. In the front line were the Clans in the following order, reckoning from right to left:— The Athol Highlanders, Camerons, Stuarts of Appin, Frasers and Chisholms, MacIntoshes, MacLachlans and MacLeans, Farquharsons, John Roy Stuart's regiment, Clanranald, Keppoch and Glengarrv, MacDonalds and MacDonells. The second line, less numerous and compact, was most probably composed, we are inclined after careful consideration to conclude, in the same order, of two small squadrons of horse, — viz., Lord Elcho's Horse Guards and a moiety of Fitz-James's horse (possibly, however, in or a little behind the front line, where Home places the horse), Lord Lewis Gordon's regiment in column, Lord Ogilvie's, the Duke of Perth's, Lord John Drummond's French Royal Scots, the Irish Picquets or Brigade, and Glenbucket's regiment in column, with Lord Balmerino's Horse Guards on the flank. These were but a few incomplete troops of horse altogether; and Lord Strathallan's and Lord Pitsligo's horse, sometimes called the Perth Dragoons, with Lord Kilmarnock's small body of dismounted horse grenadiers, called foot guards, formed the reserve under Lord Kilmarnock; and with the Prince were the remainder of Fitz-James's horse. Some authorities substitute Lord Ogilvie's and the Duke of Perth's regiment for the reserve, and place the Perth Dragoons on the left of the second line. But the difficulty of mustering wherewithal to form a second line, seems conclusive against placing so considerable a body in reserve; and Home expressly states that the cavalry had so dwindled down that none of the horse, except Fitz-James's and the Horse Guards, formed part of either line. Lord George Murray commanded the right and the Duke of Perth the left wing, with Lord John Drummond in the centre of the front line; and the second line was under the command of General Stapleton. The field-pieces were placed four on either flank, and four in the centre.

The right wing of the Prince's army rested on the North Park dyke, to be distinguished from the Old Leanach dyke in continuation of it, and extending to the Graves' Clearing, and, there is reason to believe, continued along its south margin as far as the Well of the Dead. The Old Leanach dykes, which, from the east corner of the Park dyke, round by the east side of Old Leanach House, embraced an irregular area, shut in on the north, excepting partially towards the house, formed a boundary between the parishes of Croy and Daviot, the latter surrounding, or nearly so, this portion of the former; and the same zig-zag line, though now obliterated, is still the parish boundary. The old Park dyke also formed, though its site no longer forms, the boundary here between the counties of Inverness and Nairn. Browne, in his "History of the Highland Clans," s the only writer who seems pretty distinctly to have realised the existence and bearing of dykes other than what are called the park or enclosure dykes. He quotes (1850, vol. iii. p. 260) a letter of Lord George Murray's,i addressed the day after the battle from Ruthven


Map of the Battle - Click for
                                  Larger Image

Map of the Battle - Click for Larger Image

to the Prince — one of the Stuart Papers — in which he reflects on O'Sullivan, who arranged the order of battle, for a fatal error in allowing the enemy the walls on their left, which made it impossible, he says, to break them or prevent their flank-fire on the advancing Highlanders. Browne also adds, what we elsewhere notice as mentioned in the Lockhart Papers, that, while the Duke was forming his line of battle, Lord George Murray was very desirous to advance and throw down these dykes; but the attempt appeared too hazardous, and was not made. This must apply to the Old Leanach dykes, which dykes, in short, hampered, as much as the North Park dyke protected, the Highland right wing.

The position of both armies was operative rather for defence than offence. Hence the indisposition on either side to take the initiative in coming to close quarters. The right of the Highland front line seems to have stood opposite the east end of the North Park dyke, as represented in Home's plan of the battle, but must have been with an interval between, so as to stand clear of the interposing North Leanach dyke in front, and much about the line of the East Park dyke, which pointed directly to where the stables of Culloden House now stand. The left of the English front line would appear not to have advanced across the marshy hollow to the north of the Well of the Dead. Mr. Chambers says that the English army halted at a distance of 500 paces from the Highlanders, and that, after manoeuvring for half-an-hour with the view of outflanking each other, the two armies at last occupied nearly their original ground. The above relative positions are consistent with this statement and, considering the obliquity of the marshy hollow to the English line of battle, with Home's definition of the interval when, part of the ground having become soft and boggy, some of the artillery horses sunk — as 500 or 600 paces — all, of course, approximate calculations. The marshy hollow proceeding from the Well, however, runs away so much to the north, or east of north, that the mention made in the Duke's official report of the uncovering of his right wing by the discontinuance of a morass, must either have happened at a considerably greater distance from the Rebel army than 500 yards, as stated by him, or must have had reference to a different portion of the Moor, and seemingly, as has been said, to the smaller branch marshy hollow which joins the first from the west. Chevalier Johnstone says that the Highlanders descended with great rapidity into the marshy hollow, and charged sword in hand. On the other hand, the distance is certainly very considerable — the minimum upwards of 400 yards a long stretch for a rapid run, if sustained throughout, and sufficient to put even Highlanders out of breath: a consideration which points to the left of the English front line having been not far from the bottom of the marshy hollow, which is the more likely, in that the ground rises behind on the east more perceptibly than on the west side; so that, if farther back, they would have had an appreciable vantage ground, and the charge would have been in a measure uphill, circumstances calling for a notice which is not met with.

Leanach Cottage - Culloden Moor  

Leanach Cottage - Culloden Moor


Tradition gives a position a little west of Old Leanach House to one of the English batteries, and associates with it the name of Colonel Telford, who had charge of the artillery; and this corresponds with the battery of three guns which, originally between the two extreme regiments, came, owing to Wolfe's regiment being advanced, to be quite on the left of the second line, which was much closer to — while it at first extended some what beyond, — the front line than that of the Prince's army. Home says that, when the battle began, the east dyke of the park or enclosure was within 150 paces of the dragoons; but, as they had no enemy confronting them, they night safely have been farther advanced than the infantry, and possibly so early, with a view of securing a hold on the Old Leanach north dyke, and in prosecution of the purposed flank- movement. Then a little way from the north end, the east dyke of the park projected in the direction of the dragoons. Wolfe's regiment, when on the extreme left of the second line, is said to have been up to the ankles in water. This would accord with a more advanced position for the first line, as the marshy ground near the well would satisfactorily explain it. Still the state of other parts of the ground is not to be judged by its condition now; so that the east side of the marshy ground there may be reasonably regarded as the position of the left of the English front line.

Mr. Chambers thus contrasts the appearance of the opposing forces, as represented in a print executed at the time:—

"The long compact lines of the British regiments, each three men deep, extend along the plain, with narrow intervals between; the two flags of each regiment rising from the centre, the officers standing at the extremities with their spontoons in their hands, and the drummers a little in advance beating their instruments. The men have tri-cocked hats, long coats resembling the modern surtout, sash belts from which a sword depends, and long white gaiters buttoned up the sides. The dragoons exhibit still more superfluity of attire; their long loose skirts flying behind them as they ride, while their trunk square-toed boots, their massive stirrup-leathers, their huge holster- pistols and carabines, give altogether an idea of dignity and strength much in contrast with the light fantastic hussar uniform of modern times." Of the Highlanders, dressed in the philibeg or kilt—

"All plaided and plumed in their tartan array," — he says:-

"They have muskets over their left shoulders, basket- hilted broadswords by their left sides, pistols stuck into their girdles, and a small pouch hanging down from their right loin, perhaps for holding their ammunition. By the right side of every piece of ordnance there is a cylindrical piece of wickerwork for the protection of the artillerymen, all of whom appear to wear kilts like the rest."

In the Mercury newspaper, published in Edinburgh on Tuesday, 27th May, 1746, a return is given, as handed about, of the officers and men in each of the 15 battalions of infantry on the day of battle, amounting to 5521. There were, besides, Lord Mark Kerr's and Lord Cobham's two regiments of dragoons, the Duke of Kingston's regiment of light horse, the Argyleshire Highlanders, and a detachment of Lord Loudoun's men, which had been shipped across the Firth — which would make the Duke's army, at the lowest computation, up to fully 7000 men, and the number has been stated as high as 9000; while of the Prince's there is no reason to doubt that not above 5000 could be got together. It is elsewhere stated that the latest returns previous to the battle, of the rank and file of the Royal army, showed the numerical strength to be 7179, which, with the proper allowance for commissioned and non-commissioned officers, would give an aggregate of about 8000, irrespective of the Militia and the portion of Lord Loudoun's Independent companies. The latter figure may therefore be pretty fairly assumed as the probable actual force on the field.

This great disproportion, and the distressing condition of the Mountaineers, worn out with fatigue and weakened with hunger, were again urged by Lord George Murray and the Highland chiefs as pressing reasons for retiring to the south side of the Nairn, for which there was still ample time, thereby enabling the men to recruit their energies, and affording opportunity for those on the march and the stragglers to join them. But the Prince was obdurate. The incidents of the previous night rankled in his breast. Distracted and hurried must have been the brief counsel taken at that eventful moment, and there were jealousies and dissensions among them. The Highland chiefs fought with a halter round their necks; while the French and Irish confidants of the Prince, in the service of France, felt assured, in case of a reverse, of the privileges of ordinary warfare; and they were behoved to be tired of the contest, and desirous to precipitate a crisis. Besides, we learn from the Lockhart Papers (vol. i. p. 444) that from the very outset

"a combination had been entered into against Lord George Murray (who, on his joining the Prince at Perth was declared Lieutenant-General) by John Murray the secretary, Mr O'Sullivan, and others. of which the Prince was acquented; but, being an active, sturring man, and well acquented with the situation of the country and people, he was caressed by the Prince, and had great weight in all the operations, notwithstanding the opposition he met with."

There were certainly good reasons for covering Inverness, had the means at command been adequate. The Prince had an overweening estimate of the irresistible prowess of the Highlanders, whom he had on all previous occasions seen victorious; but nothing short of supernatural strength could have enabled them, under the combined influences of want of sleep and food, and the fatigue of the untoward night-march, to cope with the fresh, well-appointed regulars who so far outnumbered them, and who, in complete battle array, approached in a cool, orderly, determined manner, presaging victory. On the other hand, the Rev. George Innes, Forres, in his Narrative says: "The men were nodding with sleep in the ranks " [of the Highland army]. Not a few were actually surprised after the battle, overcome with sleep, in the brushwood near Culloden House, and had their throats cut. It was nothing short of downright madness to venture such an issue.


Culloden Battlefield 1746

Culloden Battlefield 1746

The Prince and the Duke rode along the lines, by words and gesture animating their respective troops. At the second halt, before moving forward his army in line, the Duke had addressed them in a speech of grave earnestness, befitting the momentous issues to his father's crown dependent on the conduct of the troops, as to which he could not fail to have misgivings, with Preston and Falkirk in fresh remembrance. The artillery on both sides commenced to fire a little after one o'clock; but that of the Highlanders was extremely ill-served and ill-pointed, and did little or no execution. Their ordnance was of very small calibre, none exceeding 4lbs. Many of the gunners had wandered with others in search of provisions, and had not returned, and their places had to be supplied by men unaccustomed to such practice, while the Duke's cannon made dreadful havoc.

Prince Charles had taken up a position behind, and a little to the right of, the right wing, on the farm of Culchuinag. A stone on which he stood is still pointed out. The position was pretty nearly in a direct line with the present north field fence, and about 150 yards from the west corner. While there he was bespattered with earth ploughed up by cannonshot, and one of his servants, holding a led horse, was killed. He then, it is believed, retired farther back, and took his stand, it has been said, at the farm-house of Balvraid, beside the ash tree already mentioned, from which the combatants would have been completely under the eye. That the Prince was at Balvraid, and standing beside the ash tree, seems from the tradition to be beyond doubt; but it is uncertain whether this may not have been merely during a pause in the retreat. Balvraid is rather too distant to be a very likely position, being three-fourths of a mile from his original one. In some accounts he is represented to have stood far behind his troops; but his exact whereabouts after removing from Culchuinag is uncertain. The Duke stood between the Royal Scots in the front and Howard's regiment in the second line of the right wing.

The object of both commanders seems to have been to try to induce the other to commence the attack, as also to gain the flank of their opponents. In this game the numerical superiority and better gunnery of the English gave the Duke the advantage in both particulars. Wolfe's regiment, which had been on the left of the second line, somewhat outflanking the first line, and up to the ankles in marshy ground, was brought forward and placed on the left by the Duke en potence that is, in advance and at right angles to the front line, so as to enfilade the enemy should they attack. As the hurricane of battle seems to have swept past without any injury to Wolfe's corps, it may be conjectured that their position was well back and south of the marshy hollow, where it adjoins the Well: where, too, they would be on slightly higher ground than the nearest combatants. The regiments from the reserve were also moved into the lines as already mentioned. Though the Highland right wing reached somewhat beyond Barrel's, the regiment on the extreme left of the front rank of the opposing troops, the English horse on both flanks extended beyond the Highland army. Not only so, but the Argyleshire, and some of Lord Loudoun's Highlanders, to the number of 140, the rest having been left in charge of the baggage, breaking down the eastern and western walls of the park enclosure, made a passage for the dragoons, who thus got and took up a position quite past the Highland right wing. It is obvious that this was west and south of a hollow of some little depth, which bends round the Culchuinag farm steading on the east and north. James Macdonald, son of old James Macdonald, who lived at one time at Culchuinag, a sort of cicerone of the place, told the writer that in ploughing between the hollow in question and the road to the river, he turned up seven skulls at one time — proofs of the conflict which eventually took place at this spot. The tenant of Balvraid and Culchuinag, Lachlan Forbes, a person well advanced in years, whose father came to settle in Balvraid the year after the battle, also stated that his father told him the west wall was broken down some distance below the Culchuinag houses, quite as far or farther down than the Park houses, which would just serve to bring the troopers to the west and south side of the hollow; and it is to be supposed that they would have made a considerable detour in seeking the vantage-ground they thus gained. In the Lockhart Papers it is remarked, that the dragoons in their passage did not receive a shot from the battalion inside. This shows that they had kept well down the park. In the Mercury, 1st May, 1746, it is on the right flank of the second line the dragoons are said to have come, whick nearly corresponds with the above detail.

In connection with Culchuinag a singular incident occurred. The mother of the late old James Macdonald, the guide above mentioned, whose parents lived there, was baking on the day of battle, when a poor Highlander, who had lost his hand, rushed in and staunched the bleeding stump by thrusting it on the hot stones of the fire-place on the hearth.

To hold the dragoons in check, General Stapleton detached one of Lord Lewis Gordon's regiments, with the two squadrons of horse, on the right flank. The dragoons did not assail the right wing till the retreat had commenced.


It was a great mistake on the Prince's part to leave the Highlanders, who had only partially become inured to such engines of destruction, so long exposed to the enemy's artillery, which seriously thinned their ranks. He ought at once to have allowed them the full benefit of their characteristic onset. The Highlanders were clamorous to be led to the charge. At length the Prince did send an aide- de-camp, a young man of the name of MacLachlan, with the requisite orders, but he was killed on the way by a cannon-ball. Colonel Ker of Gradyne mentions, in his account of the battle (Lyon in Mourning, i., 355), that he was sent by Lord George Murrayto know if he should begin the attack, which the Prince accordingly ordered.  He adds,  "As the right was farther


Munro's Foot receives the Highland

Munro's Foot receives the Highland Charge

  advanced than the left, Colonel Ker went to the left and ordered the Duke of Perth, who commanded there, to begin the attack, and rode along the line till he came to the right, where Lord George Murray was." By this time the wind, which blew from the north in the face of the clans, was accompanied by drifting snow. Other accounts represent Lord George to have yielded to the general wish, and to have ordered the charge without waiting for instructions. He did lead the right wing to the attack, but before he had well done so, the MacIntosh regiment broke out from the right centre, and rushed forward to close with the regiment opposite to them:— the Frasers, Stuarts, Camerons, and Athol Highlanders on the right, with the MacLachlans and MacLeans on the MacIntoshes' left, joined in the attack.

The interval between the opposing armies was greater at the north than at the south end, causing an obliquity in the line of attack, which pointed from the Highland left to the English left. But the MacIntoshes swerving to the right, partly to avoid the close fire of the 21st Scots Fusiliers (who themselves had only some half-a-dozen wounded), and of the field-pieces — partly, it is conjectured, from the formation of the ground, and the direction of an old roadway, and the clans becoming thus crowded together — the brunt of the conflict fell upon Munro's and Barrel's regiments, which occupied the English extreme left, the contending foemen feeling rather than seeing one another, owing to the density of the smoke. The dense massing together of the Clans which took place by the time they reached their foemen, is something remarkable, and must have greatly conduced to the carnage made among them before their favourite claymore came into play.

The onset of the Mountaineers is thus graphically described by Mr. Chambers:—

"It was the custom of the Highlanders before an onset to scrug their bonnets — that is, to pull their little blue caps down over their brows — so as to ensure them against falling off in the ensuing mélée. Never, perhaps, was the motion performed with so much emphasis as on the present occasion, when every man's forehead burned with the desire to revenge some dear friend who had fallen a victim to the murderous artillery. A Lowland gentleman who was in the line, and who survived till a late period, used always, in relating the events of Culloden, to comment with a feeling something like awe upon the more than natural expression of rage which glowed on every face and gleamed in every eye as he surveyed the extended line at this moment.

"The action and event of the onset were throughout quite as dreadful as the mental emotion which urged it. Notwithstanding that the three files of the front line of English poured forth their incessant fire of musketry — notwithstanding that the cannon, now loaded with grape- shot, swept the field as with a hailstorm — notwithstanding the flank-fire of Wolfe's regiment — onward, onward, went the headlong Highlanders, flinging themselves into, rather than rushing upon, the lines of the enemy, which indeed they did not see for smoke, till involved amid their weapons. All that courage, all that despair, could do was done. It was a moment of dreadful and agonising suspense, but only a moment — for the whirlwind does not reap the forest with greater rapidity than the Highlanders cleared the line. Nevertheless, almost every man in their front rank, chief and gentleman, fell before the deadly weapons which they had braved;

and although the enemy gave way, it was not till every bayonet was bent and bloody with the strife "When the first line had been thus swept aside, the assailants continued their impetuous advance till they came near the second, when, being almost annihilated by a profuse and well-directed fire, the shattered remains of what had been, but an hour before, a numerous and confident force, began to give way. Still a few rushed on, resolved rather to die than forfeit their well-acquired and dearly-estimated honour. They rushed on, but not a man ever came in contact with the enemy. The last survivor perished as he reached the points of the bayonets.

"The persevering and desperate valour displayed by the Highlanders on this occasion is proved by the circumstance, that at one part of the plain, where a very vigorous attack had been made, their bodies were afterwards found in layers three and four deep, so many, it would appear, having in succession, mounted over a prostrate friend to share in the same certain fate. The slaughter was particularly great among the brave MacIntoshes, insomuch that the heroic lady who sent them to the field afterwards told the party by whom she was taken prisoner, that only three of her officers had escaped."

When the Highlanders had broken through the first line, though sorely diminished in numbers, they were all close together; and it was Sempill's and Bligh's regiments alone, in the second line, whom they vainly essayed to assail, and whose well-directed fire completed the work of destruction.

The Battle of Culloden  

The Battle of Culloden


Home says that the Athol Brigade, in advancing lost thirty-two officers (according to Browne, twenty three), add was so shattered that it stopped short, and never closed with the King's troops. This might well have been, for they had not only, in addition to the fire in front, to sustain the flank-fire of Wolfe's regiment, and that of a battery of three guns in the second line; but the troops who had broken into the enclosure having, according to Home (though he is apparently mistaken in this), put to the sword the body of 100 men who had been placed within, the Campbells (and, he should have added, part of the Loudoun Highlanders) were ordered to go close to the north wall and fire on this brigade. In doing so they received a fire which killed, he adds, two of their captains and an ensign.

On either side of the junction of the present subdividing fence with the north fence, both so often already mentioned, there are several graves and trenches called "The Campbells' Graves." These are outside of the new fence. Close to the north fence, and west of the cross fence, there is a grave in which Mr. Arthur Forbes and his brother, Mr. Duncan Forbes, in 1834, saw a large skeleton, the skull of which had a musket-bullet in it, whereby it had been pierced; and a small trench, and a little to the east of the intersecting fence, two other trenches, one of them larger than the others, all in the planting, and the last a little farther from the fence than the first. A pathway has been made from the Culchuinag road to these, near the dyke-side, and to the west end of the clearing where the graves are; in proceeding to which there is another grave a few steps from the farthest east of the last-mentioned trenches.

From the preliminary description of the battlefield, it will appear that these trenches and graves were not within the park, nor in front of it, but the trenches are within, that is, south (the two graves having been outside) of the old dyke which ran along the north side of this part of Old Leanach, after it had crossed to the north of the line of the present north fence. We must suppose that these Campbells and others, only 140 in number, did not draw up directly on the flank of the Prince's Highlanders when in position — where, too, they would have had to encounter those within the park; but, after opening the way for the dragoons to the rear, had gone back and so placed themselves as to fire from behind the Old Leanach dyke on the latter when going forward. The position of these trenches and graves at first sight would rather point to their being part of the Highland right wing. But the existence of the Old Leanach dyke supports the correctness of the designation, at least in respect of the trenches. Our informant at Balvraid mentioned that his father told him there were breaches in the north wall. These were most likely made in order to the Campbells joining in the pursuit. There is no reason to conclude that, as sometimes stated, this wall had been broken for attack.

Chevalier Johnstone says— "Overpowered by a murderous fire in front and flank, our right could not maintain its ground, and was obliged to give way, while our centre had already broken the enemy's first line and attacked the second." Lord George Murray says that the men led by him passed two cannon in front of the enemy's first line, when, thinking, from his horse plunging and rearing, that he was wounded, he quitted his stirrups and was thrown. He then adds— "I brought up two regiments from our second line after this, who gave their fire, but nothing could be done — all was lost." While this brilliant and murderous charge was being performed, the left wring and centre had remained comparatively passive. It is said that the MacDonalds had taken umbrage at not having had the position on the right assigned to them, which they considered their privilege since the battle of Bannockburn; and it is added that the Duke of Perth tried to appease them by saying, that "if the MacDonalds behaved with their usual valour, they would make a right of the left, and he would henceforth call himself a MacDonald." Mr. Chambers says— "But the insult was not to be expiated by this appeal to clanship. Though induced to discharge their muskets, and even to advance some way, they never made an onset: They endured the fire of the English regiments without flinching, only expressing their rage by hewing up the heath with their swords; but they at last fled, when they saw the other Clans give way."

This unfortunate contretemps on the part of the MacDonalds was caused by an unseasonable claim preferred by Lord George Murray, who alleged that Montrose had assigned the right to the Athol Highlanders. The Prince declined to decide on a matter on which he felt imperfectly informed. He, however requested the MacDonald chiefs to concede the point on this occasion, which they agreed to do; but their followers were not reconciled to the arrangement.

In the account of the battle drawn up by order of the Duke of Cumberland, it is stated "that upon the right, where his Royal Highness had placed himself, imagining the greater push would be made there, they came down three several times within 100 yards of our men, firing their pistols and brandishing there swords." This was by way of bravado, not an inchoate attack; no movement had been then ordered; but with the view of provoking the enemy to commence, as each was desirous the other should do. Much allowance must be made for men who, jaded with fatigue and want of sleep and nourishment, could scarce have been themselves. It is stated by the Rev. George Innes, in his Narrative, that "in advancing Lord George Murray had inclined a good deal to the right, probably to avoid being flanked by the dragoons; but this occasioning a gap towards the left, the MacDonald were in danger of being surrounded, which made them stop till the Duke of Perth's and Glenbucket's [query, Lord Ogilvie's or Lord John Drummond's ?] regiments were drawn forwards from the second line to make up the line." There was nothing to dread from the dragoons, who by this time had gone to Culchuinag. But if the bend of the line of the Old Leanach dyke had caused the right wing in its advance to incline at first to the left, it would have required to spread out again to the right in order to confront Barrel's regiment on the extreme English left, and we have seen that the MacIntoshes also made their way left shoulders forward. The Highlanders, too, were outflanked on the left by Kingston's light horse. The crowding together of the clans, and the consequent concentration of the attack on two regiments, seems to imply that, while the MacIntoshes swerved to the right, the others must have inclined at first to the left, and the whole to have jostled one another.

Had the right been able to maintain their ground a very few minutes longer, doubtless the warlike instinct of the MacDonalds would have led them con amore into the mélée. It was not, however, a moment for indecision, but one where to doubt was to be lost; and when they saw those who had attacked sword in hand driven back, they also retired. The right centre front line, which had charged, ought to have been supported by the second line. But their annihilation, the recoil of the right wing, and the appearance of the enemy's horse in position in their rear, were quite sufficient to paralyse the outnumbered insurgents, and no wonder that they gave way. A party of cavalry pressed upon the MacDonalds when retiring to the second line, but was repulsed by spirited fire from the Irish picquets.


The Prince was not wanting in will and resolution to do whatever might be done to retrieve the fortunes of the day. He was eager to put himself at the head of his remaining troops and to charge the enemy; but his attendants saw that the rout was complete, and they compelled him to quit the field. A cornet in his service, when questioned upon this subject at the point of death, declared that he saw O'Sullivan, after using entreaties in vain, turn the head of the Prince's horse and drag him away. (Chambers's History of the Rebellion, and Quarterly Review, No. 71).

All testimony concurs in doing justice to the Prince's conduct, with exception of Chevalier Johnstone and Lord Elcho. The former taunts him with contenting himself, when the dragoons and the Campbells were breaking through the enclosure, with sending repeated messages to Lord George Murray to counteract this important movement by placing troops within the enclosure — which orders were not attended to — instead of putting himself at the head of his troops and charging in person; while Lord Elcho asserts that, after the right wing had given way, he had in vain entreated Charles still to retrieve the fortunes of the day with the left wing, and by rallying the others; and that on his not advancing to do so, —


Charles Edward Stuart


Charles Edward Stuart

in compliance with the advice of all others about him — he, Lord Elcho, called him an Italian scoundrel, and declared he would never see his face more. As to the first, the Chevalier Tote under the influence of disappointment and ill humour; and it is absurd to suppose that, with the handful of horse the Prince had about him, any successful attempt could have been made to resist the English squadrons and Argyleshire and Loudoun Highlanders. He did what he could, and what the occasion called for, in sending such orders. For that matter there had been, as above mentioned, a small body of men placed within the enclosure.

If there be any truth in the messages, it would seem to demonstrate that the Prince had at the time been at some considerable distance. If near at hand, it would be idle to communicate with Lord George, as it was only from the second line the manoeuvre could have been counteracted. Lord George could do nothing owing to the flanking dyke, and he had enough on his hands. The only practical expedient was that adopted by General Stapleton; only, one would think, had Lord Lewis Gordon's regiment and the few available horse been moved up with celerity, they might have given a good account of the dragoons as they pressed through the gap in the west wall. But the supposed distance of this gap, and the dip of the ground, would have screened the operation.

As to the other charge, asserted want of resolution, as has been remarked (Quarterly Review, No. 71), "it is nothing new for a warm and impetuous soldier like Lord Elcho, rendered desperate by circumstances, to give counsel on a field of battle which it would be madness in any general to adopt." Lord Mahon says, "that Lord Elcho was a man of most violent temper, and no constant fidelity;" and it is certain that he was one of the foremost of the Prince's train on the occasion of his first public audience at the Court of France after his return. Chevalier Johnstone places the altercation in a cabin on the south side of the Nairn, in the course of the retreat, and says that the contention had respect to the continued prosecution of the warfare; and Lord Elcho, writing after an interval, may have made a mistake as to time and place. In fact, Lord Elcho was one of those who rode from the field with the Prince. Then, "as for rallying the Highlanders, why, they were Highlanders, and for that very reason could not be rallied. In their advances they fired their guns and threw them away, coming to the shock with broadsword and target alone, if they succeeded, which they often did, no victory could be more complete; but they exhausted their strength in this effort, and it was not till they received, in the regiments drawn from amongst them, the usual discipline of the field, that Highlanders had any idea of rallying, till some hill, pass, or natural fastness gave them an advantage." (Quarterly Review, No. 71, and General Stewart of Garth's History of the Highland Regiments). The charge of want of courage is quite inconsistent with the Prince's antecedents, and with his behaviour during his subsequent wanderings.

The English accounts represent that "the cavalry, which had charged from the right and left, met in the centre." This was not, however, till the Prince's forces had begun to move off the ground. The Duke's foot regiments had been ordered to stand upon the ground where they had fought, and to dress their ranks. It was not till they had recovered from the rough handling that they had received that the Duke advanced with his infantry, when the Highlanders began to separate; some in small parties, but the mass in two bodies; the larger of which directed their course towards the hills, but obliquely past Balvraid, to a point some miles up the river; the others taking the open road to Inverness. Then the cavalry from both wings did meet, and commenced the pursuit.

"Yet," in the words of Lord Mahon, " let it not be deemed that even then their courage failed. Not by their forefathers at Bannockburn; not by themselves at Preston or Falkirk; not in after years, when discipline had raised and refined the valour of their sons, not on the shores of the Nile; not on that other field of victory where their gallant chief, with a prophetic shroud (it is their own superstition) high upon his breast, addressed to them only these three words 'Highlanders, remember Egypt!' — not in those hours of triumph and of glory was displayed a more firm and resolute bravery than now in the defeat at Culloden. The right and centre had done all that human strength or human spirit could do; they had yielded only to necessity and numbers; and, like the captive monarch at Pavia, might boast that everything was lost but their honour."

Several instances of individual heroism and self devotion stand out prominently in the gloomy record of this disastrous day. The death of MacDonald of Keppoch, a genuine descendant of a race distinguished for the pertinacity with which they persisted in holding their lands in Lochaber by the tenure of the sword instead of the sheepskin, is very touching. When his clansmen offered to turn their backs, the chief, with an exclamation of anguish, stepped forward with a pistol in one hand and a drawn sword in the other. He got but a little way when a musket-shot brought him to the ground; a clansman raised him up, and beseeched him not to throw his life away, and to let him assist him still to join his retreating regiment. Keppoch desired his faithful follower to take care of himself-; and, again essaying to reach the enemy, he received another shot, and fell to rise no more.

"The late Mr. MacDonald of Glenaladale told me," says the Rev. Donald MacIntosh, usually styled Bishop MacIntosh, in a MS. dated in 1810, "some years ago, that he saw John Mor MacGilvra, major of the MacIntoshes, a gun-shot past the enemy's cannon, and that he was surrounded by the reinforcements sent against the MacIntoshes; that he killed a dozen men with his broadsword, while some of the halberds were run into his body. When Cumberland heard of it, he said he would have given a great sum of money to have saved his life." John Mor was a very large man, and popularly known as "John of the Markets."

Almost all the leaders and front-rank men of the regiments that charged, sealed their devotedness with their blood. MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, who commanded the MacIntoshes, was killed in the action, with the lieutenant-colonel, the major, and all the officers of the regiment excepting three. Dunmaglass was, after the battle, carried to the well hard by, already alluded to, beside which he breathed his last, and which has since been sometimes also called "Dunmaglass's Well." A woman from a neighbouring house recognised the body of MacGillivray of Dalcrombie, and bound a handkerchief round the arm, that it might be identified. The remains were interred in Petty Churchyard. In the Statistical Account of that parish is the following passage:—

"It is said that after the battle his (Dunmaglass's) body, with fifty others, was thrown into a pit, and that, so far did the king's troops carry their animosity, that for six weeks they guarded the field, and would not grant the consolation to his friends of placing the body in the family burying-ground. At the end of that period, it is said that, by pouring some ankers of whisky into the opened grave, it was found possible to remove the body to the Churchyard of Pettie."

MacLachlan, colonel of the united regiment of MacLachlans and MacLeans, was killed by a cannon ball; and MacLean of Drummin, the lieutenant-colonel, who, being told that two of his sons had fallen, turning back with the exclamation, "It shall not be for nought!" was killed by a random shot. Lochiel was wounded with grape shot in both ankles, but his two brothers carried him off. Charles Fraser, younger of Inverallochy, lieutenant-colonel of the Frasers, was mortally wounded. The Master of Lovat was not present. The battle is said to have lasted only about forty minutes, the greater part of which was occupied with distant cannonading. Viscount Strathallan and the Laird of Aldie were the only persons of note attached to the Lowland regiments who were killed. The former is stated in the Mercury to have been so by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard.

What is said to be Keppoch's Grave is on the east side of a boulder-stone on the Moor, 120 paces north of the plantation, and about 200 paces north of the road, and will be found in a straight line entering the plantation, 100 yards west of the Graves. There is another grave 100 paces to the east, beside a well, and various other graves are scattered over the Moor. As the Keppoch MacDonalds were the last but one clan on the left, the extreme left of the Highlanders may have been not far from a straight drain cut on the Moor, a little north of Keppoch's Grave, and running to the south-west, which is joined by another on the west side of the croft farmhouse.

Owing to the angular disposition of the various lines of the fences, roads, and planting, one is prone, judging by Keppoch's Grave, to deem the line of battle very circumscribed. But on further examination this difficulty in great measure disappears. Supposing the line of the old East Park dyke prolonged to this drain, the distance from the north or north-east angle of the Park to the drain, about 280 yards from the junction with the other drain, would be 500 yards. The space now allowed for soldiers in line is 20 inches; Highlanders wielding the claymore would require much more freedom. But even at 30 inches to each man, 500 yards would about suffice for a body of 2000 men ranged three deep. There would have been more out of 5000 in the front line. But a little prolongation beyond the drain, or curtailment of the individual spaces, adjusts the relations; even taking into account a probable interval between the extreme right and the old Park dyke, in respect of the protrusion of the Old Leanach dyke. The greater compactness of the lines of the regulars, and the more sparse formation of the Prince's second column, serve to demonstrate the disparity of the opposing forces. There is, as mentioned, a conspicuous protruding boulder to the west or north-west behind the Stable Hollow cottage, next to King's Stables, where a cannon is said to have been planted. The line of the old East Park dyke, prolonged, would pass within 120 yards of the stone, which, however, is about 1000 feet from the supposed point of intersection of the ditch. From Keppoch's Grave, if so disposed, one may strike right across to the hollow already described on the edge of the wood, where the Highland army had encamped, or rather bivouacked, and thence through the wood to emerge near the dog kennel.

Mass graves of the Clans at Culloden  

Mass graves of the Clans at Culloden


The principal collection of graves or trenches occupies a space of 130 yards by 25, of extreme breadth, in the line of the charge, and across that of the English army. . They are distinguished in succession, reckoning from the west, as "Clan Fraser," "Mixed Clans;" "Clan MacIntosh;" "Clan Cameron;" "Clan MacGillivray;" "Clan Stuart of Appin;" "Clans MacGillivray, MacLean, MacLachlan, Athol Highlanders." The bodies of the several clansmen could have been readily distinguished by the dress; and country people were employed in the work of interment. Dr. Charles Fraser MacIntosh of Drummond, mentions, in his Antiquarian Notes (No. 96), that when he lived at Gollanfield, in Petty, an old man of ninety, curiously styled and known, as he remarks, as "John Oig" (young John), told him that he had known one Paul MacPhail in Ballenreich, who, the day

after the battle, helped to cut the big trench where so many were interred. His informant had also known "Donuilna Braiteach" (Donald of the Colours), so named for his having, when the MacIntosh ensign was killed, stripped the colours from the colour- staff, and, wrapping them round his body, escaped from the field. The English dead were buried in the field round Old Leanach, which is still called the Field of the English. In it bones have been again and again turned up by the plough.

The simple headstones distinguishing the graves were erected about 1880 by the late Mr Duncan Forbes of Culloden, and similarly inscribed slabs of stone mark the positions of the "King's Stables," "Well of the Dead," and "Field of the English." The present monumental cairn dates from the same period, taking the place of a rude pile of stones collected in 1858. The cairn bears the inscription:


16TH APRIL, 1746.


It is particularly requested that parties visiting the field of battle will not in any way destroy or dig up the graves. Too much of this has been done; and it is hoped that as, by means of the present Guide, every object of interest has been pointed out, proper respect may be henceforth shown to the last resting-place of many a brave Highlander.


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