Battle of Culloden, 1746

Battle of CullodenThe Jacobite Risings and the Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746)

The vote for union had been close, especially if one discounts the votes of self-seeking nobles (such as Argyll, it must be said), even though the economic benefits of union were to prove beneficial for Scotland overall.
The Scots loved their country. But why would they support the Stuarts, who had been so cruel to them? Most of them didn't. Truthfully, whether they were happy with the union or not, there was no love lost between protestant Scotland and the Stuart dynasty.

The highlands were a different story. Here, many of the clans were still Catholic and supported a Catholic dynasty, particularly one with its roots in Scotland. Another factor was the highland loathing for the Campbells. Staunchly Protestant from the beginning, the Campbells, for many reasons, were extremely unpopular in the highlands. The chiefs' tendencies were always to oppose the Campbells, in whatever way they could.

Even so, only about half the Highland clans participated in the risings. They would have been no threat at all, had the Highlanders not been such feared and fearsome warriors. In any case, the Highlands were always seen as the best "jumping off" point in any affort to restore the Stuart dynasty.

The first rising, in 1715, was poorly planned and executed and failed very quickly. James Francis Edward Stuart seemed himself rather ambivalent about the throne, not ill content in exile. This rising had no French backing and, therefore, no money. James turned around and left practically on the heels of his arrival. Argyll defeated the Jacobite troops under Mar at Sheriffmuir on November 13 and that was about it. James retired from Scotland and continued his life on the continent.

The '45 Rising was instigated by James' son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the young Pretender. He was much more brash and ambitious than his father, arriving on the west coast with seven men and refusing to leave. Finally, Cameron of Lochiel was persuaded to back him and quickly other clans followed suit.
Initially, this attempt had great success, with a defeat of General Cope at Prestonpans. Pressing on into England was a mistake, and the army ended up in a slow retreat back to the north of Scotland, though meeting attack with victory along the way (Falkirk). Nevertheless, the lengthy retreat, with no money and little food, sapped their strength. Half-starved and weary men were forced to battle at Culloden, falling in droves to Cumberland's artillery.

After a year of playing hide-n-seek with the Brits, Charles made his escape and returned to exile. He was fortunate. Cumberland "the Butcher" pursued and killed the highlanders without mercy. Worse, the government in London, having come near to panic when Charles first entered England, now passed a series of extreme measures bent on destroying the clan system and the highland way of life. Bagpipes and tartans were outlawed. Guns were outlawed. The military bonds between tenants and clan chiefs were outlawed. All powers were stripped from the chiefs over their tenants. Missionaries came to force Presbyterianism, roads was pushed through the glens and mountains, the entire area was policed.

And so passed the end of an age. From the landing of the Dalriada Scots in 501 AD, the clan chiefs had led, succored, and guided their people. Now, few could even afford to keep their lands. The years following would produce the horrifying Highland Clearances, forcing thousands of highlanders to emigrate or move to lowland cities. Thousands of men, unable to wear their clan tartans, would chose to wear the tartans of the Scots regiments, where at least they could enter battle under the prompting of the pipes.

The moor of Culloden is littered with large stone markers, each engraved simply with the name of the clan whose men lie in mass graves beneath. Legend says they come out and fight on the anniversary of the great battle. Perhaps they rest a little easier now that the Stone of Destiny has resumed its proper place.
Following the battle of Falkirk the Duke of Cumberland arrived in Edinburgh on 30th January 1746. The next day the royal army marched north. The final encounter took place on Culloden Moor. The royal army had on 15th April 1746 celebrated the Duke’s birthday in its camp outside Nairn.



The Battle


  On that day the highlanders attempted a surprise approach but failed, falling back to Culloden. On 16th April the royal army followed the rebels. The royal troops came upon the highland army in a state of exhaustion and hunger and the two sides took up positions on the moor outside Culloden House.

The armies formed facing each other and the battle began with an artillery exchange. The Jacobite artillery was poorly served. By contrast the Duke had ensured that he had a full artillery train properly manned by gunners and officers of experience. The royal fire told heavily on the highlanders.

Eventually there was a charge by the Atholl Brigade, the Camerons, Appin Stewarts, Frasers and Mackintoshes largely against the royal left. There was time for a single volley into the highlanders followed by savage hand to hand fighting. The highlanders veered to their right away from the fire of Campbell’s and Price’s and the attack fell on Barrel’s and Munro’s on the royal left (as the casualties indicate).

It is said that at this battle the musket and bayonet had the better of the highland broadsword. The old spirit had largely left the rebel army and only part of their line charged. The highlanders were overcome and the Jacobite army left the field pursued by dragoons and royal foot. The battle took around 45 minutes.

Clans who fought for the prince at Culloden: Cameron, Campbell of Glenlyon (not Argyll), Chisholm, Drummond, Farquarson, Forbes of Pitsligo, Fraser, Gordon, Grant, MacBean, MacDonald, MacGillivray, MacGregor, MacIntosh, MacKenzie, MacLachlan, MacLaren, MacLean, MacLeod, MacNeil, MacPherson, Menzies, Murray, Ogilvie, Robertson, Stuart. And many smaller clans and septs.

Few Douglases were involved.  We are researching those who were present, and will add details in due course.

Details of one who made good his escape are emerging (March 2005) in our Forum. It is an intriguing tale!

Sir William of Glenbervie.  First son of former Sir William. Married Had one daughter, Isabel Douglas. Was a supporter of Prince Charlie and a Jacobite. After Culloden fled to Caithness, and took refuge with his kinsmen, the Douglas's of Thurso or Wick. Was subject to the Act which confiscated all estates and titles Of Jacobires. Died at Wick and was buried at Lysbter Cemetery.

There is a good story from Sunderland of one survivor. Meanwhile, further contributions to the is article would be very welcome.

See also:

  • Prisoners of the '45
  • Jacobite Spy Wars
    Jacobite Spy Wars : Moles, Rogues and Treachery
    By Hugh Douglas
    A great read about 18th century intrigues and the spies of the Jacobite rebellions.


    The Flight of Bonnie Prince Charlie
    The Flight of Bonnie Prince Charlie
    By Hugh Douglas and Michael J. Stead
    Chronicles the flight of the Pretender after Culloden - complemented by gorgeous photos of the Scottish countryside.