On 16 April 1746, about 6 miles from Inverness, Scotland, the  Battle of Culloden Moor was fought. This  was the last battle fought on Scottish soil and was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite (Jacobus is Latin for James) rebellion led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), against the English Duke of Cumberland who truly earned his nickname,” Butcher Cumberland”.

This was the deciding battle in the Jacobite cause that Prince Charlie fought on behalf of his father, the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, in a bid to seize power from George II. The hope was for the rebirth of the Scottish nation under Scottish rule and led instead to such a slaughter of brave clansmen that it will never be forgotten.

Those analyzing the strategy of battles have said that the Scottish army was all courage and no plan. It’s apparently true  that one of the fundamental problems with the Jacobite army was the lack of trained officers, even the colonels of the Macdonald regiments of Clanranald and Keppoch knew that their men were uncontrollable. Also significant is the fact that the Highlanders were exhausted and starving with a force of 5000 against a force of 9000.

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s  army consisted largely of Scottish Highlanders, some Lowland Scots, some Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment. The Jacobites were supported and supplied by France and French and Irish units loyal to France were part of the Jacobite army.

The government forces were mostly English, along with a number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders who were afraid that Prince Charles Edward would turn the country back to Catholicism. There was also a battalion of Ulster men from Ireland, as well as, a few Hessians from Germany and Austrians.

Lord George Murray became the Prince’s field commander and together were victorious at Edinburgh and Prestonpans. They were unsuccessful in England and returned to Scotland where Charles controlled much of the country and his followers convinced him he could take the rest. Against the advice of Lord Murray, he decided to go head-to-head against the king’s son the Duke of Cumberland and concentrated his forces at Culloden.

According to the story, the Duke had better things to do than fight the rebellious Scots and stopped eight miles away at the town of Nairn to celebrated his 25th birthday.  When Charlie heard this he decided to surprise the duke and gathered his troops and tried to march over the moors at night. This proved to be to challenging to his exhausted and starving Highlanders, so they turned around and went back to their original position and were ill prepared for the massacre that followed.

Butcher Cumberland’s strategy at Culloden was well calculated and began with a barrage of artillery directed at the Highland Infantry. To deflect the onslaught, the Highlanders ran full-on towards the enemy. The British infantry, however,  made ready in a manner we’ve often seen depicted in battle scenes in three ranks, one kneeling, one stooping and the next standing. Cumberland had also trained his men to attack to their left while thrusting under the sword arm. A thousand Highlanders died and another thousand were taken prisoner. Prince Charles Edward Stuart became a fugitive with a £30,000 (pounds sterling) reward for his capture. He returned to France and died unceremoniously 40 years later of alcoholism.

It is said, had he been more patient he might have become the king of an independent Scotland, if he had concentrated his efforts in Scotland instead of attempting to gather support amongst the staunchly Hanoverian English counties.  His poor judgment and lack of military skills ensured that Jacobite cause would be forever lost.
The defeat at Culloden, however, was not the end for the Scots. The brutal measures enforced after the battle heralded the end of the way of life and culture of the Highland people of Scotland.

Many Clan chieftains escaped to Europe and many of their kinsmen escaped to America. In the years that followed, the Scottish people were forcibly subdued, bagpipes and the wearing of tartan were outlawed, and the jurisdiction of Clan Chiefs was ended.

To read about the events after the battle click on Events After the Battle, which is the final chapter of a book converted to html by www.queenofscots.co.uk. Click on the link to read the book Culloden Moor and Story of the Battle.

The photograph on the left is of the memorial erected in 1881, by Duncan Forbes. “The Memorial Cairn is the largest monument on Culloden Battlefield. Situated approximately halfway between the Jacobite and Government lines, the cairn incorporates a stone bearing the inscription “Culloden 1746 – E.P. fecit 1858.” Placed by Edward Porter, the stone was meant to be part of a cairn that was never finished. For many years, Porter’s stone was the only memorial on the battlefield. In addition to the Memorial Cairn, Forbes erected the stones that mark the graves of the clans as well as the Well of the Dead. More recent additions to the battlefield include the Irish Memorial (1963), which commemorates the Prince’s French-Irish soldiers, and the French Memorial (1994), which pays homage to the Scots Royals. The battlefield is maintained and preserved by the National Trust for Scotland.”

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1 Comment on The Battle of Culloden Moor 1746: The last battle ever to be fought on Scottish soil

  1. James C. says:

    Thank you for this terrific post. I read that Flora MacDonald loyal to the cause fled to North Carolina where she lived for many years before returning to Scotland where she died on the island of Mull.

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