The Battle of Culloden
remarkable prophesy from the 17th Century Highland
The Braham Seer.
Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have
away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands.
Glad am I
that I will not see the day,
for it will
be a fearful period; heads will be lopped off by the score,
mercy shall be shown or quarter given on either side."
at Culloden led to the end of the Clan system and to great
in the Highlands, but to all Highlanders the year of the
a chapter in their history which can never be forgotten."
Donald Cameron of Lochiel, K.T.
The '45 rising of the clans
which culminated in the Battle of Culloden - the last major battle
to ever be fought on British soil - was probably the most
disastrous event ever to overtake Scotland. The immediate effect
was the post-battle, indiscriminate and infamous slaughter of much
of the cream of Scottish manhood and 'clanhood' by Butcher
Cumberland - the second son of King George II.
Born in 1721 he was only 25 when, as
Duke of Cumberland and Commander-in-Chief of the English army at
Culloden Moor, he defeated the Jacobites led by the equally young
Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was just three
months his senior. Leaving aside the folly and foolhardiness of the
Young Pretender in engaging in battle in the first place, the
aftermath must have been Charles' worst nightmare come true - it
was certainly Scotland's!
"After the battle on April 16th 1746, Cumberland gave orders for
the systematic extirpation of all 'rebels' who were found concealed
in the Highlands. All houses where they could find shelter were to
be burnt and all cattle driven off. This was interpreted to mean
the killing or burning of all Highlanders found wounded or with
arms in their hands, and Cumberland did nothing to soften such an
interpretation of his orders. Hence came his well-known sobriquet
of the ' Butcher,' which was given to him in London as early as
August of that year." (historian David Nash Fords).
Modern military historians aver that
the issuing of the 'give no quarter' order to the Duke of
Cumberland's army is an unforgettable stain on the character of the
British army. The cruelties, tortures and atrocities visited upon
the Jacobites and their supporters and many of the uninvolved men,
women and children unfortunate enough to live in the area, are all
the more horrifying when one considers that this battle took place
260 years ago - just 73 years before the birth of Victoria. Those
barbarous acts seem to have been indelibly etched in the Scottish
psyche and no doubt provide oxygen for the jingoistic embers that
flare up now and then in Scotland.
Lest one becomes weighed down by the
sins of the English, it has to be remembered that more Scots fought
against Bonnie Prince Charlie than for him and that the Government
army comprised one third Scots - many of them from the Highland
clans that supported the English parliament (Whigs). For them,
Culloden was an ideal opportunity to settle old scores with their
fellow Scots and indulge in widespread murder and pillage.. . . .
"Campbell, an officer of militia . . . went with a party to Fraser
of Kilbokies, who was not with the Highland army, and burnt all his
houses and effects and took 13 score (260) of cattle, with many
horses of the best kind. His loss was valued at 10,000 merks. For
several days they killed man, wife and child many miles from the
field of battle . . ."
Civilians in the area took sides too,
many of them pragmatically supporting the winning army and there
are tales aplenty of seriously injured and naked Jacobites being
ejected from churches and hospital beds by their countrymen and
women and being turned over to Cumberland's forces. It has to be
remembered of course that the protagonists were not just divided
into Jacobites and Hanovarians but also Catholics and Protestants.
This added a regrettable further dimension to the military &
civil conflicts - a religious divide that has blighted sections of
the community over the centuries and down to the present day.
After the dust of battle had settled,
out of a total of some 5,000 in the Prince's army, it's reported
that 1200 died - including very many slaughtered as they lay on the
battlefield. 50 escaped overseas and over 100 combatants and
Jacobite supporters were later executed, and over 1100 transported
to the West Indies to end their days in slavery. Government losses
were reported as 76.
The Prince's army had, in the main,
consisted of rag, tag and bobtail - not professional soldiers but
farmers, shopkeepers, students, weavers, joiners and young and old
from all walks of life, high and low, led by just a handful of
trained military men. Many of them were unwilling participants,
inveigled into action by their own chiefs with threats of
imprisonment, death and the burning of their homes. No-one on
either side of this conflict came out of it smelling of roses!
What of the aftermath? Existing
schisms were widened even more . . . clan set against clan . . .
church against church . . . community against community . . .
country against country . . . senior figures in Scottish clan
society killed in battle, executed or transported . . . the
carrying of weapons, the wearing of tartan and Highland dress, the
playing of bagpipes . . . all banned . . . whole communities
pillaged and sent into the hills for no crime other than an
inability to speak English . . . the total extinction of the ties
between clan chief and clan . . . 18th century ethnic cleansing
with a vengeance!
Rob Donn was a Gaelic poet described
as the most eloquent voice ever heard in Mackay country
(Strathnaver) and he enjoyed total freedom of expression which he
extended to his 'treasonous' comments on the disarming Acts after
Culloden: "The English have taken the opportunity to leave you
weakened, so that you will not be reckoned warriors any longer. But
when you are without your weapons and equipment you will receive a
thorough frisking, and your punishment will be all the more
immediate. I see your misery as something unprecedented . . . but
if you are lions, retaliate in good time, and have your teeth ready
before your mouths are muzzled."
Retaliation was out of the question
however - the Highland way of life was destroyed and the
relationship between the 'tribal father and his children' was gone
for all time. The price paid by his trusting countrymen and their
kith and kin for the Young Pretender's ill-fated Stuart dream was
Reproduced here by kind permission of
the House of Edgar, Perth.