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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
The Battle of Culloden


In expectation of a battle the previous day, Charles had animated his troops by an appeal to their feelings, and on the present occasion he rode from rank to rank encouraging his men, and exhorting them to act as they had done at Prestonpans and at Falkirk.

The advance of Lord Bury, who went forward within a hundred yards of the insurgents to reconnoitre, appears to have been considered by the Highlanders as the proper occasion for beginning the battle. Taking off their bonnets, the Highlanders set up a loud shout, which being answered ny the royal troops with a huzza, the Highlanders about one o'clock commenced a cannonade on the right, which was followed by the cannon on the left; but the fire from the latter, owing to the want of cannoneers, was after the first round discontinued. The first volley from the right seemed to create some confusion on the left of the royal army, but so badly were the cannon served and pointed, that though the cannonade was continued upwards of half an hour, only one man in Bligh's regiment, who had a leg carried off by a cannon-ball, received any injury. After the Highlanders had continued firing for a short time, Colonel Belford, who directed the cannon of the duke's army, opened a fire from the cannon in the front line, which was at first chiefly aimed at the horse, probably either because they, from their conspicuous situation, were a better mark than the infantry, or because it was supposed that Charles was among them. Such was the accuracy of the aim taken by the royal artillery, that several balls entered the ground among the horses' legs, and bespattered the prince with the mud which they raised; and one of them struck the horse on which he rode two inches above the knee. The animal became so unmanageable, that Charles was obliged to change him for another. One of his servants, who stood behind with a led horse in his hand, was killed on the spot. Observing that the wall on the right flank of the Highland army prevented him from attacking it on that point, the duke ordered Colonel Belford to continue the cannonade, with the view of provoking the Highlanders and inducing them to advance to the attack. These, on the other hand, endeavoured to draw the royal army forward by sending down several parties by way of defiance. Some of these approached three several times within a hundred yards of the right of the royal army, firing their pistols and brandishing their swords; but with the exception of the small squadron of horse on the right, which advanced a little, the line remained immoveable.

Meanwhile, Lord George Murray, observing that a squadron of the English dragoons and a party of foot, consisting of two companies of the Argyleshiremen, and one of Lord Loudon's Highlanders, had detached themselves from the left of the royal army, and were marching down towards the river Nairn, and conceiving that it was their intention to flank the Highlanders, or to come upon their rear when engaged in front, he directed Gordon of Avochy to advance with his battalion, and prevent the foot from entering the enclosure; but before this battalion could reach them, they broke into the inclosure, and throwing down part of the east wall in the rear of the second line, made a free passage for the dragoons, who formed in the rear of the prince's army. Upon this, Lord George ordered the guards and Fitz-James's horse to form opposite to the dragoons to keep them in check. Each party stood upon the opposite sides of a ravine, the ascent to which was so steep, that neither could venture across in presence of the other with safety. The foot remained within the inclosure, and Avochy's battalion was ordered to watch their motions. This movement were moving forward to the attack.

It was now high time for the Highlanders to come to a close engagement. Lord George had sent Colonel Kerr to the prince, to know if he should begin the attack; the prince ordered him to do so, but his lordship, for some reason or other, delayed advancing. It is probable he expected that the duke would come forward, and that by remaining where he was, and retaining the wall and a small farm house on his right, he would not run the risk of being flanked. Perhaps he waited for the advance of the left wing, which, being not so far forward as the right, was directed to begin the attack, and orders had been sent to the Duke of Perth to that effect; but the left remained motionless. Anxious for the attack, Charles sent an order by an aid-de-camp to Lord George Murray to advance, but his lordship never received it, as the bearer was killed by a cannon-ball while on his way to the right. He sent a message about the same time to Lochiel, desiring him to urge upon Lord George the necessity of an immediate attack.

Galled beyond endurance by the fire of the English, which carried destruction among the clans, the Highlanders became quite clamorous, and called aloud to be led forward without further delay. Unable any longer to restrain their impatience, Lord George had just resolved upon an immediate advance, but before he had time to issue the order along the line, the Macintoshes, with a heroism worthy of that brave clan, rushed forward enveloped in the smoke of the enemy's cannon. The fire of the centre field-pieces, and a discharge of musketry from the Scotch Fusileers, forced them to incline a little to the right; but all the regiments to their right, led on by Lord George Murray in person, and the united regiment of the Maclauchlans and Macleans on their left, coming down close after them, the whole moved forward together at a pretty quick pace. When within pistol-shot of the English line, they received a murderous fire, not only in front form some field-pieces, which for the first time were now loaded with grape-shot, but in flank from a side battery supported by the Campbells and Lord Loudon's Highlanders. Whole ranks were literally swept away by the terrible fire of the English.

Yet, notwithstanding the dreadful carnage in their ranks, the Highlanders continued to advance, and, after giving their fire close to the English line, which from the density of the smoke, was scarcely perceptible even within pistol-shot, the right wing, consisting of the Athole Highlanders and the Camerons,rushed in sword in hand, and broke through Barrel's and Munroe's regiments, which stood on the left of the first line. These regiments bravely defended themselves with their spontoons and bayonets; but such was the impetuosity of the onset, that they would have been entirely cut to pieces had they not been immediately supported by two regiments from the second line, on the approach of which they retired behind the regiments on their right, after sustaining a loss in killed and wounded of upwards of 200 men. After breaking through these two regiments, the Highlanders, passing by the two field-pieces which had annoyed them in front, hurried forward to attack the left of the second line. They were met by a tremendous fire of grape-shot from the three field-pieces on the left of the second line, and by a discharge of musketry from Bligh's and Sempill's regiments, which carried havoc through their ranks, and made them at first recoil; but, maddened y despair, and utterly regardless of their lives, they rushed upon an enemy whom they felt but could not see, amid the cloud of smoke in which the assailants were buried.

The same kind of charge was made by the Stewarts of Appin, the Frasers, Macintoshes, and the other centre regiments, upon the regiments in their front, driving them back upon the second line, which they also attempted to break; but finding themselves unable, they gave up the contest, not, however, until numbers ha been cut down at the mouths of the cannon. While advancing towards the second line, Lord George Murray, in attempting to dismount from his horse, which had become unmanageable, was thrown; but, recovering himself, he ran to the rear and brought up two or three regiments from the second line to support the first; but, although they gave their fire, nothing could be done, - all was lost. Unable to break the second line, and being greatly cut up by the fire of Wolfe's regiment, who had formed en potence on their right flank, the right wing also gave up the contest, and turning about, cut their way back, sword in hand, through those who had advanced and formed on the ground they had passed over in charging to their front.

In consequence of the unwillingness of the left to advance first as directed, Lord George Murray had sent the order to attack from right to left; but, hurried by the impetuosity of the Mackintoshes, the right and centre did not wait till the order, which required some minutes in the delivery. had been communicated along the line. Thus the right and centre had the start considerably, and quickening their pace as they went along, had closed with the front line of the English army before the left had got half way over the ground that separated the two armies. the difference between the right and centre and the left was rendered still more considerable from the circumstance, as noted by an eye-witness, that the two armies were not exactly parallel to one another, the right of the prince's army being nearer the duke's army than the left. Nothing could be more unfortunate for the prince than this isolated attack, as it was only by a general shock of the whole of the English line that he had any chance of a victory.

The clan regiments on the left of the line, apprehensive that they would be flanked by Pulteney's regiment and the horse which had been brought up from the corps de reserve, did not advance sword in hand. After receiving the fire of the regiments opposite to them, they answered it by a general discharge, and drew their swords for the attack; but observing that the right and centre had given way, they turned their backs and fled without striking a blow. Stung to the quick by the misconduct of the Macdonalds, the brave Keppoch, seeing himself abandoned by his clan, advanced with his drawn sword in one hand and his pistol in the other; but he had not proceeded far, when he was brought down to the ground by a musket-shot. He was followed by Donald Roy Macdonald, formerly a lieutenant in his own regiment, and now a captain in Clanranald's, who, on Keppoch's falling, entreated him not to throw away his life, assuring him that his wound was not mortal, and that he might easily join his regiment in the retreat; but Keppoch refused to listen to the solicitations of his clansman, and, after recommending him to take care of himself, the wounded chief received another shot, and fell to rise no more.

Fortunately for the Highlanders, the English army did not follow up the advantages it had gained by an immediate pursuit. Kingston's horse at first followed the Macdonalds, some of whom were almost surrounded by them, but the horse were kept in check by the French piquets, who brought them off. The dragoons on the left of the English line were in like manner kept at bay by Ogilvy's regiment, which faced about upon them several times. After these ineffectual attempts, the English cavalry on the right and left met in the centre, and the front line having dressed its ranks, orders were issued for the whole to advance in pursuit of the Highlanders.

Charles, who, from the small eminence on which he stood, had observed with the deepest concern the defeat and flight of the clan regiments, was about proceeding forward to rally them, contrary to the earnest entreaties of Sir Thomas Sheridan and others, who assured him that he would not succeed. All their expostulations would, it is said, have been in vain, had not General O'Sullivan laid hold of the bridle of Charles's horse, and led him off the field. It was, indeed, full time to retire, as the whole army was now in full retreat, and was followed by the whole of Cumberland's forces. To protect the prince and secure his retreat, most of his horse assembled about his person; but there was little danger, as the victors advanced very leisurely, and confined themselves to cutting down some defenceless stragglers who fell in their way. After leaving the field, Charles put himself at the head of the right wing, which retired in such order that the cavalry sent to pursue could make no impression upon it.

At a short distance from the field of battle, Charles separated his army into two parts. One of these divisions, consisting, with the exception of the Frasers, of the whole of the Highlanders and the low country regiments, crossed the water of Nairn, and proceeded fowards Badenoch; and the other, comprising the Frasers, Lord John Drummond's regiment, and the French piquets, took the road to Inverness. The first division passed within pistol-shot of the body of English cavalry, which, before the action, had formed in the rear of the Highland army, without the least interruption. An English officer, who had the temerity to advance a few paces to seize a Highlander, was instantly cut down by him and killed on the spot. The Highlander, instead of running away, deliberately stooped down, and pulling out a watch from the pocket of his victim, rejoined his companions. From the plainness of the ground over which it had to pass, the smaller body of the prince's army was less fortunate, as it suffered considerably from the attacks of the duke's light horse before it reached Inverness. Numerous small parties, which had detached themselves from the main body, fell under the sabres of the cavalry; and many of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood, who, from motives of curiosity, had come out to witness the battle, were slaughtered, without mercy by the ferocious soldiery, who, from the similarity of their dress, were perhaps unable to discriminate them from Charles's troops.

This indiscriminate massacre continued all the way from the field of battle to a place called Mill-burn, within a mile of Inverness. Not content with the profusion of bloodshed in the heat of action and during the pursuit, the infuriated soldiery, provoked by their disgraces at Preston and Falkirk, traversed the field of battle, and massacred in cold blood the miserable wretches who lay maimed and expiring. Even some officers, whose station in society, apart altogether from the feeling of humanity, to which they were utter strangers, should have made them superior to this vulgar triumph of base and illiberal minds, joined in the work of assassination. To extenuate the atrocities committed in the battle, and the subsequent slaughters, a forged regimental order, bearing to be signed by Lord George Murray, by which the Highlanders were enjoined to refuse quarters to the royal troops, was afterwards published, it is said, under the auspices of the Duke of Cumberland; but the deception was easily seen through. As no such order was alluded to in the official accounts of the battle, and as, at the interview which took place between the Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino, on the morning of their execution, both these noblemen stated their entire ignorance of it, no doubt whatever can exist of the forgery. The conduct of Charles and his followers, who never indulged in any triumph over their vanquished foes, but always treated them with humanity and kindness, high as it is, stands still higher when contrasted with that of the royal troops and their commander.


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