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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Lord George Murray resigns his command


Presuming that Charles still meant to make a stand, Lord George Murray and the other chiefs who remained with the army retired to Ruthven, where, including Cluny's men whom they met on their retreat, they assembled a force of between 2,000 and 3,000 men. From the want of provisions it was impossible to keep such a body together for any length of time; and a message from Charles, two or three days after the battle, desiring them to disperse, hastened an event which seemed to be inevitable. In thus resigning the contest which by his inconsiderable rashness he had provoked, Charles showed that he was not possessed of that magnanimity which many of his followers ascribed to him. Notwithstanding their recent reverses, there existed no unwillingness on the part of the brave men who had risked their all for him to continue the war. They might not have, it is true, succeeded in vindicating the claim of an ungrateful prince in the field; but, under his leadership, they might have made a gallant stand, and forced the government to grant them favourable terms. In extenuation of the prince's conduct, on the present occasion, it is but fair to add, that he was under the influence of a set of contemptible advisers, who prejudiced him against his best friends, and instilled into his mind a conviction that he had been betrayed at Culloden. How far the conduct of Lord George Murray, after that event, may have determined Charles to take the course he did, cannot now be ascertained; but if Charles, in the midst of his perplexity immediately after the battle, hesitated as to the course he should pursue, his reception of the following document, under the hand of Lord George Murray, was certainly not calculated to induce him to continue the contest.

"May it please your Royal Highness. "As no person in these kingdoms ventured more frankly in the cause than myself, and as I had more at stake than almost all others put together, so, to be sure, I cannot but be very deeply affected with our late loss and present situation; but I declare, that were your royal highness's person in safety, the loss of the cause, and the misfortune and unhappy situation of my countrymen, is the only thing that grieves me, for I thank God I have resolution to bear my own family's ruin without a grudge. Sir, you will, I hope, upon this occasion, pardon me, if I mention a few truths, which all the gentlemen of our army seem convinced of.

"It was highly wrong to have set up the royal standard without having positive assurances from his Most Christian Majesty, that he would assist you with all his force; and as your royal family lost the crown of these realms upon the account of France, the world did and had reason to expect that France would seize the first favourable opportunity to restore your august family.

"I must also acquaint your royal highness, that we were all fully convinced that Mr O'Sullivan, whom your royal highness trusted with the most essential things with regard to your operations, was exceedingly unfit for it, and committed gross blunders on every occasion of moment. He whose business it was, did not so much as visit the ground where we were to be drawn up in line of battle, and it was a fatal error to allow the enemy these walls upon their left, which made it impossible for us to break them, and they, with their front fire, and flanking us when we went upon the attack, destroyed us without any possibility of our breaking them, and our Athole men have lost a full half of their officers and men. I wish Mr O'Sullivan had never got any other charge in the army than the care of the baggage, which, I am told, he had been brought up to and understood. I never saw him in time of action, neither at Gladsmuir, Falkirk, nor in the last, and his orders were vastly confused.

"The want of provisions was another misfortune which had the most fatal consequence. Mr Hay, whom your royal highness trusted with the principal direction or ordering provisions of late, and without whose orders a boll of meat or farthing of money was not to be delivered, has served your royal highness egregiously ill. When I spoke to him, he told me the thing is ordered, it will be got, &c; but he neglected his duty to such a degree, that our ruin might probably have been prevented had he done his duty. In short, the three last days which were so critical, our army was starved. This was the reason our night march was rendered abortive, when we possibly might have surprised and defeated the enemy at Nairn; but for want of provisions a third of the army scattered to Inverness, &c, and the other who marched had not the spirits to make it so quick as was necessary, being really faint for want of provisions.

"The next day, which was the fatal day, if we had got plenty of provisions we might have crossed the water at Nairn, and drawn up so advantageously, that we would have obliged the enemy to come to us, for they were resolved to fight at all hazards at prodigious disadvantage, and probably we would in that case have done by them as they unhappily have done by us. In short, Mr O'Sullivan and Mr Hay had rendered themselves odious to all our army, and had disgusted them to such a degree, that they had bred a mutiny in all ranks, that had not the battle come on, they were to have represented their grievances to your royal highness for a remedy. For my own part, I never had any particular discussion with either of them; but I ever thought them incapable and unfit to serve in the stations they were placed in.

"Your royal highness knows I always told I had no design to continue in the army. I would of late, when I came last from Athole, have resigned my commission; but all my friends told me it might be of prejudice to the cause at such a critical time. I hope your royal highness will now accept of my demission. What commands you have for me in any other situation, please honour me with them. - I am, with great zeal, Sir, your royal highness's most dutiful and humble servant,

George Murray
"Ruthven, 17th April, 1746.

"I have taken the liberty to keep 500 pieces, which shan't be disposed upon except you give leave".

It would appear from the preceding document that Lord George Murray, who, of all men, was the best judge of the propriety of trying another campaign, did not in the least contemplate that Charles would abandon the enterprise. His own opinion was, that the war should be continued; and when he heard that Charles had resolved to depart for France, he sent Secretary Hay to Glenboisdale with a message to Charles, to dissuade him against such a step; but Charles informed Hay that his resolution was fixed. Lord George maintained that the Highlanders "could have made a summer's campaign without the risk of any misfortune: they could have marched through the hills to places in Banffshire, Aberdeenshire, the Mearns, Perthshire, Lochaber, and Argyleshire, by ways that regular troops could not have followed; and if they (the regular troops) had ventured among the mountains, it must have been attended with great danger and difficulty: their convoys might have been cut off, and opportunities would have offered to attack them with almost a certainty of success. And though the Highlanders had neither money nor magazines, they would not have starved in that season of the year so long as there were sheep and cattle: they could also have separated themselves in two or three different bodies, got meal for some days' provisions, - met again at a place appointed, and might have fallen upon the enemy when they least expected: they could have marched in three days what would have taken regular troops five: nay, had those taken the high roads as often as they would have been obliged upon account of their carriages, it would have taken them ten or twelve days. In short, they might have been so harassed and fatigued that they must have been in the greatest distress and difficulties, and at length probably been destroyed, at least much might have been expected by gaining of time: perhaps the Highlanders might have been enabled to have made an offensive instead of a defensive war".

After receiving Charles's orders to disperse, the officers at Ruthven, to use an expression of one of themselves, "took melancholy leave of each other", and went off in different directions to secure their personal safety, and the common men straight to their respective homes.


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