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The Battle of Culloden

Lord George Murray Contemplates Retreat


Lord George Murray, - who had never contemplated any thing but a surprise, and whose calculation of reaching Nairn by two o'clock in the morning would have been realised had the whole line marched with the same celerity as the first four or five regiments, - would have been perfectly justified in the unexpected situation in which he was placed, in at once ordering a retreat but desirous of ascertaining the sentiments of the officers about him, he requested them to state their views of the course they thought it most advisable to adopt. There were several gentlemen present, who, having joined the Athole brigade as volunteers, had marched all night in the front: and as the Duke of Perth, Lord John Drummond, and the other officers, seemed at a loss what to resolve upon, Lord George Murray requested the volunteers to give their free opinion, ass they were all equally interested in the consequences. Without hesitation all these gentlemen, eager to come to an engagement, were of a different opinion, in which they were backed by Lord George Murray, who observed that if they could have made the attack within the time prescribed they would certainly have succeeded, especially if they could have surprised the enemy; but to attack in daylight an army that was nearly double their number, and which would be prepared to receive them, would be considered an act of madness.

Among the volunteers the most conspicuous was Mr. Hepburn of Keith. While arguing for an attack with Lord George Murray, the beating of a drum was heard in the Duke of Cumberland's camp. "Don't you hear," said Lord George; "the enemy are alarmed; we can't surprise them." "I never expected," said Hepburn, "to find the red coats asleep; but they will be drunk after solemnising the Duke of Cumberland's birth-day. It is much better to march on and attack them than to retreat, for they will most certainly follow, and oblige us to fight when we shall be in a much worse condition to fight them than we are now." While this altercation was going on, Mr. John hay, then acting as interim-secretary to the prince instead of Secretary Murray, who was unwell, came up and informed Lord George that the line had joined. Gathering from the conversation he overheard that a retreat was resolved upon, he began to argue against it, but being unsuccessful he immediately rode back to Charles, who was in the rear of the first column, and told him that unless he came to the front and ordered Lord George to go on nothing would be done. Charles, who was on horseback, rode forward immediately towards the front, to ascertain the cause of the halt, and on his way met the van in full retreat. He was no doubt surprised at this step, and in a temporary fit of irritation, is said to have remarked that Lord George Murray had betrayed him.


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