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The Battle of Culloden

The Duke of Cumberland Uses Highland Spies


The Duke of Cumberland had been informed of the night march towards Nairn by some Highland spies whom he had in his pay, and who had mixed with the insurgents as they marched; but the spies were ignorant of the intended surprise, which was kept a profound secret from the Highland army. Judging from the intelligence brought by the last parson that arrived in his camp, that the Highlanders were coming directly in his front, the duke considered himself free from surprise, as the Argyleshire men lay on the plain to the west of his camp, while a party of dragoons patrolled all night between Nairn and the sea. He therefore ordered his men to take some rest, but to keep their arms in readiness. He appears not to have anticipated an attack during the night, but to have imagined that Charles merely meant to take ground during the night, and to attack him early next morning. In expectation of a battle, the duke had formed his army by break of day, and, having ascertained that the Highland army had retreated, he began his march towards Inverness about five o'clock. The English army had, as anticipated, celebrated the birth-day of their commander; but although they were amply supplied with bread, cheese, and brandy, at the duke's expense, the men had not exceeded the bounds of moderation.

Before commencing the march, written instructions, which had been communicated to the commanders of the different regiments, were read at the head of every company in the line. These instructions were, that if the persons to whom the charge of the train or baggage horses was entrusted should abscond or leave them, they should be punished with immediate death; and that if any officer or soldier misconducted himself during the engagement, he should be sentenced. The infantry marched in three parallel divisions or columns, of five regiments each, headed by General Huske on the left, Lord Sempill on the right, and General Mordaunt in the centre. The artillery and baggage followed the first column on the right, and the dragoons and horse, led by Generals Hawley and Bland, were on the left, forming a fourth column. Forty of Kingston's horse and Argyleshire men formed the van.

The charge of forming the Highland army in line of battle on this important occasion was intrusted to O'Sullivan, who acted in the double capacity of adjutant and Quarter-master general. This officer, in the opinion of Lord George Murray, a high authority certainly, was exceedingly unfit for such a task, and committed gross blunders on every occasion of moment. In the present instance, he did not even visit the ground where the army was to be drawn up, and he committed a "fatal error" by omitting to throw down some park walls upon the left of the English army, which were afterwards taken possession of by the Duke of Cumberland, it being found afterwards impossible to break the English lines, from the destructive flank-fire which was opened from these walls upon the right of the Highland army, as it advanced to the attack. While the Duke of Cumberland was forming his line of battle, Lord George Murray was very desirous to advance and throw down these walls; but as such s movement would have broken the line, the officers about him considered that the attempt would be dangerous, and he therefore did not make it.


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