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The Battle of Culloden

The Armies Meet and Prepare for Battle


In the dispositions described, and about the distance of a mile from each other, did the two armies stand for some time gazing at one another, each expecting that the other would advance and give battle. Whatever may have been the feelings of Prince Charles on this occasion, those of the Duke of Cumberland appear to have been far from enviable. The thoughts of Preston and Falkirk could not fail to excite in him the most direful apprehensions for the result of a combat affecting the very existence of his father's crown; and that he placed but a doubtful reliance upon his troops, is evident from a speech which he now made to his army. He said that they were about to fight in defence of their king, their religion, their liberties, and property, and that if they only stood firm he had no doubt he would lead them on to certain victory; but as he would much rather, he said, be at the head of one thousand brave and resolute men than of ten thousand if mixed with cowards, if there were any amongst them, who, through timidity, were diffident of their courage, or others, who, from conscience or inclination, felt a repugnance to perform their duty, he requested them to retire immediately, and he promised them his free pardon fro doing so, as by remaining they might dispirit or disorder the other troops, and bring dishonour and disgrace on the army under his command.

As the Highlanders remained in thier position, the Duke of Cumberland again put his army in marching order, and, after it had advanced, with fixed bayonets, within half a mile of the front line of the Highlanders, it again formed as before. In this last movement the English army had to pass a piece of hollow ground, which was so soft and swampy, that the horses which drew the cannon sank; and some of the soldiers, after slinging their firelocks and unyoking the horses, had to drag the cannon across the bog. As by this last movement the army advanced beyond the morass which protected the right flank, the duke immediately ordered up Kingston's horse from the reserve, and a small squadron of Cobham's dragoons, which had been patrolling, to cover it; and to extend his line, and prevent his being outflanked on the right, he also at same time ordered up Pulteney's regiment, (the 13th,) from the second line to the right of the royals and Fleming's, (the 36th,) Howard's, (the 3d,) and Battereau's (the 62d,) to the right of Bligh's, (the 20th,) in the second line, leaving Blakeney's, (the 27th,) as a reserve.

During an interval of about half an hour which elapsed before the action commenced, some manauvering took place in attempts by both armies to outflank one another. While these manouvres were making, a heavy shower of sleet came on, which, though discouraging to the duke's army, from the recollection of the untoward occurrence at Falkirk, was not considered very dangerous, as they had now the wind in their backs. To encourage his men, the Duke of Cumberland rode along the lines addressing himself hurriedly to every regiment as he passed. He exhorted his men to rely chiefly upon their bayonets,6 and to allow the Highlanders to mingle with them that they might make them "know the men they had to deal with." After the changes mentioned had been executed, his royal highness took his station behind the royals , between the first and second line, and almost in front of the left of Howard's regiment, waiting for the expected attack. Meanwhile, a singular occurrence took place, characteristic of the self-devotion which the Highlanders were ready on all occasions to manifest towards the prince and his cause. Conceiving that by assassinating the Duke of Cumberland he would confer an essential service on the prince, a Highlander resolved, at the certain sacrifice of this own life, to make the attempt. With this intention, he entered the English lines as a deserter, and being granted quarter, was allowed to go through the ranks. He wandered around with apparent indifference, eyeing the different officers as he passed along, and it was not long till an opportunity occurred, as he conceived, for executing his fell purpose. The duke having ordered Lord Bury, on of his aides-de-camp, to reconnoitre, his lordship crossed the path of the Highlander, who, mistaking him, from his dress, for the duke, (the regimentals of both being similar,) instantly seized a musket which lay on the ground, and discharged it at his lordship. He missed his aim, and a soldier, who was standing by, immediately shot him dead upon the spot.


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