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The Battle of Culloden

Charles Observes Defeat & Flight of Clan Regiments


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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