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The Battle of Culloden

Duke of Perth & Duke of Cumberland & Manoeuvers


After crossing the Spey, the Duke of Cumberland halted his army on the western bank, and encamped opposite to Fochabers, but the horse afterwards repassed the river and took up their quarters in the town. Here, as at Cullen, every precaution was taken to prevent surprise. Early next morning he raised his camp, and passing through Elgin, encamped on the moor of Alves, nearly midway between Elgin and Forres. The Duke of Perth, who had passed the previous night at Forres, retired to Nairn upon his approach. The Duke of Cumberland renewed his march on the 14th and came to Nairn, where the Duke of Perth remained till he was within a mile of the town, and began his retreat in sight of the English army. In this retreat, Clanranald's regiment, with the French piquets and Fitz-James's horse, formed the rear. To harass the rear, and retard the march of the main body till some of his foot should come up, the Duke of Cumberland sent forward his cavalry. Several shots were exchanged between the duke's cavalry and the French horse, and in expectation of an engagement with the duke's advanced guard, consisting of 200 cavalry and the Argyleshire men, the Macdonalds of Clanranald, and the Stewarts of Appin, were ordered back to support the French. These regiments accordingly returned and took ground, and Fitz-James's horse formed on their right and left. The duke's advanced guard thereupon halted, and formed in order of battle, but as the main body of the English army was in full march the rear recommenced their retreat. The advanced guard continued to pursue the Highlanders several miles beyond Nairn, but finding the chase useless, returned to the main body which was preparing to encamp on a plain to the west of Nairn.

Neither at the time when Charles received intelligence of the Duke of Cumberland's march to Aberdeen, nor till the following day (Sunday), when news was brought to him that the English army had actually crossed the Spey, does Charles appear to have had any intention of speedily risking a battle. He probably expected that with the aid of the reinforcements he had sent to support the Duke of Perth, his grace would have been able, for some time at least, to maintain a position on the western bank of the river, and that time would be thus afforded him to collect the scattered portions of his army, before being compelled, by the advance of the Duke of Cumberland, to come to a general engagement. But whatever his intentions were anterior to the receipt of the intelligence of the English army having crossed the Spey, that circumstances alone made his determine to attack the Duke of Cumberland without waiting for the return of his absent detachments.


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