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The Battle of Culloden

Charles Holds Council of War


Concluding from the inactivity if the Duke of Cumberland that he had no intention of marching that day, Charles held a council of war in the afternoon, to deliberate upon the course it might be considered most advisable to pursue in consequence of the duke's stay at Nairn. According to Charles's own statement, he had formed the bold and desperate design of surprising the English army in their camp during the night; but, desirous of knowing the views of his officers before divulging his plan, he allowed all the members of the council to speak before him. After hearing the sentiments of the chiefs, and the other commanders who were present, Lord George Murray proposed to attack the Duke of Cumberland during the night, provided it was the general opinion that the attack could be made before one or two o'clock in the morning. Charles, overjoyed at the suggestion of his lieutenant-general, immediately embraced him, said that he approved if it, that in fact he had contemplated the measure himself, but that he did not intend to have disclosed it till all the members of the council had delivered their sentiments.

Had the army been in a condition to sustain the fatigue of a night-march of ten or twelve miles, the plan of a night attack was unquestionably the best that could have been devised under existing circumstances. If surprised in the dark, even supposing the duke to have been on his guard, a night attack appeared to afford the only chance of getting the better of his superiority in numbers and discipline, and of rendering his cavalry and cannon, in which his chief strength lay, utterly useless. But the Highland army, from some unaccountable oversight on the part of the persons who had the charge of the commissariat department, was in a state bordering upon starvation, and consequently not able to perform such a fatiguing march. Although there was a quantity of meal in Inverness and the neighbourhood sufficient for a fortnight's consumption, no care had been taken to supply the men with an allowance on leaving Inverness, and the consequence was, that during this and the preceding day very few of them had tasted a particle of food. To appease their hunger a single biscuit was distributed to each man, but this pittance only increased the desire for more; and hunger getting the better of patience, some of the men began to leave the ranks in quest of provisions. In spite, however, of the deprivation under which they laboured, the army was never in higher spirits, or more desirous to meet the enemy; and it was not until all hopes of an immediate engagement were abandoned that the men thought of looking out for the means of subsistence.


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