The expediency of a night attack was admitted
by all the members of the council, but there were a few who thought that it should not be
ventured upon until the arrival of the rest of the army, which might be expected in two or
three days at farthest. Keppoch with his Highlanders had just come up and joined the army;
but the Mackenzies under Lord Cromarty, a body of the Frasers whom the Master of Lovat had
collected to complete his second battalion, the Macphersons under Cluny, their chief, the
Macgregors under Glengyle, a party headed by Mackinnon, and a body of Glengarry's men
under Barisdale, were still at a distance, though supposed to be all on their march to
Inverness. The minority objected that, should they fail in the attempt, and be repulsed,
it would be difficult to rally the Highlanders,-that even supposing no spy should give the
Duke of Cumberland notice of their approach, he might, if alarmed by any of his patrols,
have time to put his army in order in his camp, place his cannon, charged with
cartouch-shot, as he pleased, and get all his horse in readiness to pursue the Highlanders
if beat off. Besides these objections, they urged the difficulty of making a retreat if
many of their men were wounded, from the aversion of the Highlanders to leave their
wounded behind them. They, moreover, observed that they had no intelligence of the
situation of the duke's camp; and that even could a safe retreat be made, the fatigue of
marching forwards and backwards twenty miles would be too much for men to endure, who
would probably have to fight next day.
arguments were however thrown away upon Charles, who, supported by the Duke of Perth, Lord
George Murray, Lord John Drummond, Lochiel, and others, showed the utmost impatience for
an immediate attack. Those who supported this view were not insensible to the danger which
might ensue should the attack miscarry; but, strange to say, they were urged to it from
the very cause to which the failure was chiefly owing, the want of provisions.
Apprehensive that if the army was kept on the moor all night, many of the men would go
away to a considerable distance in search of food, and that it would be very difficult to
assemble them speedily in the event of a sudden alarm, they considered an immediate
attack, particularly as Charles had resolved to fight without waiting for reinforcements,
as a less desperate course than remaining where they were.
To prevent the Duke of Cumberland from obtaining any
knowledge of the advance of the Highlanders from the spies who might be within view of his
army, Charles fixed upon eight o'clock for his departure, by which time his motions would
be concealed from observation by the obscurity of the evening. Mean while the commanding
officers repaired to their respective regiments to put their men in readiness; but between
six and seven o'clock an incident occurred which almost put an end to the enterprise. This
was the departure of a large number of men, who, ignorant of the intended march, went off
towards Inverness and adjacent places to procure provisions and quarters for the night.
Officers from the different regiments were immediately despatched on horseback to bring
them back, but no persuasion could induce the men to return, who gave as their reason for
refusing that they were starving. They told the officers that they might shoot them if
they pleased, but that they would not go back till they got some provisions. By this
defection Charles lost about 2,000 men, being about a third of his army.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.