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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Prince Charles prepares to go to Scotland

From mere auxiliaries in the war of the Austrian succession, Great Britain and France at last entered the field as principals; and in the spring of 1745, both parties were prepared to decide their respective differences by force of arms. The Jacobites, who looked upon war as the harbinger to a speedy realisation of their wishes and their hopes, awaited the result with anxiety; though, from the policy of France, it was not difficult to perceive that the issue, whether favourable or unfavourable to France, would in reality neither advance nor retard the long looked for restoration. France, if defeated in the field, almost on her own frontiers, would require all he forces to protect herself; and could not, therefore, be expected to make a diversion on the shores of Britain. And, on the other hand, if successful in the campaign about to open in Flanders, she was likely to accomplish the objects for which the war had been undertaken, without continuing an expensive and dubious struggle in support of the Stuarts.

Charles Edward Stuart, the aspirant to the British throne, seems to have viewed matters much in the same light on receiving intelligence of the victory obtained by the French over the allies at Fontenoy. In writing to one of his father's agents at Paris, who had sent him information of the battle, Charles observes that it was not easy to form an opinion as to whether the result would "prove good or bad" for his affairs. He had, however, taken his resolution to go to Scotland, though unaccompanied even by a single company of soldiers, and the event which had just occurred made him determine to put that resolution into immediate execution. At Fonteroy, the British troops maintained by their bravery the national reputation, but they were obliged to yield to numbers; yet, to use the words of a French historian, "they left the field of battle without tumult, without confusion, and were defeated with honour". The flower of the British army was, however, destroyed; and as Great Britain had been almost drained of troops, Charles considered the conjuncture as favourable, and made such preparations for his departure as the shortness of time would allow.

The French government was apprised of Charles's intentions, and though the French ministers were not disposed openly to sanction an enterprise which they were not at the time in a condition to support, they secretly favoured a design, which, whatever might be its result, would operate as a diversion in favour of France. Accordingly, Lord Clare, (afterwards Marshal Thomond), then a lieutenant-general in the French service, was authorised to open a negotiation with two merchants of Irish extraction, named Ruttledge and Walsh, who had made some money by trading to the West Indies. They had, since the war, been concerned in privateering; and with the view of extending their operations, had lately obtained from the French government a grant of the Elizabeth, an old man-of-war of sixty-six guns, and they had purchased a small frigate of sixteen guns named the Doutelle, both of which ships were in the course of being fitted out for a cruise in the north seas. Lord Clare having introduced Charles to Ruttledge and Walsh, explained the prince's design, and proposed that they should lend him their ships. This proposal was at once acceded to by the owners, who also offered to supply the prince with money and such arms as they could procure, in fulfilment of which offer they afterwards placed in his hands the sum of 3,800.

While the preparations for the expedition were going on, Charles resided at Navarre, a seat of the Duke of Bouillon, and occupied himself in hunting, fishing, and shooting. A few persons only in his own confidence were aware of his intentions; and so desirous was he of concealing his movements from his father's agents at Paris, that he gave out, shortly before his departure, that he intended to visit the monastery of La Trappe, in the vicinity of Rouen, and would return to Paris in a few days. The prince ordered the few followers who were to accompany him to assemble at Nantes, near the mouth of the Loire; and the better to conceal their design, they arrived in different parts of the town, and when they met on the streets did not seem to recognise one another.

When informed that every thing was in readiness for his departure, Charles went to Nantes in disguise, and having descended the Loire in a fishing boat on the 20th of June, (O.S.) 1745, embarked on the 21st on board the Doutelle at St. Nazaire, whence he proceeded on the following day to Belleisle, where he was joined on the 4th of July by the Elizabeth, which had on board 100 marines raised by Lord Clare, about 2,000 muskets, and 500 or 600 French broad-swords. The persons who accompanied Charles were the Marquis of Tullibardine (styled Duke of Athole by the Jacobites), elder brother of James, Duke of Athole; Sir Thomas Sheridan, who had been tutor to Charles; Sir John Macdonald, an officer in the Spanish service; Francis Strickland, an English gentleman; George Kelly, a clergyman; AEneas or Angus Macdonald, a banker in Paris, brother to Kinlochmoidart; and O'Sullivan, an officer in the service of France. These were afterwards designated the "Seven Men of Moidart". There were also some persons of inferior note, among whom were one Buchanan, who had been employed as a messenger to Rome by Cardinal Tencin, and Duncan Cameron, formerly a servant of old Lochiel at Boulogne, who was hired for the expedition, for the purpose, as he informs us, of descrying the "Long Isle".

The expedition sailed from Belleisle on the 5th of July with a fair wind, which continued favourable till the 8th, when a dead calm ensued. On the following day, when in the latitude of 47 57' north, and thirty-nine leagues west from the meridian of the Lizard, a sail was descried to windward, which proved to be the Lion, a British man-of-war of sixty guns, commanded by Captain Brett. When the Lion hove in sight, the prince, for better accommodation, was preparing to go on board the Elizabeth; but luckily for him he laid aside his design on the appearance of the man-of-war. While the Lion was bearing down on the French ships, M. D'Oe, or D'Eau, the captain of the Elizabeth, went on board the Doutelle, where a council of war was immediately held, at which it was determined, if possible, to avoid an action; but if an action became inevitable, that the Elizabeth should receive the first broadside, and should thereupon endeavour to board her adversary. While this conference lasted, both ships kept running before the wind; but the Lion being a fast sailing vessel soon neared the Elizabeth, and, when within nearly a mile of her, hove to for the purpose of reconnoitring the French ships and preparing for action. Judging an action now unavoidable, Captain D'Oe proposed to Walsh, one of the proprietors of the two vessels, and who acted as commander of the Doutelle, that while the Elizabeth and Lion were engaged, the Doutelle should assist the Elizabeth by playing upon the Lion at a distance; but Walsh declined to interfere in any shape. The Captain of the Elizabeth thereupon drew his sword, and taking leave, went back to his ship, with his drawn sword in his hand, to prepare for action.

Captain D'Oe had scarcely reached the Elizabeth when the Lion bore down upon her. Contrary to the plan laid down on board the Doutelle, the Elizabeth have the first broadside, which was instantly returned by the Lion; and before the Elizabeth could get her other side to bear upon her opponent, the latter tacked about and poured in another broadside into the Elizabeth, which raked her fore and aft, and killed a great number of her men. Notwithstanding this untoward beginning, the Elizabeth maintained the fight for nearly five hours, when night coming on, and both vessels being complete wrecks, they parted as if by mutual consent. The prince, in the Doutelle, viewed the battle with great anxiety, and, it is said, importuned the captain to assist the Elizabeth, but Walsh positively refused to engage, and intimated to the price, that if he continued his solicitations, he would order him down to the cabin.

After the action was over, Captain Walsh bore up to the Elizabeth to ascertain the state of matters, and was informed by a lieutenant of the severe loss she had sustained in officers and men, and the crippled state she was in. He, however, offered to pursue the voyage if supplied with a main-mast and some rigging, but Walsh had no spare materials; and after intimating that he would endeavour to finish the voyage himself, and advising the commander of the Elizabeth to return to France, both ships parted, the Elizabeth on her way back to France, and the Doutelle on her voyage to the Western Highlands.

On the 11th of July a sail was discovered, which gave chase to the Doutelle; but being a swift-sailing vessel she outran her pursuer. She encountered a rough sea and tempestuous weather on the 15th and 16th, after which the weather became fine till the midnight of the 20th, when a violent storm arose. She stood out the gale, however, and on the 22d came within sight of land, which was discovered to be the southern extremity of Long Island, a name by which, from their appearing at a distance, and in a particular direction, to form one island, the islands of Lewis, the Uists, Barra, and others, are distinguished. On approaching land, a large ship, which appeared to be an English man-of-war, was descried between the Doutelle and the island. On perceiving this vessel, Walsh changed the course of the Doutelle, and stretching along the east side of Barra, reached the strait between South Uist and Eriska, the largest of a cluster of little rocky islands that lie off South Uist. When near the land, Duncan Cameron, before mentioned, was sent on shore in the long-boat to bring off a proper pilot, and having accidentally met the piper of Macneil of Barra, with whom Cameron was aquainted, he took him on board. In the strait alluded to, the Doutelle cast anchor on the 23d of July, having been eighteen days at sea.

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