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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Duke of Cumberland arrives at Nairn

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.

Accordingly, on the morning of the 14th, Charles ordered the drums to beat, and the pipes to play, as the signal for summoning his men to arms. After those who were in the town had assembled in the streets, the prince mounted his horse, and putting himself at their head, led them out to Culloden, about four miles from Inverness. Leaving part of his men in the parks around Culloden house, Charles went onward with his first troop of guards and the Mackintosh regiment, and advanced within six miles of Nairn to support the Duke of Perth, but finding him out of danger, he returned to Culloden, where he was joined by the whole of the duke's forces in the evening. Lochiel also arrived at the same time with his regiment. That night the Highlanders bivouacked among the furze of Culloden wood, and Charles and his principal officers lodged in culloden house.

Having selected Drummossie moor for a field of battle, Prince Charles marched his army thither early on the morning of the 15th, and drew his men up in order of battle across the moor, which is about half a mile broad. His front looked towards Nairn, and he had the river of that name on his right, and the inclosures of Culloden on his left. This moor, which is a heathy flat of considerable extent about five miles from Inverness and about a mile and a half to the south-east of Culloden house, forms the top of a hill which, rising at Culloden, dies gradually away in the direction of Nairn. The ascent to the moor is steep on both sides, particularly from the shore. In pitching upon this ground, Charles acted on the supposition that the Duke of Cumberland would march along the moor, which was better fitted for the free passage of his army than the common road between Nairn and Inverness, which was narrow and inconvenient.

In expectation that the Duke of Cumberland would advance, Charles sent forward on the road to Nairn some parties of horse to reconnoitre, but they could observe no appearance of any movement among the royal troops. The ground on which the army was now formed had been chosen without consulting Lord George Murray, who, on arriving on the spot, objected to it, on the footing that though interspersed with moss and some hollows, the ground was generally too level, and consequently not well suited for the operation of Highlanders. He therefore proposed to look out for more eligible ground, and at his suggestion Brigadier Stapleton and Colonel Ker were sent about ten o'clock to survey some hilly ground on the south side of the water of Nairn, which appeared to him to be steep and uneven, and of course more advantageous for Highlanders. After an absence of two or three hours, these officers returned and reported that the ground they had been appointed to examine was rugged and boggy, that no cavalry could act upon it, that the ascent on the side next to the river was steep, and that there were only two or three places, about three or four miles above, where cavalry could pass; the banks of the river below being inaccessible. On receiving this information, Lord George Murray proposed, in the event of Cumberland's forces not appearing that day, that the army should cross the water of Nairn, and draw up in line of battle next day, upon the ground which had been surveyed; and that, should the Duke of Cumberland not venture to cross after them and engage them upon the ground in question, they might watch a favourable opportunity of attacking him with advantage. In the event of no such opportunity offering, his lordship said he would recommend that the army should, with the view of drawing the duke after them, retire to the neighbouring mountains, where they might attack him at some pass or strong ground.

This proposal met with the general approbation of the commanding officers; but Charles who, two days before (when a suggestion was made to him to retire to a strong position till all his army should assemble), had declared his resolution to attack the Duke of Cumberland even with a thousand men only, declined to accede to it. His grounds were that such a retrograde movement might discourage the men, by impressing them with a belief that there existed a desire on the part of their commanders to shun the English army; that Inverness, which was now in their rear, would be exposed, and that the Duke of Cumberland might march upon that town, and possess himself of the greater part of their baggage and ammunition.

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