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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Night-March of the Highland army to Nairn

This occurrence completely changed the aspect of affairs, and every member of the council who had formerly advocated a night attack now warmly opposed it. Charles, bent upon his purpose, resolutely insisted upon the measure, and said that when the march was begun the men who had gone off would return and follow the rest. The confidence which he had in the bravery of his army blinded him to every danger, and he was prompted in his determination to persist in the attempt from an idea that Cumberland's army having been that day engaged in celebrating the birth-day of their commander, would after their debauch fall an easy prey to the Highlanders.

Finding the prince fully resolved to make the attempt at all hazards, the commanding officers took their stations, waiting the order to march. The watchword was, "King James the VIII.," and special instructions were issued to the army, that in making the attack the troops should not make use of their fire-arms, but confine themselves to their swords, dirks, and bayonets; and that on entering the Duke of Cumberland's camp they should cut the tent strings and pull down the poles, and that wherever they observed a swelling or bulge in the fallen covering, they should strike and push vigorously with their swords and dirks. Before marching, directions were given to several small parties to possess all the roads, in order to prevent any intelligence of their march being carried to the Duke of Cumberland.

In giving his orders to march, Charles embraced Lord George Murray, who immediately went off at the head of the line, about eight o'clock, preceded by two officers, and about thirty men of the Macintosh regiment, who from their knowledge of the country were to act as guides. Though the whole army marched in one line, there was an interval in the middle as if it consisted of two columns. The Athole men led the van, and next to them were the Camerons, who were followed by the other clans. The low country regiments, the French piquets, and the horse, formed the rear. Lord John Drummond was in the centre, or at the head of the second column; and the Duke of Perth and Charles, who had Fitz-James's and other horse with him, were towards the rear. Besides the party of Macintoshes, who served as guides in front, there were others of the clan stationed in the centre and rear, and generally along the line, to prevent any of the men from losing their way in the dark. The plan of attack, as laid down by Lord George murray, was as follows:- The army was to have marched in a body till they passed the house of Kilraick or Kilravock, which is about ten miles from Culloden, on the direct road to Nairn. The army was then to have been divided, and while Lord George Murray crossed the river Nairn with the van, making about one-third of the whole, and marched down by the south side of the river, the remainder was to have continued its march along the north side till both divisions came near the duke's camp. The van was then to have re-crossed the river, and attacked the royal army from the south, while the other part was to have attacked it at the same time from the west. With the exception of Charles, who promised upon his honour not to divulge it to any person, and Anderson, who acted as guide at he battle of Preston, no person was made privy to the plan, as its success depended upon its secrecy.

In the outset of the march the van proceeded with considerable expedition, but it had gone scarcely half a mile when Lord George Murray received an express ordering him to halt till joined by the rear column,which was a considerable way behind. As a halt in the van always occasions a much longer one in the rear when the march is resumed, Lord George did not halt but slackened his pace to enable the rear to join. This, however, was to no purpose, as the rear still kept behind, and although, in consequence of numerous expresses enjoining him to wait, Lord George marched slower and slower, the rear fell still farther behind, and before he had marched six miles he had received at least fifty expresses ordering him to either halt or to slacken his pace. The chief cause of the stoppage was the badness of the roads.

About one o'clock in the morning, when the van was opposite to the house of Kilravock, Lord John Drummond came up and stated to Lord George Murray that unless he halted or marched much slower the rear would not be able to join. The Duke of Perth having shortly thereafter also come up to the front and given a similar assurance, his lordship halted near a small farm-house called Yellow Knowe, belonging to Rose of Kilravock, nearly four miles from Nairn, and about a mile from the place where it was intended the van should cross the river, In the wood of Kilravock the march of the rear was greatly retarded by a long narrow defile occasioned partly by a stone wall; and so fatigued and faint had the men become, by the badness of the road, and want of food, that many of them, unable to proceed, lay down in the wood. This circumstance was announced to Lord George Murray by several officers who came up from the rear shortly after the van had halted. Nearly all the principal officers, including the Duke of Perth, Lord George Murray, Lord John Drummond, Lochiel, and General O'Sullivan, were now in the van, and having ascertained by their watches, which they looked at in a little house close by, that it was two o'clock in the morning, they at once perceived the impossibility of surprising the English army. The van was still upwards of three, and the rear about four miles from Nairn, and as they had only been able to advance hitherto at a rate little more than a mile in the hour, it was not to be expected that the army in its exhausted state would be able to accomplish the remainder of the distance, within the time prescribed, even at a more accelerated pace. By a quick march the army could not have advanced two miles before day-break; so that the Duke of Cumberland would have had sufficient time to put his army in fighting order before an attack could have been made. These were sufficient reasons of themselves for abandoning the enterprise, but when it is considered that the army had been greatly diminished during the march, and that scarcely one-half of the men that were drawn up the day before on Drummossie moor remained, the propriety of a retreat becomes undoubted.

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