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The Battle of Culloden

Duke of Perth Retires to Elgin

The Duke of Perth, who happened at this time to be with the Highland forces appointed to defend the passage of the Spey, not thinking it advisable to dispute the position against such an overwhelming force as that to which he was opposed, retired towards Elgin on the approach of the Duke of Cumberland. The conduct of the Duke of Perth, and of his brother, Lord John Drummond, has been censured for not disputing the passage of the Spey, but without reason. The whole of the Highland forces along the Spey did not exceed 2,500 men, being little more than a fourth of those under the Duke of Cumberland. Notwithstanding this great disparity, the Highlanders, aided by the swollen state of the river, might have effectually opposed the passage of the royal army had it been attempted during the month of March, but a recent drought had greatly reduced the quantity of water in the river, and had rendered it fordable in several places to such an extent, that at two of them a whole battalion might have marched abreast. As some of the fords run in a zig-zag direction, some damage might have been done to the royal army in crossing; but as the Duke of Cumberland had a good train of artillery, he could have easily covered his passage at these places.

The departure of the Duke of Cumberland from Aberdeen was not known at Inverness till the 12th, on the morning of which day intelligence was brought to Charles that he was in full march to the north with his full army. Shortly after his arrival at Inverness, Charles had formed the design, while the Duke of Cumberland lay at Aberdeen, of giving him the slip, by marching to Perth by the Highland road, so as to induce the duke to return south, and thus leave the northern coast clear for the landing of supplies from France. With this view, he had directed the seige of Fort William to be pushed, and, calculating upon a speedy reduction of that fortress, had sent orders to the Macdonalds, the Camerons, and the Stewarts, who were engaged in the siege, immediately on the capture of the fort to march into Argyleshire, and, after chastising the whigs in that district, and giving an opportunity to their friends there to join them, to proceed to Perth. Charles, however, for the present, laid aside the intention of marching south, and knowing that the Duke of Cumberland would advance from Aberdeen early in April, he gave orders for concentrating his forces at Inverness, and, as soon as he was informed of the duke's march, he renewed these orders, by sending expresses every where to bring up his men. Those who had been at the siege of Fort William were already on their march, but Lord Cromarty was at a considerable distance with a large body of men, and could scarcely be expected to arrive in time if the duke was resolved on an immediate action.

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