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The Battle of Culloden

The Night Attack Gets Underway

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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