Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Devastations committed by the Royal troops

Conceiving that the only effectual mode of suppressing the rebellion was to march into the Highlands with the whole army, the Duke of Cumberland began, about the middle of May, to make preparations for his journey. He had in the beginning of that month issued a proclamation, ordering the insurgent clans to deliver up their arms; but little attention was paid to this mandate, and the continuance of considerable armed parties convinced him that the Highlands could never be reduced without the presence of a considerable army stationed in a central district. Having pitched upon Fort Augustus for his new head-quarters, the duke left Inverness, on the 23d of May, with eleven battalions of foot and Kingston's horse, and reached Fort Augustus next day. Charles had intended to make this place a rallying point in case of a defeat; but his plan was rejected by the chiefs, and, that it might not be serviceable to the royal troops, the buildings had been blown up. No accommodation being therefore found for the duke's army, a camp was formed in the neighbourhood, and a turf hut with doors and windows, and covered with green sods and boughs, was erected by Lord Loudon's Highlanders for the use of his royal highness.

Resolving to inflict a signal chastisement upon the rebels, the duke sent, from his camp at Fort Augustus, detachments of his troops in all directions, which devastated the country with fire and sword, and committed excesses scarcely paralleled in history, resembling, though perhaps on a minor scale, those committed by the host of Hyder Ali, when that merciless destroyer burst into Carnatic. The seats of Lochiel, Glengarry, Kinlochmoidart, Keppoch, CLuny, Glengyle, and others, were plundered and burnt to the ground, and great numbers of the houses of the common people shared the same fate. Major Lockhart, whose name, by his cruelties on this occasion, has obtained an infamous notoriety, marched with a detachment into the country of the Macdonalds of Barisdale, and laid waste and destroyed their dwellings. Some of these poor people had obtained protections from Lord Loudon; but the major disregarded them, and told the people who had them, that not even a warrant from heaven should prevent him from executing his orders. Another corps, under Lord George Sackville, ravaged the country about the glens of Moidart, while others carried fire and desolation through other districts. Not contented with destroying the country, these bloodhounds either shot the men upon the mountains, or murdered them in cold blood. The women, after witnessing their husbands, fathers, and brothers murdered before their eyes, were subjected to brutal violence, and then turned out naked, with their children, to starve on the barren heaths. A whole family was inclosed in a barn, and consumed to ashes. So alert were these ministers of vengeance, that in a few days, according to the testimony of a volunteer who served in the expedition, neither house, cottage, man, nor beast, was to be seen with the compass of fifty miles: all was ruin, silence and desolation. Deprived of their cattle and their small stock of provisions by the rapacious soldiery, the hoary-headed matron and sire, the widowed mother and her helpless offspring, were to be seen dying of hunger, stretched upon the bare ground, and within view of the smoking ruins of their dwellings.

It may seem surprising that the Highlanders did not avenge themselves upon their oppressors, by assassinating such stragglers as fell in their way. It cannot be supposed that men in whose bosoms the spirit of revenge must have taken deep root, would have spared their relentless adversaries from any scruple as to the mode of despatching them; nor can it be imagined that the Highlanders could not have selected fit occasions when they might have inflicted vengeance upon individuals. The reason of their forbearance probably was, that such a system of warfare, if adopted, would lead to acts of retaliation on the part of the military, and thus increase their calamities. Only one instance is known where an injured person attempted to avenge himself. This was the case of a Highlander who had his house burned, his cattle plundered, and his son killed, while defending his family, who were turned out in the snow. Vowing revenge, he watched the officer who was the author of this inhuman outrage, and who, he was informed, was to be distinguished by a cloak of a particular kind. This officer riding one day with Captain George Munro of Culcairn in a shower of rain, lent him his cloak; and while marching in it with a party of men along the side of Loch Arkaig, the captain was shot by the enraged Highlander, who perceived the clock, but could not distinguish the difference of person. The man escaped, and although he was well known, and might have been afterwards apprehended, he was allowed to pass unpunished.

Of the immense quantity of cattle carried off by Cumberland's troops, some idea may be formed from the fact mentioned in a journal of the period, that there were sometimes 2,000 in one drove. Intelligence of such a vast accumulation of live stock, reaching the ears of the graziers of the south, numbers of them went to Fort Augustus well provided with money, which they laid out to great advantage. Some of the people, impelled by starvation, repaired to the camp to solicit from the spoilers some of their flocks, to preserve an existence; but their supplications were unheeded, and they were doomed to behold their cattle sold and driven away, while famine stared them in the face.

The atrocities committed by the English must have been revolting to the humane mind of Lord President Forbes. On paying his respects to the duke at Inverness, he hinted to his highness that the laws of the country should be observed even by his army; but the duke, who entertained very different ideas, not relishing such an intrusion upon his authority, cut the worthy president short with this exclamation, "The laws of the country, my Lord" I'll make a brigade give laws, by God!". Judging farther remonstrance to be vain, Forbes dropped the subject, and was compelled to deplore in silence the cruelties which he could not prevent. He might have represented the matter to the government; but he was perhaps unwilling to run the risk of incurring its displeasure, and thereby deprive himself of the chance of being afterwards useful in saving many families from ruin.

The enormities of the lawless soldiery were not confined to the Highlands, but extended to all the adjoining lowland districts where the spirit of disaffection was known to exist. The houses of the low country Jacobite gentry were plundered and destroyed, and the chapels of the nonjurant episcopal clergy, as well as the more humble and secluded places of worship belonging to the Catholics, were either razed or burnt to the ground. "Rebel-hunting" was the term adopted by the ruffians of the British army to designate their bloody occupation.

To complete the work of extermination, the duke issued a proclamation, denouncing the punishment of death, by hanging, against every person who should harbour the insurgents, and a similar fate was declared to await such as should conceal arms, ammunition, or any other thing belonging to them, or should not immediately deliver up to persons authorised by the duke to receive the same, any property or effects in their possession belonging to the rebels. In compliance with a requisition made by the duke, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, about the end of May, enjoined the ministers of the different parishes to read a proclamation from the pulpits, in which they themselves, and every well affected person, were ordered by his royal highness to use every exertion to discover and seize the unfortunate fugitives; and to facilitate their discovery and apprehension, the clergy were required to furnish lists of the names of all persons in their respective parishes who had had any share in the insurrection. Many clergymen, including those of Edinburgh, with feelings of humanity and independence which did them honour, refused to head this proclamation, or to comply with the order requiring them to give in the names of such of their parishioners as had been engaged in the rebellion. The government, equally intent with its sanguinary general upon the destruction of the unfortunate adherents of the house of Stuart, offered rewards for apprehending such of the fugitives as might land in Ireland, and instructions were sent to the British ministers at foreign courts in alliance with George II, to seize all who might seek refuge in the territories of such powers.

The guilt of all these acts of bloodshed and rapine has been laid to the charge of the Duke of Cumberland, and the single fact that he issued no orders to put an end to the enormities which were daily committed, almost under his own eyes, and with his perfect knowledge, seems of itself sufficient to justify the charge. But when taken in connexion with his sanguinary order not to make prisoners, the proofs of his criminality, or rather unconstitutional severity, are evident. Though the foul stain of wanton cruelty must ever attach to the British army on the present occasion, from the commander down to the private, there were some redeeming exceptions among the officers, who alleviated the sufferings, and, in some instances, saved the lives of the devoted Highlanders. "I think myself", says Mr Maxwell, "bound in justice to let the reader know that there were in the duke of Cumberland's army officers of all ranks, whom neither the prospect of ingratiating themselves and making their fortunes, nor the contagion of bad example were able to corrupt. Some of those that had done the government the most essential services were as conspicuous now for their humanity as formerly for their courage and conduct. It might be indiscreet to be particular at present; but their names, which are written with indelible characters in the hearts of those poor people that owe to them the preservation of their being, will be carefully handed down to posterity. They are already known, and even, in the worst of times, meet with the applause they deserve from all those that have a fellow-feeling for their species".

With the honourable exceptions here alluded to, neither the duke nor the submissive slaves of his tyrannical will ever appear to have felt the least compunction for the miseries they inflicted upon the unfortunate Highlanders. On the contrary, they seem to have revelled amidst the ruin and desolation which they spread around; and when their occupation of "rebel-hunting" was gone, by the destruction of their victims, they endeavoured to relieve the ennui of repose by ludicrous and indecent diversions. Horse and foot races were instituted by the royal duke, who did not think it beneath his dignity to induce the women of the camp to enter the lists, and to expose themselves in a way at which decency revolts. This species of amusement produced great insubordination in the army, for the soldiers got very fond of it, and, according to a volunteer, most of them had horses, which they bought and sold with one another at low price, and on which they rode about, neglecting their duty, and consequently it became necessary to publish an order to part with them, otherwise they were all to be shot. "I saw", continues the same writer, "a soldier riding on one of these horses, when, being met by a comrade, he asked him, 'Tom, what hast thou given for the Galloway?' Tom answered, 'Half-a-crown'. To which the other replied, with an oath, 'He is too dear; I saw a better bought for eighteen pence'. Notwithstanding the low price, the vast quantities of cattle, such as oxen, horses, sheep, and goats, taken from the rebels, and bought up by the lump by the jockies and farmers from Yorkshire and the south of Scotland, came to a great deal of money, all which was divided amongst the men that brought them in, who were sent out in parties in search of the Pretender; and they frequently came to rebels' houses, which they had left, as their owners would not be reduced to obedience. These out soldiers commonly plundered and burnt, so that many of them grew rich by their share of spoil".

Next | Index | Previous


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus