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The Battle of Culloden

Date Added: April 05, 2006 12:27:00 PM
Author: Ron
Category: Scotland Articles: Scottish History

The Jacobites were supporters of the House of Stuart's claim to the English throne. The 1707 Act Of Union had been signed which basically created the nation of Great Britain however it allowed for the German House of Hannover to take over the throne. The Stuarts were exiled to France. James the VIII of the House of Stuart had a great deal of support and encouragement to take the crown but he never did anything to exercise his right to it. The hopes and dreams of the Jacobites rested upon his son Charles Edward Stuart.

When Charles Stuart was 23 he received his father's blessing and the support of the French army in his bid to take over the throne of England. Even at the start of his campaign his luck was ill. The French assigned to the young prince deserted him.

Charles got the forces he wanted all across The Highlands. Songs were sung and poems written about Bonnie Prince Charlie. The handsome young Stuart amassed his army of rough and ready highlanders and made for Edinburgh where no opposition came across him. Edinburgh was Charles' but a force of English soldiers, led by Cope, met the highlanders in battle at Preston Pans where the Scots drove out Cope's army of 4,000. They sent the man running straight back to London were fear that the highlanders were angry again, sent a wave of fear across the city.

Now Charles knew that the English would gather a huge army to rout the Jacobites so one of his lords suggested that they met the army head on now so Charles went south. George II of England gathered a large force indeed made up of English regulars and mercenaries from Germany and Ireland and to lead them he chose William Augustus the Duke of Cumberland and General Wade. Cumberland went with his army to Wales thinking that Charles would be there to garner support but he was wrong, the highlanders were close enough to London to attack and quite possibly overrun the city. Cumberland sent a spy into Charles' camp to spread the rumour that the English army was closing in with 30,000 men. Charles knew that winter was on it's way and knew his army couldn't stand up to that many soldiers so he took the rumour as fact and went back north into Scotland.

On the way back the Scots ran across the English at Falkirk and in defeating them lost the majority of their ammo.

In April some of the highlanders, tired and hungry, went home after leaving Inverness. The highlanders attempted an unsuccessful night raid on the English at Culloden Moor and some of the Highlanders awoke the next morning to the sound of English drums.

The date was April 16,1746 it was the beginning of the end. The Jacobite forces made up of 4,000 teenagers and adults had little if any food and had to fight with claymore and dirk, some were lucky to have a firing weapon with a handful of ammunition. The English had cannon and rifle and it was with cannon fire that Cumberland began his attack. For one full hour the sound of cannon and the screams of dying men were the main sound and when his men started to grow restless Cumberland gave the order to charge, Lord George Murray led the assault. The battle was more like a massacre as famished highlanders wielding claymores fought the English veterans wielding guns and also on Cumberland's side were some lowland Scots and a few highlanders who had scores to settle against their highland neighbours. Charles watched the devastation with tears in his eyes and his shock was so intense that he had to be taken off the field or be captured.

The battle was over but the bloodshed was to continue. Cumberland's forces stormed the highlands and anyone who was thought to be a Jacobite or to have given support to the Jacobites was either put to the sword, burned in their own home or worse. There is one account of Cumberland's men chasing down an unarmed elderly highlander and had him plead for his life he begged for it but was killed anyway. In one incident a band of Cumberland's troops found a farm where wounded Jacobites were being treated. The wounded were taken outside and shot. Entire families were slain, fathers were forced to watch as their wives and daughters were raped and/or killed, parents were killed in front of their children or vice versa. Some were made slaves forced to work English plantations and this genocide lasted for five months and as a further measure of intolerance the wearing of a kilt, playing of bagpipes, Gaelic language and clan system were made illegal and the punishment for such was death without a trial. The Episcopal church was prosecuted for it's participation. This entire operation was overseen by Cumberland and in fact his orders were to destroy the highland way of life and ever since he has been nicknamed Butcher Cumberland. Despite all this genocide he was venerated by the English and Handel even wrote a song about him.

Meanwhile, while these atrocities were taking place, Charles was in flight back to the highlands to escape to France to hopefully return and exact his revenge. Assisting him was Flora MacDonald who disguised him as a maid named Betty Burke (whether she helped him out of love or patriotism is still in debate after all she was married) the handsome young Stuart narrowly escaped a few traps and when a bounty of 30,000 pounds was placed on his head none of the highlanders would turn him in.

Charles made his way back to France but never returned. He died trapped in a bad marriage and impoverished his only joys in life were his daughter and his memories. Sometimes he would ask someone to sing highland songs for him and his eyes would become marred with tears at the memories of his return to Scotland and of the tragic day at Culloden.

 
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