Is this suitable subject matter for an Outdoors Blog? I don’t know. But it did happen in the outdoors, so here goes.
Whilst in Madeira in November Alan pulled out some of his old maps etc of the island. He collects documents relating to the history of the island. On the back of one of these documents, a copy of the London Illustrated News from April 1844, was a report on the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. These days I would head to Wikipedia to find out about such events. Here’s a link to the relevant entry (and it has many further links, you could spend hours on this one topic!), from which I’ve borrowed the reproduced painting by David Morier. Wikipedia says that some 50 ‘Hanoverians (English) died in the Battle, with 1250 Jacobites (Highlanders) being killed. It’s odd how over the years the stories of such events can be differently reported. I reproduce below the 1844 version of events, from which you will note that 600 deaths on each side were reported. Though the Wikipedia entry is much more comprehensive, I wonder which version is more accurate.
But after reading this I can only marvel at our modern day ‘free passage’ to Scotland and am saddened by the ongoing conflicts in such potentially wonderful parts of the world as Afghanistan.
THE BATTLE OF CULLODEN
“Drummossie Muir, Drummossie day,
A waeful day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear and brethren three.”
Tuesday last was the 98th anniversary of the celebrated battle fought on the estate of Culloden, about three miles north-east of Inverness, on April 16, 1746, and which is memorable as having put an end to the Rebellion. On the night preceding the Highlanders had intended to surprise the Duke of Cumberland, in his camp, at Nairn; but this scheme having failed, they took up a position on the Moor of Drummossie, their left wing towards the house of Culloden, where the declivity of the hill was soft and marshy, their right slightly protected by a stone wall. The ground was unfavourable, and the Highlanders were weakened by hunger and fatigue, so that it had been judged expedient to withdraw to the hills; but the difficulty of finding subsistence for the men, and the importance of protecting Inverness, determined the Prince Charles Edward, and his councillors, to venture a battle. Drawn up in a line in the position above mentioned, while waiting for the signal to charge, the Highlanders suffered greatly from the English artillery. Exasperated, at last, beyond endurance, the centre rushed forward; and the last charge of the Highlanders, under their patriarchal discipline, and with their peculiar arms, is thus vividly described in Chambers’s “History of the Rebellion” :-
“A lowland gentleman, who was in the line, and who survived till a late period, used always, in relating the events of Culloden, to comment with a feeling of something like awe upon the terrific and more than natural expression of rage which glowed in every face and gleaned in every eye, as he surveyed the extended line at this moment. Notwithstanding that the three files of the front line of English poured forth their incessant fire of musketry; notwithstanding that the cannon, now loaded with grape-shot, swept the field as with a hail-storm; notwithstanding the flank fire of Wolfe’s regiment, onward went the headlong Highlanders, flinging themselves into, rather than rushing upon, the lines of the enemy, which indeed, they did not see for the smoke till involved among their weapons. It was a moment of dreadful, agonising suspense, but only a moment, for the whirlwind does not sweep the forest with greater rapidity than the Highlanders cleared the line. They swept through and over that frail barrier almost as easily and instantaneously as the bounding cavalcade brushes through the morning labours of the gossamer which stretch across its path; not, however, with the same unconsciousness of the events! Almost every man in their front rank, chief and gentleman, fell before the deadly weapons which they had braved; and although the enemy gave way, it was not till every bayonet was bent and bloody with the strife.
“When the first line had been completely swept aside, the assailants continued their impetuous advance till they came near the second, when, being almost annihilated by a profuse and well directed fire, the shattered remnants of what had been, but an hour before, a numerous and confident force, at last submitted to destiny by giving way and flying. Still, a few rushed on, resolved rather to die than thus forfeit their well-acquired and dearly-estimated honour. They rushed on, but not a man ever came in contact with the enemy. The last survivor perished as he reached the points of the bayonets.”
It is said, that in one place, where a very vigorous attack had been made, their bodies were afterwards found in layers three or four deep.
The right wing of the Highlanders, advancing at the same time, was attacked in flank by the English cavalry and broken; the left withdrew almost without sharing in the fight. About 600 men were killed on each side. The battle, however, was decisive; the Prince fled to the mountains, and some days after, gave notice to his partisans to provide for their own safety, declining to continue the contest with 8000 men, who were ready to meet him in Badenoch. This memorable event has given rise to many plaintive popular songs; a verse from one of which, pathetically lamenting the horrors of war, has been quoted above.