Battle of Culloden
The Battle Of Culloden was the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil. And typically, for Scottish springtime, the weather was bitterly cold – wind and sleet battered the men massed on the moors of Culloden. The wild conditions and increasingly heavy terrain would not favour the Jacobites.
Bonnie Prince Charlie ’s men were ravaged by hunger and fatigue; the road to Culloden was long, barren and morale-sapping. English propaganda was rife with rumour that the Jacobites were becoming mutinous – there was indeed some substance to this notion. Charles’ campaign would be hamstrung by diminishing resources; his soldiers would go without pay, their supplies that were so desperately needed would be intercepted by government forces.
The health of the Jacobite campaign was ailing – as was its leader’s. A bout of pneumonia had left Charles weakened. This could all have been the result of a protracted campaign. After the victory at Prestonpans , Scotland could have been secured by the Jacobites. But Charles chose to head south, taking the fight to England. Reaching as far as Derby , the Jacobites made a calculated retreat after learning that a large Hanoverian army lay in wait, just north of London at Finchley . In fact, such rumours were false. Charles’ relationship with Lord George Murray was becoming fractious, the retreat shook the Jacobite’s self-belief, their momentum reversed.
The Jacobites remarkably spread panic throughout London. King George II was making arrangements to secure his valuables. There was a sense of dread; London could fall. But the Jacobite retreat was a body-blow to their cause, and lead to the sad inevitability of Culloden. The government forces – led by King George II’s son, William Augustus, Duke Of Cumberland – were well equipped. By contrast, the Jacobite forces were armed with only a primitive arsenal; improvised spears, stolen weapons, swords and Lochaber axes.
Retreating from Derby, the Jacobites fought sporadically with the government’s troops; defeating Hawley at Falkirk , but Stirling and Inverness refused to fall. By mid-April, the redcoats under Cumberland were enjoying the upper hand. Celebrating Cumberland’s birthday at Nairn , the government forces’ morale would soar. For the Jacobites the preamble to the conflict was chaotic and dispiriting.
By the morning of battle, the government’s army had arrived from Nairn, refreshed and outnumbering the Jacobites. Unlike Prestonpans, there was no intelligence affording the Jacobites a safe route through Culloden’s heavy moorland. The Jacobites’ fearsome charge would be leaden, their frontline famished and weary. The ground underfoot was akin to running in treacle – Cumberland’s dragoons, riddled them with musket fire. Those that did reach the Hanoverians would be bayoneted; stiletto blades piercing the resistance.
And at once the Jacobite cause was slain. Cumberland would be known as ‘The Butcher’. His troops suffered only minimal losses in what was a merciless slaughter. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped, later fleeing to Rome. The highland clan structure was dismantled by the government. Jacobitism met a bloody conclusion
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