Sunday, April 25, 2010

Decisive Battles: Culloden 1746

Culloden Date: 16 APR 1746Forces Engaged: Jacobite ("Highland") Army:
Roughly 5,300 Scottish infantrymen (largely "clansmen" from the tribal organizations of the Scottish North and West, with some Catholic and Jacobite supporters from the southeast - everywhere in Scotland, in fact, outside the Presbyterian and Covenanting southwest).

The Highland Army was less medieval than it has been portrayed; many of the Jacobite soldiers had muskets or some sort of firearm. But many did not, and sword-and-targe, lochaber axe, even spears, pikes and scythes were not unknown. The Jacobite infantry should best be considered as a sort of unholy stramash of late-medieval sword-and-spear footsoldiers with a scattering of projectile-firing infantrymen.The Jacobite Rising had the nominal support of the Bourbon monarchy in France but despite his aggression in the bedchamber Louis XV was not inclined to spend French blood or French treasure on the megalomaniac fantasies of the Stuart pretender. Cheap victories when he could get them, but the Bourbon sent no more than two regiments; about 350 men of the "Royal Écossaise" (the Wiki entry for Culloden mistakenly identifies this short battalion as "Gardes Écossaise", an improbable confusion since though originally Scots by 1745 the Garde was part of the personal bodyguard of the maison de roi and mainly French nationals) and 302 Irish Picquets (a composite unit formed from the Irish Brigade of the French Army)

Roughly 200 troopers. As medieval as the Highland infantry was for 1745, the cavalry was worse. The Jacobites brought about 120 or so assorted "cavalry", meaning any Jacobite wealthy enough to keep a horse, to Culloden and these were scattered into three units, not one of which fielded more than 50 troopers. The only reliable cavalry unit in the Highland Army consisted of one "FitzJames' Horse", a French unit (though composed, interestingly, mostly of English former merchant sailors) numbering about 60-70, almost half of the mounted troops.

The Jacobite Army is recorded as having dragged a total of 12 artillery pieces to Drumossie Moor; eleven 3-pounder cannon and a "Swedish" 4-pound gun. Assuming that these had an average crew of 4 to 5 the Jacobite gunners probably numbered somewhere between 50 and 80. The Highland gunners were not nearly as amateurish as they have been painted, but their commander had neither understanding of nor patience for the cannons, so what efforts that made on Drumossie Moor were largely wasted by poor tactics.

A total of roughly 6,000 troops all arms (roughly 20 battalions, though actually the units ranged in size from a small company to a large battalion) under the personal command of Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart, notional Prince of the United Kingdom of England, Ireland, and Scotland and better known as the "Young Pretender", or "Bonnie Prince Charlie".

Government (Hanoverian) Army of the North:


15 battalions of regular British infantry; five brigades of three regiments (in 1746 each British infantry unit consisted of a single battalion) totalling 5,570 rank and file. A single Highland battalion of roughly 300 - "the damned Campbells" - accompanied the Government Army to Culloden.

Two regiments of dragoons (which by this time were no longer mounted infantrymen but rather heavy cavalry), a regiment of light horse and a small escort troop of "hussars" - a total of 774 troopers.

One company of Royal Artillery (106 sergeants, gunners and matrosses) employing 10 3-pound cannon and 6 Coehorn mortars.

So, a total of roughly 6,600 to 7,000 all arms under His Royal Highness William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, Marquess of Berkhamstead in the County of Hertford, Earl of Kennington in the County of Surrey, Viscount of Trematon in the County of Cornwall, and Baron of the Isle of Alderney, aka "Butcher Cumberland". Oh, and LTG Henry Hawley, Commander-in-Chief, North Britain.

A Personal Note: In the interest of full disclosure I should state that I am a MacMillan of That Ilk through my mother's side of the family.

Her father, Donald MacMillan of Edinburgh, arrived in this country from the Auld Sod back in 1899 probably, as with many Scots of his age and time, full of romantic bilgewater about "Bliadhna Theàrlaich" (Charles' Year) and the sort of nauseatingly pseudopoetic crapola about the Forty-Five that skeptic Scots-Americans like me call the "shortbread tin Scotland".

Perhaps the best example I can find is this awfully rotten song by one Isla Grant called the "Ghosts of Culloden":(I pause to note that the battle was fought in April without a flake of "drifting snow", that there never has been a death in battle that featured "pride and dignity", and most of all that Charles Edward, Prince of the Blood, King of the Tantrum, and absolute monarchist would have split a fucking gut laughing at the notion that the clansmen who fought for his right to rule the United Kingdom "fought and died for liberty")

So I have to be cautious dealing with Culloden because it is my considered opinion that individually and collectively the Stuarts represent among the worst that human governance has to offer, a stain and a dishonor on Scotland and a clan that should be a byword and a hissing.

From Charles I, whose abilities were so meager that he pushed his entire dominion into civil war, to the absolutism of James II (with, perhaps, a soft spot for that merry monarch Charles II) I can not but see "Bonnie Prince Charlie" as just another in a succession of the goddamn feckless, incompetent Stuarts that spent the better part of a century fucking up the British Isles and it colors my vision of the entire Forty-Five.

So if I therefore tend to give the Jacobite commanders the benefit of the doubt for fear of rather indulging my dislike of Charlie and his entire camorra I apologize in advance for any error in fact or partiality in observation.

It is in the blood; although it is recorded that one Captain Ewen Macmillan of Murlagan led the Macmillan company in Lochiel's regiment at Culloden along with his lieutenants Dugald and Finlay Macmillan...

I would not have turned out for the Pretender in 1745.

The Sources: As for most battles fought in the human Industrial Era, widespread literacy has provided a wealth of documentation. The Royal Army of the time preserved in its official papers a variety of orders, muster rolls, returns and assessments. Other state papers detail the activity of the Government faction as well as what they knew of the Jacobite movements. Even many of the common people of the day could write; tradesmen, lawyers, prelates and the like, and have left their accounts of the great events that passed by outside their doors.Perhaps the most entertaining of these are the hasty pen sketches by a resident of the town of Penicuik. This "Penicuik artist" left some of the most engaging and immediate images of the Rising. His hastily drawn caricatures give us perhaps the most vivid and memorable images of the men and women who lived through the Second Jacobite Rising.

General histories discussing the battle began to appear in Victorian times, stimulated by the romances of Sir Walter Scott and the British mania for all things tartan and Highlandish entrained by the young queen's fascination with the bens and the glens and the heroes. As with the tartan setts themselves, much of what was written in the 19th Century was romantic Victoriana, best dismissed today as the yearning of a settled society for the danger and wilderness then a safe distance away

Of the modern sources, John Prebble's "Culloden" is perhaps the first and the best known while being the most reviled and dismissed. Written in the early Sixties, Prebble's account reads like - and has been compared by later historians to - a novel. It does wonderfully to give a feel for the experience of the soldiers of the Highland Army, but is flawed by the author's lack of scholarship and partisanship with the Jacobite cause.

Perhaps the best work extant is Christopher Duffy's "The '45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising". Published in 2003, Duffy went back to the original sources and chased down a lot of the shortbread that had worked its into the record.

As always, the Osprey campaign series does a good job of covering the purely military details. In particular Stuart Reid's "Culloden Moor 1746" does good work making the campaign, and the battle accessible and readable.

The Wiki entry, which appears to be based largely on Reid's work, is rather more complete and well researched than most.

The Campaign: It's not easy to find the head of the road that leads to Drumossie Moor. Would it be in the troubled reign of Charles I, whose religious intransigence was married to a social ineptitude of truly magnificent proportions? "A mild and gracious prince..." said one of his archbishops, "...who knew not how to be, or how to be made, great." But also a man of foolish obstinacy, and one who had little sense of proportion or feel for statecraft. His repeated and violent collisions with his Parliament helped pitch his nation into a pointless civil war, cost thousands their lives, and leave the country with fifteen years of wars and instability and dictatorship. Was it with Charles II, whose royal penis was unable to remain within the royal trousers, and whose assorted bastards produced a handful of pretenders, insurrectionists and rebels over the next fifty years?

No, I'd opine that the real outbreak of Stuart fucktardry begins with Charles I second son, James, the second of that name to reign in England (though the sixth to rule in Scotland). Ironically, this character succeeded in uniting the old enemies England and Scotland, putting an end to the centuries of war that had troubled the Border. He was a relatively efficient and effective administrator. And he was genuinely interested in religious liberty in a time of vast and relentless sectarian misery. It was his misfortune that he was both pigheadedly intolerant of any attempts to place limits on royal power and far in advance of his subjects' opinions on confessional diversity.

And worse, after pusillanimously failing to defeat the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 he fled to exile not in some inoffensively neutral country but into Catholic France. The Bourbons, showing their usual nose for Trouble, kept the exiled James on a string as a weapon against the Brits, though for the cost and trouble they'd have done better with a blandishing ape.

James' pendant pack of troubles came calling the next year in Ireland, where his military ineptitude managed to get a short pantsload of his Irish supporters killed at the Battle of the Boyne and his craven flight earned him the nickname "Seamus a'chaca" which translates from the Irish as "James the Shit".

The Boyne really was the end for James' exercise of royalty. His "court" dwindled away to a pack of idle exiles hanging on at the chateau of Saint Germain-en-Laye. He never seriously attempted to retake the United Kingdom.

But his pretensions lived on in his spawn. His son James ("The Third" to his partisans) made a brief appearance in Scotland when those partisans tried to turf out the new Hanoverian king of Britain in 1715.

The so-called "Old Pretender" may possibly have been an even worse leader than his Da; he landed in Peterhead in late December 1715, set up a "court" and impressed the locals mostly with his mopish demeanor and his various illnesses, and scarpered back to the boats in early February, 1716, having "reigned" a whopping 44 days in the British Isles. His parting message to the Scots who had turned out for him was, effectively, "so long, suckers" - telling them to shift for themselves.

And that brings us to his kid, Charles Edward the "Bonnie Prince".

The latest Stuart embarrassment landed in Eriskay, a four-square mile island on the far west coast of Scotland in July of 1745.

The background for the Forty-Five is, as always, the usual pointless dynastic Anglo-French war, in this case the War of Austrian Succession which began in 1743. The French saw their Jacobite client as a relatively inexpensive way to do the British a mischief. The portion of the Wiki entry discussing the Forty-Five sums it up pretty well;
"Through Semphill, English Jacobites made a formal request to France for armed intervention. The French king's Master of Horse toured southern England meeting Tories and discussing their proposals, and in November 1743 Louis XV of France authorized a large-scale invasion of southern England in February 1744. Charles Edward Stuart was invited to accompany the expedition and rushed to France, but a storm destroyed the attempt. The British lodged strong diplomatic objections to the presence of Charles, and France declared war but abandoned ideas of Jacobite risings and gave Charles no more encouragement."

Mind you, lack of encouragement never discouraged Charlie, then or after. He scraped together some cash (by means which included pawning his mom's jewelry) and set out with two ships to invade Britain. In typical Charles fashion the more useful of the two vessels, which embarked 700 Irish volunteers and arms and funds for the rebellion, was beaten back by a Royal Navy battleship. The Great Man himself arrived with no more than the clothes he stood up in and seven supporters; four Irishmen, two Englishmen and a Scot.

Several of the local clan leaders and notables told the Young Pretender that if this was the best he could do he'd best piss off back to France. Several of the chiefs, including a distant ancestor of mine, Norman MacLeod of MacLeod, wouldn't even meet with the guy. But brutal truth never convinced a Stuart, so the Bonnie one continued on through the Highlands that summer until his supporters officially "raised the Royal Standard" - the Jacobite equivalent of declaring war - at Glenfinnan on the 19th of August.

By September the Prince had assembled an army of about 2-3,000, mostly from the west Highland clan MacDonald and Cameron, but including Lowlanders from Edinburgh, which the Jacobites carried in August 1745.

The bulk of the Royal Army was fighting on continental Europe and the commander or troops in the north, one General Cope, had between 3,000 and 4,000 relatively green troops to hold Scotland and north England. He marched north too late to hold Edinburgh and was then smashed in late September at the comic mixup that is known as the Battle of Prestonpans. Caught by an unintentional envelopment, surprised by Jacobite troops hidden in a morning fog that unhinged their own deployment and created a fatal trap for the Government troops, Cope and his command were destroyed and the entire north of Britain opened to the Jacobites.

Who, in their Bonnie Princely fashion, made poor use of it.

After dallying in Edinburgh for a month the Jacobite Army set out south early in November. The general rising that the Prince expected had not materialized and although his more sentient counselors advised him to recruit and consolidate in Scotland over the winter Charles Edward was still prancing towards his fantasy of reigning in Westminster. He lied to his council, claiming that English Jacobites had written to him pledging their certainty of a rising in his favor if he moved south. The Highland Army marched out on November 3rd and arrived in Derby, just a hundred miles or so north of London in early December.But the Jacobite forces hadn't really done anything to beat the Government troops that were being reinforced from the Continent. They had bypassed Field Marshal Wade's force by moving on Carlisle instead of Newcastle, but that force remained in being to the rear. Now Ligoner's Army of the Midlands was closing in, Jacobite intel (never good at the best of times, which this was not) falsely reported a third Government army closing the trap, and the Prince had to admit that the stories of English support were lies.

The Highland Army started back north on December 6th.

By this time Charles Edward was less than Bonnie; he sulked and moped all the way back to Glasgow, and was reported to have taken to drink and began suffering from the various illnesses that seem to have affected Stuart royalty whenever they were required to be decisive and effective.The Army refitted in Glasgow and then moved to take the town of Stirling, where the sort of incompetence that afflicted the Jacobite cause once again lost them an opportunity;
"Monsieur Mirabel de Gordon (the Franco-Scots Jacobite "artilleryman" in charge of the siege of Stirling Castle) chose a poor location in digging trenches for the Jacobite cannons, lower and completely in range of the castle's own guns. Following the victory at Falkirk the cannon would be destroyed after firing a single shot."
While there the Army defeated LTG Henry Hawley's Army of North Britain in the dark wind and rain of Falkirk. But in typical Jacobite military fashion they then did nothing to consolidate the victory; Hawley marched away, his army intact, until the Duke of Cumberland took over as commander-in-chief in late January.

Cumberland and his troops wintered in Aberdeen, reinforced by 5,000 Hessian mercenaries who blocked off the Jacobite retreat south. The Highland Army, now managed by the fractious duo of Lord George Murray and O'Sullivan, was attempting without much success to reduce the Government's strongholds in the north.The weather moderated in late March, and by early April Cumberland's forces took Cullen on the 11th and Nairn on the 14th. The Government encampment at Balblair just west of the Nairn was the objective the last, saddest and most Jacobite attack of the entire campaign.The Bonnie Prince had gotten all princely, demanding to lead the army personally. Given his by-now manifestly personal problems and the utter exhaustion of the Jacobite troops his officers probably should have stepped in. But the problem with royalism is that you can't, by definition, shove aside the Royal. About 5,400 Jacobite troops left Inverness and most of their supplies behind and assembled on Drummossie, around 12 miles from the Government encampment.

The Plan, supposedly devised by Charles and his confidant O'Sullivan, was to defend Drummossie Moor. Murray went on record as saying that he "did not like the ground"; he and several other of the more intelligent officers pointed out that the rough, boggy moor would make the "Highland charge" - the Jacobite Army's only real tactic - difficult while exposing the Jacobites to the Government artillery and the volley fire of the British infantry. They again pressed their arguments for a guerrilla campaign in the hilly north, but Charles Edward Stuart - as stubborn as most fundamentally weak men - refused to change his plans.

The Engagement: The battle proper really begins late in the evening of the 15th, when the Highland Army marched out to make a night attack on the Government camp at Balblair.

The onus for this one fall directly on Murray, who was responsible for both the idea and the piss-poor execution.

Now night movements, and night engagements, are perhaps the most difficult and chanciest things for an armed force to accomplish. Clausewitz famously says "Es ist alles im Kriege sehr einfach, aber das Einfachste ist schwierig" - that "Everything in War is very simple, but the Simplest things are very difficult". Adding darkness, exhaustion, hunger to the ordinary confusion of an army with fairly low standards of military competence was almost sure to be a disaster and, sure enough, the night attack on Nairn was that on an almost De Milleian scale.The attack moved out at 8pm, already too far into the shortening April night. The route looped into the rough country but was said to be marked and posted with guides from the local clansmen. The slipshod logistics of the Highland Army was as usual; the troops were issued a sad little bannock, or oatcake, which constituted the entirety of their rations for the march. A 19th Century author reported
"I have beheld and tasted a piece of the bread served out in this occasion (preserved as a momento, supposedly, by a survivor's family)...It is impossible to imagine a composition of greater coarseness, or less likely to please or satisfy the appetite: and perhaps no recital, however eloquent, of the miseries to which Charles's army was reduced, could have impressed the reader with so strong an idea of the real extent of that misery as the sight of this singular relic. Its ingredients appeared to be merely the husks of oats and a coarse unclean species of dust, similar to what is found upon the floors of a mill."
The Highland Army, then, set off already hungry and tired, in a column of two elements. George Murray led off with the Highland clan units, followed by Charles, followed by the Duke of Perth with the Lowlanders.

The night march featured all the misery soldiers associate with such.
"The rear column did not keep pace with that in front, possibly in part owing to its members not being all so nimble of foot, nor so accustomed to moor ground and rough footing as the clansmen, though even of these several fell behind, some from exhaustion. Repeated interruptions were accordingly experienced to the advance of the leading column, by messages to halt or slacken pace."
Probably anyone with infantry service has been here. I certainly remember it with sour displeasure. I'm sure that the Scottish marchers also experienced what my paratroop contemporaries and I used to call the "accordian effect", in which the line of march remains motionless for long periods, tired soldiers falling half-asleep on their feet.

Finally the leading elements begin to move - and not just move, but hurry forwards so quickly as to force those behind them to race to catch up, cursing and stumbling in a rattle of gear and weapons. Until suddenly the head of the column stumbles to a halt again, causing the straggling column of running soldiers to close up and slam into them from behind, invariably to a cascade of hushed, violent curses and inventive bad language.

This nightmare continued through the early morning of the 16th when Murray, realizing that his force was still 2 miles from Balblair and less than an hour before dawn, ordered a countermarch. After a heated council with other officers, Murray concluded that there was not enough time to mount a surprise attack and that the offensive should be aborted.

Sullivan and some others in the Prince's retinue claim that Murray just buggered off without telling anyone. Murray claims that he went to inform Charles Edward Stuart of the change of plan, but missed the prince in the dark and instead of retracing his path back, Murray led his men left, down the Inverness road.

Whatever happened, the rest of the column kept going - this is what a modern infantryman calls a "break in contact" and counts as a truly mortal tactical sin. Supposedly Perth's detachment actually made contact with Government pickets before realizing they were unsupported and recoiling.

The countermarch was surely as miserable as the movement to contact, and as the eastern sky lightened many of the Jacobite soldiers were asleep where-ever they could find shelter or under their plaids if they could not. Others, starving, were searching the area for anything edible. The Prince and his coterie retired to Culloden House, where the Prince, apparently, was still fulminating about the preceding night's fiasco. The Highland Army still had no real strategic objectives or war plans, and the only fixed point was the Prince's determination to give battle where it was offered.Then up the road from Nairn came the sound of drums.Cumberland, well aware of the Jacobite position, ordered the camp struck at about 5am and set off towards the high moor around Culloden. It took the Government forces about three hours to march the eight miles between the Balblair campground and the Jacobite picket line 4 miles east of Drummossie. By 11 the two armies were within about 2 miles of each other, and the Government troops shook out from column of march into their line of battle; Cumberland had ensured that his march order enabled the army to form line by a simple series of left wheels.

The Jacobite troops, having formed somewhat earlier, had stood shivering in the driving rain and sleet that sliced down from the north-east.In case you haven't figured out by this time that the Jacobite Army was a fairly shambolic and amateur organization let me state for the record; the preparations for Culloden serve to emphasize how disastrous the Jacobite leadership was.

First, as mentioned above, the ground was as bad as it could have been for the highland tactics. The Highland Army had no real projectile weaponry - the clans had no significant domestic arms or propellant industry and still relied on steel - and no professional soldiery. Their "tactics" were medieval; a brief exchange of missile fire (including arrows!) followed by an all-in charge, a scuffle at handstrokes, and then the beaten side would break and flee.

The upper echelons of Jacobite command all had experience with 18th Century musket drill, but their experience was confined by the technical ignorance of their troops, and their own incapacity as trainers. The skill set of the typical Highland "officer" - and the Jacobite Army was an embarrassment of officers; many clan units would arrive with a handful of private soldiers (the impoverished "humblies", usually forced into service by their landlords) and an equal number of ensigns, lieutenants and captains, since every tacksman and landed gentleman felt he should have some rank - was confined to facing his men front and booting them forward.

So there was no real appreciation for the deficiencies of the Moor as battleground among the bulk of the Jacobite command. Even today, Reid (2002) claims that the terrain was no worse than that of Prestonpans and Fakirk, eliding the differences that weather, the inexperienced Government troops, and poor leadership of Cope and Hawley made on both earlier occasions.

The second endemic problem was an almost complete lack of overall command and control in what the Jacobite army DID have for top level leadership. The Prince for all his pretension had neither experience nor competence and the "command" of the Army devolved onto two men who refused to accept the authority of the other; Murray and O'Sullivan. Often at cross-purposes, their performance on the 16th was as disastrous as it had been for the campaign that preceded it.About the same time that the Government forces finished deploying Murray, who was the nominal commander of the right wing, exercised his concern about the effect of the projecting wall of the Leanach "enclosure" (a private field, as differentiated from the common moorland) to his right front by moving his right flank units forward in a left oblique. This had the effect of extending the Jacobite line and skewing the facing to its left. In fact, Murray may have intended just that, seeing the possibility of a traffic jam on his right and a quicker movement to contact to the left front.

But in his usual fashion he neglected to inform anyone else, and the resulting confusion in the Jacobite center and left helped decrease what little control the Jacobite command had over their troops.

Cumberland saw this movement and immediately extended his right. He also saw the potential for using the enclosures to turn the Jacobite right and dispatched several mounted units and the Government Highland battalion (held out of the battle line for fear of a blue-on-blue) to move to the southwest. These movements were carried out quickly and effectively and had the desired result, an object lesson in the difference between the two sides.

At some time around noon the Jacobite artillery opened fire, the Royal Artillery responded and a brief - something between ten and twenty minutes worth - artillery duel ensued. The combination of solid roundshot, small calibres and sodden ground meant that each cannon probably killed or wounded a man per round or less; 20 or so Government troops and perhaps 50-70 Jacobites. But this was the first exposure the Highland Army had to cannon fire and they didn't enjoy it.

The Clan Chattan is said to have boltered forward first but the remainder of the right followed in a mass. The center and left surged towards the Government lines but the distance and the fire shock of the infantry volleys and artillery grapeshot (a nasty ping-pong ball sized antipersonnel round) tore the Jacobite center-left to pieces before they could come within fifty yards of the Government line.

The Jacobite right had a shorter distance to charge and fewer shots to endure. The impact of their arrival at handstrokes disrupted two battalions; Barrel's 4th Foot and DeJean's 37th Foot. The two units lost 31 killed and over 200 wounded out of some 800 present, and were temporarily combat-ineffective. But again the lack of Jacobite leadership failed the hard-fighting clansmen. Instead of shoving out and trying to roll up the center of the Government first line the clan troops piled up in the pocket they'd hacked.Cumberland pushed his reserve in and sealed the breach and the regulars were able to fire into a mass of bodies too dense to miss.
"We marched up to the enemy, and our left, outflanking them, wheeled in upon them;" wrote an officer of the 8th of Foot (Wolfe's) later: "...the whole then gave them 5 or 6 fires with vast execution, while their front had nothing left to oppose us, but their pistolls and broadswords; and fire from their center and rear, (as, by this time, they were 20 or 30 deep) was vastly more fatal to themselves, than us."
It is hard to say how long the right-flank clan units stood this awful fire. It can hardly have been more than ten minutes or so - at two volleys a minute there would not have been a man standing after half an hour. Certainly within a quarter of an hour it must have been over and the shattered remnants of the Jacobite right fleeing with the rest of the army.The Jacobite reserve, what little there had been, had either been pulled back to overwatch Hawley's mounted troops (who, much to the frustration and fury of their junior officers, had turned the flank and rear of the Jacobite army but halted in dead ground to observe the outcome of the meeting of the battle lines) or committed in vain attempts to stem the rout. When Cumberland yoicked his cavalry forward there was little the Jacobite army could do. The French units did well, retiring in order (and very likely saving Charles the Bonnie from capture, worse the cess to him...) and the Lowland troops made a good retreat south, but the pursuit of the Highland units down the road to Inverness was a savage and merciless business.

The Outcome: Decisive Government grand tactical victory and strategic victory.

The Highland Army fell apart on the 18th April 1746. Cumberland's troops savaged the Highlands that summer, and while Charles Edward flitted around the Isles disguised as a woman, among other things, until September his partisans were beaten like drums whenever they appeared. The Bonnie Prince finally scarpered off from Arisaig in a couple of French ships. He never returned and died in Rome forty-two years later a beaten drunk whose only legacy was a schoolyard's worth of bastard kiddies.The decisiveness of Culloden enabled the Hanovers to do what they had not dared after the Rising of 1715; rip out much of the "Scots" idiosyncrasy of the Highlands and Scotland in general. Even much official correspondence substituted "North Britain" for "Scotland". Episcopalian clerics had to swear loyalty to the Crown, clan chiefs were stripped of their judicial and military power over their followers; many lost their lands, and the highest lords lost their lives for their Jacobite ambitions.The wearing of tartan and similar clan badges was banned from everyone in Scotland except as a uniform for officers and soldiers in the British Army.

It had taken forty-five years, but the Act of Union had become a living law.

The Impact: To say that the long-term impact of Culloden was positive is to take a comfortably long view. For the supporters of the Georgian dynasty, Tories across Britain and those Scots whose fortunes were tied to the Hanoverians, obviously, the rewards were immediate. Yes, the long term incorporation of Scotland into Great Britain benefitted both cultures, producing a nation that became the colossus of the 19th and first half of the 20th Centuries.

But for the next decades, in the Highlands, and for the humblies who formed most of the clan regiments at Culloden, the immediate impact was terror, starvation, arrest, often dispossession, occasionally death, and the passing of what had already become a tenuous way of life. For the reality is that much of the clan system had passed or was passing; the Jacobite cause promised at best a faint hope of betterment. After the disaster on Culloden Moor the end was sure to arrive, and in the most bitter fashion.Culloden is really not all that different from Plassey and Isandlwana; the "natives" in this one have pink hides (or at least pink somewhere under the grime...) but the factors that led to the one-sided butchery on Drumossie Moor are much the same. On the one side you had a mess of feudal incompetence, technical and tactical incapability and general Stuart schlamperi. On the other, the genius for ruthless killing and military thrashing of hapless natives that made the British the Huns of the globe until 1945. Their methods were barbaric, really, but these barbarians brought the streetlight, the timetable, and the tea tray, and they came to stay. The natives would just have to get over it, or die.Ironically, a guerrilla campaign in the Highlands might just have succeeded in obtaining the clan chiefs what they wanted. But it wouldn't have gotten Charles "Bonnie Prince" Edward the throne, though, and that was all he was about. So Culloden is just another entry in the ledger of poor military decisions made for political reasons, and a reminder that for the weak and the poor there is no honor to be gained in standing up for a "fair" fight. All fights are about who is standing on the ground at the end, and to challenge a superior enemy in conventional battle is worse than to invite destruction; it practically ensures destruction and is the act of a fool.And for all that his name is still remembered I doubt that the shade of the royal fool in question is pleased with having never managed to become more than the Prince of the Shortbread Tins.


Leon said...

Another great article Chief.

Publius said...

Very nice, indeed. You should do this for a living, Chief.

Big Daddy said...

Nice wrap up of a nasty battle. As a possible touchline tattle, it's worth noting that Prestonpans did produce a nice piece of pipe music, "are ye waukin Johnny Cope" immortalized by a chapter in George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan in the rough.

FDChief said...

BD: Great pipe tune, terrible lyrics - pure shortbread tin.

And I agree that the Fraser piece immortalizes "Johnnie Cope" as only he can.

EGrise said...

Thanks, FDChief! Much enjoyed!

Don Francisco said...

Great article again chief. I've read much about Culloden and the '45 campaign over the years, and there is so much to say about this campaign, but I like your drawing attention to the issue of incompetence, both in strategy and in the conduct of the battles. It always struck me as the most unlikely of campaigns; how did a largely unpopular revolt poorly planned, funded and executed manage to get as far south as Derby? Far more powerful armies from North of the border never got further than Yorkshire and Lancashire!

The tempatation for many scholars has been to talk up the Jacobite clansmen as some sort elite shock troops; whereas I have always found it more satisfying that the govt forces were just even more incompetent than the Jacobites. Fortunate for them they had more resources to call on.

FDChief said...

DF: My assessment of the march to Derby is that the Jacobites managed it by basically ignoring the military problem presented by Wade. They bypassed him - mind you, he wasn't exactly doing much to force the Jacks to fight or flee - and made for London. It was an all-or-nothing throw. If Charles hadn't been bullshitting; if there HAD been a genuinely dangerous insurgency ready to throw in with the Highland Army they MIGHT have taken the capital in a coup-de-main, forced George to run for it, abdicate, or die and managed a Stuart restoration.

In all honesty, though, I doubt it. The Government had a pretty decent-sized garrison defending London, Ligoner and Wade were closing in, and the Jacobite force was at the end of its logistical tether. The whole move south was a triumph of Charles Bonnie Edward's royal fantasies over military reality.

And the clansmen were "natives", like the Hadendowa swordsmen of Omdurman or the Zulu amabutho of Isandlwana. Like most tribesmen they were hardy men of their hands, inured to an outdoor life and familiar with weapons (many of them) from a young age. On their own terms they were formidable, and a regular Army commander who underestimated their capacity to do damage to formed troops if they were allowed to come to grips would be nastily surprised, as were Cope and Hawley. Their own clan leaders realized that their best game was ambush and raid and recommended to the Jacobite higher not to parade them onto open terrain where their vulnerability to projectile weapons would be exposed.

They are colorful and "romantic", but they really were a tactical relic by 1745.

And I personally wouldn't give the Government forces all that much stick. Cope's force, a largely green organization, was routed by a disorganized, misdirected Jacobite attack that was masked by fog and drizzle. Had the Jacks done what they planned I'd opine that Cope would have had a 50-50 chance of doing a Culloden on them.

Hawley was a complacent idiot at Falkirk and his troops paid for it. But you note that the Government forces withdrew in good order (other than the routed cavalry on the left...) and the Jacobites were the ones pushed out of their trenches around Stirling Castle.

And I really didn't discuss the naval actions, in which the Royal Navy did a terrific job of cutting the Jacks off from their French sugar daddy.

So overall I'd say that the Government forces had nothing to hang their heads about.

Don Francisco said...

Never thought the govt forces in quite that way before, v interesting. As ever you manage to get something new out of seemingly familiar and well trodden material.

One final thought from me, on the subject of the cultural impact of the clearances. The '45 had a nasty impact on the clans, but the clearances were moslty as a result of changes in the economic and political climate, as a consequence of the Act of Union and the start of the industrial revolution. But such is the cultural impact of Culloden that it has overshadowed the economic/political issue - it's only been in recent years that similar clearances in the Lowlands have been explored by scholars.

FDChief said...

DF: One of the (to me) most pernicious bits of shortbread is the connection between the Jacobite defeat in '45 and the Clearances. Your point is correct; the clearances were the result of a whole collection of social, economic and political changes that had already gone a long way towards killing the "old" clan system by the mid-18th Century.

I seriously doubt whether a restored Stuart kingdom would have had much, if any, effect on the Clearances. The clan lands were barely capable of supporting an agricultural society before the population increases brought about by the introduction of things like vaccination and better hygiene. Once those set in the tradeoff of crofters for sheep was going to happen. It was harder for the people but easier on the land, and the soil doesn't listen to romantic bullshit.

Interestingly, I think that of the two, Preble's "Highland Clearances" was the worse of his two best-known works. He really did eat the shortbread there, and historians have had to work hard to dig the truth out from the bottom of the tin.