Culloden Battlefied, Inverness, Scotland

This afternoon, I am posting information on Culloden Battlefield in the Highlands of Scotland.

Culloden (Drumossie Moor) lies a few miles east of Inverness. It was here, on April 16th 1746, that occurred the last battle on British soil. This battle represented the culmination of a series of military adventures starting with the 1690 Battle of the Boyne in Ireland driven by the House of Stuart to reclaim the thrones of Scotland and England which were vacated in 1688 when King James II of England ( James VII of Scotland) was forced into exile by the Protestant establishment owing to his Roman Catholic leanings.

The opposing armies were led by Prince William, Duke of Cumberland ( British Government) and Charles Edward Stuart aka ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ (Jacobites). The Duke of Cumberland was the youngest son of reigning monarch, King George II, whilst Charles was the grandson of the deposed James II/James VII. Both commanders were of a similar age, Cumberland 26 years and Charles 25 years. They were also cousins.

The Prince ( Charles Edward Stuart) had landed at Glenfinnan on the West of Scotland the previous August with a small band of supporters and limited resources. He gathered an army of, mainly, Highland clansmen which initially had stunning successes against the incumbent red-coated Hanoverians. Eventually, however, lack of resources and poor advice forced the Jacobites to retreat into the Scottish Highlands at a time when the Hanoverians were re-grouping under the Duke of Cumberland.

The two armies met on April 16th 1746 at Culloden. The actual site was wet and boggy and thus unsuitable for the style of fighting favoured by the Highlanders, particularly their famous frontal charge into the ranks of the opposing Redcoats. Other facts pertaining to the Jacobites:

  • The force extended to about 5000 men but cavalry and artillery was under resourced.
  • By the time of the battle the rank and file soldiers were unpaid, unfed, unclothed and unhoused.
  • During the night prior to the battle the Jacobites had made an unsuccessful night attack on Cumberland’s force.
  • On the battle day there was dissension in the ranks caused by friction as to which clans should hold the cherished position on the right.

In contrast to the Jacobites ( ‘Jacob’ is Latin for James) the Government forces were well resourced, disciplined and motivated notwithstanding previous defeats.

Key facts concerning the Duke of Cumberland’s force:

  • A total of 9000 men of which 2400 were mounted.
  • It is possible that the force contained as many Scots as the entire opposition. Clan Campbell fought on side of the Government.
  • Foot battalions were equipped with iron ramrods facilitating three volleys per minute.
  • A new bayonet drill requiring each infantryman to engage the enemy to the right, not front.

The battle commenced about 1.00pm with poor communication within the Jacobite forces at the outset. The Jacobite foot soldiers proceeded to charge ( with swords and shields) across wet terrain ( see image below) into a wall of fire from the Government forces equipped with latest military technology.

This unequal battle lasted about one hour after which the Jacobites were in full retreat. Jacobite losses totalled about 1000 whilst Government dead amounted to about 50 with many more injured.

The National Trust Visitor Centre at Culloden provides an excellent exposition of events leading up the battle and the battle itself.

Surface conditions at Culloden Battlefield, Scotland

Video clip of battlefield


Memorials to defeated clansmen at Culloden Battlefield, Scotland

Be Sociable, Share!