Culloden Battlefield

This morning, we departed our lodgings in Dunkeld, central Scotland and then embarked on a trip to Inverness as set out below.

First, just a couple of miles north to Ossian’s Hall close to the Falls of Braan entailing a pleasant riverside walk which culminated in a superb view of the Falls.

Falls of Braan from Ossian’s Hall

Falls of Braan

Next, north for a short visit to the country town of Pitlochry.

Floral themed art: lady golfer at Pitlochry.

Next, a long drive north to Culloden Battlefield which is the site of the last battle on British soil between the Hanoverian forces of General Cumberland and Bonnie Prince Charlie who were, in fact, cousins.

Culloden Battlefield

By spring 1746 Cumberland was ready and moved his army towards the Jacobite stronghold at Inverness. Charles elected to stand and fight at Culloden Moor, a barren, treeless, windswept, heather clad bog. Charles and Cumberland were cousins.

On April 15th., 1746 Charles drew up his forces. However, Murray was concerned with the terrain and favoured a surprise night attack on Cumberland’s forces who were celebrating the Duke’s 25th birthday. Charles agreed to the strategy. That night Murray led his men across country to avoid Government scouts. As the darkness closed in it became evident that the night march was too ambitious. There was too little moonlight to navigate rivers and walls, the line became dangerously stretched and many became lost. At 1 hour before dawn the Jacobite troops were ordered to return to Culloden-in an exhausted and dispirited state. A full-scale battle was now inevitable.

The opposing armies assembled at mid-morning on April 16th 1746.The armies faced each other some 400 meters apart but the two lines were not parallel. Charles had some 6000 men while Cumberland commanded some 8000. However, Charles took comfort from the famous Highland Charge to redress the imbalance.

The ground in front of the Jacobites (on the left) was boggy. They were joined by handfuls of French and Irish troops-which were held in reserve.The Jacobites front line comprised Clansmen clustered around their respective chiefs, e.g. MacDonalds.

Ground conditions at Culloden Battlefield.

Unfortunately, the Jacobites were not battle ready being tired, hungry and in poor spirits. Food had not arrived from Inverness and some men had left the field to scavenge for food. However, they still retained the memory of the successful charge at Prestonpans.

The Government redcoats comprised 7 infantry regiments from England and Scotland. There were 500 men in each regiment standing 3 ranks deep. Each regiment was named after its respective Colonel, e.g. Barrel.

The Redcoats stood in well-ordered ranks, each man issued with 24 rounds of ammunition and a warming tot of brandy.

At 1.00pm Charles orders his cannons to launch the battle. In response Government guns commence repetitive firing. the Jacobites stand whilst cannonballs tear into the ranks. No order is given to advance. Finally, Jacobites on the centre and right broke ranks and charged. At this stage Government gunners switch from cannon to more lethal grapeshot which produces small pieces of metal hitting directly the advancing Highlanders.The effect is devastating. The Charge degenerates into a shambles. A bunching occurred because Highlanders on the right flank had less distance to travel over dry ground whereas those in the centre drifted to the right to benefit from the firm ground and were hemmed in by a stone wall which separated the two opposing lines.Both groups charged towards the south end of the Government line which resulted in chaos. On the left flank the Highlanders moved more slowly; they had further to travel and became stuck in the boggy ground. The MacDonalds struggled to make any headway.

Barrel’s regiment took the full force of the Highland assault but stood fast. the Highlanders were packed into an unstoppable mob taking punishment from grapeshot and musket fire. The Highlanders crashed into Barrel’s regiment and now had the advantage; they could use their broadswords and dirks to awesome effect. Barrel’s soldiers were hacked down and the line smashed open. Then the Highlanders attacked Munro’s regiment alongside that of Barrel.

The momentum of the charge had been dissipated. However, despite the Highlanders initial success the Redcoats did not turn and run. Cumberland moved up forces from the second line to reinforce the struggling front line. This was the pivotal point of the battle.The Jacobite command had no control over its troops. Highlanders pitched into the gap in the redcoat ranks and straight into the musket fire from the soldiers of the second line. The Highlanders became surrounded by Redcoats who were in a horseshoe shape and the resulting slaughter is estimated to have killed/wounded about 700 in just 2 or 3 minutes.

The Highlanders retreated the way the had come-straight into a hail of musket fire from Government forces which had moved up behind the wall on the left.

At this stage Charles is persuaded to leave the field and Cumberland commences his retribution for which he was awarded the nickname “butcher”. No mercy was shown. Any injured clansmen on the field were shot, clubbed or bayoneted to death. About 200 Clansmen were buried where they fell. So ended the last battle on British soil.

Painting of Battle.

Weaponry in Visitor Centre.

Explanation of soldier’s personal effects

Next to the nearby Clava Cairns prehistoric site.

Clava is a prehistoric cemetery which dates from around 2000 BC albeit on a site previously used by prehistoric peoples for domestic purposes. The cemetery site experienced two stages of use:

  1. Around 2000 BC a row of up to five burial cairns were erected of which three remain.
  2. Around 1000 BC the site was re-used and the small Kerb Cairn built.

Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns

The North-Eastern cairn is a passage grave intended for  a single body, presumably of a high status person. The passage is aligned to the mid-winter solstice. Originally completely closed.The Cairn is surrounded by a graded stone circle, which is actually an ellipse.

The Central Cairn is a Ring Cairn, not a passage grave, which was positioned so as not to obstruct the view between the N.E. and S.W. cairns.It was never roofed whilst the now empty interior was originally filled with rubble.

The South-Western Cairn is also aligned to mid-winter sun. When first constructed was substantially higher and completely roofed.

Finally, we drove into Inverness for some shopping and a meal before retiring to our lodgings for the night.

Inverness Castle