And Now For Something Completely Different

This barren, flat, piece of scrubland, about five miles east of the centre of Inverness, saw what would turn out to be the final set piece, hand-to-hand battle to take place, up to the present time (no promises post-Brexit), on British soil. 

And no, this part of the battlefield has not been given over to a giant’s golf course,…

…the flags you will have already spotted being crucial to one’s understanding of the site.

Backtracking slightly, inscribed paving stones underfoot…

…and signage on the walls mark this as the official entrance.  Behind, the visitor centre is well worth a visit, but make sure you go round the chronological depiction of the battle in the right order!  Because it’s chronological.  Doh!

This is the site of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on a single day, 16th April 1746, and was the final act of the Jacobite Rising that had begun the previous year.  The Government forces of King George I, commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, decisively defeated the Jacobite Army of the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, in a single hour, leaving hundreds of dead scattered across the battlefield we are about to explore.

The battlefield is now part grass and part scrub, as we saw earlier, and will see again as we look around; at the time of the battle this was common grazing ground, the gorse and scrubland a much more recent invader.  It is also, as this notice reminds us, a war grave.

The giant flags we shall encounter show the lines of the two armies as they faced each other before battle commenced; red flags for the 7,800 men of King George, blue, away in the distance, for the 5,250-strong Jacobite Army.

This first red flag marks the left, southern, edge of the King’s Army and thus the battle,…

…the brick tablet beneath, one of many, a few of which I have photographed,…

…telling us that it was Cobham’s Dragoons and the Argyleshire Men who held the left of the Duke of Cumberland’s line – oh yes, Scotsman fought Scotsman on this battlefield.

To our right, the line of red flags stretches north towards the trees,…

…an information board on the way explaining that it was here that much hand-to-hand fighting took place – we shall return to this board later so I suggest you read it then.  Just beyond the small rise thirty yards away,…

…this stone, inscribed with ‘Well of the Dead’, supposedly marks the spot where the Chief of the MacGillivray Clan fell during the battle.

The MacGillivrays were staunch Jacobite supporters, part of Clan Chattan, an alliance between several influential clans that included Clan Mackintosh.  Not all the clansmen in Clan Chattan were Jacobites, however; at the time of the Jacobite rising in 1745, the chief of Clan Mackintosh was serving with the Black Watch, part of the King’s Army, and as such could hardly raise men of his clan to fight against himself!  This task was left to his wife, but as she could not lead men in battle, she asked the chief of the MacGillvrays to lead Clan Chattan at Culloden.  It was MacGillivray who led the Highland charge, breaching the first line of the King’s men but faltering as the second and third ranks blasted them with cannon and musket.  MacGillivray was badly injured, retreating a short distance, and even finding the strength, so the story goes, to lead a wounded and parched drummer boy to a spring on the moor (hence the Well of the Dead), before he died.

At this point we begin to head west, crossing the battlefield towards the blue flags in the distance from where the Jacobites attacked, encountering more stone markers, placed alongside a 19th Century track that wends its way across the battlefield (an early tourist route, perhaps), and a Memorial Cairn that we shall take a closer look at in a minute.

Unlike the first we saw, however, these are grave markers – or at least they purport to be.  This stone marks the burial place of the dead of Clans MacGillivray, MacLean & MacLachlan, and the Athol Highlanders, the latter raised as a feudal levy, not as a clan, and thus, from all accounts, prone to desertion.

And the mounds behind are mass graves, this one containing the bodies of the dead of Clan Stewart of Appin,…

…the West Highland branch of the Stewarts, although very much a clan in their own right (we know that Clan Stewart of Appin lost 90 killed and 65 wounded during the Jacobite campaign – how many of these were killed at Culloden is unclear).

Clan Cameron.  In reality I personally doubt if there are many remains still here – tourist trips were soon being arranged to the site of the battle from all over England in the years following the battle, and the bones of many a dead clansman were plundered for souvenirs, the mounds of the Jacobite mass graves easily spotted – in contrast, the ground where the bodies of the King’s men were buried was levelled and the exact position is still unknown.  But maybe, bearing in mind technological advances, not for too much longer.

We shall take a closer look at the Memorial Cairn in a moment,…

…as there are more stone markers to be seen,…

…both of these…

…marked Clan MacKintosh.

The 350 men of Lady Mackintosh’s Regiment suffered heavily at Culloden, losing most of their officers and large numbers of men.

And then there are the Mixed Clans,…

…a number of stones,…

…marking the burial places of men whose clans or identities could not be ascertained, presumably.  Cannon and grapeshot cause terrible injuries.

The Memorial Cairn was erected in 1881 and has been placed midway between the opposing forces at the start of the battle,…

…the same year that the stone markers marking the Jacobite mass graves were also put in position.

Continuing west,…

…we pass yet another stone marker,…

…this one inscribed Clan Fraser (actually the Frasers of Inverallochy, who supplied 300 men fighting under the title of Lord Lovat’s Regiment),…

…before we arrive at the blue flags and the Jacobite lines.

The board explains that the men on the right of the Highland charge, roughly where we are, were able to move forward quickly, but in the centre and on the left boggy conditions underfoot slowed their advance.

The blue flags stretch away to our north,…

…and to the south,…

…this the view the Jacobite Army would have had as they began their charge, the Memorial Cairn and the red flags of the Government troops visible in the distance.

Above & below: More of the brick tablets, the lines of battle shown on each one with the Clan’s position, and the number of men they provided, marked.  This one shows the position of the two hundred men of John Roy Stewart’s Regiment (also known as the Edinburgh Regiment).

The positions of the Appin Regiment; the Stewarts of Appin and the MacLarens,…

…and Clan Cameron, positioned near the right flank of the Jacobite Army.

It was from this area that the Jacobites fired the first cannon shots of the battle, the Government cannons responding in kind.

On the extreme right of the Jacobite lines, five hundred of the Atholl Men were positioned, marked by the three white lines on the above tablet,…

The final blue flag on the far right of the Jacobite Army.

Above & below: Looking north along the Jacobite lines.

As we cross the battlefield, following in the footsteps of the attacking Jacobites, the red flags of the King’s men looming larger (the first one we encountered on arrival on the far right),…

…we reach the point where the Jacobites began firing their muskets as they charged.  A little further on, where the people are grouped in the previous shot,…

…we are back at the first information board, which is worth reading at this point if you didn’t do so earlier.

The final board, the line of red flags now well behind us,…

…marks the beginning of the end for the Jacobites.  In a single hour the King’s Army had inflicted casualties of between 1,500 & 2,000 on the Jacobites, while suffering about fifty dead and 239 wounded of their own.

The restored cottage mentioned on the final information board.

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6 Responses to And Now For Something Completely Different

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    Thank you for the detail of a site so close to my home. I did some work with National Trust for Scotland education officer when this was all at planning stage….materials for teachers…
    Very evocative to walk the battlefield …..
    On a different note the Cairn on the Arras bypass is modelled on the one at Culloden. I am pretty sure you will know this but you didn’t mention it…..have a good weekend. It was Snowing at Culloden today!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks Morag – I hope I did the place some sort of justice. Must have been interesting to be involved with. And you have added to my knowledge – between you and me (don’t tell anyone) Arras is probably the area of the British front line, along with Loos, that I know the least about and have only visited a couple of times (Loos, so far, never). I think I knew about the Arras cairn but certainly had not put two and two together.
      Much as I would love to see the battlefield under snow, I reckon I probably picked the best week – we’d have never got there in the first place in the snow!

  2. Margaret Draycott says:

    Once again M an interesting report and not one we normally would expect from you. Heard of the battle of Culloden but never knew anything of it that’s now been corrected. Nothing changes really thousands of men slaughtered and what?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Never call me predictable M. Not that you did. Glad you found it of interest and now know a bit more about this important battle – not that I knew anything like as much as I now do before we visited. Nothing, as you say, changes.

  3. Sid from Down Under says:

    Most enthralling and now we know “what you were up to in dark clouded Bonnie Scotland” and knowing you have wide-raging interests your post does not surprise me!

    I found it mind-boggling to comprehend from way back then (horseback and hand to hand) the King’s Army inflicting 1500-2000 casualties (how many killed?) in just one hour. It must have been a hand to hand slaughterhouse.

    To be honest, I had to check on who were the Jacobites and discovered Jacobitism took its name from Jacobus and stemmed from the Revolution of 1688. So once again thank you MF for adding to my knowledge (PS I do know about Moondyne Joe)

    • Magicfingers says:

      Morning Sid! Historian and archaeologist Tony Pollard says “For around 20 minutes, this area, which was perhaps 30 metres by 30 metres, was really the worst place on earth.” And he is probably right. Very interesting walking the site – I learnt plenty myself. But I never had any intention of explaining more about the Jacobeans – I figured anyone interested enough would do as you have and look it up!
      Moondyne Joe????????? No, I haven’t looked him up!

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