Thursday, March 31, 2005


What is a Jacobite? Part 3

For today’s Gathering of the Blogs I am going to do part 3 of “What is a Jacobite?” Today’s tale will be different as this will be my own story* and not a recount of past battles. Today I tell my story and what started to be a long journey to here in the Colonies.

The fifth Jacobite rebellion.

Back in 1744 Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart, The Young Pretender), son of James VIII with a significant amount of help from the French, who did a fine job of covering up their involvement after, started working on the next Jacobite rebellion. Charles met with a group of Franco-Irish privateers from the north of France. The privateers, with some Jacobite connections, convinced Charles to raise the Jacobite banner. The French privateers felt that landing in Scotland would distract the British navy away from the merchant ships, which was their income. These privateers where encouraged by the French Government, as it would help give them an advantage in Europe. The French even offered to help and planned an invasion of Britain with 10,000 French regulars. However these troops never saw the English soil due to spies and poor weather again spoiling the plans.

Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland in July of 1745. His first meeting with Scottish at Cladach a’Phrionnsa (the Princes’ beach) was not what he expected. Macdonald of Boisdale told the Prince that there would be no support for this rebellion and he should go home. Charles responded by saying, “I am come home, sir.” The rest of the clansmen were also discouraging. These men were Jacobites, but they were also realists. Charles secured as a supporter Cameron of Lochiel, who had been pessimistic, by gruffly telling him that he could stay home and learn of the Prince’s fate in a newssheet. Shortly after that the rebellion started to flourish. The British government still disregarded Scotland as a threat. They had left the country mostly undefended. Even the Black Watch was moved to the south in anticipation of the previously mentioned French invasion. The Black Watch were Scottish Highlanders loyal to the British government raised to patrol Scotland. They originally were meant to only serve in Scotland. Clan Campbell, strong militarily and allied to the Government, were weakened due to internal organizational decisions by their Chieftain.

Runners were sent with the fiery cross out amongst the Jacobite Clans. The fiery cross was a signal used in the highlands to summon clansmen to gather for war. It was two sticks fastened together with the vertical bar wrapped in cloth and oil. It was then lit on fire. When men would see this signal, they would meet at their clans designated area. It was because of this signal that the Scots were able to raise a fairly large force quickly.

I was a tannist, an advisor, in my sept of Macintosh of Clan Chattan. So when I saw the cross, I grabbed my basket hilted claymore, targe, pistol and the musket I had taken off of an unfortunate member of the Black Watch during a raid. I met with my clansmen and we headed to meet with Bonnie Prince Charlie at Dunbar. We discovered later on that General Cope, of the British, had moved north to intercept us. However he received little help in Scotland and was reluctant to engage thinking we had vast superior numbers then we did. We finally engaged General Cope on the 21st of September 1745 at Prestonpans. We fought for no more then 15 minutes before the Brits broke ranks and ran off of the field. There were approximately only 2,500 men involved between both sides. However after this battle, Charles was now the master of Scotland.

Charles was able to gather more troops due to this victory and with a force of about 5,000 we invaded England. Lord George Murray had advised against this action, however Charles was sure he would receive massive support once in England. The support he hoped for wasn’t there. We only gathered around 200 more men to fight with us. London was in a panic that we were coming, and was calling troops back from overseas. On December 16th we reached Derby, about 130 miles from London. The promised French troops never arrived and word was that English troops from overseas had arrived. We were forced to retreat back to Scotland. Charles left behind around 400 men in Carlisle to garrison the town. When William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, arrived he hung the officers and the rest of the men where transported to the West Indies. On Christmas day we entered Glasgow and stayed there for ten days of much needed rest and food. On January 17, 1746 we again were able to defeat a Brit force lead by General Henry Hawley at Falkirk. After the battle Hawley blamed his men and executed 60 of them for cowardice.

We marched on toward Inverness. We rendezvoused with more troops at Culloden house about 4 miles east the town. We were starving at this point, down to eating a single biscuit or a small loaf of oatmeal bannock a day. The quality of the bannock was very suspect. There were insufficient supplies in Inverness to feed all the troops. The Prince and his generals had decided on a night attack on the British at Nairn. However about a third of our men were absent since they where out scavenging for food. After marching half of the night, the attack was going later then planned and Lord Murray decided to cancel it. So we were marched back to camp. That was on the evening of April 15th, 1746. That was two nights in a row we didn’t get much sleep and where marching. The next day, April 16th 1746, we were assembled on the most horrible fighting ground I had ever seen. It was over heard the Prince rejecting Lord Murray’s advise as to wear to establish our base, and the Prince choose this open moor. We were tired and hungry, exhausted by the march of the previous night. It had been two days since we had received a decent nights rest or had a decent meal. There were only about 5,000 of us, and the Brits, Led by the Duke of Cumberland had about twice as many.

Around one in the afternoon the artillery on both sides opened up on both sides. Our artillery was very ineffective. All of ours was small caliber and nothing exceeded a four-pounder. Most of our regular artillerymen had gone on looking for provisions and had not returned. So we had men that were unaccustomed to working with artillery running the cannons. However the Duke’s cannon were accurate and deadly. We were lined up near the right center. We wanted to charge, but the Prince refused to give the order. The cannon fire was tearing into our ranks, killing the clansmen as we stood there like targets. The wind started blowing into our faces and was accompanied by drifting snow. We’d had enough. Finally the command came to charge. I don’t know who ordered it, and I didn’t care. I was not about to stand there and wait for one of the Brit 8 pounders to take my head off. Shortly after we started the charge, what was left of the line followed us.

Due to bad direction we were bunched together in a dense crowd. The Brits where able to open musket fire, killing many a man before we hit their lines. I fired my musket in response. I don’t know if I killed a man or not, there was too much activity. I pulled my claymore and proceeded to charge again. I watched as the men ahead of me were cut down by musket fire, those that actually made it to the lines perished on the points of bayonets. We finally managed to break their first line. I watched as the Athol Highlanders were gunned down. My clansman and brother-in-law Argus Maclachlan was killed right before my eyes. I took a wound in the arm from a Brit bayonet; it wasn’t serious enough to take me out of the battle. The British troops used a new way of meeting the Highland charge, each soldier stabbed at the man to the right of those they faced directly, so their bayonet would pierce under the man's raised sword arm, and avoid the targe. It was all we could do to keep the pressure up.

The battle lasted for about 40 minutes. The Athol highlanders lost more then half of their men and officers; My Macintoshes lost all but a third of our men. Only three of our officers survived, and our leader, Macgillivray of Drumnaglass was killed as well. We realized that the battle was lost and started to retreat. We tried to save as many of our wounded as possible. The Brits however didn’t give us much of an opportunity. They started killing off any left on the field and continued to fire upon us as we fled. It was then that I took a musket ball to my leg.

Tomorrow I will go into the butchery and slaughter of the Highlanders and their troops.

*This story and the follow up for tomorrow is a pieced together compilation of three different soldiers that fought in Culloden. Their stories helped inspire my re-enacting alter ego.