What is a Jacobite? The final chapter.
In Part 3 of “What is a Jacobite” for the Gathering of the Blogs, we left off with the Scots retreating from the fields of Culloden Moor. However the Battle was not done.
WARNING: Graphic scenes of violence will be described in this section. History isn’t always pretty, and this chapter of it was down right ugly.
The Duke of Cumberland, henceforth referred to as Butcher Cumberland or The Butcher, wasn’t happy with an overwhelming victory. As we rushed off the field we tried to pick up any wounded we could find. The Butcher would have none of that and ordered his troops to fire upon on us. A bayonet early in the battle had wounded me and during our retreat I took a musket ball to my right leg, below the hip. I had a hard time moving, let alone running. A couple of my clansmen stopped to help me, one of them was shot dead as bent over to pick me up. They pulled me along for a while, but the Brits were getting closer to us. I advised my clansmen to leave me, I was slowing them down to much and we could see the Brit soldiers killing all that where in their way. I could not be held responsible for the loss of life of any more of my clansmen.
I lay on the ground pretending to be dead. A unit of Brit soldiers went running past intent on the Jacobites fleeing. As I lay on the field I was able to see Charles Fraser not too far from where I lay. Charles Fraser was the Lieutenant colonel of the Fraser regiment. The Butcher was riding across the field when he stopped to see this wounded soldier. Fraser lifted himself up onto one of his elbows and looked the Butcher in his eye. The Butcher must have taken offense at this because he told one of his officers, “Wolfe, shoot me that Highland scoundrel who thus dares to look on us with so insolent a stare.” Wolfe was a Major, and commanded one of the brigades. He replied to the Butcher that his commission was at his royal highness’s disposal, but his honor was not and he would never consent to becoming an executioner. Other officers on the field also refused to commit such an act of butchery. The soldiery was not so honorable and a private soldier, on the Butchers command, shot Fraser dead in front of him.
After that incident I used the confusion on the field to hide in one of the enclosures that surrounded the battlefield. I could see other wounded doing the same thing. I hid there as I helplessly watched other wounded laying on the field asking for help. The Butcher entirely neglected them. He then had the troops go through the field and kill all the wounded they could find. Soldiers were ordered to club their muskets and dash the brains out of the wounded until they exhibited no signs of life. This order was actually fulfilled with much zest. This went on the rest of the day. During the night I gathered up what strength I had and made my escape. I tried to bring some of the other wounded Highlanders with me, between the fatigue, hunger and their wounds they were not strong enough. And I had to abandon them, to this day I hold myself responsible for the deaths of at least 10 Highlanders because I couldn’t get them off of the field.
I was able to find some other wounded that where fleeing in the dark, and we made our way to Ruthven, in Badenoch. It was now five days after the battle and word had spread of what was going on. The Brits had followed retreating Highlanders back through Inverness. No quarter was given in the pursuit. Any persons wearing Highland dress, with out regard to age or sex, including several inhabitants of Inverness whom curiosity had led towards the scene, were massacred. In Inverness the Butcher had not only military prisoners but several gentlemen supposed to be disaffected to the government apprehended as well. The gentlemen were shut up with common prisoners and were denied the use of bedding. Several ladies were seized and kept in durance with the common guard. The wounded prisoners were still being neglected; some of these men probably would have recovered if treated. They died of their wounds. They were also denied the rites of Christian burial under the hands of the Brits.
A unit was dispatched from Inverness the day after the battle to put to death any wounded they could find in the buildings adjoining the field of Culloden. The Butcher’s orders were fulfilled with a sickening and cruel enthusiasm. When the Brits would find surviving wounded, instead of dispatching of them where they lay, the soldiers would drag them out onto high parts of the field and poured volleys of musket fire into them. Parties searched the houses in the neighborhood of the battle. Many years after the battle I spoke with a MacLeod that states he saw seventy-two Highlanders killed in cold blood. He stated that there were some officers that spared a few of the wounded, including himself. He also told of a small hut used to house sheep in bad weather along side the battlefield. The Brits found some wounded soldiers in there. They secured the door and set to lighting the shelter on fire, including the wounded inside. He estimated that thirty to forty men died in this shelter.
After the battle, nineteen wounded Jacobite Officers unable to keep up with the main army took refuge in a nearby plantation. They spent two days weltering in their own blood with out any medical attention or assistance, except what they could get from the steward of the plantation. The steward, at the risk of his own life, tried to alleviate any suffering of the Highlanders. The Brit Soldiers tied the Highlanders with ropes, threw them into a cart and took them to a wall a short distance from the Culloden House. Dragged out of the carts, and thrown up against a wall. From only two to three yards away the Brits opened fire on the unfortunate gentleman. The Highlanders where instantly killed. Again, the solders took their muskets and dashed out the brains of the corpses to ensure that none-survived. One of the gentlemen survived and was nursed back to health by sympathizers to tell the tale.
We broke off and made our ways home after hearing these tales. This did not do anything to decrees the barbarism of the Butcher. He stationed himself near Fort Augustus, in the center of all the insurgent districts. From his headquarters he encouraged all manners of havoc and outrages acts that could be enacted upon the populous. The military decree usurped the local law and the Brit soldiers became judge, jury and executioner. The local bishops and clergymen, some even loyal to the crown, pleaded to the Butcher to take control and end the atrocities committed. The countryside was being laid to waste. Houses plundered and burnt, livestock being driven away. When they found someone they perceived as a Jacobite they would hunt them down and kill them and their families. Whole families where shut up in their houses and burnt to death. Many women and children perished of cold and hunger due to being driven from their homes and forced to live in clefts of the rocks or caves. We were forced to survive on the blood and offal of livestock that was slaughtered to feed the soldiers. We scavenged for what ever we could find to eat and survive. The Brits kept coming and killing.
At this point I was forced to flea to Ireland. There was no safety left for us in the Highlands and many a Highlander, Jacobite or not, fled for fear of our lives. From Ireland I gained passage on a ship with some other clansmen and worked our way to the colonies in America. There I started my life over, however I am still a wanted man. I spend many days trying to keep a step ahead of the British army. They may not know who I am, but it doesn’t matter. Today I fight again, this time I fight for the French with their native allies in their war against the British here in the America’s. If the French loose, I fear for what might happen to the lives of my wife and children.
This concludes, “What is a Jacobite”. Hopefully you found the information educational. Thank you for taking the time in reading these long and probably dry posts. All information stated is taken from multiple corroborating sources. Again the Story of Seamus MacPhail is a pieced together first person tale made up of actual stories from three different Highlanders at Culloden.
Scotland, never forget.