24 Jul 2009 - Culloden, Scotland
Culloden is only a short distance outside of Inverness and after knowing the history of this battle is one of those places that I wanted to see and to try and understand. The visitor centre does a good job of doing that. Demonstrations of weapon use by re-enactors, well presented information panels, artefacts and the excavated debris of war brings it all home to you. The visitor centre also provides audio guides which trigger by GPS as you wander over the battlefield.
The battle was fought because of Jacobitism, the political movement dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Jacobitism was a response to the deposition of James II and VII in 1688 when he was replaced by his daughter Mary II jointly with her husband and first cousin William of Orange. The Stuarts lived on the European mainland after that, occasionally attempting to regain the throne with the aid of France or Spain. The primary seats of Jacobitism were Ireland and Scotland, particularly the Scottish Highlands. In England, Jacobitism was strongest in the north, and some support also existed in Wales.
Many embraced Jacobitism because they believed parliamentary interference with monarchical succession to be illegitimate, and many Catholics hoped the Stuarts would end discriminatory laws. Still other people of various allegiances became involved in the military campaigns for all sorts of motives. In Scotland the Jacobite cause became entangled in the last throes of the warrior Clan system, and became a lasting romantic memory. This was not a battle, as some think, between Scotland and England.
Culloden - Battlefield marker
The battlefield is scattered with these markers that indicate the dispositions of the various forces and descibes the events of the day.
In 1744 there were French plans to invade England and British troops were withdrawn from Europe to await invasion. Channel storms devasted the invasion fleet allowing Britain to redeploy those troops back to Europe. Scotland only had a few garrisons of untrained troops.
Culloden - Red flags mark the British lines
On the other side of the moor blue flags mark the Jacobite positions.
When Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland in July 1744 many in England did not appreciate the significance of it. Government control was gradually lost in Scotland and the British army was eventually recalled. The Jacobites advanced as far as Derby but doubts by the Prince's commanders and the non arrival of promised French troops led the Jacobites to return to Scotland.
Culloden - The Keppoch Stone sign
The Keppoch Stone marks the spot where Alisdair MacDonel was wounded leading his clan. He was moved from the battlefield but died later. In 1881 memorials and headstones were erected to mark the mass graves of fallen Jacobite soldiers. They lie on either side of an early 19th century road which runs through the battlefield. In the rear blue flags indicating the Jacobite lines can be seen.
Culloden - The Keppoch Stone with government lines ahead
Here is where the clan leader was hit, still some distance from the government lines, marked by the red flags.
After much manoeuvre and campaigning by both sides to gain the advantage, the two armies met on 17th April 1746 at Culloden moor. Even as dawn broke though, battle was not inevitable and there was still time for the Jacobites to withdraw. The battlefield was marshy and did not suite Jacobite tactics. The Prince however was determined to fight.
Culloden - Memorial Cairn
Since 2001, the site has undergone topographic, geophysical, and metal detector surveys in addition to archaeological excavations. Interesting finds have been made in the areas where the fiercest fighting occurred on the Government left wing, particularly where Barrell's and Dejean's regiments stood. These two regiments bore the brunt of the charge. Pistol balls and pieces of shattered muskets have been uncovered which indicate close quarters fighting, as pistols were only used at close range and the musket pieces appear to have been smashed by pistol/musket balls or broadswords.
Culloden - Clan Donald mass grave memorial
Finds of musket balls mirror the lines of men who stood and fought. Some balls appear to have been dropped without being fired, some missed their targets, while others are distorted from hitting human bodies. It has also been thought possible to identify where the Jacobites or Government soldiers fired certain rounds, because the Jacobite forces are known to have used a large quantity of French muskets which fired a slightly smaller calibre shot than that of the British Army's Brown Bess. Analysis of the finds confirms that the Jacobites used muskets in greater numbers than has been thought.
Culloden - Culwhiniac enclosure
This enclosure is on the government left flank, the Jacobite right. Government troops stationed themselves in here for most of the battle and when the Jacobite army collapsed into retreat, were ambused from the flank. The red flags in the distance give an idea of the position of this enclosure on the battlefield.
Culloden - The battlefield from the roof of the visitor centre
Though Forbe's headstones mark the graves of the Jacobites, the location of the graves of about sixty Government soldiers is unknown. The recent discovery of a 1752 silver coin from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, may however lead archaeologists to these graves. A geophysical survey, directly beneath the spot where the coin was found, indicates the existence of a large rectangular burial pit. It is thought possible that the coin was dropped by a soldier, who once served on the continent, while he visited the graves of his fallen comrades.