Moray Coast


Lord Murray


four up and two down


Lament for Culloden

The lovely lass o’Inverness
  Nae joy nor pleasure can she see;
For e'en and morn she cries, 'Alas!'
  And aye the saut tear blin's her e'e:
'Drumossie moor, Drumossie day,
  A waefu' day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
  My father dear and brethren three.

'Their winding-sheet the bluidy clay,
Their graves are growing green to see;
And by them lies the dearest lad

  That ever blest a woman's e'e!
Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord,
  A bluidy man I trow thou be;
For monie a heart thou hast made sair,
  That ne'er did wrang to thine or thee.
(Robert Burns 1759 – 1796)

BY Wijke Ruiter

“The last major battlefield on British soil” In a tourist guide you’ll find this description of  Culloden Moor, marked on the tourist map with two crossed swords, meaning “historic battlefield”.
Nothing special - at the first sight - for the unsuspecting foreign visitor to Scotland. A visitors-centre with a parking place, restaurant and souvenir shop; all set for a warm welcome to loads of tourists.
In the back of the visitors-center an exhibition immediately attracts the attention, even the children's. It’s the story about the Jacobites and their Rise; the Prince and the final battle.
And just at the moment the children's interest wanes – which lets face it can be quick – there’s another room with weapons, swords and shields; revival of interest assured!

There's even a little cinema to interpret the story. The visitor centre itself,  is much like any other that we find interpreting Scotland's History. Perhaps there's a factory somewhere churning these out.

Leaving the building you’ll enter the battlefield itself. A vague uneasy feeling descends. . Normally outside a museum there’s your own world again; a street with the matching noises; but this is different, your about to step in to a stark reminder of a terrible day in British history. As you make your way in to the battlefield, you cant help wondering why the visitor centre is there at all. For with the help of the boards and plaques that are there the moor can tell it's own story.

On the left a cottage catches the eye. It’s the Lennach Cottage. The wounded where brought there; a field hospital of the 18th century. Surgery, amputations in the worst conditions you can imagine. .

Looking about the field you see a grassy plain, a red and yellow flag, a path leading up. Then, wandering around the field the vague feeling grows stronger, there’s something strange around; the atmosphere. The children wrapped in silence.
You’re caught in an eternal sadness rising from the grass.  As if the soil itself tells the story.
There are memorial stones, names of the clans, graves of men fighting for their freedom.
It's over 255 years since the battle. Yet the past seems to reach out and capture your emotions. On the road, nearby a car goes by and your back in 2002. It's strange to see the cars rushing past in the  modern world outside..
Horrible things have happened here; beyond every imagination. And more…it tells about a lost dignity, a lost culture, a lost society, a lost people. This must be more than just another “historic battlefield”.

And it is. It’s the nations emotion.
Like Holland has its eighty years war; every Dutch schoolchild can tell you about it, every Scot must have been brought up with Culloden.

What happened?

On April 16th 1746 two armies met at Culloden Moor, known then as Drummossie Muir, some 6 miles from Inverness.
It was the army of Highlanders, the Jacobite Army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
The so called pretender to the throne who claimed the English and the Scottish crown. The army had made its way to Culloden after a largely successful campaign  in to England -which reached Derby. But argument and indecision led to the decision to turn for home in endless confusion,
5000 men only, the others were occupied with other missions, or had not yet returned from their families, taking the opportunity of a well-deserved rest.

The other army was the Hanoverian Army of the English King George II – led by the Kings son, Duke of Cumberland.
It was well equipped, armed with heavy cannon and the new, lethal bayonet. They far outnumbered the Highlanders being 9000 strong.

The battle was over in under an  hour; 1000 to 1500 Highlanders were dead on the field, and about 700 were taken prisoner; and the Duke was sure of his victory.
He could have had returned home then, as a conquering Hero, the darling hero of the English nation. He would have received his medals and gifts poured in to express the gratitude of the boroughs and towns. But he had butchery in mind.
After the battle an -absolute needless- horrible massacred began; Hanoverian soldiers had orders to kill the wounded left on the field. No one was to be spared. Wounded Highlanders were mutilated before being finished off. They say every human hides a beast, somewhere deep down, well here’s an example.
Those hidden Hanoverian beasts exploded together with permission of their leaders, in a gruesome mass hysteria. Giving rein to indescribable butchery of the wounded.
According to Hanoverian propaganda the Scots were a bunch of half savages, not evolved primitive axe men; with no culture or social system at all. In contrast to the feudal system of the English Kings; a model of a civilized, modern society.

King George’s fight against the unknown

After this horrible day the pitiless suppression of a proud nation burst in full violence.
King George fought the “rebels” in his own way; not exactly like an
enlightened despot, but with harsh terror on a prostrated population. Whole villages were burned to the ground, cattle were stolen; thousands of crofters were turned off their land.
But not only physical force was used.  Hereditary jurisdictions were abolished; the patriarchal authority of the clan chiefs, and the entire chain of loyalty that depended on them were blown away.
Speaking Gaelic was simply forbidden, as was wearing the kilt.

What was so frightening to the King then?
The Highland clan-culture was far more democratic and developed than the English feudal system. It was a system of consultation. Politics and philosophy are equal in this society. All clan members were trained in freethinking, deliberation of every situation the clan had to face. The “think tanks” and brainstorming sessions of our modern company-management in an ancient form. 
Conquering and suppression carry feudal systems; the King simply owned the land and everything that's on it, even the people.

King George tried to wipe out a social system that he neither  understood nor wanted to.

The King however should have known, even in this 18th century, that you can terrorize people, try to oppress a nation, but you can never suppress a way of free thinking, of philosophizing; proper to the Scots.
This was the strength and resilience of the cut down and wrecked Scottish society; which came to flourish and the end of the 18th century. The Scots managed themselves; as they always had done.

The Highland Army before the battle.

As we know the Jacobite Army had returned from a campaign through England, relying on support of English Jacobites. The Prince was convinced he could get that support during his invasion, and would be crowned as King of England and Scotland.
The Scots however were only interested in their own King in their own country. It was a campaign of disappointment, although the battles they fought were won.
The Army returned at Glasgow New Years day 1746. The men were tired of warfare; the season of planting and sowing waited, many went home.

For the Prince’s most reliable men and trusted friends, like Lord Murray -the prince’s lieutenant general-, it was obvious that Scotland would have its autonomy. And the Prince would become their King. The English had to be expelled from Scottish ground.
The Highlanders would retire in the mountains, fighting guerrilla warfare, something in which the Scots were specialized.
But the Prince, advised by an Irishman, Lord O’Sullivan preferred to fight a set piece battle, which would bring him fame, leading to glorious victory, instead of prolonged pin pricking the enemy.
Guerrilla war needs patience, time and labour; Charles Stuart had none of that.

No food enough for such amounts of men.

The duke of Cumberland moved up by the North East Lowland coastal route, by Aberdeen and then round to Nairn. When the Prince had decided to engage the enemy he could not wait. Not for a lack of patience, but the Hanoverian Army had a growing advantage of men and guns.
The Highland Army was suddenly mustered to Culloden Moor; all contingents summoned to come fast for the final battle awaited. The men came as fast as they could, and arrived worn out after long days marches.
And some of the strongest clans were yet to arrive. Just over a half of the army was present.

There was a huge lack of food; the whole allowance per man for this date (April 15th) was one small loaf of bannock – hardly good enough for pigs’ food.
The Prince neglected first rule of warfare: don’t let the men fight on an empty stomach.
The night before the final battle the Highlander Army was hungry and exhausted, not a good preparation for such an important battle.

A night-march on Nairn.

During the late afternoon of April 15th 1746, news was brought to Culloden House -the Prince had retired there – that the English troops were on their way from Nairn to engage the Highlanders.
This turned out to be false alarm, and it was learned that Cumberland’s men were celebrating the birthday of their fat young commander with rest, good food and plenty of brandy.

A splendid opportunity for a night attack, surprising the enemy in camp, while they were sleeping off the effects of entertainment.
The night was dark and misty; excellent scene.
But it’s hard to carryout such a nocturnal attack with tired and hungry men. Some of them left the ranks to find some food. The main body of the army was unable to keep up with the clans on the first column of line; the rear was too far back. At one o’clock in the morning the Army had to have a halt. Slowly it became obvious that the ‘night’ attack would take place after sunrise,  marching at this speed.
The Army went back to Culloden House, utterly exhausted, with gnawing hunger and depressing disappointment as a new added emotion.

 Day-light began to appear; they got back at Culloden fairly early in the day, so that most of the Highlanders had three of four hours rest; but a  considerable number of the clansman, through their great want of sleep, meat and drink slipped away to Inverness; while others simply dropped by the roadside to seek sleep.

The fatal day.

Neither Charles nor any of his officers fully expected Cumberland to advance on that fatal Wednesday morning, April 16th. The Prince now wanted to withdraw, avoiding battle, an opinion shared by Lord Murray, but O’Sullivan felt it was too late and every move to withdraw would result in a pursuit by the enemy.
Food was still virtually non-existent.  Charles was deeply concerned about the state of his men; hungry and fatigue a few hours before the inevitable battle.
However, in spite of all this discouragements, active preparations were made for a pitched battle at Drummossie Moor.
Lord Murray said: “Between ten and eleven o’clock we drew up in the moor, a little back from where we had been the day before. I told Mr. O’Sullivan, who was placing the men in order of battle, that I was convinced it was the wrong ground. But he said the moiré was so interspersed with moss and deep ground, that the enemy’s horse and cannon could be little of advantage for them.
We still had time to cross the Cairn Water and take up the ground which two guides had viewed the day before; for our right was within three hundred paces of the water and the banks were very steep, which was nothing to hinder Highlanders, and our horse could have crossed a small ford a mile further back.  Cluny was still marching as quickly as possible, in an effort to join us with above four hundred men, and many others were hourly expected… So I am persuaded that that night, or next morning we would have been near two thousand stronger, and had we passed that water, in all probability we would not have fought that day. The Duke of Cumberland had encamped that night upon the moor, which very possibly he might, we would have had a fair change next day”.

The Battle

Space forbids a detailed account of the battle itself. But a few major mistakes have to be pointed out.
Both the Prince and O’Sullivan ignored Lord Murray’s advice to withdraw over the Cairn Water, waiting for a far better moment to start the battle, there were other errors made. While placing the men in order of battle O’Sullivan insulted the MacDonald’s by placing them left of the line, instead of the right wing, as was their place..
For an outsider a mere detail, but so great an insult sinks deep into Highland hearts and the MacDonald’s were very incensed.
On the other hand The Atholls, and in particular the Cameron's (who always fought at the left side) were unwillingly given the ‘right hand of the field’, an honour enjoyed by the MacDonalds ever since it was first granted to them by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314 – because Angus Og, Lord of the Isles, once sheltered Bruce in Uist when he was a fugitive).
Second error was that O’Sullivan wanted to handle the Highlanders like the orthodox armies of Europe and ordered the clans not to charge. During such charges however, the Scots Army was at its strongest.
This mistake was fatal; the entire army endured a cannonade for over an hour and great lanes were cut in the ranks – the Roy Stuarts, among the Robertsons, Genbuchat’s half of the Gordons and the Glenmoriston Grants-.
In short the entire right wing of the Highland front line suffered casualties as the  grapeshot mowed them down.
The object in delaying to charge was to force the Cumberland to leave his ground and attack. But that did not happen; the cannonade was murderous enough.

As the destructive fire continued, the Highlanders on the right grew clamorous to be led to the attack, and Charles at last saw the necessity of giving orders to charge.
Needless to say that this last desperate charge, however brave and brilliant performed, was absolute useless, The Highland Army was already too scattered and too weak.
They reached the first line of the English, an enemy they could feel but could not see amidst the cloud of smoke. In sheer desperation and blind recklessness they rushed upon the first line, broke through and destroyed it. Attacking the second line, the English gave a terrible fire and most of the clansmen were brought down.

After this final charge the Prince observed with the deepest concern the defeat and flight of his frontline-clan regiment. He had seen piece of marvellous –though fatal – bravery. During the last charge, Keppoch – the Chief of Clan MacDonell of Keppoch - had been advancing alone while shouting “Mo Dhia an do thriegh Clan mo chinnidh mi?” (“Have the children of my tribe deserted me?”). Shortly afterwards Keppoch fell mortally wounded.
The Prince was pretty impressed by this and while standing on the small eminence where he stood, seeing all this misery, he would have vain imitated this sublime example of Keppoch.
O’Sullivan, however, after trying every form of entreaty in vain, forcibly turned the head of the Prince’s horse and dragged him away.
Charles Edward Stuart had left the battlefield; the glory was Cumberland’s.

The Hanoverian soldiers began their horrible slaughter; blackening this day in British history.
The simple people of England exulted at the Kings son –nick-named the Butcher -; Handle wrote:” See the conquering hero come”.
But what was his merit? Did he deserve all that?  Had Cumberland fought the devil single-handed?
Wijke Ruiter

Lochiel, Lochiel! beware of the day
When the Lowlands shall meet thee in battle array!
For a field of the dead rushes red on my sight,
And the clans of Culloden are scattered in fight.

They rally, they bleed, for their country and crown;
Woe, woe, to the rider that tramples them down!
Proud Cumberland prances, insulting the slain,
And their hoof-beaten bosoms are trod to the plain.