History of the Stewarts | Battles and Historic Events
If you are a Stewart Society Member please login above to view all of the items in this section. If you want general information on how to research your ancestors and some helpful links - please look in background information.
If you have a specific question you can contact our archivist.
A position was selected by Secretary O’Sullivan, Prince Charles’ adjutant general, on which the Jacobite Army would give battle to Cumberland’s troops. O’Sullivan chose a stretch of open moorland enclosed between the walled Culloden enclosures to the North and the walls of Culloden Park to the South. Lord George Murray and other senior officers pointed out the unsuitability of such open land in view of Cumberland’s powerful artillery. The Prince refused to change O’Sullivan’s choice.
On 15th April 1746 the Government forces were camped at Nairn, where they celebrated the Duke of Cumberland’s birthday. On that night the Jacobite army attempted a night attack on Cumberland’s camp. The attack was a failure, with men falling far behind and losing themselves in the boggy country. With dawn breaking the Jacobites were not near enough to launch their attack and were forced to return to Culloden, exhausted, discouraged and hungry. This failure exacerbated the split between Prince Charles and some of his most important commanders. Many of his troops went off to search for food or to sleep.
The Government army rose early on 16th April 1746 and began its approach march to Culloden, moving onto the moor in four columns. The troops were well fed and rested, confident and determined. The Argyll Militia, comprising Campbell Highlanders, and Kingston’s Light Horse reconnoitred in advance of the army.
In addition to the shortage of supplies and the exhaustion of the men, the Jacobite Army was beset with difficulties. Important sections of the army were in the North pursuing Loudon’s government forces. Many of the men who had left their regiments to forage and sleep failed to hear the summons. The waning fortunes of the rebellion had brought out stresses within the army. A dispute between the Clanranald and Glengarry sections of the Clan McDonald had caused many to return home. The remaining MacDonalds were upset that they had been allotted the left flank of the army rather than the right. In the event they could not be persuaded to charge.
The first line of the Jacobite Army formed with the Atholl regiments on the right flank, then the Camerons of Locheil, Stewarts of Appin, Frasers, Mackintoshes, Macleans and Maclachlans, Farquarharsons, Stuarts and the Macdonalds. The second line comprised the various mounted regiments, much depleted by the wear on the horses of the long campaign, the regular regiments of Scots and Irish foot from the French army and a few further clan regiments. Murray commanded the right, Perth the left and Drummond the centre. Placed in the centre and on each flank was the motley collection of artillery possessed by the army, largely manned by scratch teams of inexperienced gunners. Once assembled the Jacobite Army numbered around some 5,000 - 6,000 men.
At around midday the Government Army arrived on the field of battle, after marching some 10 miles across the moorland from the camp at Nairn, the regiments forming three lines. The army then advanced in line to bring itself closer to the rebels and halted.Two regiments were brought from the third into the first and second lines to extend the flank on the right, and the dragoon regiments stationed on the outside.
Cumberland’s regiments stood from right to left: in the front line: Pulteney’s, the Royal Regiment, Cholmondeley’s, Price’s, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Munro’s and Barrel’s: in the second line: Campbell’s, Battereau’s, Howard’s, Fleming’s, Bligh’s, Sempill’s and Ligonier’s. Blakeney’s regiment formed the third line alone.
At 1pm the last battle to be fought on British soil began with artillery fire from the Jacobites. Over the next twenty minutes, Cumberland´s superior artillery battered the Jacobite lines, while Charles, moved for safety out of sight of his own forces, waited for the Government forces to move. Although the marshy terrain minimized casualties, the morale of the Jacobites began to suffer. Several clan leaders, angry at the lack of action, pressured Charles to issue the order to charge. The Clan Chattan was first of the Jacobite army to receive this order, but an area of boggy ground in front of them forced them to veer right so that they obstructed the following regiments and the attack was pushed towards the wall. The Jacobites advanced on the left flank of the Government troops, but were subjected to volleys of musket and artillery fire.
Despite this, many Jacobites reached the Government lines, and for the first time a battle was decided by a direct clash between charging highlanders and formed redcoats equipped with muskets and socket bayonets. The brunt of the Jacobite impact was taken by only two Government regiments—Barrell´s 4th Foot and Dejean´s 37th Foot. Barrell´s regiment lost 17 men and suffered 108 men wounded, out of a total of 373 officers and men. Dejean´s lost 14 and had 68 wounded.
Major-General Huske, who was in command of the Government second line, quickly organised the counter attack. Huske´s ordered his men to form a five battalion strong horseshoe-shaped formation which trapped the Jacobite right wing on three sides.
On the Jacobite far left wing were the Macdonald regiments. Some accounts have it that these regiments refused to charge when ordered to do so, due to the perceived insult of being placed on the left wing. Even so, due to the position of the Jacobite front lines, the left wing had a further 200 metres of much boggier ground to cover than the right. When the Macdonalds charged, their progress was much slower than that of the rest of the Jacobite forces. Standing on the right of these regiments were the much smaller units of Chisholms and the combined unit of Macleans and Maclachlans. Every officer in the Chisholm unit was killed or wounded. As the Macdonalds suffered casualties they began to give way. Immediately Cumberland then pressed the advantage, ordering two troops of Cobham´s 10th Dragoons to ride them down. The boggy ground however impeded the cavalry and they turned to engage the Irish Picquets instead.
With the collapse of the left wing, Murray brought up the Royal Écossais and Kilmarnock´s Footguards who were not yet in the battle. However, by the time they had been brought into position, the Jacobite army was in rout. The Royal Écossais exchanged musket fire with Campbell´s 21st and commenced an orderly retreat. Immediately the half battalion of Highland militia commanded by Captain Colin Campbell of Ballimore ambushed the Royal Écossais. In the encounter Campbell of Ballimore was killed along with five of his men. The result was that the Royal Écossais and Kilmarnock´s Footguards were forced out into the open moor and were rushed at by three squadrons of Kerr´s 11th Dragoons. The Irish picquets covered the Highlanders retreat from the battlefield and prevented a massacre. The Royal Écossais appear to have retired from the field in two wings. One part of the regiment surrendered upon the field after suffering 50 killed or wounded, but their colours were not taken and a large number retired from the field with the Jacobite Lowland regiments.
This stand by the Royal Écossais may have given the Prince the time to make his escape. From this point on the fleeing Jacobite forces were split into two groups: the Lowland regiments retired in order southwards, making their way to Ruthven Barracks; the Highland regiments however were cut off by the Government cavalry, and forced to retreat down the road to Inverness. The result was that they were a perfect target for the Government dragoons
Jacobite casualties during the battle have been estimated at about 1,500–2,000 killed or wounded. Cumberland´s official list of prisoners taken includes 154 Jacobites and 222 "French" prisoners (men from the ´foreign units´ in the French service). Added to the official list of those captured were 172 of the Earl of Cromartie´s men, taken after a brief engagement the day before near Littleferry. In striking contrast to the Jacobite losses, the Government forces suffered 50 dead and 259 wounded, although a high proportion of those recorded as wounded are likely to have died of their wounds. The only Government casualty of high rank was Lord Robert Kerr, the son of William Kerr, 3rd Marquess of Lothian.
Following the battle, the Jacobites´ Lowland units headed south, towards Corrybrough and made their way to Ruthven Barracks, while their Highland units headed north, towards Inverness and on through to Fort Augustus. There they were joined by Barisdale´s Macdonalds and a small battalion of MacGregors. The roughly 1,500 men who assembled at Ruthven Barracks received orders from the Prince to the effect that all was lost and to "shift for himself as best he could". Similar orders must have been received by the Highland units at Fort Augustus. By 18 April the Jacobite army was disbanded. Officers and men of the units in the French service made for Inverness, where they surrendered as prisoners of war on 19 April. The rest of the army broke up, with men heading for home or attempting to escape abroad.
Some ranking Jacobites made their way to Loch nan Uamh, where the Prince had first landed at the outset of the campaign the year before. Here on 30 April they were met by the two French frigates—the Mars and Bellone. Two days later the French warships were spotted and attacked by the smaller Royal Navy sloops—the Greyhound, Baltimore, and Terror. The result was the last real battle in the campaign. During the six hours in which the ferocious sea-battle raged the Jacobites recovered cargo on the beach which had been landed by the French ships. In all £35,000 of gold was recovered along with supplies. Invigorated by the vast amounts of loot and visible proof that the French had not deserted them, the group of Highland chiefs decided to prolong the campaign. On 8 May, nearby at Murlaggan, Lochiel, Lochgarry, Clanranald and Barisdale all agreed to rendezvous at Invermallie on 18 May. The plan was that there they would be joined by the what remained of Keppoch´s men and Cluny Macpherson´s regiment (which did not take part in the battle at Culloden). However, things did not go as planned. After about a month of relative inactivity, Cumberland moved his regulars into the Highlands. On 17 May three battalions of regulars and eight Highland companies reoccupied Fort Augustus. The same day the Macphersons surrendered. On the day of the planned rendezvous, Clanranald never appeared and Lochgarry and Barisdale only showed up with about 300 combined (most of whom immediately dispersed in search of food). Lochiel, who commanded possibly the strongest Jacobite unit at Culloden, was only able to muster about 300. The following morning Lochiel was alerted that a body of Highlanders was approaching. Assuming they were Barisdale´s Macdonalds, Locheil waited until they were identified as Loudoun´s Locheil´s men thendispersed without fighting. The following week the Government launched punitive expeditions into the Highlands which continued throughout the summer.
Following the battle, the Prince made his way towards the Hebrides with some supporters. By 20 April he had reached Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland. For five months he criss-crossed the Hebrides, pursued by Government supporters and under threat from local lairds who were tempted to betray him for the £30,000 upon his head. During this time he met Flora Macdonald, who famously aided him in a narrow escape to Skye. Finally, on 19 September, the Prince reached Borrodale on Loch nan Uamh in Arisaig, where his party boarded two small French ships, which ferried them to France, He never returned to Scotland