Sunday, 29 June 2014
A Battle 'Royal' Is Looming.
The Duke of Cumberland spent more than four weeks in Aberdeen, where amongst other things, he set out to improve his infantry's proficiency in the use of the bayonet against the Highlanders, whose supremacy with broadsword and targe had been a decisive factor in the Jacobite victories until now. He left Aberdeen on 8 April, 1746 and marched to Cullen by the 11 April via Turriff and Banff. At Cullen he was joined by Lord Albemarle with the advanced guard. Cumberland was now in command of a highly trained force of 9,000 men, well fed and well equipped, and following them closely along the coast were ships of the Royal Navy, warships, transport and supply ships. This was a formidable government force, and at Cullen, Cumberland was only twelve miles from a Jacobite force of 2,500 men commanded by the Duke of Perth and his brother, Lord John Drummond and which was positioned on the far side of the River Spey. Important for the Jacobites to hold, Cumberland expected them to make a stand, but for some reason the 'Army of the Spey' had retreated and allowed the Hanoverian forces to continue to advance. This was a grave error which would have an important outcome in the days to come. Cumberland's army crossed the Spey, and by 14 April they had reached Nairn, where the Duke of Perth's rearguard were just leaving as the Duke of Kingston's Horse and the Campbells were entering from the other side of town. There was a running fight in which the Jacobites suffered some casualties. Charles now knew that Cumberland had crossed the Spey, and on the 14 April he rode out of Inverness at the head of his troops with pipers playing and colours flying to set his headquarters at nearby Culloden. His army began to strengthen with the addition of Lord George Murray's detachment, Locheil and his Camerons arriving from Achnacarry, some of Glengarry's men back from Sutherland and the the Duke of Perth returned with the 'Army of the Spey', a title surely now redundant. The Jacobite army camped in the grounds of Culloden House or on the moor nearby. With Cumberland only ten miles away, a battle now seemed certain, and Charles in his wisdom had chosen Culloden and Drummossie Moor for the encounter. Lord George Murray had been accused (unfairly) of previously keeping his Athollmen out of harm's way in earlier battles, and he now insisted that they should be placed on the right wing of the line. This outraged the Macdonalds, who since the time of King Robert the Bruce, had regarded the right of the line as theirs. The Prince agreed to give the right of the line to Lord George, as he knew that the latter resented not being consulted on the choice of ground. These jealousies and mistrust between the Jacobite officers would have a further bearing on the outcome of events. Lord George Murray rode out to survey the proposed site of battle. The moors of Culloden and Drummossie were fairly flat moorland, bounded on the east by the River Nairn and hills rising beyond the river. To Lord George it was apparent that this would be the ideal site for regular troops, supported by cavalry and cannon, ideal for the well drilled, well equipped army of Cumberland now only a few miles away. The Highlanders favoured hilly ground for their historic charge with broadsword and targe. As it stood, the Highlanders would be at a great disadvantage. Lord George sent two of his officers to make a reconnaissance of the higher ground beyond the river. They reported back that the ground there was more suitable for the Highlanders's way of fighting, where heavy casualties could have been inflicted on the government army. This argument was probably dismissed by O'Sullivan, and the battle would be where the Prince had decided, on Culloden Moor. Lord George Murray later wrote that "There never could be more improper ground for the Highlanders". One must ask why Murray and other senior Jacobites did not overide the Prince and O'Sullivan - they had done so before. Lord George dismissed O'Sullivan when he said that the latter "had forty-eight hours to display his skill and did it accordingly". However, news came through that Cumberland would not engage in battle that day, but would remain where he was in order that he and his troops might celebrate his 25th birthday which happened to fall on 15 April. Battle might come after the celebrations - a reversal of the natural order of things.