Bonnie Prince Charlie; A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden


The victory of Falkirk brought but little advantage to Prince Charles, and dissensions arose among the officers; Lord George Murray being furious with Lord John Drummond for preventing the complete destruction of the English army, while Lord John Drummond severely criticised Lord George for the confusion which had taken place among his troops after their success.

Great numbers of the Highlanders, who had spent the night after the battle in plundering the English camp and stripping the slain, made off with their booty to the mountains, and the number of desertions was increased by the withdrawal of the greater part of Glengarry’s clansmen.

On the day after the battle the musket of one of the Clanranald clansmen went off by accident and killed the son of Glengarry. His clansmen loudly demanded life for life, and Clanranald having reluctantly consented to surrender his follower, the poor fellow was immediately led out and shot; but even this savage act of vengeance was insufficient to satisfy the Glengarry men, the greater part of whom at once left the army and returned to their homes.

After the battle the siege of Stirling was renewed; but owing to the gross incompetence of a French engineer, who had come over with Lord Drummond, the batteries were so badly placed that their fire was easily silenced by that of the castle guns. The prince, in spite of the advice of Lord George Murray and the other competent authorities, and listening only to his favourite councillors, Secretary Murray and Sir Thomas Sheridan, continued the siege, although on the 3Oth of January the Duke of Cumberland arrived in Edinburgh and took the command of the army.

Never had Scotland a more bitter enemy. Relentless and savage as General Hawley had been, his deeds were more than rivalled by those of the Duke of Cumberland, who was justly branded by contemporary historians with the name of “the butcher.” He was, however, an able general, of great activity and high personal courage.

After halting but one night in Edinburgh he set out at the head of his army to meet the enemy; but these did not repeat their tactics at Falkirk. Disgusted at the conduct of the prince in slighting their advice and listening only to his unworthy counsellors, Lord George Murray with all the principal military leaders held a consultation, and presented a memorial to the prince. In this they stated that, seeing the great numbers of Highlanders who had gone home, they were of opinion that another battle could not be fought with a chance of success, and therefore recommended that the army should at once retire to the Highlands, where a sufficient number of men could be kept together to defy the efforts of the enemy at such a season of the year, and that in the spring ten thousand Highlanders could be got together to go wheresoever the prince might lead them. Prince Charles was struck with grief and dismay at this decision, but as all the military leaders had signed it he was forced to give way.

The army at once blew up its magazines, spiked its guns, and marched for the north in two divisions with much confusion and loss of order. The Duke of Cumberland pursued, but was unable to come up to them, and halted at Perth.

Ronald, who had, from the time he returned to the army, again taken up his former appointment of aide de camp to Lord George Murray, had during this time tried his best to reconcile the differences which were constantly breaking out between that general, the prince, and the clique who surrounded him. It was a difficult task, for Lord George’s impetuosity and outspoken brusqueness, and his unconcealed contempt for Secretary Murray and Sheridan, reopened the breach as fast as it was closed.

Since the day when he had saved the prince from being carried off at Glasgow the latter had shown a marked partiality for Ronald’s society, and the latter had therefore many opportunities of intervening to prevent open quarrels from breaking out. The prince himself was frequently greatly depressed in spirits, and the light hearted gaiety which had distinguished him on the first landing was now fitful and short lived.

His disappointment at the failure of a campaign in which he had won every battle was deep and bitter. He had relied upon the aid of France, but no aid had come. He had been grossly misinformed as to the willingness of the Jacobites of England to take up arms in his favour; and although a portion of the Highlanders of Scotland had warmly embraced his cause, yet many on whom he had relied stood aloof or were in arms against him, while in the Lowlands he had found but few adherents.

So far from gaining ground, he was losing it. Numbers of the Highlanders had gone off to their homes. The retreat from Derby had completely chilled the enthusiasm of his adherents, while the waverers and time servers had been induced thereby to declare against him. The Duke of Cumberland’s army steadily increased, and even had the advice of the Highland chiefs been followed and the army dispersed to reassemble in the spring, the chances of success would have been no more favourable than at present, for now that the first surprise and panic were past England would put forth her whole strength, and would by the spring have an army assembled in Scotland against which the Highland clans, even if unanimous, could not hope to cope.

Ronald was perfectly alive to the hopelessness of final success. He had seen the British infantry at Dettingen and Fontenoy, and felt sure that although the wild Highland rush had at first proved irresistible, this could nor continue, and that discipline and training must eventually triumph over mere valour. When he and Malcolm talked the matter over together they agreed that there could be but one issue to the struggle, and that ruin and disaster must fall upon all who had taken part in the enterprise.

“I feel thankful indeed,” Ronald said one day, “that I am here only as a private gentleman risking my own life. I do not know what my feelings would be, if, like these Highland chiefs, I had brought all my kinsmen and followers with me into the field. The thought of the ruin and misery which would fall upon them would be dreadful. I fear that the vengeance which will be taken after this is over will be far greater and more widespread than that which followed ’15. All say that the Duke of Cumberland is brutal and pitiless, and the fact that we were nearly successful will naturally add to the severity with which the English government will treat us if we fall into their power. Had the enterprise been defeated at its commencement they could have afforded to be lenient.

As it is, I fear that they will determine to teach the Highlands such a lesson as will ensure their never again venturing to rise in arms against the house of Hanover.”

“And I don’t know that they are altogether to be blamed,” Malcolm said.

“I am not so young as I was, Ronald, and I see now that I was wrong in teaching you to be a Jacobite. It is all very well for men like Tullibardine, who knew the Stuarts on the throne, to fight to put them back again; but to your generation, Ronald, the Stuarts are after all only a tradition, and it is a sort of generous madness for you to risk your life to set them again on the throne of England. It cannot matter a brass pin to you whether James or George rules at St. James’s. It is not, as in the case of the Royalists in England in Charles’s time or of the Covenanters of Scotland, that a great principle is involved — a principle for which men may well risk their lives and all they hold dear.

It is a question of persons only, and although I may hold that by right of descent Charles Edward is Prince of Wales and rightful heir to the throne of England, that is no reason why I should risk my life to place him there; and after all it seems to me that if the majority in these islands determine that they will be ruled by the house of Hanover instead of the house of Stuart they have some right to make their own choice.”

“You argue like a philosopher, Malcolm,” Ronald said laughing, “and do not remind me in the slightest degree of the Malcolm who used to chat with me in Glasgow.”

“You are right there, lad. You see I was brought up a Jacobite, and I have been a soldier all my life, accustomed to charge when I was told to charge and to kill those I was told to kill; but I own that since I have been out now I have got to look at matters differently. The sight of all these poor Highland bodies blindly following their chiefs and risking life and all for a cause in which they have no shadow of interest has made me think. A soldier is a soldier, and if he were to sit down to argue about the justice of every cause in which he is ordered to fight there would be an end to all discipline. But these poor fellows are not soldiers, and so I say to myself, What concern have they in this matter? Their chiefs would gain honours and rewards, patents of high nobility, and additions to their estates if the Stuarts conquered, but their followers would gain nothing whatever. No, lad, if we get over this scrape I have done with fighting; and I hope that no Stuart will ever again succeed in getting Scotland to take up his cause. I shall go on fighting for Prince Charles as long as there is a man left with him; but after that there is an end of it as far as I am concerned, and I hope as far as Scotland is concerned.”

“I hope so too, Malcolm. When Scotland is herself divided, Ireland passive, and all England hostile, success is hopeless. The Stuarts will never get such another chance again as they had on the day when we turned our backs on London at Derby, and I hope that they will not again make the attempt, especially as it is manifest now that France has only used them as tools against England, and has no idea of giving them any effectual aid.”

Charles on approaching Inverness found it toughly fortified and held by Lord Loudon with a force of two thousand men. The prince halted ten miles from the town at Moy Castle, where he was entertained by Lady M’Intosh, whose husband was serving with Lord Loudon, but who had raised the clan for Prince Charles. The prince had but a few personal attendants with him, the army having been halted at some distance from the castle.

One evening Ronald had ridden over to Moy Castle with some despatches from Lord George Murray to the prince, and had remained there to dine with him. It was late before he mounted his horse. He was, as usual, accompanied by Malcolm. They had ridden but a short distance through the wood which surrounded the castle when a shot was fired, and almost immediately afterwards four or five men came running through the trees.

“What is the matter?” Malcolm shouted.

“The English army are upon us!” one of the M’Intoshes — for they were clansmen who had been sleeping in the wood — answered.

“They must intend to seize the prince,” Ronald said, “and will already have sent round a body of horse to cut off his retreat. Scatter through the wood, men, and do each of you raise the war cry of one of the clans as if the whole army were here. This may cause a delay and enable the prince to ride off. Malcolm, do you ride back with all speed to the castle and warn the prince of Loudon’s approach.”

The Highlanders at once obeyed Ronald’s orders, and in a minute or two the war cries of half a dozen of the principal clans in Prince Charles’s army rang through the woods, while at the same time the Highlanders discharged their muskets. Ronald also shouted orders, as to a large body of men.

The English, who had made sure of effecting a successful surprise, hesitated as they heard the war cries of the clans ringing through the woods, and believing that the whole of Prince Charles’s army were at hand and they were about to be attacked in overwhelming numbers, they retreated hastily to Inverness. No sooner had Ronald discovered that they had fallen back than he rode off to inform the prince that the danger was over.

He found Prince Charles mounted, with Lady M’Intosh on horseback by his side, and the retainers in the castle gathered round, broadsword in hand, in readiness to cut their way through any body of the enemy’s horse who might intercept their retreat. Charles laughed heartily when he heard of the strategy which Ronald had employed to arrest the advance of the enemy, and thanked him for again having saved him from falling into the hands of the enemy.

The English made their retreat to Inverness in such confusion and dismay that the affair became known in history as the “rout of Moy.”

The next morning, the 17th of February, the prince called up his army, and the next day advanced against Inverness. Lord Loudon did not await his coming. The panic of his soldiers two days before showed him that no reliance could be placed upon them, and embarking with them in boats he crossed the Moray Frith to Cromarty, where the troops shortly afterwards disbanded upon hearing that the Earl of Cromarty was marching against them with some Highland regiments.

The town of Inverness was occupied at once, and the citadel surrendered in a few days. The army, now in a barren and mountainous region, were deprived of all resources. Many ships with supplies were sent off from France, but few of them reached their destination; several being captured by British cruisers, and others compelled to go back to French ports.

The supply of money in the treasury was reduced to the lowest ebb, and Charles was obliged to pay his troops in meal, and even this was frequently deficient, and the men suffered severely from hunger. Many deserted, and others scattered over the country in search of subsistence.

In the meantime the Duke of Cumberland’s army was receiving powerful reinforcements. In February Prince Frederick of Hesse Cassel, with five thousand of his troops, who had been hired by the British government, landed at Leith. These troops were placed in garrison in all the towns in the south of Scotland, thus enabling the Duke of Cumberland to draw together the whole of the English forces for his advance into the Highlands.

On the 8th of April he set out from Aberdeen with eight thousand foot and nine hundred horse. He marched along the coast accompanied by the fleet, which landed supplies as needed. At the Spey, Lord John Drummond had prepared to defend the fords, and some works had been thrown up to protect them; but the English cannon were brought up in such numbers that Lord John, considering the position untenable, retired to Inverness, while the English army forded the Spey, and on the 14th entered Nairn, where some skirmishing took place between their advance guard and the Highland rear.

Prince Charles and his principal officers rested that night at Culloden House and the troops lay upon the adjacent moor. On the morning of the 15th they drew up in order of battle. The English, however, rested for the day at Nairn, and there celebrated the Duke of Cumberland’s birthday with much feasting, abundant supplies being landed from the fleet.

The Highlanders, on the other hand, fasted, only one biscuit per man being issued during the day. Consequently many straggled away to Inverness and other places in search of food. Lord Cromarty, with the regiments under his command, were absent, so that barely five thousand men were mustered in the ranks. At a council of war Lord George Murray suggested that a night surprise should be made on the duke’s camp at Nairn, and as this was the prince’s own plan it was unanimously agreed to.

Before, however, the straggling troops could be collected it was eight o’clock at night. Nairn was twelve miles distant, and the men, weakened by privation and hunger, marched so slowly across the marshy ground that it was two o’clock in the morning before the head of the columns arrived within four miles of the British camp, while the rear was still far away, and many had dropped out of the ranks from fatigue.

It was now too late to hope that a surprise could be effected before daylight, and the army retraced its steps to Culloden Moor. Worn out and exhausted as they were, and wholly without supplies of provisions, Lord George Murray and the other military officers felt that the troops could not hope to contend successfully against a vastly superior army, fresh, well fed, and supported by a strong force of artillery, on the open ground, and he proposed that the army should retire beyond the river Bairn, and take up a position there on broken ground inaccessible to cavalry.

The prince, however, supported by Sir Thomas Sheridan and his other evil advisers, overruled the opinion of the military leaders, and decided to fight on level ground. The Highlanders were now drawn up in order of battle in two lines. On the right were the Athole brigade, the Camerons, the Stuarts, and some other clans under Lord George Murray; on the left the Macdonald regiments under Lord John Drummond. This arrangement, unfortunately, caused great discontent among the Macdonalds, just as their being given the post of honour at Falkirk had given umbrage to the other clans.

At eleven o’clock the English army was seen approaching. It was formed in three lines, with cavalry on each wing, and two pieces of cannon between every two regiments of the first line. The battle began with an artillery duel, but in this the advantage was all on the side of the English, the number of their pieces and the skill of their gunners being greatly superior.

Prince Charles rode along the front line to animate his men, and as he did so several of his escort were killed by the English cannonade. A storm of snow and hail had set in, blowing full in the face of the Highlanders. At length Lord George Murray, finding that he was suffering heavily from the enemy’s artillery fire, while his own guns inflicted but little damage upon them, sent to Prince Charles for permission to charge.

On receiving it he placed himself at the head of his men, and with the whole of the right wing and centre charged the enemy. They were received with a tremendous musketry fire, while the English artillery swept the ranks with grape; but so furious was their onslaught that they broke through Munro and Burrel’s regiments in the first line and captured two pieces of cannon. But behind were the second line drawn up three deep, with the front rank kneeling, and these, reserving their fire until the Highlanders were close at hand, opened a rolling fire so sustained and heavy that the Highlanders were thrown into complete disorder.

Before they could recover themselves they were charged by horse and foot on both flanks, and driven together till they became a confused mass. In vain did their chiefs attempt to rally them. Exhausted and weakened in body, swept by the continuous fire of the English, they could do no more, and at last broke and fled. In the meantime the Macdonalds on the left remained inactive. In vain Lord John Drummond and the Duke of Perth called upon them to charge, in vain their chief, Keppoch, rushed forward with a few of his clansmen and died in front of them. Nothing would induce them to fight, and when the right and centre were defeated they fell back in good order, and, joining the remnants of the second line, retired from the field unbroken.

Charles, from the heights on which he stood with a squadron of horse, could scarce believe the evidence of his eyes when he saw the hitherto victorious Highlanders broken and defeated, and would have ridden down himself to share their fate had not O’Sullivan and Sheridan seized his horse by the bridle and forced him from the field. Being pressed by the English, the retreating force broke into two divisions. The smaller retreated to Inverness, where they next day laid down their arms to the Duke of Cumberland; the other, still preserving some sort of order, marched by way of Ruthven to Badenoch.

Fourteen colours, two thousand three hundred muskets, and all their cannon fell into the hands of the English. The loss of the victors in killed and wounded amounted to three hundred and ten men, that of the Highlanders to a thousand. No quarter was given to the stragglers and fugitives who fell into the hands of the English. Their wounded were left on the ground till the following day without care or food, and the greater portion of them were then put to death in cold blood, with a cruelty such as never before or since disgraced an English army.

Some were beaten to death by the soldiers with the stocks of their muskets, some were dragged out from the thicket or caverns to which they had crawled and shot, while one farm building, in which some twenty wounded men had taken refuge, was deliberately set on fire and burned with them to the ground. In any case such conduct as this would have inflicted eternal discredit upon those who perpetrated it; but it was all the more unjustifiable and abominable after the extreme clemency and kindness with which Prince Charles had, throughout the campaign, treated all prisoners who fell into his hands.

Ronald had ridden close beside Lord George Murray as he led the Highlanders to the charge; but he had, as they approached the first English line, received a ball in the shoulder, while almost at the same instant Malcolm’s horse was shot under him. Ronald reeled in the saddle, and would have fallen had not Malcolm extricated himself from his fallen horse and run up to him.

“Where are you hit, lad?” he asked in extreme anxiety.

“In the shoulder, Malcolm. Help me off my horse, and do you take it and go on with the troops.”

“I shall do nothing of the kind,” Malcolm said. “One man will make no difference to them, and I am going to look after you.”

So saying he sprang up behind Ronald, and placing one arm round him to support him, took the reins in the other and rode to the rear. He halted on rising ground, and for a short time watched the conflict.

“The battle is lost,” he said at last. “Lord George’s troops are in utter confusion. The Macdonalds show no signs of moving, though I can see their officers are urging them to charge. Now, Ronald, the first thing is to get you out of this, and beyond the reach of pursuit.”

So saying he turned the horse and rode away from the field of battle.

“Does your shoulder hurt much?” he asked after they had gone a short distance.

“It does hurt abominably,” Ronald said faintly, for he was feeling almost sick from the agony he was suffering from the motion of the horse.

“I am a fool,” Malcolm said, “not to have seen to it before we started. I can’t do much now; but at least I can fasten it so as to hurt you as little as possible.”

He took off his scarf, and, telling Ronald to place his arm in the position which was most comfortable to him, he bound it tightly against his body.

“That is better, is it not?” he asked as he again set the horse in motion.

“Much better, Malcolm. I feel that I can go on now, whereas before I could not have gone much further if all Cumberland’s cavalry had been close behind. How far are you thinking of going? I don’t think my horse can carry double much further. Poor beast, he has had as short rations as his master, and was on the move all last night.”

“No. But we shall not have to make a very long journey. The English marched twelve miles before they attacked us, and I do not think they are likely to closely pursue far tonight; besides, I have no intention of riding now that there is no fear of immediate pursuit. I think that in another two miles we shall be safe from any fear of the English cavalry overtaking us, for we shall then reach a forest. Once in that we shall be safe from pursuit, and shall soon be in the heart of the hills.”

On reaching the forest Malcolm dismounted, and leading the horse turned off from the road. Following a little trodden path they were soon in the heart of the forest, and after keeping on for two hours, and crossing several hills, he stopped by the side of a stream.

“We are perfectly safe here,” he said, “and can sleep as securely as if we were in a palace.”

The saddle was taken off and the horse turned loose to graze. Malcolm then removed Ronald’s coat and shirt, bathed the wound for some time with water, cut some pieces of wood to act as splints, and tearing some strips off his sash bound these tightly.

“The ball has regularly smashed the bone, Ronald, and we must be careful to keep the shoulder in its proper position or you will never look square again.”

“That does not seem very important to me just at present, Malcolm.”

“No. Just at present the most important question is that of getting something to eat. We have had nothing today and not much yesterday, and now that we are no longer in danger of pursuit one begins to feel one is hungry. You stay here while I go and forage. There ought to be a village somewhere among the hills nor far away.”

“Do you know the country, Malcolm?”

“I never came by this path, lad; but I have travelled pretty well all over the Highlands, and, just as you found to be the case in Lancashire, there are few villages I do not know. I will first pull you a couch of this dead bracken, and then be off; an hour’s sleep will do you almost as much good as a meal.”

Ronald lay down on the soft couch Malcolm prepared for him, and before he had been alone for a minute he was fast asleep.

The sun was setting when he awoke. Malcolm stood beside him.

“Here is supper, lad. Not a very grand one, but there’s enough of it, which is more than has been the case for some weeks.”

So saying he laid down by Ronald’s side a large loaf of black bread, a cheese made of sheep’s milk, and a bottle of spirits.

“The village is five miles away, which is farther than I expected.

However, I came back quicker than I went, for I had had a bowl of milk and as much bread as I could eat. I found the place in a state of wild excitement, for two or three of the men had just come in from the battlefield, and brought the news with them. They are all for the Stuarts there, and you would be well entertained, but there is sure to be a search high and low, and you would not be safe in any village. However, a lad has promised to be here in the morning, and he will guide us to a lonely hut in the heart of the hills, used by the shepherds in summer.

You will be perfectly safe there.”

“It is about three miles from the village, he said. So I can go down two or three times a week and get food, and learn how things are going on.

The Highlanders may rally again and make another fight of it; but I hardly expect they will. They are not like regular troops, whose home is naturally with their colours, and who, after the first rout, try to rejoin their regiments. There is no discipline among these Highlanders.

Each man does as he likes, and their first impulse after a battle is to make for their homes — if it is a victory, to carry home their spoil; if they are defeated, for rest and shelter. At any rate, whether they gather again or not, you will have to keep perfectly quiet for a time. When your shoulder is perfectly healed we can act according to circumstances, and make for the army if there be an army, or for the seacoast if there is not.”

Although he had eaten but a short time before, Malcolm was quite ready for another meal, and sitting down beside Ronald he joined him in his assault upon the black bread and cheese. Then he collected some more of the bracken, mixed himself a strong horn of whiskey and water, and a much weaker one for Ronald, after which the two lay down and were fast asleep.

They were awake at sunrise, and shortly afterwards the lad whom Malcolm had engaged to act as guide made his appearance. The horse was saddled, Ronald mounted, and they started at once for their destination among the hills. They followed the path which Malcolm had taken the afternoon before for some three miles, and then struck off to the left. Half an hour took them out of the forest, and they journeyed for an hour along the bare hillsides, until, lying in a sheltered hollow, they saw the hut which was their destination.

“They are not likely to find us here,” Malcolm said cheerfully, “even were they to scour the mountains. They might ride within fifty yards of this hollow without suspecting its existence. Where are we to get water?”

he asked the lad in Gaelic.

“A quarter of a mile away over that brow is the head of a stream,” the lad replied. “You cannot well miss it.”

“That is all right,” Malcolm said. “I don’t mind carrying up provisions or a bottle of spirits now and then; but to drag all the water we want three miles would be serious.”

The door of the hut was only fastened by a latch, and they entered without ceremony. It consisted of but a single room. There were two or three rough wooden stools, and a heap of bracken in one corner. Nor a large amount of furniture, but, in the opinion of a Highlander, amply sufficient.

“We shall do here capitally,” Malcolm said. “Now, what do you think about the horse, Ronald?”

“Of course he might be useful if we were obliged to move suddenly; but we have no food to give him, and if we let him shift for himself he will wander about, and might easily be seen by anyone crossing these hills. A horse is always a prize, and it might bring troops out into our neighbourhood who would otherwise not have a thought about coming in this direction.”

“I quite agree with you, Ronald. The lad had better take him down to the village, and give him to the head man there. He can sell him, or keep him, or get rid of him as he likes. At any rate he will be off our hands.”

© Talebooks.com 2007-2017

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Bookangel.co.uk - free and bargin ebooks and book reviews