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Painting depicting General H.R.H. The Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, wearing a red coat riding a brown horse, with Culloden in the background
Painting depicting General H.R.H. The Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, with Culloden in the background, oil on canvas, by David Morier, 1746 -- 1770


By 14 April 1746, the Jacobite army was camped at Culloden, outside Inverness. Their numbers were depleted, in part by men returning to their homes in the Scottish Highlands, dispirited, hungry and keen to see their families.

The Duke of Cumberland’s forces were camped at Nairn, further to the north.

On the eve of the battle, a planned night attack on Cumberland’s forces proved to be disastrous. Already tired and hungry, the Prince’s men became disoriented and the attack was abandoned. They now had to make their way back to Culloden. The whole operation cost them dearly.

On 16 April, both sides met on Drumossie Moor. The Jacobite general, Lord George Murray and the Highland chiefs had warned Charles that this was the wrong time and place for a battle.

The moor was too flat and open, which was good for the Hanoverian army with their regular cavalry and artillery. In the event, it also proved boggy, hampering the exhausted Jacobites as they ran forward, some of them barefoot and frozen, through a haze of gunsmoke into heavy musket fire.

The right of the Jacobite army managed to penetrate the British front line, but they were halted and forced back with severe losses. With British cavalry breaking through on the flanks, the Jacobite retreat began.

Little mercy was shown to the wounded Jacobites. Fleeing soldiers were chased down and killed along the road to Inverness.

Unable to accept the carnage that lay before him, Prince Charles Edward Stuart was led from the battlefield in utter shock and disbelief that his army had been defeated.

This scenario was so different from the victory at Prestonpans, where the Jacobites were able to use their swords and targes for upclose, one-to-one armed combat.

In our next two steps, we hear from costumed interpreter, Arran Johnston. Armed and dressed first as a Jacobite, then as a redcoat Hanoverian, he discusses the different military tactics each side used in battle.

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This article is from the free online course:

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

The University of Edinburgh