Zach – This week’s post is about the final big fight for Scottish Independence, the Battle of Culloden. The battle was in 1746 but its causes went back to Hengry VIII. To help us with this topical topic, we have my co-host, Anna Komnene, Buffalo Calf Road-Cheyenne warrior woman. And lastly we have Lord Cornwallis.
Buffalo – Really? Cornwallis? You think he’s going to be unbiased?
Cornwallis – As unbiased as someone who spent their life fighting against a conquering nation.
Anna – I managed to be completely without bias when I wrote the Alexiad.
Cornwallis – (laughs) Of course. Totally unbiased……daddy’s girl.
Anna – What?
Zach – And moving on. Let’s start with the root causes that led to this battle. Well, when Henry VIII decided to take over the church in England, not everyone was on board. The throne went back and forth between pro-Catholic and pro-Protestant and even a brief interregnum with a total joy-kill in charge named Cromwell. Eventually the Protestants won and got their king on the throne. The royal family that remained Catholics, the Stuarts, ran off to Catholic France and waited for an opportunity to make a Travolta-esque come back.
Anna – The guy that led the comeback was named Charles Edward, called by the Scots, “Bonnie Prince Charley.” In 1740 England got engaged in the Austrian War of Succession. In 1745 England lost a big battle in Flanders and the parliament was divided like today’s American congress. Charles thought the time was perfect.
Buffalo – Yeah, but everyone disagreed with the guy. The King of France said “no way” and even his own advisers said “maybe you should wait.” But Charles, true to character, ignored all good advice and went off to Scotland with no support from anyone. Stay tuned. You’ll see more of this type of behavior.
Zach – I’m going to be fair and nonjudgmental about my commentary about Prince Charles and in my studied and scholastic opinion, Prince Charles was a complete tool.
Anna – Very scholarly of you, Zach.
Zach – Just calling it as I see it. Against all good advice, Charles lands in Scotland where the Catholic supporters were. He was basically by himself but soon gained a small following of 3,000 Highlander troops.
Cornwallis – Let me impose briefly, good chap. Scotland was divided between the barbaric Highlands which remained Popish and the the Lowlands which were generally loyal to England and the Church of England. They were called “Jacobites” Charles wanted to use this division to his advantage.
Buffalo – Yeah, he thought people actually cared about one rich aristocratic family’s right to the throne over another rich aristocratic family’s. Really, the Scots that went to fight with him just wanted to be free from England’s control. But he managed to scrape together 3,000 of them. With that measly 3,000, he went on to take an undefended city of Edinburgh. How heroic.
Anna – Hey, its progress. A city is a city. The English sent a small army to put this rebellion down. It was a small army because they were busy doing other things and didn’t take the rebellion seriously. The small army was beaten back and the English didn’t have any more resources to call up before winter.
Cornwallis – Here we have a surprising success of the Scottish uprising due to the English being busy on the continent. It would take a few months to get forces from the mainland, a few months that Prince Charles could use to strengthen his position in Scottland and recruit even more angry Highlanders.
Buffal0 – Highlanders. I’m so glad Gaspar isn’t here. He’d say something about being only one and sword fighting.
Anna – Yes, we are all glad he’s not here. Well, Bonnie Prince Charley didn’t do what everyone said he should do and wait and gain power, instead he took his small army and invaded England. By this time he had 5,000, which is still a small number. He believed France would support him and launch an invasion and the rest of Scotland would also rise up. It would normally be a fair bet because by this time England and France had had a bloody rivalry that went back to the Hundred Years Wars. They moved south and some thought he would go to Wales and use the anti-English sentiment there. He was close enough to threaten London but the French weren’t ready and the forces in London were enough to discourage any attack.
Zach – For once, Charles decided to listen to his advisers and retreat back to Scotland. He took shoes from a town, failed to attack a castle and basically didn’t accomplish much at all. However, they did get a small force of French and Irish troops and got some guns. So, that’s a bonus.
Buffalo – Let me stop here and tell you a little about the Scottish clans. The major clans had many lesser families below them in a kind of feudal hierarchy. The richer clansmen were the landlords and officers and they were the ones with the famous claymores. Most of the rank and file had captured flintlocks.
Cornwallis – They were brigands and ruffians with little training and less discipline. The English army was of course, comprised of the best trained troops in the world. The Red Coats were the finest musket men and had legendary discipline. Also, the rag tag rebels had little in the way of artillery. In short, the Scots were outnumbered and out gunned.
Buffalo – Well, they also had 5,000 Hessian mercenaries and a bunch of loyal Scots. I’m sure that helped.
Zach – On the 30th of January, 1746, Duke Cumberland took his army into Scotland to put an end to these uppity rebels. On the 11th of April the Jacobite forces left Inverness (which has a lovely castle) to meet the British head on. Prince Charles, being the tool he was, chose the battlefield on rough, marshy ground. Here is the problem. The Scotts were short on guns and even shorter on ammo. They would need to rely on their famous Scottish charge if they were to have a chance. The English army relied heavily on long range firepower. See the problem? Charles chose ground that would make his one advantage even harder to pull off. His men would have to charge through marshy ground, slowing them down and making them target practice for the British.
Cornwallis – Do not forget the artillery. The English had plenty of that.
Zach – Of course. Lots of big guns.
Anna – On April 16th, the two armies met.
Anna – The two armies faced each other and after a long bombardment by the English the right wing of the Jacobite army charged forward. They couldn’t be held back. They were so eager to get at the English that they detested that they disobeyed orders and ran forward with their swords. It turns out that the marshy, rough ground did in fact slow the charge down allowing the English to pour fire down on the Scots’ heads.
Buffalo – Still, despite that, the Scottish charge still managed to make it to the first line of English troops. There the Red Coats fought with musket and bayonet and for a brief moment lost one of their banners. Go Jacobites!
Cornwallis – Don’t celebrate so soon, my fine Indian friend. The Scots’ fierce charge was enough to send the first line back, but then there was the second line. The second line sent units to swing in from the left, catching the Scottish in a an L-shaped crossfire. The Jacobite left wing tried to advance but the ground was even worse there and they were slowed and mown down by muskets, cannons and dragoons. Prince Charles’ advisers told him to go in and lead his men directly in battle to rally their spirits. He…gracefully declined.
Zach – After that, the Scottish forces went in full retreat. It was a fighting retreat but many were cut off by English dragoons and massacred. No quarter was given. They weren’t taking prisoners. The Highlanders suffered the most. They lost almost 2,000 men while the English lost only about 50.
Anna – The aftermath of the battle was even worse. The English cracked down on the Scottish with a political reign of terror. Nobles were stripped of their land the land given to English nobility. Troops kept order and the Scotland was basically a militarized occupied country. Thousands of Highlanders were deported in an effort to depopulate Scotland. Prince Charles scurried off back to France and never returned to Scotland again.
Zach – Here’s the funny part. Many of those Highlanders were deported to the American colonies where 30 years later, those same Scots and their children fought against the English in the American Revolution. So, while they didn’t get Scottish independence, they did help earn American independence.
So, to sum up, the brave and angry Scots put their hope and faith in a complete loser who had spend his life in France. He led them to disaster