Battle of Culloden

Battle of Culloden
Part of the Jacobite rising of 1745
The Battle of Culloden.jpg
An incident in the rebellion of 1745, by David Morier
Date16 April 1746
Three miles south of Culloden, east of Inverness, Scotland

Decisive government victory

  • End of Jacobite rising
Kingdom of Great Britain Great Britain Jacobites
Commanders and leaders
Duke of CumberlandCharles Edward Stuart
10 guns
6 mortars
12 guns
Casualties and losses
240–400 killed[1]
1,000 wounded[1]
1,500–2,000 killed or wounded[1][2]
154 captured[1]
222 captured[1]

The Battle of Culloden (ən/;[3] Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Chùil Lodair) was the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745. On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart were decisively defeated by Hanoverian forces commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.

Queen Anne, the last monarch of the House of Stuart, died in 1714, with no living children. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, she was succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, a daughter of James VI and I.

Raising an army consisting mostly of Scottish clansmen along with smaller units of Irish and Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment, Charles' efforts initially met with success and at one point began to threaten London. However, a series of events forced the army's return to Scotland, where they were soon pursued by an army raised by the Duke of Cumberland. The two forces eventually met at Culloden, on terrain that made the highland charge difficult and gave the larger and well-armed British forces the advantage. The battle lasted only an hour, with the Jacobites suffering a bloody defeat. Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the brief battle.[1][2] In contrast, only about 300 government soldiers were killed or wounded.[1]

The Hanoverian victory at Culloden halted the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne; Charles Stuart never again tried to challenge Hanoverian power in Great Britain. The conflict was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.[4]

The battle and its aftermath continue to arouse strong feelings: the University of Glasgow awarded the Duke of Cumberland an honorary doctorate, but many modern commentators allege that the aftermath of the battle and subsequent crackdown on Jacobitism were brutal, and earned Cumberland the sobriquet "Butcher". Efforts were subsequently made to further integrate the comparatively wild Scottish Highlands into the Kingdom of Great Britain; civil penalties were introduced to weaken Gaelic culture and undermine the Scottish clan system.


Charles Stuart at Holyrood, 1745
The Lost portrait of Charles Edward Stuart, painted at Edinburgh in late 1745
William, Duke of Cumberland
Charles' dynastic and military opponent, the Duke of Cumberland, ca 1757

On 23 July 1745 Charles Edward Stuart landed on Eriskay in the Western Islands in an attempt to reclaim the throne for Great Britain for his exiled father James, accompanied only by the "Seven Men of Moidart".[5] Most of his Scottish supporters advised he return to France, but enough were eventually persuaded and the rebellion was launched at Glenfinnan on 19 August. The Jacobite army entered Edinburgh on 17 September and James was proclaimed King of Scotland the next day.[6] On 21 September, a government force was defeated at the Battle of Prestonpans; the London government now recalled the Duke of Cumberland, the King's younger son and commander of the British army in Flanders, along with 12,000 troops.[7]

The Prince's Council, a committee formed of 15-20 senior leaders, met on 30 and 31 October to discuss plans to invade England. The Scots wanted to consolidate their position and although willing to assist an English rising or French landing, they would not do it on their own.[8] For Charles, the main prize was England; he argued removing the Hanoverians would guarantee an independent Scotland and assured the Scots that the French were planning to land in Southern England, while thousands of English supporters would join once across the border.[9]

Despite their doubts, the Council agreed to the invasion on condition the promised English and French support was forthcoming; the Jacobite army entered England on 8 November.[10] They captured Carlisle on 15 November, then continued south through Preston and Manchester, reaching Derby on 4 December. There had been no sign of a French landing or any significant number of English recruits, while they risked being caught between two armies, each one twice their size; Cumberland's, advancing north from London, and Wade's moving south from Newcastle upon Tyne; despite Charles' opposition, the Council was overwhelmingly in favour of retreat and turned north the next day.[11]

Targe and broadsword used by Highlanders
Targe or shield and broadsword; the classic Highlander weapons
The Jacobites unsuccessfully tried to take Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle; the Jacobites spent two months in early 1746 unsuccessfully besieging the strongest fort in Scotland

Apart from a minor skirmish at Clifton Moor, the Jacobite army evaded pursuit and crossed back into Scotland on 20 December. Entering England and returning was a considerable military achievement and morale was high; Jacobite strength increased to over 8,000 with the addition of recruits from the Frasers, Mackenzies and Gordons, as well as Scottish and Irish regulars in French service.[12] French-supplied artillery was used to besiege Stirling Castle, the strategic key to the Highlands. On 17 January, the Jacobites dispersed a relief force under Henry Hawley at the Battle of Falkirk Muir, although the siege made little progress.[13]

On 1 February, the siege of Stirling was abandoned and the Jacobites retreated to Inverness.[14] Cumberland's army advanced along the coast and entered Aberdeen on 27 February; both sides halted operations until the weather improved.[15] Several French shipments were received during the winter but the Royal Navy's blockade led to shortages of both money and food; when Cumberland left Aberdeen on 8 April, Charles and his officers agreed giving battle was their best option.[16]

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