Battle of Culloden, 1746
The Battle of Culloden was fought on April 16 1746 between the Highland Army of Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the Royal Troops of King George II. The Royal victory brought to an end the Jacobite Rebellion and secured the House of Hanover on the English throne. The 8,000 Royal troops were commanded by the King’s son, William, Duke of Cumberland. His cousin, Prince Charles, led the 7,000-strong Highland force. The battle took place on Culloden Moor, about 20 miles south-east of Inverness.
For the Royal army Culloden represented revenge for defeat by the Highlanders three months earlier at the Battle of Falkirk. On that occasion not only had the commanding officer of the 37th, Colonel Munro, been killed but his men had fought poorly. To prevent a similar rout in future, Cumberland devised a new bayonet drill to meet the Highlanders’ attack. Soldiers were taught not to thrust at the charging Highlander immediately in front of him – which was liable to be parried by the clansman’s shield – but to aim at the Scotsman attacking his comrade to his right. This way he could deliver an unimpeded thrust to the exposed under arm. The soldier on his left would perform a similar service.
Both armies boasted an interesting mix of troops. Cumberland’s foot regiments, including Munro’s, were a blend of English and Irish soldiers, the latter being carefully recruited to avoid Catholic subversion. There were also Hessians from central Germany, guarding the Royal lines of communication, and even Scotsmen – mainly Campbells, Sempills and St Clair’s. Prince Charles’s army numbered among its ranks Highlanders, Lowland Scots, Franco-Scots of the French Army and Irish Picquets from the Irish regiments of the French Army.
The Highlanders, many exhausted after a failed night attack on Cumberland’s camp, delayed their charge too long, allowing the English artillery to wreak havoc in their lines. Their assault when it did come was erratic and uncoordinated. Only on the right of their line did men reach the English where they were cut down by murderous rifle fire. Munro’s, now under the command of Colonel Dejean, was in the thick of the fighting, along with Barrel’s (later 4th The King’s Own Royal Regiment). One report stated that ‘not a bayonet of Barrel’s but was bent and bloody’ and it is inconceivable that those of Munro’s men were not in a similar state. The Highlanders retreated and quickly disintegrated. They were harried by Royal cavalry who showed no mercy and the whole battle was over in one hour.
Reprisals against the rebels in the aftermath of Culloden were equally brutal. Some 3,500 Highlanders were captured, with nearly half being transported, banished or executed. The occupying Royal army built roads into the Highlands, where they engaged in pillage, loot and rape. Laws designed to eradicate all vestiges of rebellion and eliminate tribal authority were ruthlessly enforced. Prince Charles avoided capture and fled to France, living out his life in exile there and elsewhere.
Rebel dead totalled some 1,500 while Cumberland’s army suffered a mere 330 casualties, including 50 killed. A quarter of these were in Munro’s which saw 19 men killed, including five officers, and 63 wounded.