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    On Drumossie Moor the sad echoes of Culloden battle…

     

    Culloden battlefield Scottish side © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden battlefield Scottish side © 2012 Scotiana

     

    They used to call it Drumossie Moor – a bleak stretch of boggy, heather-clad upland moor above Culloden House, south-east of Inverness, overlooking the broad waters of the Moray Firth. This was where the last pitched battle on British soil was fought, on 16 April 1746.

    Culloden is now one of the flagship possessions of the National Trust for Scotland. The moor had become unrecognisable as a battle-site. In 1835 a road had been driven right through the graveyards of the fallen clansmen. Much of the land was shrouded under a blanket plantation of sitka spruce, making it impossible to visualise the true setting of the battle. In 1980 the NTS purchased from the Forestry Commission 180 acres of land which had been planted with conifers. The mature trees were felled and the road realigned. At last it was possible to see again the moor as it had been when the encounter took place. The field has been marked with the positions of the kilted Highland clans and the red-coated Hanoverian regiments which took part in the battle.

    (Scotland – The Story of a Nation – Magnus Magnusson 2000)

     

    Culloden battlefield Scottish flags © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden battlefield Scottish flags © 2012 Scotiana

    The  banners flap on the windswept moor…

     

     

    Culloden battle 250 th anniversary commemorative banner © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden battle 250 th anniversary commemorative banner © 2006 Scotiana

    Dear readers,

    Next year Scotland will celebrate the 270th anniversary of the battle of Culloden which took place on Drumossie Moor on 16 April 1746.  About 13 generations have passed since that fateful day but the bloody battle which did not last more than an hour and killed hundreds of Jacobites on the battlefield (and beyond it) is not to be forgotten soon.  It led to the dismantling of the Scottish clans and later to the infamous page of the  Scottish clearances. As its name indicates this sadly reknown policy cleared the land of a vital part of its population. Thousands of people were chased from their villages and pushed towards the big busy industrial centres or far away across the ocean towards the uncertainties of life in the unknown, opening vast areas in the mother country for the sheep, a much more profitable and less rebellious population.

    Though the troops of Bonnie Prince Charlie fought with the energy of despair against the army of the Duke of Cumberland they had not a single chance against  the determined, well-trained, well-fed and well-equipped Hanoverian regiments. The outnumbered clansmen were cold and exhausted after their long march from London  and did not only suffer from the lack of food, good equipment and ammunition but also from the lack of a good strategy to be enacted on a good ground. The blood of many kilted men, of a few red-coats and ill-fated horses made the marshy soil of Culloden run red on that fateful day.

    That Wednesday morning, then, James Stewart and the men around him were wet, chilled and miserable. They were also desperately tired and very hungry. They had been several weeks without any pay and without any provisions but a scrimp allowance of oatmeal, a London newspaper, the National Journal, was later to observe of the Jacobite army’s troops. Those troops, on the evening of Tuesday, 15 April, after many hours spent at battle stations and with provisions consisting of  ‘a single biscuit each’, had set out on what proved to be a pointless night march of more than twenty miles. Newly returned from this march, Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s soldiers ‘were obliged to engage in battle’, as the National Journal commented, ‘before they had either sleep or refreshment, which was enough to dispirit any troops in the world. Yet notwithstanding all this, their front line, especially their right, attacked with a fury next to madness.

    (James Hunter – Culloden and the Last Clansman 2001)

    Culloden battlefield Visitor Centre panel Scottish flag © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden battlefield Visitor Centre panel Scottish flag © 2012 Scotiana

    The National Trust for Scotland  has done a remarkable work  not only to make of the battlefield area a very moving  “lieu de mémoire” where people can pay homage to the fallen soldiers but also, in its renovated Visitor Centre,  a great resource centre where one can try to  get a clear idea of the facts:  the  historical background, the military strategies and the sequence of events during the battle as well as the tragical consequences of this terrible conflict for Scotland. The crowds queuing  at the entrance of Culloden Centre  reflect the popularity of this NTS ‘flagship’ centre. We visited it three times and found great changes between our first visit in 2000 and the last one in 2012!

    Culloden Visitor Centre wall with in memoriam quotes © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden Visitor Centre wall with in memoriam quotes © 2012 Scotiana

    Our blood is still our fathers’

    And ours the valour of their hearts…

    Culloden bad weather on the government lines © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden bad weather on the government lines © 2012 Scotiana

    On the day of our last visit there, 11 September 2012 (difficult to forget such a date!),  it was cold, wintry and pouring rain.  I was the only one to decide to go out and face the elements 😉 I didn’t want to leave the place without paying homage to the men who had been confronted here to a much more dangerous enemy than bad weather.

    To the Jacobite survivors of Culloden, it sometimes seemed in retrospect that the weather of 16 April 1746 was among the grimmer features of that desperately grim day. ‘As an adhar bha trian ar lèridh,’ one such survivor was to write; ‘From the sky came a third of our misery.’ It rained very sore as I ever seed,’ commented one of the Duke of Cumberland’s troopers, ‘both hail and rain, and strong wind.’ But because this wind came out of the east or south-east, Cumberland’s men had the advantage of having their backs to the worst of what another of them described as ‘a very cold… morning’.  Things were worse for Charles Edward Stuart’s soldiers. Lined up across Culloden Moor to meet an enemy advancing along the route they themselves had followed in the course of the previous night’s debacle, they stood and stared for hours into an icy, energy-draining, morale-sapping gale. ‘It was a dark misty rainy day,’ one Jacobite staff officer remembered, ‘and the wind blew in the faces of the prince’s army.’

    (James Hunter – Culloden and the Last Clansman 2001)

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage © 2012 Scotiana

     

    The  gloomy atmosphere could not have been more appropriate for a visit of the battlefield…

    I’ve read that Old Leanach cottage had remained inhabited until 1912 when Mrs Annabell Cameron died, aged 83 and that her grandmother had lived at the time of the battle in another cottage not far away. She was a little girl then. The cottage was presented to the Trust in 1944 by the late Hector Forbes of Culloden.

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage surrounded by haystacks © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage surrounded by haystacks © 2012 Scotiana

    Old Leanach cottage houses a display of historic maps and relics. Among other things a realistic reconstruction of the bloody improvised surgery during the battle let us with a feeling of horror and disgust… I spare you the photo!

    Culloden Moor Old Leanach fermtoun NTS pannel © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor Old Leanach fermtoun NTS pannel © 2006 Scotiana

     

    The lands of Leanach once formed part of an estate belonging to the Forbes family. It appears on a 16th-century map as Lionach (Gaelic for ‘a wet plain’ or ‘pasture land’). By the 18th century many local tenants produced grain for the thriving markets at home and abroad. Only one fermtoun building survives today – Old Leanach Cottage.

    Farming in 18th-century Scotland was very different from today. A fermtoun’s arable land was divided into the ‘infield’, the best land, which was always used for crops; the ‘outfield’ which was used for shorter periods and, when the soil was exhausted, the area left to rest. These open, irregularly-shaped fields consisted of long sinuous ridges of soil with furrows in between to assist drainage. Remains of this ‘rig and furrow’ system can still be seen all over Scotland.

    The Fermtoun of Old Leanach © 2006 Scotiana

    Livestock included cattle for meat, leather and horn; sheep for wool and milk; pigs and chickens. Livestock often formed part of the rent, but their by-products were a  useful resource for the farmer. The use of the battle site for grazing by the local fermtowns of Leanach,  Urchal and Culchunaig kept the moor bare and treeless.

    Estate records of 1746 show Donald Mackenzie as tenant of ‘Old Leanach’. These documents record losses suffered by local tenants before and after the battle: hens, cattle, grain, aquvitae (whisky) and silk napkins. This farming community would appear to have been thriving.

    The original cottage may have survived the 1746 battle, but it has been restored several times since. Thatched houses built of stone and turf were a common local tradition. The barn, once adjacent to the cottage, was set alight by government troops with around thirty Jacobite wounded inside. Geophysical survey has revealed a second building, perhaps a stable, to the east of Leanach.

     

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage information panel  © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage information panel © 2006 Scotiana

     

    The panel reads :

    ‘The battle of Culloden lasted less than an hour yet the carnage on both sides was appalling. The Duke od Cumberland’s orders were clear – the Government wounded were carried from the battlefield to be cared for by military surgeons while Jacobite casualties were slaughtered where they lay.

    Leanach fermtoun, located behind the Government battle line, would have been of use to the army. A building like this may have served as a miltary dressing station, where wounded were brought for treatment.

    By the 18th century, military surgery was a recognised profession. Conditions were basic and insanitary, and surgeons often had to improvise. They carried with them a field set of essential surgical instruments and a cabinet of medicinal preparations. Many patients did not survie surgery and others later died from gangrene.’

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage information panel scene © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Old Leanach cottage information panel scene © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden haystacks © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden haystacks © 2012 Scotiana

    Strange was the view of the haystacks lining up in the field in front of  Old Leanach House but, under the sun,  they  must give a more cheerful note to the place . Life must go on…

     

    Culloden haystacks in front of old Leanach cottage © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden haystacks in front of old Leanach cottage © 2012 Scotiana

     

    Culloden battlefield Higlander ghost © 2012 Scotiana

     

    Can you hear them, can you see them
    Marching proudly across the moor,
    Hear the wind blow thru the drifting snow,
    Tell me can you see them, the ghosts of Culloden.

    Thru the mist you’ll hear – a lonely piper play,
    Listen carefully – you’ll hear – a mournful cry…

    If you take time  to  follow the path of Culloden battlefield and to stop  in front of each stone and cairn,  letting your imagination wandering about, you’ll soon  get a deep  sense of the place and  maybe you’ll be able to hear the far echoe of bagpipes ….

    I had no flowers but I had come with a genuine feeling of sympathy for the men who rested there. Ghosts may haunt the place, as far as I am concerned they are welcome…  let us keep in mind that between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded here (50 killed and 259 wounded on the other side). Such a carnage must have left its print.

    The place had been deserted because of the rain but I saw a young lady whose tears fell with the raindrops on the mossy stone in front of which she was putting flowers. Maybe she had come from over the ocean.

    Culloden Anniversary Ghosts

    There are said to be many ghosts at Culloden Moor such as anniversary ghosts who return on the 16 April to relive the battle and their deaths. These Culloden ghosts make themselves heard by the cries of battle. Some witnesses have heard the clash of steel on steel as if of broadsword and sword fighting.

    One legend of Culloden Moor is that birds do not sing at the exact site of the battle or at the graves of the slaughtered Jacobites. Other local legends at Culloden Moor is that heather which grows nearby will never grow over the graves of the Jacobites.

    http://www.aboutaberdeen.com/culloden-ghosts.php

    I lingered on the gloomy moor for a long time in spite of the rain, doing my best to protect my camera and wiping its objective every minute. I was drenched to the skin (or rather ‘to the bones’ ) when I came back to the Visitor Centre with the hope of getting dry soon and the need for a good cup of tea to share with my two fellow-travellers 😉 They’ve had time enough to become experts in military strategy! Indeed,  I had found them deeply immersed in the study of a very large maquette of the battle.

     

    Battle of Culloden map Source Wikipedia

    Battle of Culloden map Source Wikipedia

    For those who are by military questions, I’ve found two detailed maps of the battlefield on Wikipedia…

    Jacobite charge against Cumberland's troops at Culloden Source Wikipedia

    Jacobite charge against Cumberland’s troops at Culloden Source Wikipedia

     

    They guided me around the museum and towards a table.  We had all well deserved a ‘pick-me-up’ and the generous assortment of delicious wee cakes, as only the Scottish people can do, which arrived with our tea immediately cheered us up 😉

    Below is a selection of the photos we’ve taken at Culloden during our several visits there! Of course, the sunniest pictures date back to 2006 ;-).

    Anyway, don’t worry if the weather is really bad when you visit the place for you can spend hours inside the museum. It  shelters a great variety of historical documents,  archeological artefacts, memorabilia, maps and videos. Anyway bad weather rarely lasts long in Scotland 😉

     

    Culloden Moor memorial cairn © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor memorial cairn © 2006 Scotiana

    Note the rough stones of the impressive Culloden memorial cairn.  It is about 20 feet high and 18 feet around and was erected here by Duncan Forbes in 1881.  Duncan  Forbes was the last resident proprietor of the Culloden estate.

    Culloden Moor memorial cairn plaque  © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor memorial cairn plaque © 2006 Scotiana

    No need to say more…

    Culloden Moor Well of the Dead  © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor Well of the Dead © 2006 Scotiana

    That’s the Well of the Dead…

    I’ve learned here that the body of Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass,  the leader of Clan Chattan,  was found here. Alexander MacGillivray led his men on such a ferocious charge that he broke through the first line of defence of Cumberland’s army before being killed. A plaque by the well commemorates his bravery.

    Below is a more detailed story :

    (…) perhaps the best known of the heads of this clan [MacGillivray] was Alexander, fourth in descent from the Ferquhard who acquired Dunmaglass. This gentleman was selected by Lady Mackintosh to head her husband’s clan on the side of Prince Charlie in the ’45. He acquitted himself with the greatest credit, but lost his life, as did all his officers except three, in the battle of Culloden. In the brave but rash charge made by his battalion against the English line, he fell, shot through the heart, in the centre of Barrel’s regiment. His body, after lying for some weeks in a pit where it had been thrown with others by the English soldiers, was taken up by his friends and buried acorss the threshold of the kirk of Petty. His brother William was also a warrior, and gained the rank of captain in the old 89th regiment, raised about 1758. One of the three officers of the Mackintosh battalion who escaped from Culloden was a kinsman of these two brothers – Farquhar of Dalcrombie, whose grandson, Neil John M’Gillivray of Dunmaglass is the present head of the clan.

    http://www.electricscotland.com/webclans/m/macgill2.html

     

    Culloden Well of the Dead © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Well of the Dead © 2006 Scotiana

     

     

    Culloden Moor The Well of the Dead marker © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor The Well of the Dead marker © 2006 Scotiana

     

    You’ll find here a very interesting black and white old photography of the Well of the Dead. When compared to our  more recent  pictures, we realize how the place has changed.

    The photographer, Mary Ethel Muir Donaldson, was born in 1876 and came to the Highlands around 1908. She travelled extensively around the North and West Highlands, writing and taking photographs. Between 1912 and 1949 she produced many books on the social history and customs of the area. She died in a nursing home in Edinburgh in 1958, but was buried in Oban.

    Duncan Forbes who built the memorial cairn also had slabs of stone placed on the spots where members of the various clans are buried. The stones are weathered and mossy today on the melancholy battlefield but the names of the clans can still be read and  the bell still tolls for the death…

    Culloden Clan Stewart of Appin stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden Clan Stewart of Appin stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Clan Stewart of Appin…

    Culloden Moor Clan Cameron stone © 2006 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor Clan Cameron stone © 2006 Scotiana

    Clan  Cameron…

    Culloden Moor Clan Fraser stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor Clan Fraser stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Clan Forbes…

    Culloden Moor Clan Mackintosh stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden Moor Clan Mackintosh stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Clan Mackintosh…

    Culloden stone MacGillivray MacLean MacLachlan Athol Higlanders © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden stone MacGillivray MacLean MacLachlan Athol Higlanders © 2012 Scotiana

    Clans MacGillivray, MacLean, MacLachlan, Athol Highlanders…

    Culloden Mixed Clans stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Culloden Mixed Clans stone © 2012 Scotiana

    But there were many more clans than those inscribed on the stones who joined the ranks of Bonnie Prince Charlie. I’ve found it useful to add the detailed list I’ve found on Wikipedia.

    (…) the following clans “came out” to join the Pretender: Clan Baird, Clan Cameron, Clan Chisholm, Clan Drummond, Clan Farquharson, Clan Grant of Glenmoriston, Clan Hay, Clan MacLea, Clan MacBain, Clan MacColl, Clan Macdonald of Clanranald, Clan MacDonald of Glencoe, Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry, Clan MacDonald of Keppoch, MacDonnell of the Isles, Clan Macfie, Clan Macgillivray, Clan MacGregor, Clan MacInnes, Clan Mackintosh, Clan MacIver, Clan Mackinnon, Clan Maclachlan, Clan MacLaren, Clan MacLeod of Raasay, Clan MacNeil of Barra, Clan Macpherson, Clan Menzies, Clan Morrison, Clan Ogilvy, Clan Oliphant, Clan Robertson, Clan Stewart of Appin, Clan Urquhart.

    Furthermore, the regiment of Atholl Highlanders was mostly made up of members of Clan Murray, Clan Fergusson, and Clan Stewart of Atholl. Significant numbers of men from Clan Elphinstone, Clan Forbes, Clan Keith, Clan MacIntyre, Clan MacKenzie, Clan MacLean, Clan MacLeod of MacLeod, Clan MacLeod of Lewis, Clan MacTavish, Clan MacMillan, Clan Maxwell, Clan Ramsay, Clan Wemyss and a few members of the Clan Innes also joined the Jacobite army.

    The Clan Fraser also joined the pretender and fought at Culloden. Many men of the Clan Gordon joined the Jacobites led by the chief’s brother Lord Lewis Gordon. Although the chief of Clan Gordon claimed to support the British government his brother raised two regiments in support of the Jacobites.

    Some chieftains who were trying or planning to raise their clan for the Pretender were stopped or even imprisoned, notably Sir James Campbell of Auchnabreck and Alexander MacDougall of Dunollie, who were stopped from raising Clan Campbell of Auchnabreck and Clan MacDougall by Campbell of Argyll, and Sir Hector MacLean and Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry, who would have raised Clan MacLean and Clan MacTavish had they not been imprisoned by the government.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobite_risings)

    At Close Range fight information pannel  © 2012 Scotiana

    At Close Range fight information pannel © 2012 Scotiana

    A big clash point here marked by a panel which reads :

    16 April 1745 At Close range

    In this area the most ferocious hand-to-hand fighting took place at the height of the battle. Historians believe that around 700 Jacobite soldiers were killed or wounded here in just a few minutes of fighting. The Jacobite’s charge had broken the government front line but they were then forced back, with catastrophic consequences.

    Today

    Archaeologists have found many items here – hacked musket parts, pistol balls and ripped-off buttons. All these are clear evidence of a desperate close-range fight.

    Field of the English stone © 2012 Scotiana

    Field of the English stone © 2012 Scotiana

    The relatively few Government troops that fell on the battlefield were buried on a place known as “The Field of the English”.

    To be fair, one must not forget that a number of English people had chosen to follow Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Jacobite rebellion while a number of Scottish people had chosen either to remain neutral or joined the ranks of the Hanoverian regiments.

    Le combat était inégal et la charge courageuse !

    Bonne lecture.

    A bientôt. Mairiuna

     

     

     

     

     

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    4 comments to On Drumossie Moor the sad echoes of Culloden battle…

    • Kathryn Murray Cline

      Clan Murray

      Many settled in North Carolina. Our state is full of good Scottish blood and I’m a proud descendent.

      Would like to know more.

    • Many ancestors of the murray clan also came to nova scotia Canada, of which I am also a very proud member

    • Jana Arlow

      My husband and I visited Culludon Moor once while on holiday from South Africa. Must have been 2013.

      It was the eeriest, saddest place I had ever experienced. Such sadness now seems so unnecessary. But also a wonderful historic place. The visitor centre was closed, so we took a walk around onto the battle field. It was just the two of us. Wonderful place to visit when it is quiet and not many people around.

    • This will give people a real insight into what the men at Culloden fought for. The people of Scotland lost their identity as a result of Culloden and this will help them to understand their culture and ancestry. People in Scotland are afraid to stand up and fight for what they believe in and it has remained the same for years. People need to understand that in order to be considered Scottish you need to love your country more than anything and be willing to give your life in service to your country. This is the defining reason for the Jacobite charge at Culloden the love for their country and their Prince. I hope that we never see such sacrifice again but people should be proud of these men and what they fought for. We must never forget them.
      Callum Taylor´s last blog post ..Scottish Castles Series: Falkland Palace – Part 1

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