Battle of Culloden

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Battle of Culloden
The Battle of Culloden.  Painting by David Morier, 1746
The Battle of Culloden.
Painting by David Morier , 1746
date April 16, 1746
place Culloden , Scotland
output British Government Forces Victory
Parties to the conflict

Jacobite Standard (1745) .svg Jacobites

Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain British Government Forces


Charles Edward Stuart

Wilhelm August of Cumberland

Troop strength
approx. 5,400 men approx. 9,000 men

1,250 killed
1,000 wounded
558 prisoners

300 killed
259 wounded

Jacobite Rebellion , Battle of
Prestonpans , Battle of Falkirk , Battle of Culloden

The Battle of Culloden ([kə'lɒdən]; English : Battle of Culloden Gaelic : Am Blàr Chùil Lodair ) on April 16, 1746 between British government troops and rebel Jacobites took place on the Culloden Moor ( Culloden Muir , also known as Drummossie Muir ) the town of the same name east of Inverness in Scotland and ended with a victory for the government troops.


Prince Charles Edward Stuart (called Bonnie Prince Charlie ) and his army of about 5,000 men, which consisted mainly of men from the Scottish Highlands , was on 8 March after his victory in the Battle of Prestonpans , which had secured him supremacy in Scotland November 1745 advanced across the border into England . The army came through Carlisle and Manchester to Derby . Here, however, at the urging of Lord George Murray 's advisers and against the prince's opposition, the decision was made to retreat to Scotland, as the position of the Jacobites was threatened by two armies under General George Wade and Prince William August, Duke of Cumberland . In addition, the Jacobites were no longer able to pay wages and no longer received an influx of volunteers, since the promised support from France also failed to materialize.

Under Murray's command, the Jacobites secured their retreat into Scotland by victorious battle at Clifton and reached Glasgow on December 25th, where provisions and reinforcements awaited them. Although Charles was victorious for the last time in the Battle of Falkirk against General Henry Hawley on January 17, 1746 , he was forced to withdraw northwards under pressure from superior government forces, with his soldiers beginning to desert in view of the precarious military situation and poor supplies.

The battle

When it became known that Cumberland and his army were marching on Inverness, Charles posted his army on the nearby Culloden Moor . It numbered about 5,000 men and was weakened and demoralized by disease, hunger and poor armament. Most of them were Highlanders. There were also Scots from the lowlands, parts of the Irish Brigade in French service , parts of the Royal-Écossais (a Scottish regiment in French service that existed from 1744 to 1762/63 ), and finally a handful of English Jacobites.

The battlefield in 2008

Cumberland's government army comprised 8,000 infantrymen and 900 cavalrymen , including English soldiers, German mercenaries , Hanoverians and several regiments of Scots loyal to the government. Although Cumberland was not a gifted strategist, he proved to be an excellent organizer and had also gained some experience in the War of the Austrian Succession against the French . He was also familiar with the Highlander fighting style, as Scottish units such as the famous Black Watch regiment had also belonged to his army in Flanders . He had left nothing to chance in preparing the decisive battle. In particular, his infantrymen had been trained to ward off the dreaded assault by the Highlanders and had learned to bayonet not the man facing them but the man to their right, thereby avoiding the cover of the traditional shield.

Given the unfavorable conditions, Murray proposed a night attack on government forces the night before April 16. As it took a long time before the army scattered in search of food was assembled, the enemy camp was not found in time and the project was abandoned in the early hours of the morning. Murray and several other officers, in view of their overtired soldiers, called for a retreat to less accessible terrain, but were outvoted. Charles decided to await Cumberland on the flat plain of the Culloden Muir . He took command of the center, Murray on the right and Lord John Drummond on the left.

Cumberland posted his army in three lines, each four men deep. The artillery stood in the gaps between the regiments, the cavalry on the wings so that the Jacobites could fall on the flanks .

At the beginning of the battle, the vastly superior guns of Cumberland opened a destructive fire on the Jacobite lines that their weaker artillery could not effectively counter. With casualties soaring, Prince Charles gave Lord Murray orders to order the attack.

Order of battle

Only a part of the Jacobite troops took part in this attack. The MacDonalds , who traditionally claimed the right to command the right wing, had been posted on the left wing and, out of anger at this insult, largely refused to obey the order to attack. The brunt of the fight therefore fell on the Camerons , MacLeans , Chattans, and MacLachlans .

Despite heavy losses from artillery fire and the musket volleys of government troops, the Highlanders were able to break the first line with two regiments. The second line held, however. A hard hand-to-hand combat ensued, but given the numerical superiority of the government troops and the artillery fire, the Jacobites were eventually forced to retreat with heavy losses. According to contemporary witnesses, the battle lasted only about 25 minutes.

Part of the Hanoverian cavalry managed to bypass the Jacobites' right wing. Although the regular soldiers of the Irish Brigade and the Royal-Ecossais succeeded in holding up government forces long enough to allow a significant part of the defeated army to retreat, the cavalry then judged those soldiers who did not leave the battlefield quickly enough a massacre . The losses of the defeated were enormous: around 1,250 Jacobites were killed, compared to 300 government soldiers.


More than 10 m high monument on the battlefield of Culloden

After the battle, Cumberland ordered all wounded and captured Jacobites to be executed. Only the soldiers of the Irish Brigade and the Royals Ecossais were exempted and treated as prisoners of war. His soldiers killed around 450 wounded Jacobites, and more are said to have been taken to a barn and burned alive in it. Some higher-ranking prisoners were initially spared to be tried in Inverness and later hanged . Cumberland tried to justify this approach, which was barbarous even by the standards of the time , by stating that the Jacobites were high traitors to whom the usual rules of war did not apply.

The following day, Cumberland sent patrols onto the battlefield to pick up and kill any other survivors. According to contemporary sources, another 70 Jacobites died here. Other prisoners were first brought to Carlisle Castle , England , where they were tried for high treason. They, too, were largely to 1754 executed . The captured flags of the Jacobites were burned in public. Only one flag, on which the traces of blood from the standard bearer can still be seen, survived in a hiding place and is now displayed at Edinburgh Castle .

Murray made one more attempt to regroup the defeated army in Ruthven , but the lack of food and supplies prevented the fight from continuing. The remnants of the Jacobite army dissolved. The participants in the uprising went into hiding or tried to flee abroad. Prince Charles escaped his English persecutors on a five-month, adventurous escape through Scotland to France due to the diverse support from the population. It is particularly noteworthy that the impoverished Scots protected and hid the defeated "Bonnie Prince Charlie", even though England had put an enormous bounty of 30,000 pounds on his capture.

In the aftermath of the first Jacobite Uprising in 1715, General Wade , the General Commander of Scotland, had the inaccessible highlands developed with a network of modern roads and bridges. Unlike in the past, this gave the English patrols access to the retreat areas of the Scottish fighters, and the English troops managed to control the highlands down to the depths. Cumberland ordered extreme harshness to be used against the Scottish people, suspected of supporting the uprising or the prince. The English troops raged in the Highlands, there were masses of arbitrary executions , arrests, looting and pillage .

Loyal Scottish officials and nobles tried to persuade Cumberland to adopt a more lenient course of action, as it mainly hit the innocent. Duncan Forbes of Culloden , one of the most loyal supporters of the House of Hanover in Scotland, was mocked by Cumberland as "the old woman who wanted to tell me something about humanity" during one such attempt. All appeals were ineffective, Cumberland ordered the English troops to continue marauding through the Highlands. His mercilessness, his inhuman brutality and his cynicism brought Cumberland the enduring hatred of the Scots and the nickname the Butcher ("the butcher"), which is still attached to him today .

In the months that followed , the clans were disarmed by force of arms and by repressive laws ( Disarming Act ) , the castles were burned and the traditional clan system was destroyed. Large parts of Gaelic culture went under as the traditional clothing ( kilt ) was banned from then on.

The Battle of Culloden was the last battle on the soil of the British Isles. To this day, it is widely perceived as a national catastrophe in Scotland, with the atrocities of Cumberland and the subsequent destruction of the old Highlander social order equally important. As a national trauma it has of course also entered literature and poetry, e. E.g. in Robert Burns ' poem The lovely lass of Inverness or Loch Lomond by Andrew Lang, which is often set to music today .

In English historiography in particular, it is pointed out again and again that although it was a battle between Scots and English, Scots also fought on the English side. Charles Edward Stuart was not supported by all Scots, because many profiteers of the union with England in the cities and in the lowlands rejected the Jacobite revolt or felt the traditional clan system as backward. Even some parts of the highland clans initially supported the House of Hanover .

In retrospect, the Battle of Culloden is a turning point in Scottish history. It not only ended the Stuarts ' last attempt to assert their claim to the throne, but also ushered in the downfall of traditional Scottish culture and the powerful special position of the clan chiefs and sealed the integration of the previously independent country into an English-dominated Great Britain.

Wilhelm August, Duke of Cumberland, was celebrated as a British national hero despite the atrocities committed . On the occasion of the victory celebration, Georg Friedrich Handel was commissioned to compose the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus .


Theodor Fontane describes his visit to the battlefield in his travelogue Beyond the Tweed . Walter Scott writes in his novel Redgauntlet about the time after 1745, the Jacobite revolt under Prince Charles Edward Stuart (called Bonnie Prince Charlie ). Diana Gabaldon also describes the Battle of Culloden in her multi-volume “Highland Saga”.

Web links

Commons : Battle of Culloden  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Collins Dictionary

Coordinates: 57 ° 28 ′ 42 "  N , 4 ° 5 ′ 51"  W.