The End of the Jacobite Rebellion: Culloden, 1746

The Battle of Culloden not only marked the end of the Jacobite Rebellion, it was also the last battle ever to be fought on British soil.

Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie as he was called by his supporters, led the campaign to restore a Stuart King to the British throne. He had marched his army of 6,000 to London to try and gain support for his attempt to overthrow the Hanoverian King, George II. Unfortunately for the Young Pretender (as his enemies called him), his campaign met with little success and he gained no significant support.

Charles decided to retreat back to Inverness in Scotland. Most of his army were Roman Catholic Highlanders. They were poorly equipped for combat. Whilst some did have swords, many only had makeshift weapons.

The Duke of Cumberland was the leader of the King’s army of around 8,000 men. They marched towards Inverness with the intention of finally defeating the Jacobite Rebellion. They arrived and encamped in Nairn on April 14 1746. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces were depleted by this time and are estimated to have been around 5,400 in number.

The rebels moved towards Nairn. It was debated as to whether using guerilla tactics would bring them a better chance of victory over Cumberland, but Bonnie Prince Charlie rejected that idea.

Instead it was decided that the Jacobites would launch a night attack. The Duke of Cumberland’s birthday of April 15 was chosen for the night attack. This type of campaign had worked successfully for them before, but this time it was a failure which simply depleted the energy of the already exhausted Highlanders. They were very short on food and many simply did not have the strength to engage in battle.

The Duke of Cumberland gave the order to march to attack the Jacobites on April 16. The already exhausted Jacobites formed a wall of defense with ground troops on the front line, and soldiers on horseback forming the second line. Morale was low and many of the Jacobite troops were exhausted and hungry. To add to their woes, the weather conditions were poor, with wind blowing rain and sleet into their faces.

Cumberland’s forces subjected the enemy line to an artillery attack which lasted some 20 minutes. It is not known why Bonnie Prince Charlie delayed the order to charge. The terrain was boggy and unsuited to this type of combat, but he had little choice. The Highland clan leaders were angry that Charles had delayed giving the order to charge, and persuaded him that he needed to do so. Unfortunately, by this point support for his leadership was waning, and confusion was rife. The charge was uncoordinated, but many of the Highlanders did reach enemy lines.

They were no match for the King’s army. Losses on the Jacobite side were high with around 1,250 men losing their lives, many were wounded and 558 taken prisoner. The Duke of Cumberland’s army lost 52 with 259 injured. The Battle of Culloden lasted only an hour and the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated, marking the end of the Jacobite rebellion.


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