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   Chapter 9 CULLODEN

A Daughter of Raasay By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 26284

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


I have neither space nor heart to attempt a history of our brilliant but ill-starred campaign. Surely no more romantic attempt to win a throne was ever made. With some few thousand ill-armed Highlanders and a handful of lowland recruits the Prince cut his way through the heart of England, defeated two armies and repulsed a third, each of them larger than his own and far better supplied with the munitions of war, captured Carlisle, Manchester, and other towns, even pushed his army beyond Derby to a point little more than a hundred miles from London. Had the gentlemen of England who believed in our cause been possessed of the same spirit of devotion that animated these wild Highlanders we had unseated the Hanoverians out of doubt, but their loyalty was not strong enough to outweigh the prudential considerations that held them back. Their doubts held them inactive until too late.

There are some who maintain that had we pushed on from Derby, defeated the army of the Duke of Cumberland, of which the chance at this time was good, and swept on to London, that George II would have been sent flying to his beloved Hanover. We know now in what a state of wild excitement the capital city was awaiting news of our approach, how the household treasures of the Guelphs were all packed, how there was a run on the Bank of England, how even the Duke of Newcastle, prime minister of Great Britain, locked himself in his chamber all day denying admittance to all in an agony of doubt as to whether he had better declare at once for the Stuarts. We know too that the Wynns and other loyal Welsh gentlemen had already set out to rally their country for the honest cause, that cautious France was about to send an army to our assistance.

But all this was knowledge too late acquired. The great fact that confronted us was that without a French army to assist, our English friends would not redeem their contingent pledges. We were numerically of no greater force than when we had set out from Scotland, and the hazard of an advance was too great. General Wade and the Duke of Cumberland were closing in on us from different sides, each with an army that outnumbered ours, and a third army was waiting for us before London. 'Tis just possible that we might have taken the desperate chance and won, as the Prince was so eager that we should do, but it was to be considered that as a defeated army in a hostile country, had the fortune of war declared against us, we would surely have been cut to pieces in our retreat. By Lord George Murray and the chiefs it was judged wiser to fall back and join Lord John Drummond's army in Scotland. They declared that they would follow wherever the Prince chose to lead, but that they felt strongly that a further advance was to doom their clansmen to destruction. Reluctantly the Prince gave way.

On the 6th of December, before daybreak, the army began its retreat, which was conducted with great skill by Lord George Murray. Never were men more disappointed than the rank and file of the army when they found that a retreat had been resolved upon. Expressions of chagrin and disappointment were to be heard on every hand. But the necessity of the retreat was soon apparent to all, for the regulars were now closing in on us from every hand. By out-marching and out-maneuvering General Wade, we beat him to Lancaster, but his horse were entering the town before we had left the suburbs. At Clifton the Duke of Cumberland, having joined forces with Wade, came in touch with us, and his van was soundly drubbed by our rear-guard under Lord George, who had with him at the time the Stewarts of Appin, the Macphersons, Colonel Stuart's regiment, and Donald Roy's Macdonalds. By great good chance I arrived with a message to Lord George from the Prince in time to take part in this brilliant little affair. With his usual wisdom Lord George had posted his men in the enclosures and park of Lowther Hall, the Macdonalds on the right of the highway, Colonel Stuart in close proximity, and the Macphersons and the Appin regiment to the left of the road. I dismounted, tied my horse, and joined the Red Macdonald's company where they were lying in the shrubbery. We lay there a devil of a while, Donald Roy smoking as contented as you please, I in a stew of impatience and excitement; presently we could hear firing over to the left where Cluny Macpherson and Stewart of Ardshiel were feeling the enemy and driving them back. At last the order came to advance. Donald Roy leaped to his feet, waved his sword and shouted "Claymore!" Next moment we were rushing pell-mell down the hillside through the thick gorse, over hedges, and across ditches. We met the dragoons in full retreat across the moor at right angles toward us, raked them with a cross fire, and coming to close quarters cut them to pieces with the sword. In this little skirmish, which lasted less than a quarter of an hour, our loss was insignificant, while that of the enemy reached well into the three figures. The result of this engagement was that our army was extricated from a precarious position and that Cumberland allowed us henceforth to retreat at leisure without fear of molestation.

Of the good fortune which almost invariably attended our various detachments in the North, of our retreat to Scotland and easy victory over General Hawley at the battle of Falkirk, and of the jealousies and machinations of Secretary Murray and the Irish Prince's advisers, particularly O'Sullivan and Sir Thomas Sheridan, against Lord George Murray and the chiefs, I can here make no mention, but come at once to the disastrous battle of Culloden which put a period to our hopes. A number of unfortunate circumstances had conspired to weaken us. According to the Highland custom, many of the troops, seeing no need of their immediate presence, had retired temporarily to their homes. Several of the clan regiments were absent on forays and other military expeditions. The Chevalier O'Sullivan, who had charge of the commissariat department, had from gross negligence managed to let the army get into a state bordering on starvation, and that though there was a quantity of meal in Inverness sufficient for a fortnight's consumption. The man had allowed the army to march from the town without provisions, and the result was that at the time of the battle most of the troops had tasted but a single biscuit in two days. To cap all, the men were deadly wearied by the long night march to surprise the Duke of Cumberland's army and their dejected return to Drummossie Moor after the failure of the attempt. Many of the men and officers slipped away to Inverness in search of refreshments, being on the verge of starvation; others flung themselves down on the heath, sullen, dejected, and exhausted, to forget their hunger for the moment in sleep.

Without dubiety our plain course was to have fallen back across the Nairn among the hills and let the Duke weary his troops trying to drag his artillery up the mountainsides. The battle might easily have been postponed for several days until our troops were again rested, fed, and in good spirits. Lord George pointed out at the counsel that a further reason for delay lay in the fact that the Mackenzies under Lord Cromarty, the second battalion of the Frasers under the Master of Lovat, the Macphersons under Cluny, the Macgregors under Glengyle, Mackinnon's followers, and the Glengary Macdonald's under Barisdale were all on the march to join us and would arrive in the course of a day or two. That with these reinforcements, and in the hill country, so eminently suited to our method of warfare, we might make sure of a complete victory, was urged by him and others. But O'Sullivan and his friends had again obtained the ear of the Prince and urged him to immediate battle. This advice jumped with his own high spirit, for he could not brook to fall back in the face of the enemy awaiting the conflict. The order went forth to gather the clans for the fight.

To make full the tale of his misdeeds came O'Sullivan's fatal slight to the pride of the Macdonalds. Since the days of Robert the Bruce and Bannockburn it had been their clan privilege to hold the post of honour on the right. The blundering Irishman assigned this position to the Athole men in forming the line of battle, and stubbornly refused to reform his line. The Duke of Perth, who commanded on the left wing, endeavoured to placate the clan by vowing that they would that day make a right of the left and promising to change his name to Macdonald after the victory. Riding to the Duke with a message from the Prince I chanced on a man lying face down among the whin bushes. For the moment I supposed him dead, till he lifted himself to an elbow. The man turned to me a gash face the colour of whey, and I saw that it was Donald Roy.

"Ohon! Ohon! The evil day hass fallen on us, Kenneth. Five hundred years the Macdonalds have held the post of honour. They will never fight on the left," he told me in bitter despair and grief. "Wae's me! The red death grips us. Old MacEuan who hass the second sight saw a vision in the night of Cumberland's ridens driving over a field lost to the North. Death on the field and on the scaffold."

I have never known a man of saner common sense than Donald Roy, but when it comes to their superstitions all Highlanders are alike. As well I might have reasoned with a wooden post. MacEuan of the seeing eyes had predicted disaster, and calamity was to be our portion.

He joined me and walked beside my horse toward his command. The firing was by this time very heavy, our cannon being quite ineffective and the artillery of the English well served and deadly. Their guns, charged with cartouch, flung death wholesale across the ravine at us and decimated our ranks. The grape-shot swept through us like a hail-storm. Galled beyond endurance by the fire of the enemy, the clans clamoured to be led forward in the charge. Presently through the lifting smoke we saw the devoted Mackintoshes rushing forward against the cannon. After them came the Maclaughlans and the Macleans to their left, and a moment later the whole Highland line was in motion with the exception of the Macdonalds, who hewed the turf with their swords in a despairing rage but would neither fight nor fly. Their chief, brave Keppoch, stung to the quick, advanced almost alone, courting death rather than to survive the day's disgrace. Captain Donald Roy followed at his heels, imploring his chieftain not to sacrifice himself, but Keppoch bade him save himself. For him, he would never see the sunrise again. Next moment he fell to the ground from a musket-shot, never to speak more. My last glimpse of Captain Roy was to see him carrying back the body of his chief.

I rode back at a gallop along the ridge to my troop. The valley below was a shambles. The English cannon tore great gaps in the ranks of the advancing Highlanders. The incessant fire of the infantry raked them. From the left wing Major Wolfe's regiment poured an unceasing flank fire of musketry. The Highlanders fell in platoons. Still they swept forward headlong. They reached the first line of the enemy. 'Twas claymore against bayonet. Another minute, and the Highlanders had trampled down the regulars and were pushing on in impetuous gallantry. The thin tartan line clambering up the opposite side of the ravine grew thinner as the grape-shot carried havoc to their ranks. Cobham's and Kerr's dragoons flanked them en potence. To stand that hell of fire was more than mortal men could endure. Scarce a dozen clansmen reached the second line of regulars. The rest turned and cut their way, sword in hand, through the flanking regiments which had formed on the ground over which they had just passed with the intention of barring the retreat.

Our life-guards and the French pickets, together with Ogilvy's regiment, checked in some measure the pursuit, but nothing could be done to save the day. All was irretrievably lost, though the Prince galloped over the field attempting a rally. The retreat became a rout, and the rout a panic. As far as Inverness the ground was strewn with the dead slain in that ghastly pursuit.

The atrocities committed after the battle would have been worthy of savages rather than of civilized troops. Many of the inhabitants of Inverness had come out to see the battle from curiosity and were cut down by the infuriated cavalry. The carnage of the battle appeared not to satiate their horrid thirst for blood, and the troopers, bearing in mind their disgrace at Gladsmuir and Falkirk, rushed to and fro over the field massacring the wounded. I could ask any fair-minded judge to set up against this barbarity the gentle consideration and tenderness of Prince Charles and his wild Highlanders in their hours of victory. We never slew a man except in the heat of fight, and the wounded of the enemy were always cared for with the greatest solicitude. From this one may conclude that the bravest troops are the most humane. These followers of the Duke had disgraced themselves, and they ran to an excess of

cruelty in an attempt to wipe out their cowardice.

Nor was it the soldiery alone that committed excesses. I regret to have to record that many of the officers also engaged in them. A party was dispatched from Inverness the day after the battle to put to death all the wounded they might find in the inclosures of Culloden Park near the field of the contest. A young Highlander serving with the English army was afterwards heard to declare that he saw seventy-two unfortunate victims dragged from their hiding in the heather to hillocks and shot down by volleys of musketry. Into a small sheep hut on the moor some of our wounded had dragged themselves. The dragoons secured the door and fired the hut. One instance of singular atrocity is vouched for. Nineteen wounded Highland officers, too badly injured to join the retreat, secreted themselves in a small plantation near Culloden-house, to which mansion they were afterward taken. After being allowed to lie without care twenty-four hours they were tossed into carts, carried to the wall of the park, ranged against it in a row, and instantly shot. I myself was a witness of one incident which touches the butcher of Cumberland nearly. If I relate the affair, 'tis because it falls pat with the narrative of my escape.

In the streets of Inverness I ran across Major Macleod gathering together the remnant of his command to check the pursuit until the Prince should have escaped. The man had just come from seeing his brave clansmen mowed down, and his face looked like death.

"The Prince- Did he escape?" I asked. "I saw him last trying to stem the tide, with Sheridan and O'Sullivan tugging at his reins to induce a flight."

The Macleod nodded. "They passed through the town not five minutes ago."

I asked him whether he had seen anything of Captain Roy Macdonald, and he told me that he had last seen him lying wounded on the field. I had him describe to me accurately the position, and rode back by a wide circuit toward Drummossie Moor. I had of course torn off the white cockade and put it in my breast so as to minimize the danger of being recognized as a follower of the Prince. My heart goes to my throat whenever I think of that ride, for behind every clump of whins one might look to find a wounded clansman hiding from the riders of Cumberland. By good providence I came on Captain Macdonald just as three hussars were about to make an end of him. He had his back to a great stone, and was waiting grimly for them to shoot him down. Supposing me to be an officer of their party the troopers desisted at my remonstrance and left him to me. Donald Roy was wounded in the foot, but he managed to mount behind me. We got as far as the wall of the park when I saw a party of officers approaching. Hastily dismounting, we led the horse behind a nest of birches till they should pass. A few yards from us a sorely wounded Highland officer was lying. Macdonald recognized him as Charles Fraser, younger of Inverallachie, the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fraser regiment and in the absence of the Master of Lovat commander. We found no time to drag him to safety before the English officers were upon us.

The approaching party turned out to be the Duke of Cumberland himself, Major Wolfe, Lord Boyd, Sir Robert Volney, and a boy officer of Wolfe's regiment. Young Fraser raised himself on his elbow to look at the Duke. The Butcher reined in his horse, frowning blackly down at him.

"To which side do you belong?" he asked.

"To the Prince," was the undaunted answer.

Cumberland, turning to Major Wolfe, said,

"Major, are your pistols loaded?"

Wolfe said that they were.

"Then shoot me that Highland scoundrel who dares look on me so insolently."

Major Wolfe looked at his commander very steadily and said quietly: "Sir, my commission is at the disposal of your Royal Highness, but my honour is my own. I can never consent to become a common executioner."

The Duke purpled, and burst out with, "Bah! Pistol him, Boyd."

"Your Highness asks what is not fitting for you to require nor for me to perform," answered that young nobleman.

The Duke, in a fury, turned to a passing dragoon and bade him shoot the young man. Charles Fraser dragged himself to his feet by a great effort and looked at the butcher with a face of infinite scorn while the soldier was loading his piece.

"Your Highness," began Wolfe, about to remonstrate.

"Sir, I command you to be silent," screamed the Duke.

The trooper presented his piece at the Fraser, whose steady eyes never left the face of Cumberland.

"God save King James!" cried Inverallachie in English, and next moment fell dead from the discharge of the musket.

The faces of the four Englishmen who rode with the Duke were stern and drawn. Wolfe dismounted from his horse and reverently covered the face of the dead Jacobite with a kerchief.

"God grant that when our time comes we may die as valiantly and as loyally as this young gentleman," he said solemnly, raising his hat.

Volney, Boyd, and Wolfe's subaltern uncovered, and echoed an "Amen." Cumberland glared from one to another of them, ran the gamut of all tints from pink to deepest purple, gulped out an apoplectic Dutch oath, and dug the rowels deep into his bay. With shame, sorrow, and contempt in their hearts his retinue followed the butcher across the field.

My face was like the melting winter snows. I could not look at the Macdonald, nor he at me. We mounted in silence and rode away. Only once he referred to what we had seen.

"Many's the time that Charlie Fraser and I have hunted the dun deer across the heather hills, and now--" He broke into Gaelic lamentation and imprecation, then fell as suddenly to quiet.

We bore up a ravine away from the roads toward where a great gash in the hills invited us, for we did not need to be told that the chances of safety increased with our distance from the beaten tracks of travel. A man on horseback came riding behind and overhauled us rapidly. Presently we saw that he was a red-coated officer, and behind a huge rock we waited to pistol him as he came up. The man leaped from his horse and came straight toward us. I laid a hand on Captain Roy's arm, for I had recognized Major Wolfe. But I was too late. A pistol ball went slapping through the Major's hat and knocked it from his head. He stooped, replaced it with the utmost composure, and continued to advance, at the same time calling out that he was a friend.

"I recognized you behind the birches, Montagu, and thought that you and your friend could use another horse. Take my Galloway. You will find him a good traveller."

I ask you to believe that we stared long at him. A wistful smile touched his sallow face.

"We're not all ruffians in the English army, lad. If I aid your escape it is because prisoners have no rights this day. My advice would be for you to strike for the hills."

"In troth and I would think your advisings good, sir," answered Donald. "No glen will be too far, no ben too high, for a hiding-place from these bloody Sassenach dogs." Then he stopped, the bitterness fading from his voice, and added: "But I am forgetting myself. God, sir, the sights I have seen this day drive me mad. At all events there iss one English officer Captain Macdonald will remember whatever." And the Highlander bowed with dignity.

I thanked Wolfe warmly, and lost no time in taking his advice. Captain Roy's foot had by this time so swollen that he could not put it in the stirrup. He was suffering a good deal, but at least the pain served to distract him from the gloom that lay heavy on his spirits. From the hillside far above the town we could see the lights of Inverness beginning to glimmer as we passed. A score of times we had to dismount on account of the roughness of the ground to lead our horses along the steep incline of the mountainsides, and each time Donald set his teeth and dragged his shattered ankle through bracken and over boulder by sheer dour pluck. Hunger gnawed at our vitals, for in forty-eight hours we had but tasted food. Deadly weariness hung on our stumbling footsteps, and in our gloomy hearts lurked the coldness of despair. Yet hour after hour we held our silent course, clambering like heather-cats over cleugh and boggy moorland, till at last we reached Bun Chraobg, where we unsaddled for a snatch of sleep.

We flung ourselves down on the soft heather wrapped in our plaids, but for long slumber was not to be wooed. Our alert minds fell to a review of all the horrors of the day: to friends struck down, to the ghastly carnage, to fugitives hunted and shot in their hiding-places like wild beasts, to the mistakes that had ruined our already lost cause. The past and the present were bitter as we could bear; thank Heaven, the black shadow of the future hung as yet but dimly on our souls. If we had had the second sight and could have known what was to follow-the countryside laid waste with fire and sword, women and children turned out of their blazing homes to perish on the bleak moors, the wearing of the tartan proscribed and made a crime punishable with death, a hundred brave Highlanders the victim of the scaffold-we should have quite despaired.

Except the gentle soughing of the wind there was no sound to stir the silent night. A million of night's candles looked coldly down on an army of hunted stragglers. I thought of the Prince, Cluny, Lord Murray, Creagh, and a score of others, wondering if they had been taken, and fell at last to troubled sleep, from which ever and anon I started to hear the wild wail of the pibroch or the ringing Highland slogans, to see the flaming cannon mouths vomiting death or the fell galloping of the relentless Hanoverian dragoons.

In the chill dawn I awoke to a ravening hunger that was insistent to be noted, and though my eyes would scarce believe there was Donald Roy cocked tailor fashion on the heath arranging most temptingly on a rock scone sandwiches of braxy mutton and a flask of usquebaugh (Highland whiskey). I shut my eyes, rubbed them with my forefingers, and again let in the light. The viands were still there.

The Macdonald smiled whimsically over at me. "Gin ye hae your appetite wi' you we'll eat, Mr. Montagu, for I'm a wee thingie hungry my nainsell (myself). 'Deed, to mak plain, I'm toom (empty) as a drum, and I'm thinkin' that a drappie o' the usquebaugh wad no' come amiss neither."

"But where in the world did you get the food, Donald?"

"And where wad you think, but doon at the bit clachan yonder? A very guid freend of mine named Farquhar Dhu lives there. He and Donald Roy are far ben (intimate), and when I came knocking at his window at cock-craw he was no' very laithe to gie me a bit chack (lunch)."

"Did you climb down the mountain and back with your sore ankle?"

He coloured. "Hoots, man! Haud your whitter (tongue)! Aiblins (perhaps) I wass just wearying for a bit exercise to test it. And gin I were you I wadna sit cocking on that stane speiring at me upsitten (impertinent) questions like a professor of pheelosophy, you muckle sumph!"

I fell to with a will. He was not a man to be thanked in words. Long since I had found out that Captain Roy was one to spend himself for his friends and make nothing of it. This was one of his many shining qualities that drew me so strongly to him. If he had a few of the Highland faults he did not lack any of the virtues of his race.

Shortly we were on our way once more, and were fortunate enough before night to fall in with Cluny and his clan, who having heard of our reverse had turned about and were falling back to Badenoch. At Trotternich we found a temporary refuge at the home of a surgeon who was distantly related to the Macdonald, but at the end of a fortnight were driven away by the approach of a troop of Wolfe's regiment.

The course of our wanderings I think it not needful to detail at length. For months we were forever on the move. From one hiding-place to another the redcoats and their clan allies drove us. No sooner were we fairly concealed than out we were routed. Many a weary hundred miles we tramped over the bleak mountains white with snow. Weariness walked with us by day, and cold and hunger lay down with us at night. Occasionally we slept in sheilings (sheep-huts), but usually in caves or under the open sky. Were we in great luck, venison and usquebaugh fell to our portion, but more often our diet was brose (boiling water poured over oatmeal) washed down by a draught from the mountain burn. Now we would be lurking on the mainland, now skulking on one of the islands or crossing rough firths in crazy boats that leaked like a sieve. Many a time it was touch and go with us, for the dragoons and the Campbells followed the trail like sleuths. We fugitives had a system of signals by which we warned each other of the enemy's approach and conveyed to each other the news. That Balmerino, Kilmarnock, and many another pretty man had been taken we knew, and scores of us could have guessed shrewdly where the Prince was hiding in the heather hills.

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