Saturday, 16 April 2016

16‭ ‬April‭ ‬1746:‭ ‬The Battle Culloden/Blàr Chùil Lodair was fought in Scotland on this day.‭ ‬This marked the final defeat of‭ ‘‬Bonnie Prince Charlie‭’ ‬by the British Army and thus to any realistic attempt by the Stuarts to regain the throne.‭ ‬Contingents from the Irish Brigade of France fought in the battle.‭ A composite battalion of over‭ ‬400‭ ‬men from six infantry regiments (the Irish Picquets) and a detachment of Fitzjames‭' ‬cavalry regiment joined the Prince in his bid to overthrow the Crown of Hanover.‭ ‬Though hundreds more were turned back by England’s Royal Navy as they attempted to reach Scotland.‭ ‬Many of Irish veterans had been at the battle of Fontenoy the previous year, where they were instrumental in the defeat of the Duke of Cumberland’s* Army.‭  ‬Their late charge on the Duke of Cumberland's attacking force had been one of the decisive factors in turning the hotly fought encounter for Marshal De Saxe.‭

Though initially successful,‭ ‬by April‭ ‬1646‭ ‬Prince Charles and his army were clearly in trouble.‭ ‬As he confronted his enemies at Culloden,‭ ‬a large portion of his exhausted,‭ ‬freezing forces had melted away to their homes.‭ ‬Facing about‭ ‬9,000‭ ‬veteran British soldiers under the same Duke of Cumberland who had been defeated at Fontenoy less than a year earlier,‭ ‬Prince Charles‭' ‬army numbered about‭ ‬4,000.‭ ‬Retreat would seem to have been the best course of action.‭ ‬But Prince Charles just sat there on his horse and let Cumberland dictate the pace of events.‭ ‬The Prince should have closed on the Duke's Army before the English deployed their cannon.‭ ‬The one and only attack factor the Highlanders had‭
(‬besides raw courage‭) ‬was the‭ '‬Highland Charge‭' - ‬but clearly the tactical lay of the land was too open for its effective use.‭ ‬However in some respects the‭ '‬Young Pretender‭' ‬had not much choice but to stand and fight.‭ ‬His Army was demoralised and about to melt away as it was.‭ ‬At least by fighting a battle there was a chance,‭ ‬even if it was a slim one,‭ ‬that Fortune would smile on the Stuart cause that day.‭

Eventually Prince Charles ordered an attack but with moors on both sides,‭ ‬the Jacobites were forced into a narrow front.‭ ‬The British artillery was now deployed and the massed musketry of the enemy soldiers did tremendous damage to their formations.‭ ‬The Prince's army was soon in full retreat.‭ ‬Colonel O'Shea,‭ ‬with‭ ‬60‭ ‬troopers of Fitzjames‭' ‬horse stopped‭ ‬500‭ ‬British dragoons who came dangerously close to capturing the Prince,‭ ‬and on the left of the line,‭ ‬the men of the combined Irish regiments,‭ ‬under the command of the enigmatic Brigadier Stapleton,‭ ‬were the last off the field,‭ ‬covering the retreat of Prince Charles and the remnants of his army.‭ ‬Stapleton was mortally wounded during that action.‭ ‬The Irish had given their blood to the cause of a Stuart King for the last time.‭

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the brief battle. British Army losses were lighter with around 50+ dead and 259 wounded soldiers. That night as Prince Charles fled the field of battle the victorious Duke  William Augustus dined in the town of Inverness to the toasts of his officers. Any of the wounded Jacobites left on Culloden Moor was not so lucky, for the following day the English Army returned and dispatched those they found alive at the point of the bayonet. It was the beginning of a brutal campaign to crush the Highlanders from ever again raising the flag of revolt against the House of Hanover.

Most of the surviving Irish surrendered at Inverness.‭ ‬Some months later the Prince himself managed to make his escape to France.‭ ‬His later life was a sorry one as he fell to pieces and drowned his sorrows.‭ ‬He is buried in the Crypt of St Peters in the Vatican.‭ ‬Ironically he was not the Stuart 'King' at the time of his audacious expedition but acting in the name of his father‭ ‬-‭ ‬James III‭ (‬aka‭ ‘‬the old Pretender‭’)‬.‭

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