On this day, 16th April, 1746 See More
Tragedy of Culloden
The Battle of Culloden, fought on 16th April 1746, resulted in the end of the Jacobite dream for all time. Con...temporary accounts report that for two days following the battle, the redcoats scoured the moor for wounded Jacobites, slaying all who were found, some in the most horrific of circumstances. Almost two thousand Jacobites were reported dead or wounded at the battle site alone. But this figure would pale into insignificance in the weeks and months that followed.
In Inverness, government soldiers emptied the gaols that were full of people imprisoned by Jacobite supporters, replacing them with captured Jacobites themselves. Defeated highlanders were then taken south to England to stand trial for high treason. Redcoat detachments were dispatched into the highland glens to wreak a dreadful revenge on anyone even remotely suspected of aiding the Jacobite cause. Entire settlements were ransacked, the occupants imprisoned or massacred, their homesteads subsequently set ablaze. Reports of murder, rape and torture became commonplace.
Meanwhile, the “Bonnie Prince” had to take to the heather, a hefty bounty of £30,000 put upon his head. It would become an extremely dark and shameful period in the history of the British government, and a period that would eventually bring about a bloody end to the highland way of life for all time. At its end, there would, and could, never be another Jacobite rising.
Many of the Jacobite prisoners who had been dragged south were held on hulks on the River Thames to face execution in Carlisle, York and Kennington Common. The high ranking "rebel lords" were executed on Tower Hill. One hundred and twenty common Jacobite foot soldiers were executed, one third of them apparently being deserters from the British Army. Although most of those who did stand trial were sentenced to death, almost all had their sentences commuted to transportation to the British colonies for life. Almost a thousand men were transported, over two hundred more were banished and nine hundred prisoners were actually released under the Act of Indemnity. Almost four hundred obtained their freedom by being exchanged for prisoners of war who were being held by France. Of the total three and a half thousand prisoners recorded nothing is known of the fate of almost six hundred and fifty. I imagine their fate would not have been a pleasant one.
The painting depicts the lost and tormented soul of a lone Jacobite, still drifting across the moor over two hundred and fifty years after that fateful day. In the background stands the most recognisable feature of the battlefield today, the 20 foot tall memorial cairn, erected by Duncan Forbes in 1881. In the same year Forbes also erected headstones to mark the mass graves of the clans.
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