On the night before the battle the government army, which was camped around 12 miles from the Jacobites to the west, celebrated Cumberland's twenty-fifth birthday by issuing two gallons of brandy to each regiment. In an attempt to take the initiative, and repeat the victory at Prestonpans, the Jacobites forced a night march with the aim of catching the Hanovarian’s by surprise. The trek however prorated arduous and having already left late, took much longer than expected. In the dark, the right and left wings of the army became separated and by the time the leading troops had reached Culraick, still 2 miles from their objective, there was only one hour left before dawn. It was concluded that there was not enough time to mount a surprise attack and that the offensive should be aborted; the army returned in disarray.
The ensuing battle was brief. Unleashing their superior artillery, the government army opened by shelling the Jacobite lines. Charles, who had taken personal command of the army, left his men to endure the barrage for around 30 minutes, waiting for his opponents to move. Several clan leaders, worried about the resulting casualties, its effect on moral and angry at the lack of action, pressured Charles to issue the order to charge. Members of Clan Chattan were the first of the Jacobites to receive this order, but an area of boggy ground in front of them forced them to veer right so that they obstructed the following regiments and the attack was pushed towards the wall of the Culwhiniac enclosure. The Jacobites advanced on the left flank of the government troops, but were subjected to volleys of musket fire and the artillery which had switched from roundshot to grapeshot.
The Jacobite left wing, which consisted of Macdonald regiments, had around 200m more to cover over much boggier ground and so engaged the government troops slightly later. As they took casualties the began to give way and sensing the advantage, Cumberland ordered his dragoons to ride them down. They too were impeded by the boggy ground and ended up engaging the French supplied Irish Picquets, who had been brought forward in an attempt to stabilise the deteriorating Jacobite left flank.
From this point on the fleeing Jacobite forces were split into two groups: the Lowland regiments retired in order southwards, making their way to Ruthven Barracks; the Highland regiments however were cut off by the government cavalry, and forced to retreat down the road to Inverness. The result was that they were a perfect target for the government dragoons.
It is estimated that of the approximate 7,000 mend deployed at the outset of the battle, Jacobite casualties were around 1,500–2,000 killed or wounded. By contrast, the government only lost between 240-400 of their 8,000, while another 1,000 were wounded.
The morning following the Battle of Culloden, Cumberland issued a written order reminding his men that "the public orders of the rebels yesterday was to give us no quarter". Contemporary accounts report then that for the next two days Culloden Moor was searched and all those found wounded there were put to death. Charles Edward returned to France and so ended any realistic attempt to place him, or any other Stuart, on the British throne.
The scenes in this blog were part of our model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne which explored the history of the Risings and in particular that of the 'Forty-five'. This model was on display at Stirling Castle over the winter of 2017 and 2018 where it proved hugely popular and received considerable media attention. While the full model no longer exists, parts of it do and are often on display, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out where and when.