The Jacobites who fought on after Culloden
The battle was lost, the rising was over, and the rebels were told by their leader to go home.
But for hundreds of Jacobites, the fight was still on, despite their defeat at the Battle of Culloden, with many remaining armed and engaged long after Bonnie Prince Charlie went on the run on April 16, 1746.
Around 1000 Jacobites gathered the following day at Ruthven Barracks, where a written order from Prince Charles Edward Stuart told them to “seek their own safety” and disband,
But, for many, surrendering was too dangerous an option, according to Professor Murray Pittock, historian and pro-vice principal of Glasgow University.
As time went on, the risks of Jacobites handing themselves in became clear.
Prof Pittock said: “The mood of the Ruthven meetings was downcast. Many fought on to avoid capture or because the risk of surrendering was high.
“To see how the British Army is dealing with people, there is not really a lot of incentive to go home. They think they will be at more risk.
“In June, a number of Jacobites went into Fort William after the British government promised six weeks’ immunity. Captain Scott drowned them in a salmon net.”
Jacobites engaged in low-level disruption, raiding and protection of vulnerable tenantry as well as recruitment to the Irish Brigade and probably Scottish regiments in French service, including Ecossais Royales.
Assassinations of unpopular government officers or sympathisers were also recorded. The British government still considered the Jacobite threat to be “major” at this time with around 12,000 to 13,000 soldiers deployed across the entire country – from Berwick and Stranraer to Elgin, Forres, Stonehaven, Inverbervie and Montrose – by the end of August 1746.
As government forces mobilised, significant units of armed Jacobites continued to appear in the field, said Prof Pittock, who is due to publish a book on the British Army between 1746 and 1760.
At the end of April, 120 armed MacGregor men were recorded in Balqhuidder after marching home ‘colours flying and pipes playing’ with the Army unwilling to tackle or pursue Jacobite units that maintained discipline, Prof Pittock said.
One battalion of Lochiel’s regiment was still operational in May – as were 500 men under Clanranald. Orkney remained under Jacobite control until late that month and, despite British attacks, four local Jacobite lairds remained successfully hidden.
Clans made concerted attempts to resist Cumberland and his men with around a dozen chiefs meeting at Mortlaig in early May.
“At the meeting... they entered into a bond for their mutual defence and agreed never to lay down their arms, or make a general peace without the consent of the whole,” according to an 1832 account by James Browne.
“By the bond of association, the chiefs agreed...to raise on behalf of the prince and in defence of their country, as many able-bodied armed men as they could on their respective properties.”
Around 600 men gathered later that month across the north and west but the clans “ultimately did not have the time or morale to raise or retain enough men in the field,” Prof Pittock said.
Although a unified response failed to materialise, Jacobites remained active across Scotland. Jacobite expresses – the non-stop delivery of letters by horse – continued until August. A British regiment was deployed across Banffshire in the summer of 1746 with insurgents reported in Argyll that September.
Arms were surrendered in the Mearns right into the summer of 1748.
“British atrocities may have been carried out against innocent victims, but there were plenty of continuing Jacobite threats,” Prof Pittock said.