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The Devastation of the Highlands after Culloden

Extracted from Browne's Highland Clans, - edited by Peter Lawrie, ©2017

James Browne, Highland Clans, 1859, Vol iii, p252-273.
The paragraph headings are mine, otherwise the words are largely those of Browne, with a little editing.

In contrast to the behaviour of the Jacobite army after Gladsmuir, the Hanoverian army, by explicit command of 'Butcher Cumberland' perpetrated dreadful atrocities after the Battle of Culloden, beginning with the treatment of the wounded on the field.

The Battle is over, the atrocities can begin - except for anyone with a French or Spanish commission
After the carnage of the day had ceased, the brutal soldiery, who, from the fiendish delight which they took in sprinkling one another with the blood of the slain, "looked," as stated by one of themselves, "like so many butchers rather than an army of Christian soldiers," dined upon the field of battle. After his men had finished their repast, Cumberland marched forward to take possession of Inverness, and on his way received a letter, which had been addressed to General Bland, signed by six of the French officers in the insurgent army, offering in behalf of themselves and their men to surrender unconditionally to his royal highness. As he was about to enter the town he was met by a drummer, who brought him a message from General Stapleton, offering to surrender and asking quarter. On receiving this communication, Cumberland ordered Sir Josepth Yorke, one of his officers, to alight from his horse, who with his pencil wrote a note to General Stapleton, assuring him of fair quarter an honourable treatment. The town was taken possession of by Captain Campbell, of Sempill's regiment, with his company of grenadiers.

Treatment of "disaffected townspeople"
Besides the military prisoners, several gentlemen supposed to be disaffected to the government were apprehended by Cumberland's orders, shutup with the common prisoners, and were for some time denied the use of bedding. Nor did the softer sex, whose Jacobite predilections had pointed them out as objects of displeasure, escape his resentment. Several ladies, among whom were Ladies Ogilvy, Kinloch, and Gordon, were seized and kept in durance in the common guard, and were limited along with the other prisoners of the miserable pittance of half-a pound of meal per day, with scarcely as much water as was necessary to prepare it for use. As the wounded prisoners were utterly neglected, many who would have recovered, if properly treated, died of their wounds; and so much were the rites of Christian sepulture disregarded by the royal officers, that the bodies of these unfortunate victims were carried naked through the streets by beggars, who were employed to inter them in the churchyard.

Deserters hanged
Knowing that there were several deserters from the royal army among the insurgents, Cumberland ordered a strict inspection to be made of the prisoners in order to find them out. No less than thirty-six were recognised, and being brought to a summary trial, were convicted, and suffered the death of traitors. Among these was one Dunbar, who had been a sergeant in Sowle's regiment. He had taken a suit of laced clothes from Major Lockhart at the battle of Falkirk, which being found in his possession, he was dressed in them, and hanged, and his body exposed for forty-eight hours on the gibbet. A young gentleman of the name of Forbes, a relative of Lord Forbes, is also said to have perished on this occasion. He had served as a cadet in an english regiment, but, being from principle attached to the Jacobite interest, had joined the standard of the prince.

English and Scots in Cumberland's army near to fighting
An incident occurred after the execution of this unfortunate gentleman, which assumed an alarming appearance, and might have led to serious consequences had the war been continued. Before Forbes was cut down from the gibbet, an English officer, with a morbidness of feeling which seems to have seized the officers as well as the common soldiers of the army, plunged his sword into the body of Forbes, exclaiming, at the same time, that "all his countrymen were traitors and rebels like himself." This exclamation being heard by a Scottish officer who was standing hard by, the offended Scotchman immediately drew his sword, and demanded satisfaction for the insult offered to his country. The englishman instantly accepted the challenge, and in a short time the combat became general among the officers who happened to be on the spot. The soldiers, seeing their officers engaged, beat to arms of their own accord, and drew up along the streets, the Scotch on one side and the English on the other, and commenced a warm combat with fixed bayonets. Information of this affray having been brought to Cumberland, he hastened to the scene of action, and by his persuasions put an end to the combat. He found the Scotch greatly excited by the affront offered them; but he soothed their wounded feelings by complimenting them for their fidelity, their courage, and exemplary conduct.

Murder of survivors
Notwithstanding the massacres which were committed immediately after the battle, a considerable number of wounded Highlanders still survived, some of whom had taken refuge in a few cottages adjoining the field of battle, while others lay scattered among the neighbouring inclosures. Many of these men might have recovered if ordinary attention had been paid to them; but Cumberland, considering that those who had risen in rebellion against his father were not entitled to the rights of humanity, entirely neglected them. But, barbarous as such conduct was, it was only the prelude to enormities of a still more revolting description. At first the victors conceived that they had completed the work of death by killing all the wounded they could discover; but when they were informed that some still survived, they resolved to despatch them.

Provost Hossack of Inverness thrown down stairs on Cumberland's orders when he protested the slaughter
Mr. Hossack, former provost of Inverness, and who had, under the direction of President Forbes, performed important servies to the government, having gone to pay his respects to Cumberland, found Generals Hawley and Huske deliberating on this inhuman design. Observing them intent upon their object, and actually proceeding to make out orders for killing the wounded Highlanders, he ventured to remonstrate against such a barbarous step. "As his majesty's troops have been happily successful against the rebels, I hope (observed Hossack) your excellencies will be so good as to mingle mercy with judgement." Hawley, in a rage, cried out, "D-n the puppy! does he pretend to dictate here? Carry him away!" Another officer ordered Hossack to be kicked out, and the order was obeyed with such instantaneous precision, that the ex-provost found himself at the bottom of two flights of steps.

Killing parties wander the field of battle
In terms of the cruel instructions alluded to, a party was despatched from Inverness the day after the battle to put to death all the wounded they might find in the inclosure adjoining the field of Culloden. These orders were fulfilled with a punctuality and deliberation that is sickening to read of. Instead of despatching their unfortunate victims on the spot where they found them, the soldiers dragged them from the places where they lay weltering in their gore, and, having ranged them on some spots of rising ground, poured in volleys of musketry upon them. Next day parties were sent to search all the houses in the neighbourhood of the field of battle, with instructions to carry all the wounded Highlanders they could find thither and despatch them. Many were in the consequence murdered; and the young laird of Macleod was heard frankly to declare, that on this occasion he himself saw seventy-two persons killed in cold blood. The feelings of humanity were not, however, altogether obliterated in the hearts of some of the officers, who spared a few of the wounded. In one instance the almost incredible cruelty of the soldiery was strikingly exemplified. At a short distance from the field of battle there stood a small hut, used for sheltering sheep and goats in cold and stormy weather, into which some of the wounded had crawled. On discovering them the soldiers immediately secured the door, to prevent egress, and thereupon set fire to the hut in several places, and all the persons within, to the number of between thirty and forty, perished in the flames.

Another instance of fiendish cruelty occurred the same day. Almost immediately after the battle , nineteen wounded officers of the Highland army, unable to follow their retiring companions, secreted themselves in a small plantation near Culloden house, whence they were afterwards carried to the court-yard of that mansion, where they remained two days in great torture weltering in their blood, and without the least medical aid or attention but such as they received from the president's steward, who, at the hazard of his own life, alleviated the sufferings of his unhappy countrymen by several acts of kindness. These wretched sufferers were now tied with ropes by the brutal soldiery, thrown into carts, and carried out to the park wall at a short distance from Culloden house. Being dragged out of the carts, they were ranged in order along the wall, and were told by the officer in command of the party to prepare for death. Such of them as retained the use of their limbs fell down upon their knees in prayer; but they had little time allowed them to invoke mercy, for in a minute the soldiers received orders to fire, and, being posted at the distance of only two or three yards from the prisoners, the unfortunate gentlemen were almost instantly shot dead.

That the butchery might be complete, the soldiers were ordered to club their muskets and dash out the brains of such of their miserable victims as exhibited any symptoms of life, an order which, horrible to tell, was actually fulfilled. A gentleman named John Fraser, who had been an officer in the Master of Lovat's regiment, alone survived. He had received a ball, and being observed to be still in life, was struck on the face by a soldier with the butt end of his musket. Though one of his cheek bones and the upper part of his nose were broken, and one of his eyes dashed out by the blow, he still lived, and the party, thinking they had killed him, left him for dead. He would probably have expired on the spot, had not the attention of Lord Body, son of the earl of Kilmarnock, when riding past, been fortunately attracted by the number of dead bodies he observed lying together. Espying , at a little distance from the heap, a body in motion, his lordship went up, and having ascertained from the mouth of the sufferer who he was, he ordered his servant to carry Mr. Fraser to a cottage, near at hand, which he named, where he lay concealed for three months. He lived several years afterwards, but was a cripple during life.

A bounty on weapons
By the capture of Inverness, a considerable quantity of ordanance and military stores fell into the hands of the royal army. Including those taken on the field of battle, there were some 30 pieces of cannon, 2,320 fireloacks, 190 broadswords, a large quantity of musket cartridges, 1,019 cannon balls, a quantity of musket shot, 37 barrels of gunpowder, and 22 ammunition carts, besides tents, cantines, pistols, saddles, &c. To encourage the soldiers to collect the arms which the Highlanders had left on the field, they were allowed half-a-crown for every musket, and a shilling for every broadsword which they brought into the camp at Inverness. For every stand of colours the sun of sixteen guineas was allowed, and no less than fourteen of these were captured or picked up upon the field, all of which were burnt on the 4th of June at the market cross of Edinburgh, by the hands of the common hangman, after being carried in mock procession from the castle by a party of chimney-sweeps.

Fort Augustus
Cumberland left Inverness, on the 23d of May for Fort Augustus, with eleven battalions of foot and Kingston's horse. As the buildings of Fort Augustus had been destroyed by the Jacobites, a camp was formed in the neighbourhood. A turf hut with doors and windows, and covered with green sods and boughs, was erected by Lord Loudon's Highlanders for the use of Cumberland.

Resolving to inflict a signal chastisement upon the rebels, the duke sent, from his camp at Fort Augustus, detachments of his troops in all directions, which devastated the country with fire and sword, and committed excesses scarcely paralleled in history. The seats of Lochiel, Glengarry, Kinlochmoidart, Keppoch, CLuny, Glengyle, and others, were plundered and burnt to the ground, and great numbers of the houses of the common people shared the same fate.

Major Lockhart, whose name, by his cruelties on this occasion, has obtained an infamous notoriety, marched with a detachment into the country of the Macdonalds of Barisdale, and laid waste and destroyed their dwellings. Some of these poor people had obtained protections from Lord Loudon; but the major disregarded them, and told the people who had them, that not even a warrant from heaven should prevent him from executing his orders.

Another battalion, under Lord George Sackville, ravaged the country about the glens of Moidart, while others carried fire and desolation through other districts. Not content with destroying the country, these bloodhounds either shot the men upon the mountains, or murdered them in cold blood. The women, after witnessing their husbands, fathers, and brothers murdered before their eyes, were subjected to brutal violence, and then turned out naked, with their children, to starve on the barren heaths. A whole family was enclosed in a barn, and consumed to ashes. So alert were these ministers of vengeance, that in a few days, according to the testimony of a volunteer who served in the expedition, neither house, cottage, man, nor beast, was to be seen with the compass of fifty miles: all was ruin, silence and desolation. Deprived of their cattle and their small stock of provisions by the rapacious soldiery, the hoary-headed matron and sire, the widowed mother and her helpless offspring, were to be seen dying of hunger, stretched upon the bare ground, and within view of the smoking ruins of their dwellings.

Forbearance of the Highlanders.
It may seem surprising that the Highlanders did not avenge themselves upon their oppressors, by assassinating such stragglers as fell in their way. It cannot be supposed that men in whose bosoms the spirit of revenge must have taken deep root, would have spared their relentless adversaries from any scruple as to the mode of despatching them; nor can it be imagined that the Highlanders could not have selected fit occasions when they might have inflicted vengeance upon individuals. The reason of their forbearance probably was, that such a system of warfare, if adopted, would lead to acts of retaliation on the part of the military, and thus increase their calamities. Only one instance is known where an injured person attempted to avenge himself. This was the case of a Highlander who had his house burned, his cattle plundered, and his son killed, while defending his family, who were turned out in the snow. Vowing revenge, he watched the officer who was the author of this inhuman outrage, and who, he was informed, was to be distinguished by a cloak of a particular kind. This officer riding one day with Captain George Munro of Culcairn in a shower of rain, lent him his cloak; and while marching in it with a party of men along the side of Loch Arkaig, the captain was shot by the enraged Highlander, who perceived the clock, but could not distinguish the difference of person. The man escaped, and although he was well known, and might have been afterwards apprehended, he was allowed to pass unpunished.

Looting livestock
Of the immense quantity of cattle carried off by Cumberland's troops, some idea may be formed from the fact mentioned in a journal of the period, that there were sometimes 2,000 in one drove. Intelligence of such a vast accumulation of live stock, reaching the ears of the graziers of the south, numbers of them went to Fort Augustus well provided with money, which they laid out to great advantage. Some of the people, impelled by starvation, repaired to the camp to solicit from the spoilers some of their flocks, to preserve an existence; but their supplications were unheeded, and they were doomed to behold their cattle sold and driven away, while famine stared them in the face.

Duncan Forbes shuts his mouth
The atrocities committed by the English must have been revolting to the humane mind of Lord President Forbes. On paying his respects to Cumberland at Inverness, he hinted to his highness that the laws of the country should be observed even by his army; but Cumberland, who entertained very different ideas, not relishing such an intrusion upon his authority, cut the worthy president short with this exclamation, "The laws of the country, my Lord" I'll make a brigade give laws, by God!". Judging farther remonstrance to be vain, Forbes dropped the subject, and was compelled to deplore in silence the cruelties which he could not prevent. He might have represented the matter to the government; but he was perhaps unwilling to run the risk of incurring its displeasure, and thereby deprive himself of the chance of being afterwards useful in saving many families from ruin.

The plundering was not restricted to the Highlands
The enormities of the lawless soldiery were not confined to the Highlands, but extended to all the adjoining lowland districts where the spirit of disaffection was known to exist. The houses of the low country Jacobite gentry were plundered and destroyed, and the chapels of the nonjurant episcopal clergy, as well as the more humble and secluded places of worship belonging to the Catholics, were either razed or burnt to the ground. "Rebel-hunting" was the term adopted by the ruffians of the British army to designate their bloody occupation.

death for reset or conceeling of rebels and arms
To complete the work of extermination, the duke issued a proclamation, announcing the punishment of death, by hanging, against every person who should harbour the insurgents, and a similar fate was declared to await such as should conceal arms, ammunition, or any other thing belonging to them, or should not immediately deliver up to persons authorised by the duke to receive the same, any property or effects in their possession belonging to the rebels.

The so-called "Church of Scotland" compliant with the atrocities
In compliance with a requisition made by the duke, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, about the end of May, enjoined the ministers of the different parishes to read a proclamation from the pulpits, in which they themselves, and every well affected person, were ordered by Cumberland to use every exertion to discover and seize the unfortunate fugitives; and to facilitate their discovery and apprehension, the clergy were required to furnish lists of the names of all persons in their respective parishes who had had any share in the insurrection. Many clergymen, including those of Edinburgh, with feelings of humanity and independence which did them honour, refused to head this proclamation, or to comply with the order requiring them to give in the names of such of their parishioners as had been engaged in the rebellion.

Rewards offered for fugitives overseas
The government, equally intent with its sanguinary general upon the destruction of the unfortunate adherents of the house of Stuart, offered rewards for apprehending such of the fugitives as might land in Ireland, and instructions were sent to the British ministers at foreign courts in alliance with George II, to seize all who might seek refuge in the territories of such powers.

Duke of Cumberland - a war criminal
The guilt of all these acts of bloodshed and rapine has been laid to the charge of Cumberland, and the single fact that he issued no orders to put an end to the enormities which were daily committed, almost under his own eyes, and with his perfect knowledge, seems of itself sufficient to justify the charge. But when taken in connexion with his sanguinary order not to make prisoners, the proofs of his criminality, or rather unconstitutional severity, are evident.

A very few officers showed some humanity
Though the foul stain of wanton cruelty must ever attach to the British army on the present occasion, from the commander down to the private, there were some redeeming exceptions among the officers, who alleviated the sufferings, and, in some instances, saved the lives of the devoted Highlanders. "I think myself", says Mr Maxwell, "bound in justice to let the reader know that there were in Cumberland's army officers of all ranks, whom neither the prospect of ingratiating themselves and making their fortunes, nor the contagion of bad example were able to corrupt. Some of those that had done the government the most essential services were as conspicuous now for their humanity as formerly for their courage and conduct. It might be indiscreet to be particular at present; but their names, which are written with indelible characters in the hearts of those poor people that owe to them the preservation of their being, will be carefully handed down to posterity. They are already known, and even, in the worst of times, meet with the applause they deserve from all those that have a fellow-feeling for their species".

Atrocity upon atrocity - Hitler's SS officers and Serbia's Mladic would have felt at home in the Highlands in 1746
With the honourable exceptions here alluded to, neither the duke nor the submissive slaves of his tyrannical will ever appear to have felt the least compunction for the miseries they inflicted upon the unfortunate Highlanders. On the contrary, they seem to have revelled amidst the ruin and desolation which they spread around; and when their occupation of "rebel-hunting" was gone, by the destruction of their victims, they endeavoured to relieve the ennui of repose by ludicrous and indecent diversions. Horse and foot races were instituted by the royal duke, who did not think it beneath his dignity to induce the women of the camp to enter the lists, and to expose themselves in a way at which decency revolts. This species of amusement produced great insubordination in the army, for the soldiers got very fond of it, and, according to a volunteer, most of them had horses, which they bought and sold with one another at low price, and on which they rode about, neglecting their duty, and consequently it became necessary to publish an order to part with them, otherwise they were all to be shot. "I saw", continues the same writer, "a soldier riding on one of these horses, when, being met by a comrade, he asked him, 'Tom, what hast thou given for the Galloway?' Tom answered, 'Half-a-crown'. To which the other replied, with an oath, 'He is too dear; I saw a better bought for eighteen pence'. Notwithstanding the low price, the vast quantities of cattle, such as oxen, horses, sheep, and goats, taken from the rebels, and bought up by the lump by the jockies and farmers from Yorkshire and the south of Scotland, came to a great deal of money, all which was divided amongst the men that brought them in, who were sent out in parties in search of the Pretender; and they frequently came to rebels' houses, which they had left, as their owners would not be reduced to obedience. These out soldiers commonly plundered and burnt, so that many of them grew rich by their share of spoil".