Manuscripts and Special Collections

Treatment of the Highlanders

As the Highlanders fled from Drummossie Moor, Charles Edward was led from the battlefield by his companions. For the next six months he lived as a fugitive, hunted in the heather by the government forces. In spite of a very large reward for his capture, and some very narrow escapes, no-one betrayed him. Eventually he was picked up by a French ship and carried safely to France.

While Charles made his escape the full force of the Government's revenge fell upon the Highlands. After the battle wounded clansmen were put to death on Cumberland's order, which is why he acquired the nickname of 'Butcher'. Several hundred more were cut down and killed on the retreat to Inverness, and these included bystanders. Finally the town itself was thoroughly searched and people suspected of being concerned in the rebellion were killed on the spot.

The Highlanders had given Henry Pelham and the government a bad fright. They had expected to crush the rebellion much more easily. At one point the rebel army had been only five days' march from London, with no army directly between them and the capital. The decision was taken to crush the power of the Highlanders and destroy their traditional way of living. Bland, who was a major-general in Cumberland's army, was in favour of a tough military solution (Document 16).

Cumberland's soldiers were happy to carry out the orders of their officers in the summer of 1746, especially since it was so easy and they met little resistance. As the soldiers marched through the Great Glen they burned the huts and crofts of the clansmen and the houses of the chiefs, and committed many atrocities. The Highlanders who were captured were shipped off to the colonies like slaves, and those left found it hard to survive, because they relied on their cattle for food, and it was policy to take these.

In the Highlands the '45 was also a civil war with members of several clans taking part on both sides, but military policy did not distinguish very easily between the innocent and the guilty. There were also quite difficult problems of knowing whom to punish. The Duke of Argyll was one of the government's most powerful supporters, yet his tenants in Morven were either Camerons or Macleans and most of the men had been in the Jacobite army. Morven was laid waste, and the Duke of Argyll suffered a considerable loss of revenue, for which the government was not anxious to compensate him. This sort of action fitted in well with Cumberland's belief that all Scots were rebels and traitors. For many years after Culloden the government received claims from those who felt that they had helped during the rebellion (Document 17), and rewarded them with government posts or pensions where possible.

The property of those who had joined the rebellion was confiscated, and the 'Forfeited Estates' were administered directly by the government in pursuit of a policy of breaking up the Highlanders' way of life. The political, military and judicial power of the clan chiefs was abolished. The Highlanders were forbidden on pain of death from wearing a tartan plaid (the kilt is the more modern equivalent), bear arms, or carry a dirk or dagger.

The road system begun under General Wade was continued and extended, and more bridges and barracks built. Thus the foundations were laid for the transformation of Highland life in the ensuing 100 years.


Next page:  Extent of Jacobite activity


Manuscripts and Special Collections

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