On the side of the road a flag stands forlorn marking the entrance to the battlefield. An open field, devoid of trees with a wind whipping across its desolate expanse. This field is significant in British history. Preserved now, hopefully for a significant time as a reminder of what happened in the past.
Culloden Battlefield is exactly as it would have been nearly 300 years ago. Only 10% has been lost or developed over the years. This makes it unique and something that a modern day battle of a different type (against developers) now aims to protect.
This battle was the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745, resulting in a decisive victory for British Government troops in their fight with Charles Edward Stuart better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.
On 16th April 1746, Jacobite supporters who were looking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British throne, gathered on this flat field just to the east of Inverness. Gathering at the same time were the government troops lead by the Duke of Cumberland.
After a number of smaller battles in the days leading up to the 16th April, in less than an hour, between 1500 and 2000 Jacobites were killed or injured. At the same time only 300 of the government troops were lost.
It is possible to stand on the exact spot where the clans were positioned. From the memorial cairn red flags mark the lines of the troops. So close that these men would have been able to see the features and eyes of their opposition even before the battle began. In the silence of the moor, the wind whispers the stories of the battle and the last moments and breath of many young lives.
Sitting quietly in the corner of the field is Leanach Cottage . A small thatched cottage built sometime in the early 18th Century. During the battle it would have been in the middle of the government lines, surrounded by troops. Used as a field hospital it still stands today, loved but lonely.
Small headstones placed in 1881 by Duncan Forbes, now mark the locations of the mass graves of each clan with a large memorial cairn forming a solid reminder of the loss of life in this Highland field. Walking between these stones makes you think about the collective desire of these men to maintain their way of life and the sacrifice they made.
The aftermath of this battle was highly influential on Scotland’s history. Many parts of the Highlands were integrated with Great Britain, taking away power and land from Clan leaders. Tartan was banned in all circumstances other than military dress. Those leaders that survived the battle were taken to London and tried for high treason. Death penalties were commuted to transportation to penal colonies and many never returned to their Highland homes.
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