There had been something close to complete accord among the Scottish Highlanders to serve their rightful King. Mr. MacGregor, who had brought this about, had given convincing proof to Cardinal Fleury that this was so ever since 1740, and that it seemed that 20,000 of these brave people were ready to declare as soon as arms, munitions, and the small amount of money they would need to embark on a campaign, were sent to them.
Mr. Murray (whose treason now horrifies all Britain) having come to Paris in September 1744, divulged the secret of these undertakings to Sir Thomas Sheridan who, having been under-governor of the Prince of Wales, had gained the complete trust of H.R.H. Consequently Sir Thomas was so rash as to persuade his young master to come over to Scotland in June 1745, with only 200 weapons, very little munitions of war, and with only £2,000 sterling to serve as a military chest. This was done without either the knowledge of the King his father or participation by the French court, and despite dissuasion from Mr. Cameron of Lochiel and several other Scottish gentlemen whom Mr. Murray had sounded on behalf of the Prince.
Nevertheless, after making fruitless attempts to persuade H.R.H. to go back to where he came from, Lochiel was in the end alarmed at the dangerous position in which His Royal Person was placed, and brought out 900 of his clan. His example having been followed by some of the most zealous Jacobites (royalistes) there were successes and favourable opportunities which should have led all Jacobites in the Kingdon to declare themselves had Sir Thomas Sheridan had the ability to manage something of such importance, or had the Prince trusted his Scots more, at least as regards the affairs of their native land. But a succession of initiatives not properly understood, and all too clear distrust of those who had proposed them in good faith, meant that the majority of those faithful to King James stood idly by, and those who had taken up arms were ultimately forces to scatter after the unfortunate business of Culloden.
It was at this point that the Duke of Cumberland offered Mr. Cameron of Lochiel very favourable terms to try to win him over, and it was made known to the other chiefs that the Duke, greatly impressed by their bravery, would use his good offices in their favour if they would only resolve in good faith to lay down their arms. Lochiel rejected these overtures with disdain, and none of the chiefs would hear of surrender. On the contrary they were convinced that France would not leave them in the lurch, and that, should the Prince have crossed over to France, he would soon return with the support that had so often been promised them. Buoyed up with this hope, though without orders and each making up his own mind, they resolved to skulk in their hide-outs, and to tell their people to save as much as they could out of the destruction which the government troops were wreaking throughout their clan lands.
This then was the position when the Prince found the chiefs after his ordeal in the Hebrides. H.R.H. now displayed all the firmness of purpose that could have been wished of him, and he shewed himself keenly alive to the calamity that had befallen the country. He exhorted them to reflect on how matters might be righted and assured them that from now on he would be guided by them, offering either to put himself at their head and evict the government troops from their posts among the mountains, or to remain concealed along with them and eventually cross over to France with some of them to expedite the help they had reason to expect from there. This latter seemed the wisest course to the gentlemen assembled, since the country was so ravaged that the government forces could hardly make matters worse. Besides, the season was now advanced and it would be impossible to make them believe that the Prince had left the country while he did not turn up anywhere else, with the consequence that the attention of government would remain fixed on the Highlands of Scotland. On the other hand, government would cease to be apprehensive once it was known that H.R.H. had left.
This decided, means were being sought to get the Prince away when two frigates of His Most Christian Majesty [Louis XV] came to take him on board. He took with him Mr. Cameron of Lochiel along with one of his brothers, Mr. MacDonald of Lochgarry, Colonel Stuart and several other gentlemen of quality.
All these gentlemen kept entreating the Prince to hasten his return to Scotland with the help which they did not doubt His Most Christian Majesty was disposed to give them. But, convinced though he was on his return to France of the fidelity and valour of his dear Highlanders, and anxious though he seemed to lead them again, no sooner had he had a number of sessions with Mr. Kelly, friend and confidant of Sir Thomas Sheridan, than it appeared that he lost touch with reality, and dreamt only of a large-scale invasion such as is not to be looked for as matters stand present, and which would probably not enjoy the success which there is every reason to expect from a small-scale expedition to Scotland.
Although the more cautious Jacobites did not wish to take part in the Prince's enterprise, the Government has been at pains to keep them under restraint, since three-quarters of the whole nation is still attached to the House of Stuart. And so two laws, both of great importance, have been passed. One is to abolish the jurisdictions of the nobility and free their vassals from the services which they owe to them in accordance with the traditional ways of the Kingdom. The other is to disarm all Highlanders without exception, and to force them to change their dress. The purpose of the first of these laws is to deprive the nobility of their most cherished rights; of the second to deprive the whole nation of a militia which until now has been its greatest safeguard. The Scots are well aware of the purpose and the consequences of these laws. Those who have recently come across assure us that they have fired everyone with indignation and that even the Whigs look on them as manifest breaches of the Treaty of Union with England.
Ever since his return from Spain, attempts have been made to make the Prince understand how much he could profit from this general state of unrest, and to remind him of the Highlanders' zeal, the constancy of their devotion to him, and also their expectation that they will see him again. To all this he gives answer that what he is doing is for the best, but that the appropriate level of help [from France] is not on offer. It becomes ever clearer that the above-mentioned Kelly, who has totally dominated his mind, and does not dare to show his face in Scotland after the part he played with Sir Thomas Sheridan, has made up his mind to bring dishonour on the Prince and to extinguish the hopes of the House of Stuart, rather than participate in initiatives which could be at variance with his own petty interests.
In this ruinous situation, without informing the Prince, we have made up our minds to have recourse to His Most Christian Majesty as the friend, protector and ally of the Scottish nation and to represent to him that of the 20,000 Highlanders whose chiefs are committed by association to take up arms for the restoration of their rightful King, there perished in the Prince's enterprise only 4,000. Consequently we can count on 16,000 to put themselves into the field, and to have in present circumstances support and general approval of the rest of the Kingdom provided His Majesty has the goodness to grant us the modest amount of help which is needed. We ask for only four battalions of infantry, three or four good engineers, eight large cannon and three mortars with artillerymen, bombardiers and the appropriate munitions, 10,000 muskets, 10,000 pistols and, if possible, swords, 12,000 sacks of flour, and 600,000 livres in coin.
We are sure that the embarkation could be effected from the coast of Brittany in total secrecy under the cover of sending help to the French colonies, the more so in that the British government knows little of what the Prince is doing, and no one has any inkling that the French court still concerns itself with our affairs.
We propose a landing on the shores of the sea-loch of Inverlochy in the country of Mr. Cameron of Lochiel, where we will be joined first of all by all his vassals, and shortly afterwards by the associated neighbouring clans. This loch is wide and penetrates right into the central Highlands. The Prince of Orange caused Fort William to be built there in an attempt to contain the Highlanders. There is at the moment a battalion on garrison duty there.
Operations will begin with the attack on this fort, which is on its own and will hardly be able to offer resistance. We will then march with the bulk of our army to Inverness while a detachment of our Highlanders along with the help from abroad we will have been given will, we are sure, raise the country of Argyll for our cause. As there are only five battalions of infantry along the entire western coast of Scotland they will not be able to concentrate their forces and so we will liberate the country as we advance. We will reach Edinburgh in five weeks from the date of our landing and we are sure that we will have taken its castle which dominates the capital, as well as Stirling Castle, before the Government has brought its troops back from the Low Countries and is in a position to oppose our progress.
[An Account of the1745/6 Rising]
The arrival of the Prince of Wales in such an unexpected fashion astonished and alarmed all faithful subjects of the King his father. They told him that it would be impossible for them to take up arms for him with any chance of success without the help that they had requested; and they begged him to go back and wait until he could obtain it. But the Prince told them that he had resolved to perish rather than put up with such a humiliation, and that he had only come with such a small band of supporters and so poorly supplied to give them the opportunity to display the zeal they had always professed; and that if they gave proof of it now His Most Christian Majesty would give them all the help they needed. On the other hand if they allowed their Prince to perish, he who had thrown himself on their mercy, they would earn for themselves eternal shame and would persuade all Europe that the Royal House of Stuart no longer had friends in Scotland, and that the Scots had fallen away from the bravery displayed by their ancestors. Three weeks passed in argument on one side and the other, but at last Mr. Cameron of Lochiel, alive above all else to the danger to which the Prince's person was exposed, came out in his support along with the majority of his people whom he made take up arms. The example of the Camerons, who count for a lot in the Highlands, brought in some neighbouring clans, and the Prince soon found himself at the head of 2,500 men, reasonably well armed.
But General Cope who commanded Government troops in Scotland, as soon as he had news of the Prince's landing, had marched into the Highlands with four battalions of infantry to try to contain the Highlanders. The Prince marched towards him and he first of all retreated to Inverness and then had to embark at Aberdeen to return to the central counties of Scotland where he had left his cavalry. General Cope's retreat gave a boost to the Prince's enterprise and he took possession of Perth where Lord George Murray, brother of the Duke of Atholl, joined him with some of the Duke's people. The Duke of Perth and several of the nobility and gentry of the Lowlands having declared themselves at the same time, H.R.H.'s force grew to 4,000 strong. With this small army he marched with haste to Edinburgh, capital of the Kingdom, which opened its gates to him although it lay under the guns of the Castle where some officers of general rank were shut up with the garrison. The Prince had scarcely time to proclaim the King his father and to publish His Majesty's declarations before he had word that General Cope was marching towards him with all the forces he had been able to assemble. Immediately H.R.H. decided to seek battle with him, and having come up with him nine miles out of Edinburgh he gained a complete victory.
Being in this way master of the field and of all Scotland, excepting only a few insignificant forts which could be blockaded by only a small force, the Prince had only to arm all the loyal Highlanders, summon the Estates of the realm, and put together an army which could defend itself, or even help the English shake off the usurper's yoke. But the Prince allowed himself to be blinded by the ardour of his own courageous spirit. Sir Thomas Sheridan, puffed up with the success the Prince's enterprise had so far enjoyed, and believing that the situation in England was scarcely less favourable than that in Scotland, was so rash as to maintain, against the near unanimous advice of the Scots, that the presence of H.R.H. at the head of 5,000 men would bring over a good part of the Government troops to his side and persuade the English nobility to declare themselves. Buoyed up with this hope and, in addition, since it appeared that His Most Christian Majesty was preparing to transport the Duke of York to England with a large force of his army, the Prince made a hasty march into that country, and left Scotland without having taken the necessary measures to consolidate his authority there.
This made all Scottish Jacobites despair, and they expected any moment to hear that he had been crushed along with all those who had gone with him. No longer did anyone dare to declare himself for King James. The Government profited from this public consternation. General Handasyde retook possession of Edinburgh and Lord Loudoun, having joined some independent companies with the Argyll Militia, marched from that county to Inverness; by this deterring those who would have wished to join the Rising.
However the Régiment Royal Ecossais and three piquets of Irish fortunately disembarked at Montrose with some cannon and munitions. Lord Lovat sent his elder son to join them at the head of 500 of his people, all well armed. Lord Lewis Gordon, brother of the Duke of that name, came to join them with some of his people or friends of that house. And so on his return from England the Prince had a reinforcement of nearly 2,000 men and thought himself strong enough to capture Stirling Castle. But he could not bring this about as he lacked both artillerymen and engineers able to throw up the necessary earthworks.
While he was besieging that place General Hawley at the head of 9,500 Government troops marched to raise the siege. The Prince left 1,200 men in front of Stirling Castle and marched towards him with the rest of his army. They fought with such bravery that the Government troops were put to flight and forced to quit the field of battle and abandon all their equipment and baggage. But this victory, seemingly so resounding, proved fatal for the Prince's cause. The Highlanders took so much booty that many of them left his army to put it in a place of safety among their mountains. The army was so weakened by this licence that the chiefs protested their inability to fight another battle before they had time to bring their people back. These representations forced the Prince to abandon Stirling and cross to the other side of the River Forth when the Duke of Cumberland, reinforced a few days after the battle, marched towards him.
The Prince's retreat, though dishonourable in the eyes of the world, would have had no other ill consequence had it not bred distrust which made him suspect all those who were in a position to give him sound advice. But Sir Thomas Sheridan, smarting from the complaints the Scots had made about the Prince's march into England, got it into his head that the retreat from Stirling was the consequence of discontent felt by some chiefs rather than a traditional liberty taken taken by the common Highlanders. His suspicions fell principally on Lord George Murray, though that nobleman had distinguished himself up till then on every occasion that offered itself, just as he did subsequently, bearing himself always with the utmost prudence and resolution so that he has won the esteem and the trust of the whole nation. Distrust so ill founded was the principal cause of all H.R.H.'s ills. After chasing Lord Loudoun from Inverness, Lord George with H.R.H.'s agreement marched into Atholl where he scooped up the greater part of the garrisons which the enemy had put there; and having noted that the Hessian troops in the vicinity were split up in three bodies far enough distant from each other for them easily to be cut off and overcome before they could come to each other's assistance, he sent several urgent despatches to the Prince to let him know how matters stood and said he would answer to H.R.H. for the success of the outcome in H.R.H. would send him a reinforcement of 1,000 men to join with the vassals of the Duke his brother. Nothing could have been more advantageous than this project, the Hessian troops having been positioned where they were to keep open lines of communication between Cumberland's army on the one hand and Stirling and Edinburgh on the other, and ensure their supplies. Had the Hessians been destroyed or captured the Prince would have been able in his own time to await the help which was being sent him and to arm all the Highlanders, and this would have made him strong enough to chase Cumberland out of Scotland and then do whatever he wished. But instead of agreeing with Lord George about sealing off Cumberland he was progressively sealed off himself, and could no longer draw supplies from the Lowlands. The consequence was that he could not bring together most of the Highlanders who had offered to serve him and could only keep with him at Inverness about 4,000 men on account of the difficulty in maintaining them there.
In these circumstances all the Highland chiefs advised the Prince to break up his army and seek only to hold the passes into the Highlands, from which from time to time he would have been able to sally into the Lowlands to commandeer food until he had amassed enough supplies for him to be able to reunite his army and do battle with the enemy, while the latter was exhausted and overcome by the wearisome campaign with which the Highlanders would have incessantly harassed them. This advice was not allowed to prevail. Sir Thomas Sheridan, who had no other conception of waging war than to fight at every opportunity, wished the Prince to await the enemy, and when it was learned that they were marching their army towards him, H.R.H. recalled his detached forces and summoned the absent Highlanders to rally round him. They hastened from all over by dint of forced marches, but there were scarcely 7,000 assembled when the Prince resolved to go out to meet Cumberland whom he hoped to surprise in his camp eight or nine leagues from Inverness. In conformity with this plan he marched with the intention of attacking the enemy camp at first light. But before his army had covered two-thirds of the distance there, most of the Highlanders, having been on the march for several days, were so exhausted with fatigue and hunger that some made off to the houses of country people to seek refreshment while others fell out, overcome by fatigue or the weight of their weapons. This forced the chiefs to tell the Prince that his plan was impracticable. H.R.H., furious at this upset, gave orders to withdraw to Culloden, a country house on the road the enemy must take to reach Inverness. The Prince's intention, it seems, was to get refreshment and some hours of sleep for his troops so that they would be fit to carry out his plan the following night. But hardly had they piled arms than it was learned that the enemy was approaching and getting ready to attack them. The Prince, taken by surprise instead of himself mounting a surprise attack, had no time to take up a good position. However, nearly 4,000 Highlanders fought with extraordinary resolution and broke through the enemy's front line. But in the end, being attacked simultaneously from the front and on both flanks they had to yield to overwhelming numbers and proudly withdraw towards a little river, beyond which the enemy could not follow them.
The Prince withdrew some ten miles from the field of battle into Lord Lovat's country, where this aged nobleman gave him the kind of welcome he might have expected after a victory. He represented to H.R.H. that the set-back he had endured could only win him more glory provided he did not let it discourage him. In particular, Lord Lovat swore that he would be faithful to him whatever happened and offered, despite his years, to have himself carried wherever H.R.H. went. He assured him that the Scots in general and the Highlanders above all, had the spirit to ride out the injustices of fortune, and that the mishap they had just endured would have no other result than to make them thirst for revenge. He even set out a plan of campaign which could have restored his fortunes in a few days. But Lord Lovat was one of those bright spirits who could never be to Sir Thomas Sheridan's liking; to him all plans were suspect except those he himself had suggested. He filled the Prince with such mistrust of my Lord's views that H.R.H. ordered Fitzjames' Horse, which had escorted his retreat, to remain on guard all the while he had supper. After this, having retired for the night under the pretext of getting some sleep, he fled from this peer's house as if from that of a traitor, and hastened without let-up right to the west coast opposite the isles of the Hebrides. Sir Thomas, unable himself to follow his pupil in such a precipitate flight, gave him as companions two Irish officers who like him were strangers to the country. In company with these gentlemen he sailed off in a fishing boat that he might seek among the islands some merchant vessel which would be prepared to take him under a borrowed name to Gothenberg or to some Norwegian port.
Meanwhile the Highland chiefs, who had taken themselves off, awaited H.R.H.'s orders to reunite the army. Lord George Murray who had behaved like a hero at Culloden was for several days at the head of 2,000 men, and sent urgent messages in all directions to learn of the Prince's intentions. Lochiel, who had been wounded, had himself carried to the house of Macpherson of Cluny, his relative, where, in the absence of any news of his whereabouts, were brought all the Prince's papers and baggage. Uncertainty could not but lead to general consternation. In despair, all the chiefs went off to their homes and were greatly concerned at what had become of H.R.H. In coming to his own country, Lochiel found there Sir Thomas Sheridan and the infamous Secretary Murray from who he learned where the Prince had gone and the advice that had been given him to take himself out of the Kingdom. Lochiel there and then sent one of his brothers off on the Prince's track to stop him taking a step so dishonourable to himself and so harmful to the whole Scottish nation, but he could not come up with the Prince who had already reached the Islands, and indeed it was very doubtful if he was still there. At this juncture two French frigates arrived on the coast with a considerable sum of money for the army's needs. This money was entrusted to Secretary Murray; and Sir Thomas Sheridan along with the Duke of Perth and some other of the nobility and gentry from the Lowlands who made up their minds to go to France, embarked on the frigates.
All this while the Prince, having no word of a ship, was moving from island to island, and since he was recognised everywhere he was obliged to entrust himself to a gentleman who had refused to take part in the Rising, but whom he found to be ready to risk everything for the safeguarding of his Royal person. He remained hidden in this gentleman's country, where he enjoyed the pleasures of fishing and hunting, until the Government obtained some inkling of where he was hiding himself and ordered General Campbell to make a search there. The General having landed in the islands with a large detachment of troops told the chief of the locality on landing, "Tomorrow we are going to carry out some thorough searches. If there is any contraband I think you would do well to get it under cover tonight." On receipt of this warning the Prince was obliged to separate from Sullivan and the other Irish officer who had accompanied him until then, so that he might cross to Skye along with a lady who took it on herself to lead him to safety at the house of Lady MacDonald, wife of the baronet of that name - who, although he was a devoted Jacobite, had always looked on the Prince's enterprise as a folly, for which, according to this gentleman he ought to be flogged. But this situation, humiliating though it was, was by no means the most vexing that the Prince encountered. Lady MacDonald, being unable to conceal him in her house, had him cross over to the mainland where the country was full of government troops and every common Highlander could not fail to recognise H.R.H. at first sight. On landing the Prince found a MacDonald gentleman who said to him that he could not be safe near the coast because of the frequent landings made by the navy, and that it would be very difficult to break through the cordon which the troops had flung round the country. After much discussion this gentleman led him to Lord Lovat's country, which H.R.H. had previously left in such ill-feeling and haste, and there entrusted him to the keeping of common Highlanders whom he met, and he himself returned home to avoid suspicion. The Prince sensed in the feelings of these Highlanders a nobility with which he had reason to be well content. They all knew the price on his head and that they could win a great fortune by handing him over. But so far were they from being tempted that they were the more incensed against the Government, protesting that they would rather suffer the cruellest death than harbour such a horrid thought. What is more, their wives cried out against the barbarous ways of the Elector of Hanover in offering so much money for the assassination of so lovable a Prince, and said that they would weep no more for the deaths of those near to them if these evils could at last bring down the blessings of God on their true Prince, and on their good lord and master Lord Lovat.
So H.R.H. remained in concealment with these brave people, who went every day to buy food in the enemy camp until an opportunity was found to lead him through the cordon of troops in Lochaber, where he shortly had the pleasure of being in company with Lochiel and other chiefs who told him of the consternation his absence had caused, and the chaos and despoliation that had followed.
It was then that the Prince came to see the lamentable outcome of his own hasty action and the prejudices of his Governor. He was cut to the heart by the evils the country had endured, and he declared that he was ready to try anything to revenge or make good the calamities it had suffered. He exhorted the chiefs to consider what had to be done, and assured them that he would abide by their advice. They were delighted to see in him an unconquerable spirit and sentiments which gave them grounds for hoping that in future he would honour them with much greater trust. Some of them proposed that enough men be got together to destroy the troops encamped in Lord Lovat's country, and then capture all their outposts among the mountains. But others represented that though such a campaign would be all very glorious in appearance, it would be of little use, and perhaps even harmful in that it would be necessary, if they were to keep it going, to defend the passes through which the government troops would be able to re-enter the Highlands; and this was an impossibility with the general dearth wrought by the enemy's ravages which meant that subsistence would be lacking for even the small force which would have to be kept together throughout the winter. Moreover, the worst the enemy could do had already been done, and the advanced season would force the withdrawal of his troops. This being so, it would be foolish to alarm the Government once more. It would be better to remain hidden, as they had done till then, and endeavour throughout the winter to find the necessary help for striking vigorously in the spring. These views prevailed. At the same time it was considered that there would be advantage in the Prince himself crossing over to France to seek help, in that the Government would never be convinced that he had left the country until he turned up somewhere else. On the other hand his arrival in France would remove all their worries as regards Scotland and could move the Elector of Hanover to recall his troops to use them, as previously, in carrying on the war abroad. This would give the Prince an opportunity to achieve a great deal with only a little help.
Some time after all this was decided, two frigates of His Most Christian Majesty arrived on the coast. H.R.H. took the opportunity they offered to cross over to France with several chiefs, leaving the others behind to keep alive the Highlanders' hopes, to safeguard as many arms as possible and to receive whatever orders were sent to them from time to time.