[Data is from this source unless posted otherwise. Colquhoun, Ian, Drummossie Moor - Jack Cameron, The Irish Brigade and the Battle of Culloden . (Arima/Swirl, 2008) Historical novel which tells the story of the battle and the preceding days from the point of view of the Franco-Irish regulars or 'Piquets' who covered the Jacobite retreat. ISBN 1-84549-281-1.]
The Jacobite right and center, badly mauled, retreated toward Ruthven, where they hoped to reorganize. Only Glenbucket's Lowland regiment and the Irish cavalrymen of FitzJames Horse, dismounted and using carbines to defend a sunken road, stayed behind to cover the right's retreat, fighting until they ran out of ammunition. Over on the left of the Jacobite line, the MacDonalds had also retreated when faced with overwhelming numbers of government dragoons on their flank. They ran for their lives toward Inverness, some throwing away weapons and clothing.
The Irish Brigade stood like a wall of red, watching the heroic but futile charge by the clans. The red-coated Irishmen broke ranks calmly to let the defeated clansmen through, giving their brother Gaels a cheer as they did so, then they reformed their line.
With nearly 1,000 government horsemen bearing down on them, the 150 -175 Irishmen gave the Gaelic battle cry "Cuimhnighidh ar Luimneach agus ar Feall na Sassanach!" ("Remember Limerick and Saxon perfidy," was first yelled at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745, some eleven months before.) [Black, Jeremy, Britain as a Military Power, 1688–1815. (Routledge, 1998) P. 67.) ISBN 1-85728-772-X.] and marched five paces forward, in defiance. Lt. Colonel Walter Stapleton an officer of Berwick's Regiment and highest ranking Irish officer in attendance was the commander of the Irish Picquets, stood with sword and pistol, and began directing volleys that, against all odds, kept back the government cavalry and forced the troopers to resort to firearms from a distance. After a fierce firefight in which the Irishmen inflicted scores of casualties on their opponents, the government horse charged again, forcing the Irish to defend themselves with bayonets and swords. Again, the Government attack was repulsed.
The Irish were then joined by the French Royal Scots, who formed up on them at a right angle so as to delay encirclement. The Irishmen started to walk backwards along the Inverness road, firing as they went until their ammunition was gone. Stapleton, mortally wounded, had a big decision to make. His men were in French service so, unlike the other Jacobite soldiers, they should expect honorable treatment as prisoners of war. On the other hand, the English parliament had only a year earlier made joining "foreign" armies illegal. His men wished to fight on, but Stapleton saw that they had done all they could. The rest of the army and the Prince were already off the field.
Thousands of Scots had escaped. Between 1500 and 2000 Scots were dead or dying and the Government forces only lost about 300 and equal number of wounded [irish regiments and history website, http://www.irishregimentsandhistory.webeden.co.uk/#/culloden-1746/4580648405] and, in any case, a large number of the English horse had bypassed the tenacious Irishmen in favor of pursuing much easier targets who were running toward Inverness.
Cumberland's infantry was advancing to take possession of the ground previously occupied by the Jacobites. It was now all about preventing useless slaughter, so Stapleton sent a drummer boy named Kelly toward the enemy, beating a slow and melancholy request for parley.
Things could have gone either way. As soon as the request for parley was received, the Irishmen and the two tiny battalions of French Royal Scots were quickly surrounded by a square of cavalry. Stapleton sent a captain named O'Neill to negotiate terms. All around them, the redcoat infantry were murdering Jacobite wounded where they lay.
To the relief of O'Neill, and of the dying Stapleton, Cumberland assured them that "as they are French, or in French service, they are assured honorable treatment." This was an out-of-character display of generosity by the Duke, who personally ordered the murder of the other Jacobite prisoners and wounded. He would later order a "pacification" campaign in the Highlands that can only be described as genocidal.
Cumberland allowed the Irishmen to escape with their lives, with the exception of three English deserters who were found among their ranks and hanged. Technically, the Irish Brigade suffered 100% casualties at the battle in that their entire force was killed, wounded or captured. [McGarry,Stephen, Irish Brigades Abroad. (Dublin: 2013, p.122 ] The French Royal Scots had mixed fortunes. Its 1st battalion was given POW status, but most of its 2nd battalion had been raised in Scotland, and was thus treated to the same ghastly fate as the other Jacobite prisoners — death or transportation.
After the battle, the 200 or so surviving troops, Irish and Scots mostly under the French standard, were taken to England, where they spent eight months on a ghastly prison barge on the Thames before they were exchanged in early 1747. They were treated honorably, despite the fact that under English law they could have been hanged for joining a foreign army. The Irish Picquets wore their French uniforms which labeled them as Jacobites: Red coats indicating their English origin. The cuffs and facings on the jackets were the color of the regiments they belonged to i.e., Roth-blue, Clare-yellow, Dillon-black, Lally-green, Berwick-white and FitzJames Horse-dark blue. Waist/vest coats were mostly white with Clare's being yellow and Lally's green. Hats were black tri-corn with white cockade and some unit hats had either a white lacing such as Clare, or yellow such as Dillon and Lally. All units wore white breeches except Clare's which is said to have been pale yellow. The linings of the jacket were white except Clare which was yellow. Capt. John Burke of Clare's regiment stated, "I wore the Highland habit to avoid danger in travelling in red clothes." Burke wasn't alone in his thinking for other Irish officers when not in battle wore Highland attire to avoid wearing their redcoats and be mistaken as Government troops. [Reid, Stuart, The Scottish Jacobite Army 1745-46. (New York: Osprey Publishing, 2006) P. 63.]
Some historians suspect that they were spared after impassioned pleas from James Wolfe, an English officer who admired their courage and who also offered to resign rather than sully his honor by shooting a wounded Highlander.
Others think Cumberland was being realistic — if word got out that he had murdered surrendering French troops, reprisals against captured British troops in Flanders would surely have occurred. Wolfe, by the way, would later make the case for Highland regiments in the British army, not only to provide a constructive avenue for their martial inclinations, but also saying that if a Scot should fall, "there would be no mischief in it." He would serve in North America during the Seven Years War, for a while commanding the Royal Highland Fusiliers. He later fell in battle at the moment of victory, on the Plains of Abraham before Quebec in 1759, singularly responsible for the British seizure of Canada from the French.
The little known, heroic last stand by the Irish Brigade at Culloden Moor saved thousands of Scottish lives, yet is barely mentioned in most history books, possibly because the Victorian historical revisionists liked to lay blame for the defeat at the door of O'Sullivan and Sheridan, the Prince's Irish advisors. In truth, without a larger force of the Irish Brigade, or of other French regulars, the rising was probably doomed from the start, whatever its initial successes were.
The stand of The Irish Brigade at Culloden is the stuff of legend, along with heroics of the Texans at the Alamo, Leonidas' Spartans at Themopolyae, Horatio at the Bridge, and Newcastle's 'white-coats' at Marston Moor. The Irish fought like lions, for their comrades, for their regiments and for Ireland, and even for the Stuarts.
- Colquhoun, Ian: Drummossie Moor - Jack Cameron, The Irish Brigade and the Battle of Culloden.
- Barthorp, Michael: The Jacobite Rebellions 1689-1745. (Osprey Men-at-Arms)
- Kenneally, Ian: Courage & Conflict - Forgotten Stories of the Irish at War. (2009), Collins Press.
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