Tuesday, 16 April 2013

16th April 1746. Culloden Moor and Isobel Haldane

A yellow x shaped cross on a blue background formed the flag of the Stewart of Appin's regiment
     Flag of The Appin Stewarts

Today is the anniversary of the battle of Culloden, the last battle of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and the last battle ever fought in mainland Britain.  It was defeat here that sent Bonnie Prince Charlie to the heather, to the bottle and to romantic {and unwarranted} immortality. My family, Clan Robertson or Donnachie in Gaelic, fought on the side of the Jacobites, charged across Culloden Moor with the others and like them were torn to shreds in front of the redcoat ranks. The clan chief, Alexander, was the only Chief to lead his clan to fight in all three of the uprisings. Since in Gaelic Alexander is Alistair, we share the same name.

The Highland charge, a tactic best used in surprise and with the terrain in your favour was woefully inadequate for the flat moor of Culloden, against effective artillery and the massed ranks of redcoats armed with a devastating new tactic to repel just such an occurence. The result was tragedy. The ancient clan system had its head chopped off but the body did not realise and tried forlornly to carry on in the old ways not realising their world had changed forever, Impacts can still be seen today in Scots society: in low levels of native Gaelic speakers and in the reality of exodus or forced transportation of huge numbers of Scots across the world for generations to come.

This story is aimed at telling the tale of one small part of the aftermath

War is always disastrous and for many Scots, whether involved in the Jacobite uprisings or not, their world fell about them in 1745 and '46. The years afterwards would never be the same. In those hard days for some there was complete disaster, while for a very few, including Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart, there would be miraculous escape. For the victors at least came the chance for advancement and recognition, for power and fortune. For some it would consolidate and secure their place in the world and for others persecution was borne in the hope that there would be another, better planned and ultimately successful, attempt to return the house of Stewart to the throne of Scotland and beyond. Even after the disaster that had been Culloden this was a very real prospect for many Jacobites and an equally real threat to the house of Hanover and its supporters.

The Hanoverian Government of Britain had been caught napping by the speed and audacity of the Jacobite uprising, had severely underestimated how real and how dangerous it was and was woefully slow in responding, caught with many of its best forces fighting on the continent. Fortunately for them France too failed to fully recognise the opportunity that their Jacobite allies represented and neglected to give them the support needed. When they finally awoke to the significance of the threat that was upon them the Hanovarians reacted with overwhelming force and, once victory was assured, a determination that they would not be exposed in such a way again. It was perhaps the realisation of how close they had come to losing everything that made them so determined to make sure that it could never happen again and fear and frustration therefore set the scene for revenge, barbarous over-reaction and cruel treatment of the defeated supporters of the rebellion. It could have been successfully and bloodlessly handled with political astuteness but the chance to consolidate their reign and their kingdom with foresight and positive action was missed. That would go very badly for the Jacobites and leave an enduring legacy for the rest of Scotland.

Most of the unfortunates left injured on Drummossie Moor at Culloden were executed where they lay, although a few brave locals did venture out to recover some who had survived that first killing walk of redcoats across the battlefield. Many of those who tried to recover survivors were women looking for relatives and some were themselves cruelly abused and beaten by the victors for their trouble. While the killing continued the cavalry rampaged towards Inverness and cut down any fleeing combatants and numerous innocent civilians caught in the open regardless of age, position or sex. On reaching the town they began to break into houses to look for hiding Jacobites and take the best of any loot they could find. Shortly after when the main force occupied the town the hunt for rebel supporters began and once the town had been 'pacified' the hunt rippled out across the highlands.

On the night after battle the Provost of Inverness came to Cumberland's lodgings as he celebrated with his officers to plead for calm and Christian mercy. For his trouble he was badly beaten and physically kicked down the stairs.  Jacobites who could fled. Those with money and influence fled to France as soon as possible though that could take several months to arrange and meanwhile they had to survive as best they could. Many 'took to the heather' to live rough in the furthest parts of that countryside they knew best until hopefully things died down and they could escape abroad or return to homes and families. Common fighting men often made straight for home to try and hide amongst the normal population but they too risked being recognised and outed as rebels.

In all of this Jacobite women also risked everything. Families who's men were dead, captured, had failed to return or taken to the hills were subject to a military force with orders to rob and pillage the homes of any suspected Jacobites. Murder, rape and hangings began almost immediately. While there are stories which show hints of mercy these are few and far between and usually involve gentry; ladies and families of wealth who shared a lifestyle, education, fashion and manners that could be recognised outside the highlands. For the poor commoners who wore the hated tartan and spoke only the Gaelic, those who lived in rough 'black houses' and were isolated in the mountains and hills away from prying eyes there were few if any glimmers of mercy.

Appin, in the western highlands near modern day Fort William, holds the lands of Ardsheal which I wrote of in the post  'James of The Glen'.  His death in 1752 was probably the last openly vindictive act of Jacobite suppression. In the months after Culloden, Charles Stewart of Ardsheal, owner of those lands, was one of those fugitives who had taken to the heather on fleeing the battlefield. He was one of Prince Charles war council, a fervent Jacobite and high on the 'most wanted' list of the Hanoverians. His wife, Isobel Haldane, had actively supported and encouraged him to come out in support of Charlie and had helped recruit the Stewarts, MacColls MacLarens, Mcintyres, McCormacks and Carmichaels he took with him from his estate to fight as The Appin Regiment. During the battle his 300 men had charged on the right flank and ninety-one of them died, seventeen it's said, shot one after the other while carrying the silk regimental standard of a yellow saltire on blue silk. Almost seventy others were wounded or captured. Among the fallen was the great grandfather of the explorer David Livingstone and the nephew of his own wife, Isobel.

The aftermath left Isobel in a very precarious position as a prominent rebel supporter, wife of a key fugitive, alone, without protection and holding lands which were bordered to the south by powerful adversaries in the staunchly Hanovarian Campbell Dukes of Argyll. She was made of strong stuff though and when the bloodied regimental standard was brought back home with news of defeat and a hunted husband she set out to maintain and manage the estate and its people in her own right. As such she came to the attention of the local military Commander based in Fort William.

Her battle ground would be her home.

Appin Stewart Heraldic Shield

The military commander in Fort William, Captain Caroline Frederick Scott was a hardline Hanovarian; ambitious and ruthless. He seems to have taken a keen dislike for Isobel and paid particular attention to her and her situation in a very unpleasant manner. Why he targeted her so specifically is unknown but there is some speculation that he made amorous overtures to her which were rejected. That Isobel was a gentlewoman and a lady of significant social standing was all that prevented him from visiting the very worst he was capable of on her. {and that was a great deal}  Despite this he would go far beyond the limits of appropriate behaviour. He had successfully resisted a Jacobite siege of the fort at Fort William under his command two weeks before Culloden and was now freed to root out rebels wherever he could.

Shortly after Culloden intelligence reported that Ardsheal { as Isobel's husband was commonly known} had returned to the area and was hiding out. This was all that Scott needed to visit Isobel and occupy her property which he did for several days while he searched in vain for Ardsheal. Even before that the Duke of Argyll had been instructed specifically by Cumberland himself to carry off all the cattle and other livestock belonging to the estate. He fulfilled his order to the letter but the following day returned a significant portion of the livestock along with some other provisions from his personal stores and a letter which said that he was aware that she had several children to look after and was also pregnant. The goods were "for the use of yourself and the little ones" and he stated that her situation " makes my heart aik." A glimmer of mercy for sure.

Captain Scott again appeared in August and again removed all livestock and foodstuffs as well as cut down all the trees in the orchard. He then ordered that the house again be sacked and this time went to extraordinary lengths, removing all doors and windows, the wooden panelling off the walls and the slate tiles from the roof as well as all personal belongings, furniture and fittings. He even went as far as ensuring that the nails which his men removed were straightened so he could have them resold in Fort William. On point of departure he asked for the keys of the house which were given to him and told Isobel that she was 'a damned rebel bitch' and should leave. She stood in the shell of her house surrounded by her wailing children and refused, stating that she would have to be physically thrown out. Scott appears to have balked at this and departed, taking the children's young tutor to Fort William jail. He was soon pursued by Isobel to Fort William where she was eventually able to secure the release of the tutor, but was unable to save his wallet, his wedding ring or indeed the children's school books. She returned to the shell of her home and borrowed writing materials to pen a vitriolic complaint to the Duke of Argyll detailing the treatment meted out to a pregnant lady and her dependants. She could scarcely believe, she wrote 'that any man of this country and good company could be so free of compassion or anything at all of the gentleman to descend to such low degree of meanness' She also archly begged the Duke to forgive the roughness of the paper 'for my good friend The Captain has left me none better'. {This time I know of no response from the Duke but would like to think that his charitable nature once again came to the fore.}

In September Ardsheal finally managed to get ship to France and safety but Isobel and the children were unable to go with him. She must have thought though that news of his escape might at least prevent further deprivations by Scott but in this she would be wrong. Finally in December he arrived through the snow to finish what he'd begun and forced Isobel and her brood out of the house and had the place set on fire so thoroughly that it was almost completely ruined. Isobel and the children spent the night in a nearby barn where Scott again found them the following night. That night Isobel had finally given birth to a daughter and it's said that Scott and some of his officers came to see the newborn child. This was not out of any compassion. Scott is reputed to have said to Isobel as she lay recovering from the birth ' I do think your husband a great fool to join the rebels and to leave you and your children without a home.' He took the hand of the newborn child and reached forward with a purse full of coins jangling in his other hand. He said to the little one ' I would give up this purse and its contents to hold your fathers hand as I now hold yours'. Isobel's response is not noted. I could imagine that it stretched the bounds of civility somewhat.

Later she managed to make her way with her children to France to be with her husband, leaving the estate management in the loyal hands of James of The Glen until he was removed and the estate taken over by the Hanovarians. Even after this, the tenants continued to send rents to Ardsheal and Isobel in France as well as pay rent to the crown. Isobel bore her husband ten children who survived to adulthood. They seem to have lived happily within the circle of Jacobites at the exiled court of King James and continued to work and plot for the return of the house of Stuart. Ardsheal died in exile in France in 1757.  Later, Isobel returned to England in 1779 to seek treatment for dropsy. She died in The Peacock Inn in Northampton and was buried in the graveyard of the Church of All Saints nearby. She had lived devoted to her husband, her family and to 'The Cause'. She is remembered in the church by a plaque

'In a worse than civil war, her house plundered and overthrown by soldiers, innocent, she was forced to give birth to her babe in a poor and mean hut and on the next night to flee through the snow accompanied by her young and tender children........ In adversity therefore o traveller, be not to much dismayed for piety may surmount a rugged road.'

Ardsheal house was eventually rebuilt and returned to the control of the family for a time at least.

 It is now a hotel.

see you later.


Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
well... I was a tad concerned when no Sunday Post came through. You just made up for that in spades, Alistair lad!

I was only thinking last night "Wonder if the 53 Sqdrn posts would ever be made into a book"? Now am thinking it out loud! You have such a feel for history. With a flair for sharing it.

Here's tae us! YAM xx

Morning's Minion said...

As an impressionable teenager I discovered the popular aspects of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' in story and song and hoped that my own Scottish ancestors had been his supporters. Later research indicates that he was a poor excuse for a man--or for a prince. But then, royalty hasn't often been worthy of the fierce devotion offered by their subjects--one can only suppose that the loyalty was to a larger cause.
I've often wondered why the victors in any war have to carry out vengence to such a degree, even to the wanton desstruction of property--if one reads the Old Testament the practice seems to have been in place forever.
My own ancestors weren't around for the Battle of Culloden--they [or he] were herded onto the ship, John and Sara, which dumped the prisoners in New England as indentured servants. My line becomes traceable with the second generation--but impossible to determine which of three men listed on the ship's roster as 'John Rosse' [Ross] was the founder of the New England family. Doubtless there was a connection amongst the three and quite possibly to others of the prisoners.
I appreciate the reminder of this day in history--well done, as always.

Alistair said...

Hullo Yamini,

Thanks for your kind words. I'm delighted you enjoyed this piece {which is a very slight rework of an earlier piece. I did a lot of writing about Scots history on the blog back in the days when I was unemployed. I had a lot of time for research and had a room full of books at hand. I'd become quite a history buff over some twenty or so years after leaving school.

I really enjoyed writing these pieces, although some are overly sentimental I feel now when I go back to one now and then. Sometimes I can't resist sorting that out and do a bit of editing here and there. The problem with me is I often don't know when to stop. I can be guilty of putting too much information in and later of continually tinkering with stuff over quite a period of time. Back in the day I almost always wrote posts in one sitting and that was probably the cause of both the sentimentality and the over wordy size of them.

I'm glad you liked the tale and the 153 posts - which I'd no idea you would have read.

Here's one set in Edinburgh. It really is one of the wordy ones. {but I like it} I really should go back and sort it out a bit perhaps. I hope you like it though



Hullo MM,

Thanks for taking the time to pen such a long comment. You have given me a lot ponder there. It would be incredible to tack back beyond the transport ship wouldn't it? Could open up a whole new line of enquiry.

It seems that victory often leads to retribution, manipulation and discrimination. We don't seem to learn much from history do we?

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

this makes me wish i knew even a bit of my own family history. mine left their countries for a new life here and never spoke much of it. the only thing i know for certain is that my grandmom traveled to chicago during the prohibition with her children to transport alcohol - which was safely tucked under her overly large bosom and tummy... such a celebration of size eh? x

Indigo Roth said...

Hey Alistair! This is quite a tale, and as you say, a tragedy. My own grasp of my family's history is sketchy by comparison. Thanks, Indigo

Alistair said...

Cheers EP and Indigo,

I have to admit that to say 'my family' is perhaps stretching it. 'My clan' would propbably be more appropriate.

EP - she must have had a prodigous bosom to make it worthwhile smuggling anything in there!

Rebecca S. said...

I have to go to an appointment in ten minutes. I promise to come back and read this post later today! Cheers.

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...