Painful insight into night trek

This article originally appeared on The BBC on 17/04/2009. 

A re-enactment has given historians a painful insight into a Jacobite night march from Culloden to the outskirts of Nairn. 

Twelve of the 20 who set out to retrace the attempted surprise attack of 15 April, 1746, completed a round trip of about 24 miles. 

Two men ended up in hospital with foot injuries, while most others had blisters and sore thighs and ankles. 

The project has shown how far the Jacobite forces could have reached. 

Archaeologist and Culloden expert Dr Tony Pollard, from the University of Glasgow, said it also shed light on the endurance of the marchers, many of whom were to fight at the Battle of Culloden the following day, and the effect on morale when they were ordered to abort the planned attack on government troops camped on the edge of Nairn.

The team included members of Battlescar re-enactment group and The Circle of Gentlemen, which takes its name from a secret society that continued to be loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie following the collapse of his campaign.

The march set off from Culloden House at 1915 BST on Wednesday and reached the Muir of the Clans, an area a few miles from Nairn, at 0100 BST on Thursday, before turning back and arriving at Culloden Battlefield from about 0500 BST.

Dr Pollard said: "It is incredible to think that many of those who completed the original night march went on to fight at Culloden.

"Those who fell down exhausted on the journey back to Culloden and slept where they fell were killed by the government army which had set off for Culloden. The government troops moved like a massive machine across the landscape."

The two taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment to injuries were part of a group from Battlescar who, over the Easter weekend, re-enacted the Jacobites retreat south after the battle. The seven walked 42 miles to Ruthven Barracks south of Aviemore.

Driving rain

Ian Deveney, of Battlescar, said the modern day night march had instilled in him a great respect for the original marchers.

In 1746, a few thousand men drawn from Bonnie Prince Charlie's forces tried, but failed, to mount a surprise attack on a government camp under the cover of darkness.

Given the superiority of the Hanoverian army, the Jacobite high command came up with a plan to surprise the Duke of Cumberland's troops as they slept off their celebration of his 25th birthday while in camp on the western edge of Nairn.

The Jacobites' planned assault was carried out in darkness and driving rain, with men from the local Mackintosh clan serving as guides across about 12 miles of moor and rough roads.

However, in the early hours of 16 April - the day of the Battle of Culloden - the Jacobites aborted the attack and turned back.


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