Culloden Attrocities in the Aftermath

     The Aftermath of Culloden, April 1746
            Written by  Robert Forbes who witnessed the Battle

" But the most shocking part of the story is yet to come, - I mean the horrid barbarities committed in cold blood, after the battle was over. I do not know precisely how many days  the dead bodies lay upon the field to glut the eyes of the merciless conqueror ; but certain it is , that there they lay, till the stench obliged him to cause to bury them. In the meantime the soldiers , like so many savages , went up and down, knocking such on the head as had  any remains of life  in them , and ,except in a few instances , refusing all manner of relief to the wounded , many of whom, had they been properly taken care of , would have undoubtedly recovered .A little house into which a  good many of the wounded had  been carried , was set on fire about their ears ,and every soul in it burnt alive , of which number  was Colonel Orelli, a brave old gentleman, who was either in the French or Spanish service .

One Mr Shaw , younger of Kinrara, in Badenoch, had likewise been carried into another hut  with wounded  men, and amongst the rest a servant of his own , who being only wounded in the arm, could have gone off ,but chose rather to stay , in order to attend  his master . The Presbyterian minister at Petty, Mr Laughlan Shaw, being a cousin of this Kinrara’s, had obtained leave of the Duke of Cumberland to carry off his friend, in return to the good services the said Mr Laughlan had done the government; for he had been very active in dissuading his parishioners and clan from joining the Prince, and had likewise, as I am told, sent the Duke very pointed intelligence of all the Prince’s. In consequence of this, on the Saturday after the battle, he went to the place where his friend was, designing to carry him to his own house. But as he came near, he saw an officer’s command, with the officer at their head, fire a platoon at fourteen of the wounded Highlanders, whom they had taken all out of that house , and bring them all  down at once ;and when he came up , he found  his cousin and his servant  were two of the unfortunate number .

I questioned Mr Shaw  himself  about the story, who plainly acknowledged the fact, and indeed  was  the person who informed me of the precise number ; and when I asked him if he knew of any more  that were murdered  in that manner  on the same day , he told me  that he believed that he believed  there  were in all two and twenty . At the same time , they were busy at Inverness  hanging up the poor men , whom they call deserters, many of whom had been obliged  to enlist in the Highland army for mere subsidence , the government never  vouchsafing  to send  any relief  to such of their men  as were taken , well knowing what  a merciful  enemy they  had to do with . And so  great was the pleasure  they took in looking at those unhappy creatures , that they never  hurried any of them till  the gallows was full , so that , I am credibly  informed there  were sometimes  fourteen hanging  in it  altogether .

Their treatment of the prisoners  may easily be guessed at, from what I have already said , and indeed history , I believe , can scarce afford a parallel to it .For some days it was dangerous  for any person to go near them , or to pretend  to give them the least relief , so that all of them , especially  the wounded , were in a most dismal state . And after they were put on board  the ships , numbers of them died every day , and were thrown overboard  like so many dogs , and several of them ,I’m told , before they were really dead : yea one of them ,’tis said ,came alive shore near Kessack, though, as to this last  circumstance , I will not be quite positive . But the best idea I can give you of their usage, is by transcribing part of a letter from one of themselves, an authentic copy of which lies just now before me. The writer was one Willian Jack sometime a merchant, and after that a messenger at Elgin who had been with the Prince , and was taken prisoner  some weeks after the battle , and went aboard one of their ships  from Inverness to London.

“ Gentlemen,- This comes to acquaint you , that I was eight months and eight days at sea, of which time , I was eight weeks upon half  a pound  twelve ounces  oat- meal , and a bottle of water in the twenty four hours , which was obliged to make meal and water in the  bottom of an old bottle. There was one hundred and twenty- five put on board at Inverness on The  James and Mary of Fife. In the latter end of June , we were put on board of a transport of  four hundred and  fifty ton, called the Liberty  and Property , in which we continued  the rest of eight months  upon twelve ounces  of oat sheelin as it came from the mill. There was thirty-two prisoners put on board of the said Liberty  and Property which makes one hundred and fifty -seven and when we came ashore, there was only in life forty-nine , which would  been no great surprise if  there had not been  one, conform  to our usage. They would take  us  from the hold in a rope, and a hoisted us  up to the yard –arm , and let us  fall in the sea  in order for ducking of us; and tying us  to the mast and whipping us  if we did  anything  however innocent , that offended them : this was done to us  when we was not  able to stand .I will leave it  to the readers to judge what conditions they might be in themselves with the above treatment . We had neither  bed  nor bed- clothes , nor clothes to keep us warm in day time .The ship’s ballast was black earth and small stones  which we was obliged to  dig holes  to lie in to keep warm , till the first of November last , that every man  got about three “ of gross harn ( sacking )  filled up with straw, but no bed -clothes . I will not trouble you no more till I see you. There is none in life that went from Elgin with me, but William Innes in Fochabers ….”

( signed ) Will. Jack

Tilbury Fort, March 17th , 1747 "


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