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Just a handful of men from Lord Ogilvy’s Forfarshire regiment in spreadsheet form…
If you enjoy bewilderingly complex historiographies and you’re wondering exactly what is the purpose for the creation of a historical database like JDB1745, this post is for you. What follows is a use case involving a limited analysis of the Forfarshire Jacobite regiment under David Ogilvy, 6th Earl of Airlie, and how a tool like JDB1745 can help us collect and define detailed information across a number of disparate primary sources. This method of analysis, called prosopography, is essentially an intersection between historical sociology and data-based biography that has risen to prominence as our ability to collate and process big data has matured. By comparing and contrasting large amounts of discrete characteristics about historical personae, we can better understand the context of their lives and we can make more confident assertions about their roles and characteristics in the historical timeline.
Perhaps no more deserving of this disciplinary application is the ever-popular Jacobite era, which has long suffered from misinterpretation, mythistoire, and insufficient data. Though we are currently enjoying a popular resurgence of interest in the subject during the lead-up to the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, scholarly exploration of plebeian Jacobite demographics is extremely limited and many primary sources remain generally out of easy public reach. This, at its core, are the reasons that we created The Jacobite Database of 1745.
To demonstrate its value, we present a short step-by-step example of how the database can be used as a tool for data analysis that both professional and armchair historians alike will be able to use for their own research. We chose Lord Ogilvy’s regiment because it was significant through the entire Jacobite campaign of 1745-6 and is a unit for which we have a good number of distinct sources to turn to in the example. It is also the intention of this post to illustrate the importance of thinking about the lineage of data to keep it as raw (objective) as possible, as well as organizing it in a way that eases analysis rather than hinders it.
General Humphrey Bland to Captain James Campbell, 24 August 1746
As Sheilings are only Sheds made in the hills to Herds, for herding Cattle in the Summer time, and not habitable in the Winter; consequently they are of no Importance; therefor it is required they may be destroyed and thrown down by the owners, so as they be no shelter to the Rebels; and that the owners may not plead Ignorance thereafter, and what ever houses have been burnt and destroyed are not to be rebuilt, without a Sign’d Order from the General or Commander in Chief.
Within the extensive annals of the Montrose Muniments at the NRS are three bundles of extremely interesting letters and lists that collectively provide a visceral, microcosmic snapshot of the last Jacobite rising in Scotland. After seeking permission directly from the standing duke of Montrose, for the past seven years I’ve been taken with transcribing the contents for inclusion within the database. During that time, the content has also provided some poignant content for my doctoral thesis, numerous lectures, and a forthcoming journal article.
Much of what is contained within these bundles highlights the uncomfortable predicament in which the then 2nd duke found himself: trying to maintain and defend the lives and homes of his contracted tenants – whether Jacobite or not – while upholding his duties and loyalties to the Georgian government of Britain, even through its heavy-handed tactics of rebel-purging after Culloden. In addition to some extremely tense back-and-forth correspondence between Montrose’s estate of Buchanan and the British military authorities based in Fort Augustus, the collection also contains lists of suspected rebels, declarations both for and against accused persons, and records of depredations carried out by King George’s troops throughout Montrose’s lands in the summer of 1746.
Hugh Blair to Colin Mitchell, Edinburgh, Tuesday, 26 September 1745
One of the benefits of working with a prosopographical database for historical research is being able to find commonalities in large amounts of data hitherto disconnected and, therefore, often unnoticed. A most intriguing example of this within my studies is the discovery that about one-half of the active goldsmiths, or ‘hammermen’, in Edinburgh during and just after the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6 gave evidence against the other half, citing rebellious activities to the government authorities. That the extent of this strange web of blame occurs nowhere else and within no other occupation with such frequency is striking, and while there is no direct evidence yet uncovered that marks this as anything other than a curious coincidence, one gets the feeling that there might be something more to the story.
I beg the
favour you will come to my house this
day att half an hour after two precisely
about a piece of Necessary business. I am
Treasury Board Papers, Evidence Against Rebels in Newgate Prison, Likely Spring/Summer 1746
According to the testimony of Joseph Bruoden, a musician in Manchester at the time of the Jacobite army’s arrival there in late November of 1745, he was bullied into joining the rebels at gunpoint. This was not an infrequent claim from those captured by the government during and after the final rising. When faced with the charge of high treason in the London courts and its consequential punishment by death, it only makes sense that terrified prisoners would swear they were compelled by force to pick up arms against the Hanoverian king. It was, in essence, a Hail Mary in favour of their very survival.
So many had claimed impressment, in fact, that most scholars strongly marginalize the significance of its presence, holding to the traditional maxim that such claims were not only the norm and therefore are patently untrue, but that they exacerbate the perceived severity of the Jacobite army’s recruitment tactics. After extensive collation and analysis of both impressment claims and cases during the rising, my own findings contradict this marginalization, instead suggesting that the last Jacobite effort was effectually decentralized and hardly popular, and the need for armed supporters was so great that coercion – by fire and sword, through financial or emotional manipulation, or simply at gunpoint – was markedly rampant during the affair.
He was with some Players at Manchester when the Rebells
came there and he was sent to by some of the Princes (Privt?) Rebells & asked
if the Company could play Gustavus Vasa and the Witness saying no &
going away from ‘em when Colo Grant who knew the Witness at
Dunkirk asked him to go with him and said his Compa was all
Frenchmen and he wod be an Interpreter to them but the Witness
refusing Collo Grant threatened to Shoot him if he did not go with him
and took him under a Guard of Highlanders to Derby and back to Carlisle…
Treasury Board Papers, Account of State Prisoners at Marshalsea, 12 July 1746
Amongst the thousands of Jacobite prisoners taken during the Forty-five, a body which reflects the diversity of the movement both internationally and pan-culturally, a significant portion of these were regular or professional soldiers in the service of other countries. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the nation that made the largest non-British contribution to the Jacobite army, as would be expected, was France. Though it was already fighting a frustrating war on the Continent against its old enemy Great Britain, maintaining a good relationship with the Scots on the northern border of the ‘Atlantic Archipelago’ made sound strategic sense and was seemingly worth the questionable support and, at least, lip-service to the Stuart cause.
In addition to harboring elements of the exiled Stuart Court since the Revolution, Louis XIV and Louis XV were de facto enablers of the Jacobite cause, maintaining l’Auld Alliance not only to suit their own needs. France was in on Jacobite designs since at least 1701 (a year which featured the double-catastrophe of the War of Spanish Succession and the death of James II and VII), and it lent a significant force of soldiers and materiel to aid the attempted Jacobite invasions of Britain in 1708, 1715, and 1744-6. The only French troops that ever really saw significant fighting on British soil in the eighteenth century, however, were those companies and regiments – mostly made up of men from Scotland and Ireland – in service to the two Louies.