Category: Documents (page 1 of 9)

How to Take a Town

Instructions to Cameron of Lochiel upon entering Perth

Depending upon which contemporary account one reads, descriptions of the Jacobite army’s behaviour during the 1745 rising can paint a number of strikingly different pictures. Embellished narratives and biased propaganda on both sides of the conflict alternately portray Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops as infantophagic savages who carved a trail of rapine and destruction through Britain, and a benevolent cadre of altruistic revolutionaries who only took what was freely given, while charming inhabitants in both village and burgh. The reality is, of course, somewhere in between, and eyewitness descriptions provide some validation to both characterisations, which are slanted according to who is telling the story.1 Less commonly explored, however, are the operational accounts of how the Jacobite army conducted itself administratively as it moved through towns in Scotland, solidifying control of ‘North Britain’ in the early months of the last rising. Some of these records, which feature guidelines and orders from Charles Edward Stuart himself about how to orchestrate an occupation, lie in numerous London archives amongst swathes of captured and intercepted Jacobite correspondence.

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Lady of Swords

David Clark’s deposition against Lady Margaret Ogilvy in Coupar Angus

There was a fair bit of commotion upon the mercat cross of Coupar Angus one mid-October day in 1745. Bailie Charles Hay, a locally known clerk and town magistrate, stood at the nexus of George and High Streets with a copy of Charles Edward Stuart’s manifesto and read it aloud to a rapidly assembling crowd. This was an overtly treasonous act by a man widely thought to have been loyal to the British government of George II. But as the ruckus played out, witnesses would allegedly see a number of prominent Jacobite personalities join Hay on the cross and physically compel him to address the busy town centre on behalf of the exiled Stuarts.

According to some of the townspeople who were present, the Lord of Airlie himself, David Ogilvy, stood beside Hay with a sword in his hand, making certain that the bailie got it right and explicitly proclaimed James VIII & III as the rightful ruler of the three kingdoms of Britain. Also there on the cross were two sons of Sir John Ogilvy of Inverquharity, Thomas Ogilvy of East Miln, Charles Rattray of Dunoon, and Airlie’s wife, Margaret Ogilvy. All of them, including Lady Ogilvy, were alleged to have had their swords drawn and either pointed at Hay or held above his head as he hoarsely read out the terms of the Jacobite occupation.1

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Culling the Herd

Some names of the Jacobite prisoners taken up by British army troops around the time of Culloden

To effectively quell the martial threat of the last Jacobite rising in 1745-6, Hanoverian government officials and British military personnel worked together to wage a systematic campaign of disarmament, capture, and prosecution against a mercurial enemy. Their goal, of course, was to identify and punish the most notorious and active rebels for sedition and high treason against the Crown. But it quickly became apparent that there was no possibility enough prison space could be requisitioned to hold the sheer number of alleged Jacobites, both soldiers and civilians, who were brought in upon suspicion or in active rebellion during the nine months of the conflict. British gaol keepers were similarly beleaguered in the aftermath of the 1715 Rising, when as many as 2000 prisoners needed space and subsistence while the process of prosecution played out. In 1745-6, the Jacobite army was significantly smaller, yet well over 3500 suspected persons were immured within a prison system that had not been notably improved or expanded in the preceding thirty years.1

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