Friday 19 February 2010

General Wolfe at the Battle of Culloden (1746)

General James Wolfe
Another story - it seems to be anonymous - collected by Alexander Carmichael concerns the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden representing the last gasp of the Jacobites to regain the British Crown for the deposed Stuart royal family:

A gentleman of the name of
Macleod and his three sons from
Glenelg fell at the battle of Culloden.
Although severely wound[ed]
the father was not yet dead. As Cumberland
and his staff were passing Mac-
leod slightly moved his head to look
at them. “Shoot that damed bugar [sic]
looking at me” said Cumberland
to an officer beside him. My com-
mission is at the disposal of your
Royal Highness but I decline
to become a butcher replied the
officer. Without noticing
heeding the remark Cumberland ordered
a soldier near him to shoot
that damned bugar [sic] The soldier
said that all his lead was done up
Take the stock of your
gun cowardly bugar [sic]
and smash his brains
said Cumberland and thus sternly addressed
the soldier battered the head and brains
of Macleod breaking his gun
in the process. That is brutal work
observed General Archibald Campbell.
I wish every damned bug[ar] [sic] in
your barbarous country were served
the same way said Cumberland.
Its is a pity that your Royal
Highness and did not utter that
wish yesterday said Lord Archibald
Campbell – things might have
been different today.

The officer who declined to shoot
Macleod was Wolfe who fell at the
battle of Quebec when the Highlanders showed
prodigous valour and con-
quered Canada to the British crown.

James Wolfe was a Kentish lad who enlisted at the tender age of fourteen into the regular British army. His dedication and talent soon saw him rise through the ranks and as the result of the battle of Dettingen in Barvaria in 1743 he was promoted to lieutenant. In 1744 he was appointed captain in the 4th Foot and in 1745 he returned to England with the army withdrawn to deal with Prince Charles Edward’s invasion. In January 1746 he was present at the Hanoverian defeat at Falkirk (which inspired Duncan Ban Macintyre to compose his famous song). He was shortly afterwards made aide-de-camp to Lieutenant-General Henry Hawley. In this capacity he took part in the battle of Culloden (16 April 1746), and may or may not have refused to obey an order from William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, to shoot a wounded Highlander. Wolfe died due to fatal wounds received at the battle of the Plains of Abraham (1759) and is now chiefly remembered for his defeat of the French allowing the British to take control over maritime Canada. It would seem that this tradition concerning Wolfe’s role at the battle of Culloden is an apocryphal one, for the general famously later wrote: “I should imagine that two or three independent Highland companies might be of use; they are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall. How better can you employ a secret enemy than by making his end conducive to the common good?” It is said that what caused Wolfe’s rather acerbic and back-handed compliment was that he became furious because the Highlanders insisted on carrying their wounded from the field when ordered to retreat. Something that many of them never had the opportunity to do on the bloody field of Culloden a dozen years previously.

CW 3, fos. 46r, 47r.
Image: General James Wolfe (1727–1759).


  1. Laurel Cousens4 June 2010 at 15:23

    My 4x great grandfather Alexander Brown is said to have been Wolfe's aid-de-camp on the Plains of Abraham, and as I am looking up our family ancestry, I was wondering if anyone can confirm the name of Alexander Brown in such a role. Thanks.

  2. Hey! Have you ever thought, has your writting technique improved so far?


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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]