“Survival of the Blood” – Getting It Down On Paper. My counselor training, together with a desire to find out ‘why did that happen” led to bringing home many very old books from an ancient (est. 1780) second hand bookstore in Inverness, Scotland. When I say counselor training, I’m referring to getting to the bottom of things, why do people act as they do, why do behaviors reveal more than words and what can happen when the desire to obtain an unattainable goal is allowed to overrule good judgment? It’s all about studying people and their behaviors in the historical setting of the time in which they live.
When my husband Ken and I visited the Culloden Visitor’s Center near Inverness, we walked over bricks marked with the names of clans and clan members who fought in The Battle of Culloden. As we stopped to study those names I sensed those men who fought and died knowing they went into battle in desperation because their families were hungry. They knew Scotland’s future was bleak because Hanoverian King George, on the throne in England, had ruled that only England’s wool could be sold and exported to Europe. There was no market for Scotland’s wool. The sting of discrimination was deadly; the clans fought each other for provisions. No, their names were not just etched on the surface of bricks; they were real to me.
Inside the building, we began the walk through the many visual displays of documents and commentaries about the battle. Again, my senses were alert to what those men experienced. First, I learned that William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland at the young age of 25 years had extensive battlefield experience. He knew a good battle strategy was necessary to win. When his father, King George the second, promoted William to Lieutenant General, William Augustus began training his soldiers in battlefield tactics. At that time he was in Europe where border skirmishes were taking place between Germany (where William’s Grandfather, King George the first was born) and France. There was an uneasy truce between the two countries. Neither country agreed on the boundary they shared. Each country continued to take possession of lands on either side of the border which brought about more fighting between the King’s soldiers and King Louis of France’s army. King George brought William back to England when it appeared that the Jacobite uprising was gaining support and a confrontation with the king’s army was inevitable.
In the meantime, Charles Edward Stuart, the great grandson of King James II (VII of Scotland) landed in Scotland with only seven men, a small amount of artillery, and a chest of coins. His intention was to regain the throne in England for the royal Stuarts. Charles’s great grandfather was deposed from the throne when the primarily Protestant English Parliament declared that the Catholic James Stuart was no longer king. James fled England, and later made several unsuccessful attempts to regain the throne. Charles Stuart became the chosen one to lead the Jacobites into regaining the throne for the Stuart family. I noted that Jacobites were men of Scotland and England whose intention was to restore the Roman Catholic Stuarts to the throne in England. The name ‘Jacobites’ came from Jacobus, the Latin form of the name James. The uprising could be called a religious war between Protestants who were very powerful and in control of the English Parliament and Roman Catholics who greatly desired regaining the powerful English, Scottish and Irish Kingship. There were many Protestants who joined the Jacobites because they had issues with a German king. It seemed to me that there was significant Jacobite support for the uprising. They were afraid for Scotland’s future which had been in jeopardy since the Hanoverian King George the first was chosen to be king. When King George the second gained the kingship after his father’s death, Scotland’s financial situation worsened with the people of Scotland paying the highest taxes in the United Kingdom. All exports were heavily taxed. Goods bought and sold were taxed. It was no surprise that the clans, even those who were not Catholics, responded to the Jacobites’ call to be free of English rule.
It seemed to me that very little planning went into the Jacobite rebellion or uprising as it is sometimes referred to. One thing really stood out; Charles Stuart and John O’Sullivan spent considerable time undermining Lord Murray’s battlefield expertise. They should have welcomed his experience and ability to lead men, instead they discounted his recommendations; it was a study in oppositional defiant behaviors.
I studied the telling of Charles Stuart’s story. What I felt, after walking through his display was that he paid more attention to his clothing than he did to the well-being of the men who fought for him. Charles’s battlefield experience was scanty compared to that of William Augustus. The outcome would be exactly as history records it – a massive loss. Again questions haunted me.
We made slow progress through the displays. The final one was in a large room where four walls were alive with projected displays of the battle itself. It was as if we were in the battle. I watched tartan clan men, with swords, dirks and a few pistols and rifles charging a line of heavily armed British soldiers. Culloden’s flat battlefield, selected by John O’Sullivan, was a problem for the Highlanders who were used to charging downhill with frightening battle cries. The Highlanders wore soft leather-soled boots. Icy, ankle thick mud clung to the boots ; it was difficult to maneuver on the battlefield. Woolen tartans soon became soaked in wind-driven rain as did the few guns they carried. Wet gunpowder would not fire. The Highlanders’ position on the Battlefield allowed smoke from the king’s army’s cannons and artillery to blow directly into their faces. The visual display of the battle confirmed the lack of weapons, especially firearms. When the Highlander lifted his sword to attack, he was shot or bayoneted. Either one was deadly. I wondered why John O’Sullivan selected Culloden’s moor for the battle. Surely he was aware of the Highland charge. I concluded there were other reasons.
In less than one hour, over two thousand Highlanders lay dead or dying on the battlefield. The king’s soldiers, ordered by William Augustus to ‘give no quarter’, finished off any injured men. I actually felt the agony of their suffering. How could this happen, I asked my husband, Ken who is Scottish and loves his country. Through tears I demanded an answer from him, but he could only shake his head.
We walked through the battlefield with marker after marker showing the names of fallen clans. I commented how not only did they die there, but also the clan way of life which had existed since prehistoric times died with them. When we came to the marker with the Cameron name, the name of my clan, I stopped. Here lay those men who were in the front line facing the king’s army on that day, April 16, 1746. They must have gone into battle knowing they could not win after marching the night before to Nairn in the hope of locating William Augustus’s men in camp and making a charge upon them. They walked twelve miles to and from Nairn without finding the camp. When the next day dawned, they had not slept nor eaten. They were defeated even before the battle began.
No! I could barely process this horrible, terrible travesty. Men on the battlefield without weapons? Without food for days? Armed with little more than rocks in their pockets to throw at an army with cannons and guns?
I mulled this over as I read book after book about preparations for the battle and the battle itself. What was a realistic and plausible answer that made sense? I began writing – “Survival of the Blood” is the result. It cannot be said that the agreement reached between the two men in “Survival” happened, but it certainly is logical and answers many questions. There was very little available information about Charles Stuart’s quarter-master General, John O’Sullivan and I wondered if perhaps he, with his considerable military background, might have participated in training the Highlanders in battlefield tactics. But, again, after considerable research, I found no evidence that he did. The Highlanders’ battle experience could best be described as late night quests to regain their stolen cattle.
Lord George Murray stands out in the melee. He was a man of strength, character and devotion to Scotland. Charles Stuart and John O’Sullivan both discredited Lord Murray’s extensive battlefield experience; I concluded they both were jealous of Lord Murray. It is said that if Lord Murray had trained Charles’ troops and led them into battle, there would have been a different outcome. I have to agree. I do not believe Lord Murray would have allowed his men to enter the battlefield unarmed and without instruction as to how to fight. But…..Charles insisted he be in charge of the Highlanders as they gathered on Culloden’s battlefield. As the battle progressed and become more deadly, Charles left the battlefield; it is said that Lord Murray did not leave the battlefield until he stood alone.
I began writing the story as it has never been written before. Using the Cameron clan as a focus, the story begins with Ewan Cameron discovering all of his cattle are missing. His two cousins, Gordon and Duncan also have empty pastures. They suspect the Campbell clan is the culprit and began planning how to retrieve their animals. During the discussion, the upcoming Jacobite rebellion is brought up. The men talk about their clan chieftain, Donald, The Lochiel who has changed his mind about Charles Edward Stuart. Now he will give his support and that of his Cameron clan to Charles which means the Cameron clan together with most of the Highland clans will be going into battle against the king’s army. Nay, they dinna want to fight, but, food is scarce and there’s no way of making money. The need to care for their families weighs heavily. They finally agree that a new king on the throne in England would be the only solution; they will fight.
“Survival of the Blood is a passionate story, both historical and truthful in the telling of the battle. I’ve woven the tale around the Cameron clan, however, nearly all of the clans of the Highlands fought in the Battle of Culloden. As you read you will become acquainted with them all and, I think, will sense my feelings of sadness at the destruction of a beautiful country, her people and the clan way of life.
If you are familiar with Scotland, you will know of the second sight and some rather unusual creatures who sometimes participate in the activities of men (the devil made me do it). I utilized these otherworldly creatures to explain behaviors. I especially liked writing about ‘Elight’, a beautiful angel that escorts worthy souls to heaven. On the other hand, ‘The Dark One’ gets ’em when they aren’t. You’ll want to read this for yourself. “Survival of the Blood” will be available in mid December. Watch for details.
Blessings to all,