April 16, 1746-The Day of Decision

My novel, Caledonia: A Song of Scotland, reaches it climax at the battle of Culloden.  On April 16, 1746, the future history of Scotland was set.  The defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden did more than end the Year of Charles, it was the end of the Stuart reign over Scotland,  Clan system,  and the end of Scotland being an independent nation separate from England.  After the Battle of Culloden, William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, and King George II’s favorite son, destroyed much of the life of Scotland and drove out or killed many Highlanders.  This event was the impetus for many Scots to migrate to the American colonies, where they would later fight in the French and Indian War and even later plague the British again during the American Revolution, which we celebrate this weekend.

I would like to provide my readers with my photographs of the Battlefield of Culloden as it appears today.   All photographs are the author’s, except as otherwise noted.

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One is greeted outside of the Battlefield by a sign welcoming one to the Visitor  Centre.  It is a magnificent building, with a number of features which truly make the battle come alive.  Among them is a battlefield table and battle immersion film.

Dusk falling over Culloden Visitor Centre

Culloden Visitor Centre

Dusk falling over Culloden Visitor Centre

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It is an inspirational place.

 

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© National Trust for Scotland

What a Scottish soldier fighting for the British might have looked like.

 

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Panoramic view of the battlefield.

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Path along the British lines.

 

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Original marker for the battle.

 

Ireland, Wales, Scotland July August 2014 480Close up of tablet on original marker.

 

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The MacDonald Clan mass burial site.  This probably on the ground as far forward as the Clan MacDonald Highlanders were able to reach.  Unbeknownst to the Scots, the area in front of the MacDonalds was quite marshy and prevented them getting closer than within 80 or so yards of the British lines on the far Jacobite left wing.

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Close up of Clan MacDonald mass grave marker.

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Informational sign at the Clan MacDonald mass grave marker stone.

I honor the men of the Clan MacDonald and the other Clans that gave their lives on the field of Culloden.

 

 

Caledonia News

New Caledonia: A Song of America is being considered for a Book Excellence Award in historical fiction.  The prize will be awarded October 1, 2017 by Literary Excellence Inc. of Brampton, Ontario, Canada.

 

The manuscript for Caledonia Lost: The Fall of the Confederacy manuscript has been sent to the publishers.  Here is a first look at this new novel: “During the siege of Petersburg at the end of the American Civil War, a Confederate soldier, manning the trenches, reflects on life, love, and the War, while awaiting the climactic battle of the Breakthrough.”

 

Caledonia Lost: The Fall of the Confederacy  will be published by Lit Fire of Atlanta, Georgia early fall 2017.

 

An Excerpt from new Caledonia: A Song of America-Part 4

Fraser’s Highlanders, the reserve unit of the British Legion, whom Tarleton had thrown into the battle, came up hard against the Virginians. The Highlanders were yelling and their bagpipers were skerling.  They smelled victory and wanted to overwhelm the rebels.    They were roaring for the kill.

 

“The rebel line is crumbling!”

 

“Rout them!” cried an officer.

“At them, boys!”   A sergeant waved his men on with his musket.

 

Victory was within their grasp. ‘Tarleton has done it again’ was the thought in each and every green and red uniformed man.  The Highlanders in their green and blue plaid pants started to charge to Continentals believing them to be in full retreat.

 

Howard stopped. He cupped his hands and yelled, “Halt! About face! Volley fire, now!”  Then upon order, as quickly as a summer thunderstorm bursts upon the scene, the Virginians and the Marylanders too, stopped, turned, formed a line, and fed a volley into the onrushing Highlanders.  The legs went out of the first rank of the Frasers, as men tumbled head over heel wounded or dead.

 

Unseen, Pickens’ Militias had formed on the far right of our line.   They then fired a volley into the flank of the Highlanders.  The Highlanders faltered.  Confusion reigned in the Fraser’s 71st Highlanders.  They looked around: Continentals in front of them, Militia on their flank, and getting into their rear to surround them.  Some of the Highlanders threw down their weapons and began to flee.  Others threw down their weapons and asked for quarter.  Then, as if the whole thing had been perfectly rehearsed, Washington’s dragoons fell upon the Highlanders, completely closing the circle.  Horsemen with sabers flying hacked, cut, slashed, and thrust their way into the disorganized mob that was once the pride of the British army: Fraser’s 71st Highlanders.    The Continentals lowered their muskets and showed the steel of their bayonets to the Frasers.  Daniel and I surged forward, too.  It was then that I felt my stomach churn with pain.  I pulled my coat together to cover the blood.  I tried to comfort myself with the thought that it was only buckshot from a buck and ball.  The Highlanders now en masse surrendered.  Anything white was held high up in the air.  Weapons dropped to the ground like so many fall leaves in a strong gale.

 

In the distance near the road, Tarleton gathered his staff and what was left of his dragoons. “Men, we have to save the Legion!  Follow me.  Onward men, onward!”  He thrust his sabre into the air and then slashed it down towards the surrendering Highlanders.  Without looking to see if anyone was following him, Tarleton whipped his horse and galloped off to save his Legion.

 

Caught up in the heat of the moment, Lt. Colonel Campbell did something that was totally uncharacteristic for him. He spurred his horse.  He joined the charge.

 

Washington and his remaining dragoons faced about and whipped their horses to meet Tarleton head on. Sabers clashed.  Pistols fired.  Within seconds, it was over.  Tarleton’s cavalry were just too tired, too few, and too dispirited to beat Washington and his men.

 

Escaping back across the field was Tarleton, who was accompanied by Hanger and Campbell. They were riding back down the Green River Road.  Tarleton turned to his men and yelled, “Retreat!”  Some of the remaining dragoons joined them.  They were close to the woods and in a few more seconds they would vanish from sight.

 

Daniel and I saw him at the same moment. “That’s Campbell!” We cried simultaneously.  I went to my knee. My rifle barrel was waving up and down. I fought to level it to get a good, clean shot at Campbell. Daniel was standing straight up.  His barrel was as steady as it could possibly be.  We fired at the same moment.  Two hundred yards away, an ounce of lead penetrated the skull of Lt. Colonel David Angus Campbell, who fell to the ground, instantly dead.  I am sure that my shot felled the bastard.  Daniel cried, “Go to hell, you demon!”  Tarleton and the others escaped into the trees.  The Battle of Cowpens was over.

 

An Excerpt fro New Caledonia: A Song of America-Part 3

The dawn was still some minutes in the future. The gloom, which had been black, was now a shadowy, twilight grey.  We reached the Militia line.  Colonel Andrew Pickens was walking up and down the line encouraging his men.  “Boys!  Hold on!  Wait till you see them clearly!  We’re going to introduce them to Hell today!”

 

We reloaded.  The Militia line stiffened as the first British soldiers reached the crest of the ridge in front of us.  General Morgan had placed this line on the reverse side of the second ridge.  So, we were down in a small swale looking up at the top of the ridge.  The British reached the top of the ridgeline and were silhouetted against the lighter grey sky.  The Militia line erupted in a volley. We added our shots to the volley of the Militia.  Some of the Militia ran after their first shot.   Daniel and I, as did many of the skirmishers, continued our retreat, as planned, to left of the Continental line.  Our long rifles took about a minute to reload, while the muskets of the Militia and the British took about one-half a minute.  We could not stay for a second shot, when the British were so close.  Our Pennsylvania rifles, while great shots at 150 yards, were poor clubs in hand to hand combat.  They broke too easily.  They were fragile.  Neither could they be fitted with a bayonet, although some tried putting a butcher knife on the end.

 

The Militia and the British traded a volley and then another volley. Some of the Militia left after each volley.  Colonel Pickens ordered, “Stand boys, and deliver another one!”   The remaining men of the Militia volleyed a third time and then retreated towards and through the Continental line.

 

It was then that the British Fusiliers began to think that we had been beaten, they charged towards the Continental line. They were cheering.  “God save the King!”  “Huzzah!”

 

Colonel John Edgar Howard, the commander of the Continentals yelled to his men, “Steady boys! Wait till they’re in the killing range!  Marylanders, hold steady!”

 

The British were running up the slope of the third ridge. The Maryland Regulars were like a rock.  The British wave sweep up the beach and crested right at the feet of the Maryland Regulars.

 

Daniel and I had walked all the way around our Continentals Regulars from left flank to the right flank. We were now standing with the Virginians.  We had reloaded and we started to walk up to their line to join them, when it happened.  Someone, somehow, had heard something that was not there: an order to retreat.  Howard, I heard, had ordered, “Refuse the flank!”  That was an order to turn slightly to the right to prevent the British from going around us on our right.  The Virginians heard: “Retreat!”

 

The Virginians began a retreat, but they retreated in a manner such that they “tailed their guns”, that is the dragged their muskets along the ground and were reloading as they backed up. Morgan rode up, saw what was happening, and rode over to Howard.  They conferred for what was a long moment.  Morgan pointed, while Howard nodded.  Morgan rode over to the Marylanders.

An Excerpt from New Caledonia: A Song of America-Part 2

 

British Lt. Colonel David Campbell was in the van of the Legion. The horses were barley lifting their hooves as they shuffled onwards.  The sloughing through the mud had worn them out completely.  The Legion infantry could hardly step in time, they were so tired.  The cold night made him rub his hands together.  “Sir,” he said to Colonel Tarleton, “should we stop and rest the men?  We’ve been marching for five hours.  The men could use some rest and some food.”

 

“What? Stop?  Rest?  No, Morgan is just in front of us.  I must prevent them from getting across the ford.  Here, we will defeat the rebels in detail, before they can rejoin Greene and the rest of the rebel army.  We must move on.”  Tarleton dismissed Campbell’s recommendation without giving it a thought.

 

The two continued to move on in silence. The ranks were also silent-no one had the energy to talk or sing and march.  The march resumed its weary cadence.   Time passed in a slow motion orgy of pain, hunger, and exhaustion.

 

Major Hanger joined Tarleton and Campbell. The second in command asked Tarleton to halt the men.

 

“No, Major! We are almost upon them.  No time to waste!  We must rush upon them as soon as is possible!”

 

“Yes, sir!” Hanger replied with as snappy a salute as he could muster.

The forest started to thin. “Where are we?” Colonel Tarleton asked.

 

The little group of officers stopped and the column behind them halted. An orderly ran up with a torch.

 

“I think we are at the Cowpens.” Campbell mechanically replied while looking at his map under the light of a torch an orderly held.

Just then, rifle shots rang out, accompanied by battle yells of the rebels. British soldiers started dropping.

 

“Send ahead some dragoons.” Tarleton barked.

 

Within a minute, twenty-five green jacketed horsemen clattered by and broke through the remaining few tress into the open. As they did, some shots rang out and one man tumbled from his horse.  The dragoons continued to trot forward which trot soon became a run.  Some rebels dropped back, while about 30 more leveled their rifles.  More shots rang out and about ten or so of the cavalry were felled.  The rest of the horsemen reared their horses, spun around, and retreated into the cover of the woods.  A great huzzah rang from the rebel line.

“Deploy in battle line!” Tarleton was angry that his beloved cavalry had failed.  “Campbell, place dragoons on both flanks.  Grasshoppers to the middle of the line, to either side of the road.  The Highlanders will be our reserve.”

 

The fifers and the drummers began their call to the troops to deploy.

 

The Legion infantry filed out of the woods, breaking column and deploying in battle line. Soon, the red coated Fusiliers and the Light Infantry were ready to go.  The drummers beat the long roll on their drums.   The fifes shrilled.

 

“Forward men!” Campbell cried, as Tarleton waved his sabre forward.

 

The red line surged forward. The British huzzahed.  They held their bayonets before them for no rebel line would withstand the steel of the British bayonet.

 

General Morgan hearing the British huzzah quipped to his men, “They give us the British halloo, boys give them the Indian whoop!” He rode along the skirmish line.  “Two aimed shots, men!”  Then he galloped back to repeat the order for the Militia line.

 

The rebel skirmishers started to fire. British sergeants, lieutenants, captains started to fall.  Some of the rebels fired one shot and then fled. Most hid behind trees.  They reloaded and then fired again.  Most of the shots felled another British soldier or officer.

 

Daniel and I hugged our trees. I had fired, as had he at the dragoons.  We had reloaded and now, as the red line of infantry surged forward, we were struggling to get off another shot.  They were about fifty yards away and were still coming at us.  We fired together and then we turned and ran towards the Militia line.  Our Militias were about 90 or 100 yards behind us, so we ran like the wind, because the devil was on our tails.  We weren’t of a mind to go to hell today.

An Excerpt from New Caledonia: A Song of America-Part I

Chapter 51: Cowpens-A Devil of a Licking

 

“We were formed in order of battle and…clapping…hands together to keep warm…The British line advanced at sort of a trot, with a loud hallo. It was the most beautiful line I ever saw.  When they shouted I heard Morgan say, ‘They give us the British halloo, boys.  Give them the Indian halloo, by God!’ and he galloped along the lines, cheering the men and telling them not to fire until we could see the whites of their eyes.”-Major Thomas Young, South Carolina Militia

 

Cowpens was a relatively wide open area. In better times, Colonists brought their herds here to fatten on the grass that grew here in the open spaces among the spares trees.  A road came from the southeast, then swept north and finally veered northeast leading to the ford over the river about five miles away.  This road was called either the Green River Road or the Mill Gap Road.  Four branches of Thicketty Creek framed the left flank of General Morgan’s position.   These branches were separated by three ridgelines that generally ran west to east. The ridges were not high, maybe fifteen or twenty feet tall.  The ridges tended to have more trees as they met the Creek.  The ridges were progressively higher as one went north. The right flank of General Morgan’s line had no such natural end to it, although the trees became denser the further west one went, such that the battlefield to be seemed to be framed by trees.

 

Early on the winter morning of January 17, 1781, the staccato long roll was beaten by American drummers calling the infantry to their places on the meadow of Cowpens.

 

On the first ridgeline, Morgan had placed his skirmishers. They could see from the top of this ridgeline about 150 yards or so of relatively clear land before the trees became too dense.  Benny would be coming up the Green River Road.  As soon as he got to the open space of the Cowpens, he would be seen by the skirmishers, who would start to unleash their shots.  They lay in waiting.  The dark gloom of a winter night was just starting to change to the inky grey of a winter morning.   The field before them was cast in a thin mist.  The breeze was cold.  My son and I were in the skirmisher line, that is the first line, with our Pennsylvania rifles.

 

*****

 

“Father, are you scared?”

 

I couldn’t see Daniel’s face in the inky gloom of night as we took our positions on the skirmish line. “Yes, son, I am.”  I paused a moment.  “Any man who might meet his Maker today has plenty of reason to be afraid.”

 

“I am not afraid of Judgement. I believe in God’s promise to man.  But still I am afraid.  Am I less of a Christian?”  Daniel spoke each word slowly, thoughtfully, and carefully.

 

“Son, I am afraid, too. I’m not a philosophical man, nor am I man who knows theology.  I believe that I am saved by God’s grace alone, for surely I am not saved by what I’ve done.  I know that I am a man who has a job to perform.  I have to do all I can to help my friends, neighbors, and you, to win this battle.  I hate the British.  I hate all they have done to me and my family.  I’ve lost two wives to their barbarity and cruelty.  Two good, fine, God-fearing women who did not deserve the fate that befell them.  If I can kill the man who did that to them, I would willingly go to meet Jesus.”  I snarled the last words.  Talking to Daniel had gotten me mad.  I was angry now; I would kill every British man I could see.

 

I think he noticed the change of the tone of my voice for he stopped talking for a short while. “Father, I’ll kill them, too,” he finally whispered.  We both loaded our long rifles.  We situated ourselves behind two trees about 10 yards apart.

 

“Two well-aimed shots,” I said in reply.

 

*****

 

British Lt. Colonel David Campbell was in the van of the Legion. The horses were barley lifting their hooves as they shuffled onwards.  The sloughing through the mud had worn them out completely.  The Legion infantry could hardly step in time, they were so tired.  The cold night made him rub his hands together.  “Sir,” he said to Colonel Tarleton, “should we stop and rest the men?  We’ve been marching for five hours.  The men could use some rest and some food.”

 

“What? Stop?  Rest?  No, Morgan is just in front of us.  I must prevent them from getting across the ford.  Here, we will defeat the rebels in detail, before they can rejoin Greene and the rest of the rebel army.  We must move on.”  Tarleton dismissed Campbell’s recommendation without giving it a thought.

 

The two continued to move on in silence. The ranks were also silent-no one had the energy to talk or sing and march.  The march resumed its weary cadence.   Time passed in a slow motion orgy of pain, hunger, and exhaustion.

 

Major Hanger joined Tarleton and Campbell. The second in command asked Tarleton to halt the men.

 

“No, Major! We are almost upon them.  No time to waste!  We must rush upon them as soon as is possible!”

 

“Yes, sir!” Hanger replied with as snappy a salute as he could muster.

The forest started to thin. “Where are we?” Colonel Tarleton asked.

 

The little group of officers stopped and the column behind them halted. An orderly ran up with a torch.

 

“I think we are at the Cowpens.” Campbell mechanically replied while looking at his map under the light of a torch an orderly held.

 

Just then, rifle shots rang out, accompanied by battle yells of the rebels. British soldiers started dropping.

 

“Send ahead some dragoons.” Tarleton barked.

 

Within a minute, twenty-five green jacketed horsemen clattered by and broke through the remaining few tress into the open. As they did, some shots rang out and one man tumbled from his horse.  The dragoons continued to trot forward which trot soon became a run.  Some rebels dropped back, while about 30 more leveled their rifles.  More shots rang out and about ten or so of the cavalry were felled.  The rest of the horsemen reared their horses, spun around, and retreated into the cover of the woods.  A great huzzah rang from the rebel line.

“Deploy in battle line!” Tarleton was angry that his beloved cavalry had failed.  “Campbell, place dragoons on both flanks.  Grasshoppers to the middle of the line, to either side of the road.  The Highlanders will be our reserve.”

 

The fifers and the drummers began their call to the troops to deploy.

 

The Legion infantry filed out of the woods, breaking column and deploying in battle line. Soon, the red coated Fusiliers and the Light Infantry were ready to go.  The drummers beat the long roll on their drums.   The fifes shrilled.

 

“Forward men!” Campbell cried, as Tarleton waved his sabre forward.

 

The red line surged forward. The British huzzahed.  They held their bayonets before them for no rebel line would withstand the steel of the British bayonet.

 

General Morgan hearing the British huzzah quipped to his men, “They give us the British halloo, boys give them the Indian whoop!” He rode along the skirmish line.  “Two aimed shots, men!”  Then he galloped back to repeat the order for the Militia line.

How George Washington Started the French and Indian War-Part 6

George Washington in 1772

george_washington_1772

 

The Indian allies of the French, who were mainly Iroquois from Canada, hid behind the trees that ringed Fort Necessity.  Wisely, the French did as the Indians.  The superior marksmanship of the Indians and of the French soon began to tell, as British soldier after British soldier fell.  The day wore on with few, if any, of the French and their Indian allies being wounded or killed.  By nightfall, however, Washington’s force of about 400 men was reduced to below 300 men.

 

On the morning of July 4, 1754, Washington, who spoke no French, asked for terms for surrender, through his interpreter, Jacob Van Braam. Although Van Braam was only about three years older than Washington, he seemed much older and more experienced.

 

Perhaps, it was his service in the British Navy during the War of Jenkin’s Ear in 1741. Lawrence Washington had met Van Braam during the War.  He became wholly impressed with the skill with which Van Braam welded a sword, even though Van Braam was then only twelve years old.   Unfortunately, their campaign together ended at the disastrous defeat of the British in the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in Columbia. After the War, Lawrence brought Van Braam back to his Plantation at Mount Vernon.  Lawrence did this because his younger brother had been named as Major of the Colonial Militia for his district.  “George, I really have to do something for you so you will grow into your rank of ‘Major’ of the Militia,” Lawrence said.  At Mount Vernon, Van Braam taught George Washington fencing and about field fortifications, flags, as well as schooling him in the ways of the European armies.

 

Van Braam was Washington’s interpreter; however, he spoke little French and apparently read even less French. The French, only too willing to oblige the giving of terms, had Washington sign a document in French.  This document of surrender allowed Washington and his men full military honors.  They could retain their weapons and their flags. But the document also required Washington’s forces to surrender Fort Necessity.  Importantly, The document of surrender also acknowledged that the French had acted only to avenge the assassination of their diplomat, Ensign de Jumonville. Washington had surrendered his first command and had unknowingly taken responsibility for the death of a French officer acting as a diplomat, which France would use as a justification for making war upon Britain.  So, Washington had personally fired the first shot of what would become the French and Indian War in North American, a world war that became known as the Seven Year’s War in Europe, had surrendered the first British army to fight in that War, and had taken full responsibility for starting the War in the first place.

 

What did George Washington learn from this?

  1. He realized that he acted impetuously in surrendering.
  2. He realized that his words in the surrender document had gotten him and his country into grave trouble. This may have been the source of later laconic personality.
  3. He had led his first army and had surrendered his first command. Washington would never surrender an army again-no matter how hard pressed.
  4. A year later at Monongahela, July 9, 1755, Washington was the model of courage and determination. Although most of the officers that accompanied Braddock were killed or seriously wounded, Washington was not. Washington’s uniform was riddled by bullet holes, but he suffered not even a minor wound. Washington felt that Providence had spared him, because he had an important destiny to fulfill. He led the forces in a skillful retreat, even though he was only a Colonial Captain. While Braddock lay dying, Braddock gave Washington his red battle sash saying that he knew no man more worthy to receive it.

Horatio Gates

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Charles Lee

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III.       Epilogue

Twenty years to the date, July 9, 1775, George Washington had just taken over the command of the Continental Army outside of Boston. He called to his headquarters his two subordinates, Charles Lee and Horatio Gates.  There, he toasted the Battle of Monongahela, General Braddock.  He toasted his two comrades, Charles Lee and Horatio Gates, both of whom had been at the Battle of Monongahela-Horatio Gates had suffered a wound to his abdomen and was thought not likely to survive, but Washington had insisted on taking him on the retreat.  The Washington toasted the commander of the British forces, Thomas Gage, who had also been a fellow officer ta Monongahela.  It is reputed that Washington told Charles Lee and Horatio Gates that he had learned one thing from the Monongahela:  The vaunted British Army could be beaten.