Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fight for a Throne: The Jacobite '45 Reconsidered

Front Cover
Dear Reader,

I know it has been some time since I published a post, and I hope to return to work on Kabinettskriege more in the summer months. My first year of doctoral work is going quite well, and I am settling in to my new home at West Virginia University. So, without further ado, let's jump into the matter at hand, the latest book from Dr. Christopher Duffy.

For many students of eighteenth century warfare, the Jacobite rising of 1745-46 (the '45) is old hat. Many books have been published on the subject, including a previous volume from the same author. Dr. Duffy's return to the '45 is a matter of some import, as he is without question the leading scholar of this rebellion, and of mid-eighteenth century warfare as a whole.

Those who have read Duffy's previous volume on the last great Jacobite rebellion, (The '45) will recall the major facets of the rebellion- the initial Jacobite rising, let by Charles Edward Stuart, the "Bonnie Prince Charlie" of 19th century romanticism, and the Scottish Jacobite victory over Hanoverian British forces at Prestonpans. This first success was followed  a Jacobite surge southward into England, eventual retreat to Scotland, and destruction by the Hanoverian forces at Culloden Moor on April 16th, 1746.

Duffy's new study offers something for everyone. Filled with an impressive amount of social and cultural information, Duffy examines the conflict in never before seen detail. Though the book will disappoint readers hoping for a comprehensive examination of Hanoverian fighting forces, Jacobite forces are discussed at extreme length. New appendices provide detailed information about sea conditions, meteorological observations, detailed geography, and a unit by unit evaluation of the highland army.

Duffy spends a great deal of time discussing the Jacobite rising as a modernizing force- as opposed to the traditional historical view of Jacobitism: a backwards movement supporting a bygone dynasty (the Stuarts) and bygone religious movement in England (Catholicism). Rather, Duffy crafts a persuasive argument that the Jacobites were a forward-looking movement, based (via necessity) on Enlightenment ideas of religious toleration, and military innovation. Duffy makes a convincing argument that the Jacobites pioneered a divisional system which gave them an extreme advantage in strategic operations.
The monograph also makes a parallel argument that the Hanoverian system of government was bogged down in pervasive corruption, and that the politicians of the 1740s Britain made poor strategic thinkers in comparison with the Stuart prince and his advisers. In this way, Fight for a Throne turns the traditional interpretation of the '45 on its head.

The book also contains a wealth of new information on the military history of the Jacobite Rising. In Duffy's description of Culloden alone, he provides persuasive evidence that the Highlanders discarded (or perhaps neglected to pick up)  their shields in the hectic assembly to confront rapidly advancing Hanoverian forces. In addition, Fight for a Throne makes it clear that Cumberland's soldiers did NOT adapt a new style of bayonet drill, in which each soldier stabbed the highlander attacking the man next to him.

Rather, according to a eyewitness, the Hanoverian infantry

"...first gave one fire, the fore rank kept [the Jacobites] off with their bayonets till the second rank charged [loaded] again and gave them so close a fire that our fore rank was bespattered with their blood and brains..." (Quoted in Duffy, Fight for a Throne, 466.)

Undeterred by this mauling, the Highlanders pushed into close combat with Barrel's regiment, but were unable to break the British line. The chapter on Culloden alone makes this volume worth the price, but be careful- Duffy will entrance you with his wider social and cultural narrative of this vital event in British history.

Thanks for Reading!

Alex Burns