Thursday, July 5, 2018

Lt. Colonel George Stanhope describes the Battle of Culloden

British reenactors represent troops from the '45.

The following is an account of the Battle of Culloden from British Lt. Colonel George Stanhope, as written in a letter to his brother shortly following the battle. This comes from my research this week in Kent.


Dear Brother                                                    Camp Near Inverness, April 21st, 1746

I return many thanks for the favour of yours of the 10th instant which I received last night, as well as of the 1st instant that I received at Aberdeen the 8th of this month, and should have answered sooner but have been upon the march ever since. At present writing my fingers are almost froze being as cold in camp as in winter. I shall not trouble you with our particular marches, but ours and the Rebel army about 9,000 strong, and they fired the first cannon shot at us about two in the afternoon, which we answered with great success.[1] The army was drawn up in two lines and a reserve, with horse and dragoons on the flanks. The small arms began about a quarter of an hour after the first cannon shot, and for the time it lasted it was the hottest I ever saw. The rebels after having flung away their fire attacked with sword in hand most furiously, and bent their chief effort after Barrel's [Regiment] that was on the left of the front line, who received them warmly and stood as well as men could do till overpowered and were obliged to give ground...[.] The Rebels pursuing them intermixed with sword in hand upon which our being Regiment next to Wolfe's on the left of the second line and both Regiments outflanking Barrel's of the front line had the finest opportunity imaginable which we did not let slip off.

[Our troops] giving the column of Rebels that was about twenty deep and not forty yards distant from our regiment's right the most infernal flanking fire and saved Barrel's by it, and contributed a great deal to the turn of the whole for the rebels were soon after put to flight. When we marched on to pursue them I never saw such dreadful slaughter we had made. [The Jacobites] lying thick as they had grounded their arms and our men gave no quarter to them. I reckon two thousand of them killed in the field [and by] besides in the pursuit by the horse and dragoons with a great many of their chiefs and upward of a thousand prisoners...

It was a glorious victory and I believe the cheapest that was ever gained our whole loss being under three hundred, chiefly Barrel's with upwards of a hundred killed or wounded, with Robert Kerr, a Captain killed, and their Lt. Colonel Rich much cut in the head, his left hand cut off with one stroke, and his other arm so cut that it is doubtful they can save it, some other [junior] officers killed or wounded. The whole army behaved with the utmost resolution, and our regiment with little loss as well as any.


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Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

[1] Modern estimates place the Jacobites closer to between 7,000 and 8,000 men, and indicate that the battle began around 12:30 to 12:45pm. It is possible that Stanhope's pocket watch was running behind.


  1. Family tradition holds that I am a descendant of Cpt. Robert Kerr---I am the 8th Robert Kerr in the family. Robert Kerr Cloyd

    1. That is incredible! What a proud tradition!

  2. My gr-gr-grandmother was a Stewart of Clan Appin. They as well as other ancestors were there at Culloden.