An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

An Echo in the Bone“Jamie Fraser is an eighteenth-century Highlander, an ex-Jacobite traitor, and a reluctant rebel in the American Revolution. His wife, Claire Randall Fraser, is a surgeon—from the twentieth century. What she knows of the future compels him to fight. What she doesn’t know may kill them both.”

 

Thus reads the back cover copy of An Echo in the Bone, a sequel in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. As the explanation would suggest, it is a time-travelling historical epic, with a bit of fantasy, romance, and family saga thrown in. I call it mainstream historical fantasy. “Mainstream” because it doesn’t fit neatly in a genre category, is a bestseller, and yet isn’t quite literary fiction. And “historical fantasy” because of its subject matter.

A compelling combination, no matter what genre it is, and even if I did enter the series in media res.

Yes, I admit it. I recieved Echo for Christmas, but it was a book in the middle of the series and I had not read the first one. And now I’m reviewing it. Which demands a question to be asked of me right off the top: why do so, if I have imperfect knowledge of the series as a whole? What gives me the right?

It may indeed speak of arrogance, on my part. However, reading the series in media res placed me at an interesting perspective. I read to see if the series could grab me, a fresh reader, in the middle—a dangerous part of any book series. So often, the middle novels of a series lag into repetition. While I have no other novel of Gabaldon’s to which to compare Echo and check for repetitions, I can still observe the inherent quality of her book, as it stands.

Actually, reading her novel in media res was an interesting experience. Experts will tell authors to begin their stories in the middle of the action, so the reader can catch up on backstory on the run. While I was disoriented at the opening of the novel, within a few chapters, I gained an idea of who the main characters were and I managed to reconstruct past histories. This improved as I poured through her 1,000+ pages.

It was time enough to get up to speed, I think. You read that many pages and you’re immersed in a series, no matter what anyone says.

 

Fan art of Jamie Fraser. In Echo, he might have been getting on in years, but I suppose the younger face was more attractive.

Fan art of Jamie Fraser. In Echo, he might have been getting on in years, but I suppose the artist thought the younger face was more attractive.

In Echo, Claire and Jamie are surviving a cold winter on Fraser’s Ridge after their home, which contained almost all of Claire’s medical equipment, was burned to the ground in the previous novel. Recovering their gold from the wreckage, Ian Murray incurs the vengeance of a bitter man after he kills his wife. Eventually, Jamie, who once was a printer by trade, sets out on a goal to find a ship to bring him back to Scotland to recover his old printing press.

Their adventures will force them to become pirates, follow and flee the Continental and British armies, and meet illustrious historical figures such as Benedict Arnold and Benjamin Franklin (one disturbing image of whom I am still trying to wash from my brain).

Meanwhile, a second storyline involving William Ransom, a lieutennant in the British army and his father Lord John Grey unravels. Willie, returning from an intelligencing operation, is sent on a mission northward to Quebec and recieves his first taste of battle. Meanwhile, John Grey’s brother becomes fatally ill after being wounded. Only one woman—Claire Fraser—can save him.

A third storyline follows Claire and Jamie’s daughter Brianna and her husband Roger. Having just arrived in twentieth-century Scotland from the eighteenth century, Brianna and Roger follow up on Claire and Jamie’s adventures via a set of letters sent through time. Leaving her letters at Lollybroch, a safe farmhouse that has been in the family for generations, Claire is able to keep her daughter informed of their adventures, reassuring her that she is still alive and well. The irony, of course, is that presumably, Claire has been dead two hundred years by the time Brianna reads the letters. Brianna and Roger read them one at a time, which forms a neat segway into Claire’s scenes, which are told in the first person point of view (the other timelines are in third person).

While Brianna gets a job at a hydroelectric company, Roger attempts to overcome an injury done to his singing voice—his throat was damaged by a hangman’s rope in another century—by teaching a choir. He also begins to teach Gaelic in school, as his son Jem readjusts to twentieth century life in which there are cars and speaking Gaelic is considered passé.

The three storylines operate on three different timelines: the 1980s, the 1770s, and Lord Grey and William’s adventures generally occur a few months or weeks earlier than Jamie and Claire’s. The interweaving of the storylines is intricate. As I kept wondering how the characters were connected (being out of the loop), I was consistently astounded—even flabbergasted—when I learned the intricate relations between the characters. There were so many hidden secrets in the past that I could hardly keep up, although that might not be true for one who is more familiar with the series.

StonesWhat enables this interweaving is the fantasy aspect of Gabaldon’s mainstream historical fantasy novel. Instead of a “time-machine” Outlander uses the fantasy trope of mysterious stone circles that send you through time and space. These power centers are connected by ley lines. This and other pseudo-scientific phenomena produce portals that are especially volatile when the sun is an a certain position, such as on Halloween or May Day, which also happen to be Celtic pagan festivals. The portals may go off without warning, but I gathered that if you brought a gem to one of the

stones, you could travel back intentionally, though there is always risk attached. Once, long ago, the price of crossing was blood, a detail that the book leaves you off with during its cliffhanger ending.

 

Ley line map linking sacred sites in Scotland.

Ley line map linking sacred sites in Scotland.

When I finished the novel, I was connected with these characters. They were each well-written, each point of view having a distinctive voice, from Claire’s spunky attitude and fiercely practical relation of field doctor medical procedures, to Jamie and Ian’s Scots drawl, to Lord Grey’s formal, gentlemanly diction. Gabaldon created plenty of mystery and unpredictability, a perfect combination to keep me hooked. Furthermore, the sheer mountain of research that must have gone into these novels is astounding: not just the historical details, but the medical details as well. It made me wonder whether Gabaldon was a nurse once.

All of this combines to make a compelling middle novel. But one must not forget that it is in the middle.

Certain adventures in Echo begin at the start of the book, are forgotten over the middle, and come to a conclusion at the end, lending a sense of completion. However, other adventures begin in the middle only to be concluded (presumably) in the next book.

The effect of this is that not all your questions are answered at the end of the novel and, while you read, characters presumably introduced from previous books keep popping up. If you love Gabaldon’s minor characters, you can probabaly bet on them making second and even third appearances in later books.

I suppose this is how Gabaldon draws her readers into buying the next book in her series. Ironically, her strategy now makes me want to buy her earlier books.

 

Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series

Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series

 

Photo Credits:

An Echo in the Bone cover: http://thelitbitch.com/2011/04/04/an-echo-in-the-bone-outlander-series-reading-challenge/

Diana Gabaldon: http://naturalartificial.blogspot.ca/2009/02/writing-about-places-youve-never-been.html

Jamie Fraser: http://captivated2.deviantart.com/art/Jamie-Fraser-204672719

Ley Lines: http://www.sacredconnections.co.uk/holyland/fortingallyew.htm

Scottish stones: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/lifelists/The-Serenity-of-the-Outer-Hebrides.html

 

The Battle of Culloden Part. 3: The Bonnie Prince Escapes!

Culloden battle

The Duke of Cumberland's Birthday was 15 April, the day before battle.

The Duke of Cumberland fabricated evidence to justify his slaughter of Scots after Culloden

After the disaster of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland continued to repress the rebellion, to put it lightly. Really, he opened the way up for genocide.

Having captured Lord George Murray’s orders to the Jacobites, which had been issued the day before the battle, he supposedly found a line that revealed the Jacobites were to give no quarter to the Hanoverians. Using this conveniently forged piece of enemy instruction, Cumberland felt justified to give no quarter to the Jacobites, either. Cumberland’s letter to his men following up on this discovery read as follows: “Officers and men will take notice that the Public orders of the rebels yesterday was to give us no quarter” (Magnusson 622).

In the end, it was Cumberland who really gave no quarter.

Following atrocities such as the massacres the followed the Battle of Culloden, it is difficult to assign blame onto any one individual. But we can pretty well blame Cumberland for most of it. His orders were stated obliquely, leaving the correct course of action he expected ambiguous—but he intended this. He likely wanted soldiers to draw their own conclusions about his desire, while ever so slightly suggesting that they should take an eye for an eye. The order would then be untraceable to Cumberland.

This resulted in wholesale massacres. Dragoons scourged the Highlands, on the search for anyone associated with the rebels. They slaughtered fugitives as well as bystanders. They robbed livestock, burned barns to the ground, and raped the wives of those they sought. These days have passed into Scottish legend.

Dragoons were the scourge of Scotland after Culloden.

Dragoons were the scourge of Scotland after Culloden.

The atrocities of the slaughter were assisted by understanding that the Gaels were subhuman, vermin to be exterminated. The statistics are as follows:

3,471 Jacobite prisoners

120 of which were executed,

600 died in prison,

936 sold in the West Indies as slaves,

121 banished,

1,287 released or exchanged (Magnusson 624).

Among the legends of that time is one about James Wolfe’s virtue, which may be true, or might not: you decide.

General James Wolfe needed his Scottish soldiers to be loyal when they fought under him at Quebec.

General James Wolfe needed his Scottish soldiers to be loyal when they fought under him at Quebec.

Apparently, he refused to shoot a wounded Highlander shortly after the battle, claiming he would rather resign than betray his honour. Cumberland himself ended up shooting the Highlander, possibly under the orders of General Henry Hawley, Wolfe’s superior.

What is interesting is how Wikipedia states this story was popular among the Royal Highland Fusiliers, a Scottish regiment that fought under Wolfe during his campaign in North America. It makes you wonder how much Wolfe wanted the Highlanders to understand that he was merciful. Merciful, despite his statement made famous by Alistair MacLeod, that it was “no great mischief” if the Highlanders fell in battle. He must have relied strongly on the perception of being merciful, to earn his men’s loyalty, since his army of highlanders might have fought against him at Culloden, or knew those who had personally, and resented him.

Whatever the case with Wolfe, Cumberland was gloating in his triumph in the wake of the repression, and London celebrated with glee. The Duke was appointed chancellor at Aberdeen University, while in London he had a beautiful flower named after him, called Sweet William. Its scientific name is Dianthus barbatus.

Sweet Will

Sweet Will, or Dianthus barbatus

The Jacobites also honoured him by naming a flower. This one was a foul smelling ragwort called Stinking Willie.

Stinking Willie

Stinking Willie, or Senecto jacobaea

But this witty response did nothing to prevent the English from consolidating their military and cultural domination over the Scots. The policies, meant to assimilate Highlanders were similar to the tyrant Brandin’s policies in Tigana following the Battle of the River Deisa.

These were the Disarming Acts. They demanded all weapons in Scotland be surrendered. These included guns, claymores, and bagpipes. I hear bagpipes are deadly at a range of sixty feet (never mind the dying cat inside). But really, these singularly loud instruments of the Highlanders were used to rally troops and encourage them to fight in battles—so as far as the English were concerned, they had to go.

Tartan was banned, the great plaid, the kilt, and every other part of traditional Scottish garb. This is extra significant to Scots, because the different tartan patterns are unique to your family, or clan, sort of like a plaid coat-of-arms. I believe this would have been an attempt to dissolve the clan system in Sotland, which meant a direct attack on Highlander kinship relations.

Allan Macaulay, of my mother's ancestry--you can tell be the colour patterns used in his kilt.

Allan Macaulay, of my mother’s ancestry–you can tell be the colour patterns used in his kilt.

Furthermore, the traditional language of Gaelic was to be repressed. If Brandin of Ygrath were the Duke of Cumberland, this would be the spell that erased the country’s name, by erasing its language. In Gaelic, Scotland is called “Alba.” Even into modern times, the speaking of Gaelic was considered taboo.

Various attempts have been made to resuscitate the vanishing language. One of the most famous was the discovery of Ossianic poetry, a set of Gaelic verses rumoured to have been written by an ancient author called Ossian. However, Ossian was revealed to be a hoax, fabricated by James Macpherson. It might speak to the romantic desire to revive a perishing language, which had once been so central to his culture, that Macpherson invented a Gaelic Homer to legitimate the language in the eyes of others.

The Disarming Acts carried lasting devastation on Scottish culture. But what ever happened to the Bonnie Prince, you ask?

Well, he decided to flee for France. 5 kilometers to the south-west of Culloden, he met some of his Scottish officers at a Fraser safehouse. By 20 April, he was staying at Arisaig until news of approaching redcoats forced him to take a boat to the Outer Isles. However, in a fateful moment he was taken in a storm and was shipwrecked on the isle of Benbecula—which is situated between North and South Uist, my ancestral homeland.

Bonnie1

Irony of ironies: had he stayed, the French would have saved him. Two ships, the Mars and Bellona, landed on 30 April at Loch nan Uamh with money and brandy … four days after he had left.

[Whistles] Bonnie Prince Charlie, lookin' pretty good there!

[Whistles] Bonnie Prince Charlie, lookin’ pretty good there!

Instead of seeing safety too soon, he was going to run into some ancestors of mine in Uist. With a £30,000 bounty on his head, everyone of Hanoverian sympathy was searching for him, and even some neutral folk would have been tempted by that much cash. His narrow escapes are the stuff of legend, but nothing compares with how he dressed up in drag to flee the redcoats closing in on him, with Flora Macdonald leading him to safety.

I have a hard time imagining why a Broadway musical has not yet been made of this event.

The 24-year-old Flora Macdonald came to North Uist to help his brother with the cattle and sheep, when she ran into the Pretender. Together, they hatched a desperate plan to bring Charlie to the isle of Skye disguised as her Irish maid Betty Burke. What followed was 11 days of fun, laughter, and a Tony Award-winning musical score. With bagpipes.

And an award-winning wardrobe to boot. According to Magnusson, the Pretender looked pretty … convincing (if a bit tall) for a lady. S/he wore a “white blue-sprigged calico gown with a quilted petticoat, a sturdy waterproof overcoat and a woman’s head-dress” (626).

They reached Skye before dawn and parted at McNab’s Inn in Portree, now called the Royal Inn. (Now, does the name change refer to a Scottish or an English king?) The site is a tourist landmark in the town today.

Flora Macdonald, the Jacobite hero.

Flora Macdonald, the Jacobite hero.

Flora Macdonald, who shares a name with my grandmother’s grandmother, was arrested later, but not executed for her treason. She was released and married Alan Macdonald of Kingsburgh in December 1750. Later, she immigrated to the American colonies, losing her money when the colonies became the United States, during the War of Independence. She returned to the isle of Skye, and was buried at Kilmaur.

Every family has heroes like Flora; but every family also has villains.

The following came as a mild shock for me, since I discovered not everyone who shares my mother’s last name in Scotland was a Jacobite, though my uncle had assured me of this.

It turns out…

Macaulays nearly handed Prince Charlie to the Government! I was more shocked than Nathaniel Hawthorne, when he discovered his ancestor was a judge at the Salem Witch Hunt Trials.

It turns out, Reverend John Macaulay of Benbecula sent a message to his father, Reverend Aulay Macaulay, telling him to capture the Prince upon his arrival at Harris.

Fortunately, Donald Campbell showed up when Reverend Aulay came with his parishioners by boat to collect the lucrative bounty. Campbell put his value on hospitality above his loyalty to the Whigs, and convinced Macaulay to lower his hand and spare the Prince. Campbells have married into my family, so I can only hope some of that good nature flows through my veins.

Thomas Babington Macaulay, famous historian

Thomas Babington Macaulay, famous historian

On a more positive note, my ancestral blood might also be responsible for my interest in history and writing. John Macaulay was the grandfather to Lord Babington Macaulay, a Whig historian in the nineteenth century.

This brings us to the end of this epic of the Battle of Culloden. Alongside the description of the battle, its causes, and aftereffects, we have had a glance at Scottish culture more generally. It has been a great journey, and I think I will be posting more historical posts like this in the future. Next post will be a review of Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo in the Bone.

memorial

Works Cited:

Maclean, Fitzroy. Highlanders: A History of the Scottish Clans. New York: Penguin 1995.

Magnusson, Magnus. Scotland: The Story of a Nation. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 2000.

Wikipedia

Photo Credits:

Battle of Culloden: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden

Cumberland: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_William,_Duke_of_Cumberland

Wolfe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wolfe

Sweet Will: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sweet_William_Dianthus_barbatus_%27Heart_Attack%27_Closeup_2816px.jpg

Stinking Willie: http://www.plant-identification.co.uk/skye/compositae/senecio-jacobaea.htm

Allan Macaulay: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clan_MacAulay

Charlie escapes on boat: http://www.lookandlearn.com/blog/13594/flora-macdonald-truest-friend-to-bonnie-prince-charlie/

Flora Macdonald: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flora_MacDonald

Culloden Memorial: http://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.ca/2013/04/culloden-shoulder-of-lamentation.html

Thomas Babington: http://www.tumblr.com/explore

Thomas Babington Macaulay: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/8090422/Thomas-Babington-Macaulay-a-giant-of-the-British-Empire.html

Bonnie Prince Charlie as Betty Burke: http://www.clanmacfarlanegenealogy.info/genealogy/TNGWebsite/showmedia.php?mediaID=168

The Battle of Culloden Part. 2: Jacobites V. Cumberland

Culloden battleCulloden Moor, which was once called Drumossie Moor, is a “boggy, heather-clad upland moor above Culloden House, south-east of Iverness, overlooking the broad waters of Moray Firth” (Magnusson 617). It is pretty good metaphor for the mire the Jacobites found themselves in on 16 April 1746, when the battle was fought…

Iverness is boxed in yellow.

Culloden is shown near Iverness

The Battlefield is shown, near Culloden

The Battlefield is shown, near Culloden

The actual battlefield, several hundred years after.

The battlefield

The battlefield.

When the Jacobite army was assembled on that battlefield, Prince Charlie was ready to receive the Hanoverians, led by the Duke of Cumberland, in the last pitched battle fought on English soil. But he forgot one thing.

The Duke of Cumberland's Birthday was 15 April, the day before battle.

The Duke of Cumberland’s Birthday was 15 April, the day before battle.

He really should have checked his calendar because he might have realized it was his bitter enemy’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Butcher Cumberland!, he might have said. (Charlie’s followers would later call him a butcher, after the battle.) To celebrate, the English commander gave a rest day to his troops, which was thoughtful, not to mention useful.

In exchange, his soldiers would bring him back the material to make a stylish fence around his family’s country house. Believe it or not, this is not a throwaway remark, and there will be more on that later.

Celebrating with Cumberland was the infamous-in-Quebec Conquerer of Canada, General James Wolfe, though he was not a general yet. Known for his conquest at the Siege of Quebec and leading the English forces in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Wolfe is an ambiguous figure in Quebec culture. Anglophones might occasionally stand by him, but the Francophone majority tend to resent his actions. For one thing, he ended New France and brought French Canada under British control. The Quebec nationalist movement, represented in Quebec by the Parti Quebecois, makes Wolfe into “the big bad Wolfe,” according to one Aislin political cartoon, the legendary enemy of the Quebecois.

General James Wolfe, who fought at Culloden, later went on to bag Canada for the British Empire.

General James Wolfe, who fought at Culloden, later went on to bag Canada for the British Empire.

Before all that, according to Wikipedia, he fought in the War of Austrian Succession, where he was made a brigade major after showing heroism against the French on the Continent. In Scotland by October 1745 to deal with the Rising, Wolfe became an aide-de-camp, for General Henry Hawley, who he was with on the duke’s birthday on Culloden Moor. He waited with the rest of Cumberland’s troops for the fateful encounter.

Since Charlie was missing Cumberland’s birthday, he thought it odd when the English troops did not arrive as planned, which muddled his plans. As early as 6:00 am on April 15, the army was ready to fight—except the enemy didn’t show.

Lord George Murray, a key commander at Culloden

Lord George Murray, a key commander at Culloden

Which is where Lord George Murray, a Lieutennant-General of the army, came up with the bright idea of a night raid on Cumberland’s camp. Maybe he wished they’d been invited to his birthday. They probably almost did wish it, actually, all joking aside—at least they feed you at a party.

The army had no food for two days, the clansmen were tired, and they were cold. Lord Murray’s idea was a long shot at best. It would be impossible to move 5,000 men 16 kilometres through unfamiliar terrain at night with the sort of discipline necessary for secrecy.

 

9:00 pm: The first three columns doused their campfires and marched off.

 

2:00 am: The leading soldiers were only 6 kilometres from their camp, with disorder and confusion in the ranks behind them. Everyone, officers and soldiers, had no idea where they were going.

 

Dawn: They were 6 kilometres away from their target, and deprived of a night’s sleep. Meanwhile, Cumberland’s forces started waking up, stretching, and began thinking of breakfast. Bitter Scotsmen slowly returned to camp, fearful of being spotted.

 

Upon their arrival, Prince Charles is said to have shrugged and said, “It is no matter, then; we shall meet them, and behave like brave fellows.”

He was right about being brave. The problem was, it was an enormous matter.

The Scots were famished and freezing (In Scotland, who isn’t?). Once Cumberland’s men were done with their morning routines, breaking fast with bread, cheese, and brandy, their marching drums awoke the dreary-eyed Highlanders. If ever a pot of coffee were needed more at any time in history…

The enemy was only 6 kilometres away (all these ‘6’s might have been an omen, in retrospect). Utter confusion followed in the Scottish ranks at the arrival of Cumberland’s army, and only 1,000 men answered the threat on their own initiative.

 

A battlefield layout I drew, but mostly copied from Magus Magnusson's book. The positions are very approximate.

A battlefield layout I drew, but mostly copied from Magus Magnusson’s book. The positions are very approximate. Modern features include the memorial cairn, the highway, and the visitor center. (As far as I know, Cumberland did not look at pamphlets on re-enactments times for a battle that had not yet happened.)

Approximate positions at start of battle10:00 am: 5,000 Highlanders assembled themselves at last, though they are disoriented and dead tired, still not fed. Each man was eventually given a single biscuit to eat before they set off. A chilling nor’easter brought in stabbing sleet and rain to oppress them even further. The English had 800 mounted dragoons, ten three-pounder guns, six mortars, and outnumbed the Scots by 2,000 or 3,000 men. It was not shaping out to be a great day.

 

11:00 am: The armies were within sight of each other. Now would be time for an inspiring speech on the part of the Bonnie Prince, and an opportunity to moon the enemy, but this wasn’t Braveheart, unfortunately.

 

Around this time, they had to come to terms with the grounds they’d chosen. It was decent ground for a Highland charge, though it also gave great advantage to the enemy dragoons, who were mounted and well equipped, unlike the Scottich cavalry. Lord George Murray disapproved of the terrain vehemently, but by this time, it was too late.

 

12:00 pm: BATTLE COMMENCES

Culloden battle

The Jacobites fired first with their rifles. The Hanoverian forces responded with precise roundshot from their cannons, which created a few casualties among the Scots but mostly succeeded in creating confusion. Communication was so terrible among the Jacobites that the Highlanders awaiting the command to charge (“Claymore!”) had to wait for a good hour until they heard it at last. During all that time, powder clouds, sulfur, and thunder from canons caused blindness and uncertainty.

Finally, the shout of “Claymore!” went through, and 1,500 men forming 8 clan regiments, charged “in a wave of unleashed kilted fury” (Magnusson 620). These included the Camerons, the Macintoshes, Macphersons, the Macleans, the Maclachlans, and Clan Chattan, all of whom encountered the first shock of battle.

This happened when Cumberland switched his artillery from roundshot to grapeshot, a deadly strategy. The new ammunition was essentially cannisters filled with iron nails, led balls, and other sharp objects. Imagine clouds of flying wedges flying at you. The clansmen were decimated and massacred. Furthermore, one row of Government infantry would shoot a volley of bullets at the Jacobites, while the others loaded their muskets, repeating so there was always a volley of lead hissing through the smoke, finding their targets in a haze of bloodied tartan.

claymore

If a Highlander even came close to Cumberland’s forces, he even had a secret weapon to stop the claymore broadswords used by the Jacobite infantry. “Instead of engaging the clansman coming directly at him (thereby catching his bayonet on the enemy’s leather shield), each soldier went for the unprotected right-hand side of the man on the attacker’s left,” writes Magnus Magnusson. “The tactic took steady nerves, and complete faith in you comrades—and it proved very effective” (620).

After the Government employed these devastating techniques, organization fell apart and the battle was all but lost. The Highlanders fought bravely, but ineffectively, kilted bodies littering the moor. Then the dragoons stormed the battlefield to bring the battle to a swift end, all after only 30 minutes.

Along with the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Culloden ranks among the shortest most important battles in history.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Wolfe had a knack for fighting in half-hour battles that decided the fate of an entire nation.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Wolfe had a knack for fighting in half-hour battles that decided the fate of an entire nation.

The Jacobites lost 1,500 troops while the Hanoverian losses amounted only to 50 dead, though 259 were wounded. The Jacobites killed one Hanoverian for every 300 they lost.

In the midst of the carnage, MacDonald of Keppoch is said to have run at his enemy, weeping as he was struck down by a volley of led balls, yelling in Gaelic, “Mo Dhia ando threig clann ma chinnidhmi?” In English: “My God, have the clansmen of my name deserted me?”

Lord George Murray marshalled some order to the right wing of the army in order to withdraw. But the sight of Prince Charlie weeping as he was escorted on horseback from the battlefield by his Irish officers was too much for many of the Jacobite supporters. Lord Elcho, a commander of Charlie’s bodyguard, yelled, “Run, you damned cowardly Italian!” (See, Rome was the new home of the Jacobite leaders after the Hanoverians supplanted them. They spent a lot of time arguing there.)

The claymore steel that Cumberland used for his stylish fence around Cumberland House. It cost many Scotsmen their lives. Photo scanned directly from Fitzroy Maclean.

The claymore steel that Cumberland used for his stylish fence around Cumberland House. It cost many Scotsmen their lives. Photo scanned directly from Fitzroy Maclean.

In the carnage that followed (for the blood of the day was not yet all spilled), the Duke of Cumberland would earn his derogatory title as Butcher Cumberland. Having been handed a fine birthday present in his easy victory at Culloden, his soldiers would soon run the field, slaying wounded Scotsmen and taking the steel from their claymores to present as trophies to the Duke.

According to Fitzroy Maclean, Cumberland used the swords to make a fence at Cumberland House, his family property. But such trophies do not last forever, and when the house was demolished in the 1800s, the sword blades were brought to Inverary Castle.

 

 

Thus concludes Part II of the epic of the Battle of Culloden. Stay tuned for the third part, in which Bonnie Prince Charlie dresses in drag to escape redcoats in pursuit of his £30,000 bounty! Also, I uncover something rather shocking about my family heritage…

The Bonnie Prince evades redcoats and gets into a boat that will carry him to his destiny.

The Bonnie Prince evades redcoats and gets into a boat that will carry him to his destiny.

 

Works Cited

 

Maclean, Fitzroy. Highlanders: A History of the Scottish Clans. New York: Penguin 1995.

Magnusson, Magnus. Scotland: The Story of a Nation. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 2000.

Wikipedia

 

Photo Credits:

 

Battle of Culloden: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden

Battle of the Plains of Abraham: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/battle-of-the-plains-of-abraham

Bonnie Prince Escapes: http://www.illustrationartgallery.com/acatalog/info_JacksonDisguiseLL.html

Broadswords Rescued: Maclean, Fitzroy. Highlanders: A History of the Scottish Clans. New York: Penguin 1995.

Claymore: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scottish_claymore_replica_%28Albion_Chieftain%292.jpg

Duke of Cumberland Portrait: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_William,_Duke_of_Cumberland

Lord George Murray: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_George_Murray_%28general%29

Satellite photos and battlefield ground shot: Google Maps

Wolfe Portrait: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wolfe

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle of Culloden Part. 1: The Rising of ’46

Culloden battleOn 16 April 1746, the Scottish Jacobite army, led by Prince Charles Edward Stewart, fought the English Hanoverians in the bloody Battle of Culloden—the last pitched battle on British soil (the Battle of Britain in World War II was fought in the air). A last stand such as this defines an age, and many legends and songs about “Bonnie Prince Charlie” have celebrated the heroism of that day and mourned the fatal outcome. The loss at Culloden, the climax of Prince Charlie’s Rising, preceded the English repression of Scotland and attempts to obliterate Gaelic culture.

For those familiar with Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, it can be said that Culloden is Scotland’s Battle of the River Deisa. It is a last stand (close to a river, the Moray Firth, no less) against a dominating force which eventually consolidates its control over the defeated defenders with slaughter and cultural repression, in an attempt to assimilate them. History has seen a few such battles…

Culloden features prominently in Alistair MacLeod’s novel No Great Mischief and in popular fiction such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, in which one of the protagonists, Jamie Fraser, is a veteran of the battle. For those interested in such novels, or Scottish history more generally, this three-part telling of the battle (before, during, and after) is for you.

My personal interest in this battle extends deeper than a mere interest in Scottish history, since Scotland and particularly the Jacobite cause is within my heritage. People from my own ancestry played key roles in the build-up to the battle and the aftermath. My mother is a Macaulay and her mother was a MacDermid, and her grandmother shared a name with one of the key players in the Prince Charlie legend: Flora MacDonald. Furthermore, Campbells and MacDonalds appear with frequency in my family tree.

According to my uncle, who is the genealogist of my family, my ancestors were Jacobite politically and Catholic devotionally, which fits because Jacobites tended to be Catholic rather than Presbyterian or Anglican. My family is originally from South Uist, North Uist is more Protestant.

Uist

Uist

Now, to begin with the boring part (actually, not that boring) to the narrative, a.k.a. the politics. The reason for why.

Anyone familiar with films such as Braveheart will know that Scots have hated the English frequently in their history. The iteration of anti-English feeling that is called the Rising “arose” (get it?) as a reaction to the Act of Union in 1707, which unified Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and England into Great Britain.

Many of those who opposed the Union in Scotland wanted the old Stewart dynasty, instead of the Hanoverian kings of England (the first being George I), who were from a German family. Even among the anti-royalists, Stewarts were preferred over foreign Hanoverians. “Jacobite” came to refer to those who supported the Stewart cause, after “James,” the name of many Stewart kings.

The first Jacobite uprising followed the Act of Union and revolved around the pretender to the throne James Edward Stuart, who Louis XIV, the Sun King, recognized as King James VIII and III. The two numbers in his title refer first to his position on the Scottish line and then the English line. For some reason, Scotland really liked to call their kings James. During the first Rising, the Scots, as usual, had the support of France, a partnership called the “Auld Alliance.” Basically, the country that hated England the most after Scotland was France.

The first Rising ended when Prince James returned to France before ever setting foot in Scotland. Later Risings, such as the one 1715, also ultimately failed.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Stewart), aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Pretender

Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Stewart), aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Pretender

Now the Rising of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who will serve as the tragic protagonist of my narrative, is also known simply as “The 46.” It began with the mounting (to avoided the word “Raising”) of the Prince’s standard on 19 August 1745. By this time, Jacobite support had waned considerably. Since 1727, George II sat on the English throne, proving that the Hanoverians were here to stay. Meanwhile, the Jacobite leaders were still largely in Rome, bickering over futile plans to win back the throne. It might be said that Charlie had higher “standards,” which he “raised” but that’s enough with the bad puns.

What enabled him to raise his standard? Well, in 1743, the Jacobites saw an opportunity. The hilariously named War of Jenkins’ Ear, in which British captain Robert Jenkins had his ear cut off by a Spaniard who did not apologize, had hurt England’s feelings, making it enemies with Spain. And then came the War of Austrian Succession, which was unpopular except among our favourite rebels, the Jacobites, since it drove France and Spain to war against England. Party time! The time was ripe for a Pretender’s dreams, and Bonnie Prince Charlie landed on the isle of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 2 August, hoisting the standard 17 days later.

Here’s where Alistair MacLeod’s ancestor comes in. Meeting Charlie at the landing site was MacLeod of MacLeod, who stands as a bit of traitor, unfortunately. He mentioned his arrival to the English government—in a shrewd, say-no-more kind of way—as if he expected no one would notice. A tough legacy to live down for Alistair. And all the way from South Uist, the rocky homeland of my Scottish ancestors, came MacDonald of Boisdale to tell Charlie to go back to Italy. These people two did not want a war. But the exiled prince gave MacDonald a sly look (in a very Alessan di Tigana moment) and said, “I am come home.”

So the struggle began. Rounding up his allies and dealing with the clansmen who supported the Hanoverians, Prince Charlie fought a guerilla-style war against the redcoats throughout Scotland. In September he promoted Lord George Murray and the Duke of Perth as Lieutennant-Generals. Both men would play crucial roles at the Battle of Culloden.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

The high point of the campaign was capturing Edinburgh. Fighting off English dragoons with his army, Prince Charlie marched into the Scottish capital after the Camerons beat the sentries guarding the city. He was proclaimed King James VIII on 17 September.

Unfortunately, that title meant little so long as the Rising itself was unconcluded. During a siege on Stirling Castle, morale fell apart. On 30 January, the Duke of Cumberland claimed control of the English army from General Henry Hawley and scattered the disorganized Jacobites, setting off for Linlithgow. The leaders convened in Falkirk, agreeing after much debate to march north, where they would encounter Cumberland for a final decisive battle.

The battle would take place on Culloden Moor, and it would see the end of the Rising, though not before a much romanticized battle, in which heroism meets the hard flying nails of grapeshot from regimented English canons.

Stay tuned for Part II of the epic of the Battle of Culloden, and learn how the battle was fought (including a guest appearance by the infamous James Wolfe, the Conqueror of Canada, of Plains of Abraham fame).

To be continued....

To be continued….

Works Cited:

Maclean, Fitzroy. Highlanders: A History of the Scottish Clans. New York: Penguin 1995.

Magnusson, Magnus. Scotland: The Story of a Nation. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 2000.

Wikipedia

Photo Credits:

Battle of Culloden: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden

Death of James Wolfe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wolfe

Edinburgh: www.edinburghtravelguide.co.uk

Prince Charles Portrait: http://crivensjingsandhelpmaboab.blogspot.ca/2011/08/death-of-prince-bonnie-prince-charlie.html

Uist: http://www.western-isles-wildlife.com/visit_uist.htm

No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

No Great MischiefI first became interested in reading this novel when my mother pointed it out to me, saying the story of the family described within it was similar to how her family came over from Scotland in 1922. Reading it, I found that the legendary ancestor of MacLeod’s first person narrator came over during the eighteenth century, in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. Slightly different eras (well, around 200 years), but still a similar experience.

I first read Alistair MacLeod in my first semester of English Literature at McGill, in Canadian Literature 2, a course taught by Robert Lecker. I had read one of MacLeod’s short stories “The Boat,” and came to appreciate MacLeod as a great Canadian author writing out of his experience living on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. One interesting story about his habits as a writer is that he never writes on a computer, but composes the sentences he is about to write in his head first, before carefully writing the fully-formed sentence on paper. Each word in his novel appears to have been chosen carefully and specifically, confirming his particular method of composition.

Since I felt in a Scottish mood (I have also been reading Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo in the Bone, part of her famous Highlander series), I picked up MacLeod and took a break from my usual fantasy/historical fantasy literary staples. Reading MacLeod might be a departure for a fantasy reader, but one with a genuine interest in history could still find interest in MacLeod.

No Great Mischief is a novel of reminiscence and legacy. The first-person narrator, whose Cape Breton ancestry is shared with the author’s, is Alexander MacDonald, a red-haired dentistry student who reminisces about his grandparents and their legendary eighteenth-century ancestors, while talking to his sister and looking over his alcoholic brother.

The title is a reference to a letter General James Wolfe wrote before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Having fought the Scots at Culloden, his sudden position of having clansmen placed in his army made him distrustful of them, inspiring his letter, which stated it was “no great mischief” if the Scots fell on the Plains during his fateful battle against Montcalm.

The book is filled with all kinds of episodes remembered from the past and repeated in the present. For example, Calum Ruadh‘s family dog swims to the boat leaving Scotland, as if it might have swam the whole way to Canada on its own. A symbol of the clan itself, illustrating the caring sacrifices of a people among whom “blood is thicker than water,” the dog’s ancestors carried on into the present era, where they continue to be loyal to their masters—and perhaps, tragically, too loyal for their own good.

MacLeod makes you laugh and he also makes you cry. The stormy, misty highland landscape on the cover of my edition serves as an accurate representation of the book’s mood. The sense that one must be loyal to one’s ancestral origins is strong, even to the point where I thought any kind of forward-looking action in the story would be a relief. There are whole chapters with little more than back-and-forth dialogue of characters reminiscing about their grandparents or recalling stories from the past they were told in their youth, such as the stories of James Wolfe and the Battle of Culloden. No Great Mischief is not about the future, but how we remember the past.

I enjoyed reading MacLeod, the slower-paced story a good change of rhythm from the faster-paced novels abundant in popular fiction. No Great Mischief constantly looks backwards in time, in various ways and degrees, and always with a sense of grace. I would recommend MacLeod especially to people of Scottish descent, Cape Breton ancestry, or people with an interest in those cultures, although anyone who likes to hear stories from their grandparents would probably like to read No Great Mischief.

This post is a part of a three-part Scottish series, which will culminate with a review of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon. Since two books I read this summer mention Culloden, I decided it would make a fine trilogy if I could include an analysis of the 1745 battle in my next post. It will be exciting, so just stay tuned.

Alistair MacLeod, author of No Great Mischief, receiving The Order of Canada from Governor General Michaelle Jean in 2011.

Alistair MacLeod, author of No Great Mischief, receiving The Order of Canada from Governor General Michaelle Jean in 2011.

Image Credits:

No Great Mischief Cover: http://writersns.hosting.ca/wfns-book-prizes/thomas-head-raddall-atlantic-fiction-award.html

Alistair MacLeod: http://www.canada.com/windsorstar/story.html?id=17d16883-f4b0-4fce-a8de-45bcc1568471