The 1745 Jacobite Rising In North America: Alive and Well!
By Chris Timm
Originally published in Smoke & Fire Magazine
All time periods in the living history community go through ebbs and flows in terms of popularity and focus. This is even more common in those that are new. Two recent events though show the maturing and growing popularity of this new time period of living history called the 1745 Jacobite Rising. First off, from April 15-24 fourteen members of the Army of King James, led and organized by Elliot MacFarlane and MacFarlane’s Company, once again toured Scotland on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland and then three weeks later, May 14-16, the annual Culloden Living History Weekend was held at Crown Point, New York.
The Scotland tour, the third such one done by this group, was the largest yet. Demonstrations and presentations were done at Culloden Moor, Glenfinnan and Glencoe on behalf of the National Trust and for the first time Historic Scotland extended an invitation to set up at Stirling Castle. Everywhere the group went they were met with warmth and hospitality.
The weather was suitably Scottish with light rain almost every day but that did not dampen the spirits of the participants as they did demonstrations, spoke to the public or posed patiently for photographs. A new addition this year was two ladies representing the upper and lower classes. They were a particular hit especially at Stirling Castle where their authenticity of dress was singled out.
The tour started out of the fundraising efforts that go on at our events here. They are organized by Elliot MacFarlane to raise money for the restoration of the Culloden battlefield site, which is operated by the National Trust for Scotland. During the first tour in 2002 the response was so overwhelming from the sites visited and the viewing public in general that another tour was organized as well. So now it appears as if this will be an annual event which allows various members of the Army of King James the opportunity to not only experience the sites we attempt to re-create here in North America but also share their extensive knowledge of the time period with the people of Scotland as goodwill ambassadors. Of course the fundraising efforts continue under the tireless leadership of Elliot MacFarlane and our relationship continues to grow.
Next up was the Culloden living history weekend in May. This year it moved east for the first time in several years and in the end could be considered an extremely triumphant return. Crown Point State Historic Site in New York was a superb host and the site itself lent itself perfectly to the program. Starting Friday evening Prince Charles Edward Stuart was landed by boat to officially kick off the weekend and then there was a Jacobite calling of the clans and raising of the royal standard later that night.
When the camps opened Saturday they were a hive of activity with all form of drill and demonstrations going on plus the unique first-person interaction and scenarios, which has become a hallmark of the event. The weather was unseasonably hot and sunny but it did not compare to the heat on the battlefield as the “Battle of Prestonpans” was recreated complete with likely one of the best renditions of the highland charge witnessed at any of the events. The ground was tactically challenging and gave both sides some excellent opportunities for maneuver. The Crown Forces, though well led and disciplined could not withstand the ferocious attack and so the Army of King James held the field at the end of the day. Following the battle and rounding out the activities for the day was a gathering of the pipers in the ruins of the main fort, which gave tremendous acoustics. Then a spirited series of highland games led by Clan Cameron were held as well.
Saturday evening witnessed a welcome highland shower to cut the heat and so the always-popular ceileigh, once again hosted by Joey Hall, was moved indoors to the Visitor Center. Although a bit cramped it was a time well enjoyed where the diverse talents of those gathered could be displayed.
Sunday was sunny and a perfect temperature. Camp activities and demonstrations went on for the public and a re-creation of the ill-fated clan council prior to Culloden was held. The battle itself was a great spectacle. The Government artillery mercilessly pounded the Jacobite line quickly silencing their small train of guns. When the clansmen could be held back no longer they charged but were cut to pieces by the disciplined fire of the infantry and continued onslaught of the artillery. As the red-coated army advanced Prince Charles was forced to retreat from the field. A valiant stand was made by the Irish Picquets but it was in vain as the forces of King George swept the field. All that was left other than the dead and dying was a lone young standard bearer, proudly holding the Scottish Saltire flag, unwilling to yield the ground until he was captured. It was again another excellent display of 18th century tactics.
To conclude the weekend, and for the first time ever, after skulking about in the woods, Prince Charles was met by a boat to take him away from his beloved “Scotland”. To the strains of “Will Ye No Come Back Again” and “Skye Boat Song” the Prince was rowed away to never return. This emotional time left more than one person with tears in their eyes and was a fitting way to end this special weekend.
The highlight of the weekend really was the enthusiastic participation of several new groups on the Jacobite side and the Crown side as well. The continued interest from seasoned and professional living historians of other time periods bodes well for the future of this particular genre. Their willingness to not only try “The ’45” out but to join up and procure the kit necessary to do it has been greatly appreciated.
Many thanks to Crown Point for all they did to make the event memorable and in particular to Tom Nesbitt, Park Recreation Supervisor, for his friendly and professional assistance throughout the event and to Bill Farrar, the Site Manager, for inviting us and hosting the event. Even before it was finished many people had commented on what a superb site it was and so the event will definitely return in the future.
So after such an excellent spring this will be followed up by a slate of diverse events for the fall. All in all, the future of the ’45 time period in the living history community looks bright.
For more information on this unique period of living history and those who re-create it or else to join up, visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org