The Road To Culloden: A New Road
By Chris Timm
Originally Published in Smoke & Fire Magazine

The annual Culloden 1745 Jacobite Rising weekend held May 16 to 18 went through a number of changes this year.

The event returned to Canada for the first time since its inauguration in 1998 but this time to Old Fort Erie in Fort Erie Ontario. Due to the superb stone fort and surrounding grounds the program deviated from the traditional focus on the battle of Culloden. This year the weekend dealt largely with the period between the battle of Prestonpans and the battle of Culloden.

Friday night the weekend kicked off with a torch-lit calling of the clans and procession into the fort for the declaration of King James. The stone buildings and walls presented a dramatic backdrop for the large bonfire and gathering as Prince Charles Edward Stuart read from his manifesto and encouraged the Scots to rise for his father.

Saturday morning the public program got underway with a recreation of the capture of Edinburgh complete with clan regiments rushing the gates and capturing the town without bloodshed as a civilian delegation was negotiating with Prince Charles in the Jacobite camp outside in the recreated camp of Duddingston Green. From there guards were posted and with pipers playing the army marched in to claim the town. The Saltire, the flag of Scotland, was raised over the fort to the tremendous ovation of those gathered.

Prince Charles set up court at “Holyrood Palace” and civilian re-enactors went about a new program element called “town life”. Participants were encouraged to interact for set periods of time in first person within the fort and show various elements of Scottish society in the 18th century. This turned out to be a rousing success and was greatly enjoyed by those who participated in it. Tradespeople, scullery maids, merchants and even a lemon seller brought the fort, which was declared “Edinburgh”, to life throughout the weekend.

While the civilians were going about their business the combatants were kept busy Saturday with tacticals and skirmishes since the government forces, as they did in 1745, retreated from the city and to Edinburgh Castle. The outer redoubts of the fort served this purpose as both sides were held to a stalemate.

The afternoon public battle was a scenario where a government relief column attempted to resupply the castle. The light Jacobite piquet was pushed aside forcing them to deploy the remnants of their army into the field while maintaining a blocking force in the town. As the Jacobites seemed to be in a position to overwhelm the redcoated forces the troops in the “castle” sallied out requiring Prince Charles to split his force to protect the town and his camp. This allowed the government troops to push aside the force in the field and successfully connect with the garrison in the castle. For the remainder of the day among the activities held was a formal ladies tea at Holyrood Palace and highland games in the field to name a few.

In the evening there was an opportunity for supporters of King James to be formally presented at court before Prince Charles in the royal suite of the palace and then to participate in a reception hosted by Lord Elcho in the great hall. Those who participated enjoyed the sweet strains of music, which echoed through the hall as a variety of drinks and food were served.

The evening ended with a rousing ceilidh for all participants hosted by Joey Hall where the ample talents of those attending was evident.

Sunday progressed in time to 1746. The morning held a highland weapons demonstration and period of instruction, which was not only informative but enjoyable as well. This will become a staple of 1745 rising events in the future in order that not only will the weapons be employed in a historically accurate fashion but also in a safe one. The government forces participated in this as well not only so they may learn about the weapons but also the proper defense against them, which they found quite interesting.

As with every year, a soil sprinkling ceremony was held with soil from Culloden Moor being scattered in order to consecrate the ground. Not only did the government forces participate this year but a moment of silence was held for those who lost their lives in the Iraq War and also to remember those who do this time period but were serving over there.

The afternoon public battle was a re-creation of the battle of Falkirk with not only the dreaded highland charge but all the confusion as well that ensued afterwards as in January 1746. In the end though the Jacobites were able to sweep the field and thus march off victorious.

Though outnumbered, the government forces, which were led by Jim Stevens, did an excellent job tactically throughout the weekend and made the Jacobites work hard in numerous scenarios.

After the battle, the Jacobite army then marched into the fort where the Saltire was lowered to officially end the weekend. Another successful Culloden had ended, with a different program to be sure, but well done and well enjoyed none the less. Once again participants traveled from all over North America to attend this event. Congratulations go out to Jim Hill and the hardworking staff at Old Fort Erie who put on a tremendous event. Well known for its Siege of Fort Erie War of 1812 weekend, this hidden gem is truly a treasure not only for its esthetics but also its staff. The “Road To Culloden” was an event that built upon previous years, explored new elements of the time period previously unexamined and in the end was as memorable a living history weekend as any of the previous ones.

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