Who was General Wolfe?

Major General James Wolfe is quite well known for his time in Canada when he led British forces to victory over the French in Quebec. This victory then contributed to the end of French rule in North America.

However, before his time in Canada, Wolfe played a part in the Jacobite Risings and indeed fought in the Battle of Culloden. Many visitors are surprised to his name amongst the information on display in our exhibition and indeed ask whether he is the same man who ended up in Canada. Therefore, he seems an appropriate figure to explore a little bit further.

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James Wolfe

 

James Wolfe was born in England, in Kent, in 1727 to Edward Wolfe, a soldier, and Henrietta Thompson. By most accounts his upbringing was fairly humble but from a young age his destiny was always the army. At age thirteen he joined his fathers regiment as a volunteer and the following year he was given his first commission as a second lieutenant in the 1st Marines regiment. He moved through the ranks in the British Army, being promoted to Lieutenant and took part in the Battle of Dettingen in 1743 as part of the War of Austrian succession.

Wolfes actions at Dettingen caught the attention of the Duke of Cumberland and in 1745 Wolfe and his regiment were called home to help Cumberland to help cope with the Jacobite threat. At the beginning of 1746 Wolfe was present at the Battle of Falkirk and, although this was a Government loss,  shortly after he was made aide-de-camp to Lieutenant-General Hawley. Later, at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746, he fought again on the Government lines and there is a famous tale that Wolfe refused to shoot a wounded Jacobite soldier. Some say it was Cumberland who ordered Wolfe to shoot, whilst others believe it may have been Hawley. Either way Wolfe apparently refused stating he would rather resign his post than take the shot.

For a while after Culloden Wolfe returned to the continent but came back to Britain in 1748 where he was posted in Scotland. For many years he worked hard to become a better leader and soldier and also found time to study Latin and Mathematics. By 1754 Britain and France’s relationship had fallen apart and fighting soon broke out in North America. In 1758 he joined an expedition to Louisburg as one of three brigade commanders. Here he distinguished himself as a capable soldier and was ultimately put in charge of an expedition to take Quebec.

On 13th September 1759 Wolfe launched his long awaited plan to take Quebec. He used boats to transport his men along the St Lawrence River to attack the city from the south-west. Here he and his men surprised the French drawing them out of the city itself and into a waiting battle. Wolfe was victorious but he paid for his victory dearly. Fatally wounded early in the battle Wolfe lived just long enough to hear his plan was a success.

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The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West

When news of his death reach Britain it seized the publics imagination. Wolfe was a young leader who had been an inspirational leader. His image was celebrated in paintings, prints and he became one of the greatest military heroes of the eighteenth century. Today he is remembered mostly for his triumph over the French in Quebec but it is interesting to know his past and how it seemed he was always destined to be the great leader that he is considered today.

 

We hope you enjoyed this little insight into Wolfe’s life. We couldn’t possibly cover everything about him in this short space so there is plenty more to discover if you wish. As always please like, comment, tweet, share and if you want to learn more you can always visit Quebec House , Wolfe’s childhood home, which is now run by our counterparts the National Trust.

All he best, K & D

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The Story of the Quaich

What is a Quaich? It’s a question we hear quite a bit here at Culloden with Quaich’s on show in both our exhibition and gift shop and luckily the story behind this unique item is a good one to tell.

Before we go any further though we need to tackle the tricky subject of pronunciation. Most people tend to pronounce Quaich as ‘quake’ with a hard ‘k’ sound and, to be fair, this is pretty close but us Scots are fussy. So, it you want to be perfect, you have to be able to master the Scottish ‘ch’ sound which is made from the back of the throat and does not have the more clipped sound of the ‘k’. It’s the same sound that is found in the likes of loch and dreich.

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A selection of Quaichs in our shop

 

So, with pronunciation sorted now we need to discover what exactly a Quaich is? In its simplest terms a Quaich is a traditional Scottish drinking cup. It’s formed from a central bowl like depression with two lugs (or handles) on either side. Traditionally they were made from wood but have transformed over the years and now are often seen made of pewter or silver. Initially Quaichs were used to offer a drink of welcome or farewell to guests as they entered or left the home. The most common fillings were whisky and brandy but there were sometimes larger Quaichs which were used for ale. Indeed there is some research to suggest the largest Quaichs could up to one and a half pints of ale.

Part of the Quaichs beauty is in the ceremony behind its use as it passed from one person to another. This is also why it is sometimes called the ‘cup of friendship’ or the ‘loving cup’. Of course there are some slightly less romantic outlooks as well. The two handles means that as the cup is passed from one person to another both hands are required to hold the Quaich. This can be both a sign of friendship and bonding as well as a tool for ensuring that no one is holding any weapons in their hands when you meet them.

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A lovely Quaich by Heathergems

 

There have also been a couple of different designs in Quaichs for different reasons. For the untrustworthy Quaichs could be made with a glass bottom so that the drinker could still see everyone whilst they drank. For the romantics Quaichs could be made with a double glass bottom which could hold a lock of a loved ones hair so that the owner could drink to their love.

Quaichs have been around for centuries, in 1589 King James VI of Scotland gave a Quaich to Anne of Denmark as a wedding gift and this tradition is still followed today. Quaichs even enter the Jacobite story. In 1745 a Quaich travelled south from Edinburgh to Derby with Prince Charles Edwards Stuarts Jacobite army and it is thought this was one of the first times the Quaich made its way so far below the Scottish border.

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Ceramic Quaichs by Robert Blamire

 

Today Quaichs are used mainly for special occasions such as weddings and christenings and often have engravings to make them special personal gifts. They are also quite commonly used at Burns night during a Burns supper and other traditional Scottish events.

We hope you enjoyed our short insight into Quaichs. As always please like, comment, share, tweet and let us know if you have a Quaich of your own.

All the best, k & D

 

Was Tartan Really Banned?

Following the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden and the eventual end of the ’45 Jacobite Rising came the Dress Act of 1746 which essentially banned the wearing of ‘Highland Clothes’ by anyone, as of 1st August 1747. From this stems the belief, by some, that this meant the banning of tartan, but, is this fact or fiction?

To be able to answer this question we need to look back to the full history of this Act which starts a good while earlier than 1746. To understand the Dress Act you have to consider it not as a singular entity but part of a much larger history.

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Culloden Tartan

 

First, it is wise to look at the Disarming Act of 1716. After King George I took the throne in 1714, as the first Hanoverian king, there followed the 1715 Jacobite rising. This Rising saw over 12,000 Jacobites take up arms against the King but were eventually defeated. The aftermath saw harsh penalties against the Jacobites in an attempt to prevent them regrouping and challenging the throne again. The Disarming Act was an attempt by the Government to limit the strength of the Jacobite men. Unfortunately, for the Government, the Act was very ineffective. While those loyal to the King may indeed have handed over their weapons, for those not loyal the Act pushed them further away and many hid their weapons and handed over old rusted blades that were of no use anyway.

In 1719 the Jacobites tried again with a short lived Rising and this led to the Disarming Act of 1725 which was ‘An act for the more effectual disarming the highlands in that part of Great Britain called Scotland; and for the better securing the peace and quiet of that part of the kingdom‘ This time General Wade led the movement and was more successful in seizing weapons with some suggesting he managed to gather roughly 2,500 weapons, but still many families hid their swords and guns away from the Governments eyes.

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A couple of our volunteers in typically 18th Century outfits

 

So, in 1745 there were still Jacobites ready to come and support Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Following their eventual defeat the Government took clear steps to ensure that there would be no hope of any further risings. In 1746 they brought out the Act of Proscription. This was similar to the Disarming Act but the penalties for not conforming were more severe and it is under the Act of Proscription that we find the clause that became known as The Dress Act.

The Dress Act stated that ‘That from and after the first day of August, one thousand seven hundred and forty seven, no man or boy, within that part of Great Briton called Scotland, other than shall be employed as officers and soldiers in his Majesty’s forces, shall on any pretence whatsoever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland Clothes (that is to say) the plaid, philibeg, or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the highland garb; and that no tartan, or partly-coloured plaid or stuff shall be used for great coats, or for upper coats’  Anyone found breaking these rules could be imprisoned for six months, and, if they were caught again, they could be sent to a plantation overseas for seven years.

So, here we can see that the Dress Act does not completely ban tartan as many people believe, it only banned it for certain parts of clothing. Also, it is worth remembering the ban did not apply to men serving in Highland Regiments or to the Gentry, sons of Gentry or women and according to the Act it only affected Scotland. The Act did however affect men who had fought for the Government army as well as the Jacobite army. So, even if you fought for the Government they could still arrest you for breaking the Dress Act making it much more than just an action against Jacobites.

It wasn’t until 1782 that the act was repealed on 1st July. However, it would take many further years before the Highland dress returned to the mainstream and even then it was worn by many more for occasions and not as everyday wear.

We hoped you enjoyed this little insight into the Dress Act and as always please like, share, comment, tweet and keep joining us for more titbits.

All the best, K & D

 

 

Archaeology at Culloden

With 2017 being the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology we had to take a look into the archaeology here at Culloden. Something that many people may not know about Culloden is that it was one of the first battlefields in Scotland to be subject to archaeological investigation making it an intriguing subject.

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Culloden Battlefield

As part of the Culloden Battlefield Memorial Project, work first began at the site in 2000 and has included topographic, geophysical and metal detector surveys.

These surveys have allowed us to discover and learn more about the battle and what exactly happened on that fateful day in April 1746. The fact that objects and details discovered hundreds of year after an event can help inform our knowledge is a fantastic and intriguing subject.

Unsurprisingly, metal detector surveys managed to uncover a lot of items from the field including musket balls, mortar fragments, buckles and buttons many of which we have on display in our exhibition. The interesting aspect of these finds though was their location. When mapped all of these individual finds suggested the battle took place over a larger piece of land than originally anticipated.

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Mortar Fragments and Grape Shot

The intensity of finds also showed the majority of  hand-to-hand fighting took place further south than expected. The presence of broken musket pieces indicated the weapons were damaged by fire at close range or smashed off by a broadsword. The lost buttons and buckles most likely removed in struggles which offers an insight into the extreme battle conditions on the moor. These lost items open up a harrowing picture of Culloden and bring the battle into a harsh reality with objects you can truly connect with.

Close to the area of close quarter fighting were fragments of mortar bombs which would have been fired into the charging Jacobites to stop their dreaded attack. The power of these bombs could take out up to twenty men at a time, making it remarkable the Jacobites made it to the Government front line at all. The position of the mortar fragments, so close to the Government front line, also opens up the possibility that Government men could have been killed as the shells were rather unpredictable and broke apart as the powder inside ignited.

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Pewter Cross

As well as gathering information on the fighting and tactics of the armies surveys also helped uncover a couple of more personal items. A silver coin was found dating from 1752, after the battle. The coin is a silver thaler from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin which was one of the German Baltic states. The presence of the coin suggests the possibility that it was dropped by a soldier who had served time in the continent. They could even have been based at Fort George and travelled to the battlefield to visit the graves of some of their fallen comrades. Also found was a small pewter cross. This discovery near Leanach Cottage is a beautiful pendant and you cant help but wonder who it belonged to and the story behind it. Was it given to a soldier by a loved one? Was it kept close for luck? The stories that could lie behind the objects make them all the more special and important to preserve.

We are lucky to have found so many items that have opened up new theories of the battle of Culloden and raised new questions and thoughts about the men on the field. If you want to find out more be sure to come along to our exhibition to see the finds for yourself. As always we hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the archaeology of the site and please comment, like, share and tweet.

All the best, K & D