The city of Carlisle, located in the northern English county of Cumbria, has special significance in regards to the 1745-46 Jacobite Rising; then a town belonging to the historic county of Cumberland, Carlisle was the site of two sieges at the end of 1745.
Charles Edward Stuart had landed in Scotland in July 1745. After success at the Battle of Prestonpans, he and the Jacobites marched across the border into England to amass further support and take the throne back for the Stuarts. General Wade, in charge of the Government army, had his troops based in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Jacobites avoided Newcastle, their plan being instead to travel down to London through the North West of England. Capturing Carlisle, the first fortress on this route, would advance their mission.
The Jacobites reached Carlisle and it was soon apparent that the town’s defences had been neglected. More attention had been paid to the towns in the North East, such as Newcastle, which had been prepared for any suspected attacks from the Jacobites for weeks; Carlisle, on the other hand, had had less time and, consequently, was defended by a garrison mostly made up of old and infirmed men, with its Castle and wall being described as dilapidated by the locals. The siege lasted for just under a week before Carlisle surrendered to the Jacobites.
Along with its capitulation, from Carlisle Prince Charles also got arms and horses for the Jacobites. With increased confidence, he and his army (excluding the 100 men he left to form a garrison in Carlisle) left and marched south. To the Jacobites’ disappointment, they found far fewer recruits in England than they had expected, although in Manchester 300 men volunteered and formed the Manchester regiment. There was also little explicit support from France.
In early December, the Jacobites turned back at Derby, after reaching the conclusion that it would be unwise to continue on to London. On their way back to Scotland, Prince Charles and the army stopped again at Carlisle, where he left a further 250-300 men (including the Manchester Regiment, who having suffered many deserters, now totalled 118) to garrison the Castle against the Government army.
On the 21st of December, Government troops, now led by the Duke of Cumberland, marched to Carlisle to retake it. General Wade had been replaced due to the displeasure at how he had failed to tackle the Jacobites on their journey to and from Derby. Unsure of when help would come from Scotland, and up against an army using large gun batteries, the Jacobite troops at Carlisle eventually surrendered on the 30thDecember.
They were immediately imprisoned within the Castle, where they were kept in squalid conditions, without food or water. There are accounts of them licking the stones of the dungeon walls in an attempt to obtain some liquid. Some were hanged, with others being transported. There is a legend that the traditional Scottish folk song “Loch Lomond” was written by a captured Jacobite at Carlisle Castle. The line “O, ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road” is the prisoner saying that his “true love” will return to Scotland without him, but his execution will mean that his soul will travel back there straight away.
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