The Jacobites and Britain 4: The '45 Jacobite Army was a Modern Army


'An Incident in the Rebellion' by David Morier

The David Morier painting may be the iconic image of Culloden but it is inaccurate.

Scottish nationalists like to portray the Jacobites as 'noble savages'; as fearless warriors who took on the more modern and clinical British government forces, at whose hands they faced a tragic and inevitable defeat on the moors of Culloden. The romanticism of this 'lost cause' is a central part of Scottish nationalist mythology, with its narrative of Scottish v English conflict in which Scotland perpetually plays the role of the oppressed underdog.

The previous three articles in our 4-part series have debunked Scottish nationalist attempts to frame the Jacobite Risings incorrectly as Scottish v English conflicts, Highland v Lowland, or Catholic v Protestant.

Our fourth article debunks the myth of the Jacobite army as some sort of backwards, anachronistic force, relying on martial prowess and a warrior spirit as they charged sword-in-hand against ranks of redcoat musketeers.

In fact the Jacobite army in the '45 was a well drilled and conventional military force which fielded mostly musket-armed infantry alongside horse and artillery, backed by a core of elite French troops and organised under a wealth of French and British military experience.

Ironically, the Scottish nationalist myths do a great disservice to the Jacobite forces!

An Organised and Conventional Army

The Jacobite army was a highly organised conventional force divided into regimental units with battalion majors, company commanders, company officers and so on.[1] It was not the Braveheart-esque rabble of Scottish nationalist myth. It had a staff organisation, implemented by Irishman Colonel Sullivan, that was as sophisticated as that of any 18th Century army.[2]