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This Week in History

Constantinople, 1453 (3-10 April)

Constantinople was built by the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine, in AD 325 as the Christian equivalent in the east to Rome, the capital of the western empire. Built on the strategically crucial site of ancient Byzantium, it controlled the entrance to the Black Sea as well as the east-west route from Europe to Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Surrounded by water on three sides, it was easy to defend and difficult to cut off entirely in a siege. Springs provided fresh water inside the walls, and fields between the circuits of walls provided food throughout attacks. Successive emperors of the eastern Roman Empire improved and added to the circuits of walls and defences. It was attacked on many occasions, by Roman and barbarian forces, but was only taken twice, once by the Latins in the Fourth Crusade, who held it for 50 years before the Nicaeans regained it, and then in 1453. The importance of Constantinople as an impregnable capital grew after the collapse of the western Roman Empire in the 5th century, as the eastern Roman Empire found itself with few allies. The Byzantine Empire fought its way through the centuries, sometimes on the offensive, often on the defensive, until it eventually went into a final slow decline in the 14th and 15th centuries, threatened by Serbia’s growing power, and then that of the Ottoman Turks.

By the time of the Ottoman siege in 1453, Byzantium was an empire in name only, and its only secure territory was that which lay within the walls of Constantinople itself. The Turks had taken all of the Empire’s territory in Asia Minor, and was now moving into Europe. The Turks had wanted to besiege Constantinople since 1401, when they were unable to because of the appearance of enemy Mongol forces in Asia Minor. Despite the desperate attempts of the Byzantine Emperor, John VIII, to gather military support in Europe and halt the Turks, Sultan Mehmet II set about the siege of Constantinople in April 1453. The defences of the city withstood weeks of siege, and the remaining troops of the Empire managed to withstand the attackers from land and sea until 29 May 1453, when the elite janissary units finally breached the walls. The last emperor, Constantine XI, died fighting on the ramparts while leading a valiant counterattack.

Constantinople, under its Turkicised name ‘Istanbul’, became the new Ottoman capital. The remaining Byzantine provinces fell into Turkish hands over the next few years, and the eastern Roman Empire was no more.

Further reading:
Essential Histories 33: Byzantium at War AD 600–1453 is a study of the way in which the eastern Roman Empire at war determined the evolution of the state and its structures. For information about the empire that preceded Byzantium, and that built Constantinople, turn to Essential Histories 21: Rome at War AD 293–696. For a more comprehensive overview of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, read the recently published Rome at War, which details the wars that shaped the Roman Empire, from the Gallic Wars of Julius Caesar, through to the expansion and decline of the empire. For the last chapter in the history of Byzantium and Constantinople, Campaign 78: Constantinople 1453 – The End of Byzantium (extract below) details the four-month siege.

In Elite 58: The Janissaries, Dr David Nicolle examines in detail these elite Turkish troops, recruited entirely from slaves, including prisoners of war who had been enslaved by the Turks, who were converted to Islam and trained under the strictest discipline. Men-at-Arms 140: Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774 places the Janissaries into context.

New Vanguard 69: Medieval Siege Weapons (2) Byzantium, the Islamic World & India AD 476-1526 looks at the different weapons used in this period, including those used during the siege of Constantinople. It also highlights the flow of ideas between these competing cultures, and the resulting advances in military technologies in this period.


An extract from Campaign 78: Constantinople 1453 – The End of Byzantium

The fall of the city
On 26 May Sultan Mehmet called a council of war. Çandarli Halil still argued in favour of a compromise and emphasised the continuing danger from the West, but Zaganos Pasha insisted that this time the Ottomans’ western foes would not unite. He also pointed out that Mehmet’s hero, Alexander the Great, had conquered half the world when still a young man. So Mehmet sent Zaganos Pasha to sound out the opinions of the men, perhaps knowing full well what answer he would bring. The following day Mehmet toured the army, while heralds announced a final assault by land and sea on 29 May. Celebration bonfires were lit and from 26 May there was continuous feasting in the Ottoman camp. Criers announced that the first man on to the wall of Constantinople would be rewarded with high rank, and religious leaders told the soldiers about the famous Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, Abu Ayyub, who had died during the first Arab-Islamic attack upon Constantinople in 672. In fact, the defenders saw so many torches that some thought the enemy were burning their tents before retreating. At midnight all lights were extinguished and work ceased. The defenders, however, spent the night repairing and strengthening breaches in the wall. Giustiniani Longo also sent a message to Loukas Notaras, requesting his reserve of artillery. Notaras refused, Longo accused him of treachery and they almost came to blows until the emperor intervened.

The following day was dedicated to rest in the siege lines while Sultan Mehmet visited every unit including the fleet. Final orders were sent to the Ottoman commanders.

Late that afternoon as the setting sun shone in the defenders’ eyes, the Ottomans began to fill the fosse while the artillery was brought as close as possible. The Ottoman ships in the Golden Horn spaced themselves between the Xyloporta and Horaia Gate, while those outside the boom spread more widely as far as the Langa harbour. It began to rain but work continued until around 1.30 in the morning of 29 May.

About three hours before dawn on 29 May there was a ripple of fire from the Ottoman artillery, and Ottoman irregulars swept forward led, according to Alexander Ypsilanti, by Mustafa Pasha. The main attack focused around the battered Gate of St Romanus, where Giustiniani Longo had taken 3,000 troops to the outer wall. Despite terrible casualties, few Ottoman volunteers retreated until, after two hours of fighting, Sultan Mehmet ordered a withdrawal. Ottoman ships similarly attempted to get close enough to erect scaling ladders, but generally failed.

After another artillery bombardment it was the turn of the provincial troops. They included Anatolian troops in fine armour who attacked the St Romanus Gate area at the centre. They marched forward carrying torches in the pre-dawn gloom, but were hampered by the narrowness of the breaches in Constantinople’s walls. More disciplined than the irregulars, they occasionally pulled back to allow their artillery to fire, and during one such bombardment a section of defensive stockade was brought down. Three hundred Anatolians immediately charged through the gap but were driven off. Elsewhere fighting was particularly intense at the Blachernae walls. This second assault continued until an hour before dawn when it was called off.

Sultan Mehmet now had only one fresh corps – his own palace regiments including the Janissaries. According to Ypsilanti, uncorroborated by any other known source, the 3,000 Janissaries were led by Baltaoglu as they attacked the main breach near the St Romanus Gate. All sources agree that these Janissaries advanced with terrifying discipline, moving slowly and without noise or music, while Sultan Mehmet accompanied them as far as the edge of the fosse. This third phase of fighting lasted an hour before some Janissaries on the left found that the Kerkoporta postern had not been properly closed after the last sortie. About 50 soldiers broke in, rushed up the internal stairs and raised their banner on the battlements. They were nevertheless cut off and were in danger of extermination when the Ottomans had a stroke of luck which their discipline and command structure enabled them to exploit fully.

Giovanni Giustiniani Longo was on one of the wooden ramparts in the breach when he was struck by a bullet. This went through the back of his arm into his cuirass, probably through the arm-hole – a mortal wound though none yet realised it – and he withdrew to the rear. The Emperor Constantine was nearby and called out: ‘My brother, fight bravely. Do not forsake us in our distress. The salvation of the City depends on you. Return to your post. Where are you going?’ Giustiniani simply replied: ‘Where God himself will lead these Turks.’ When Giustiniani’s men saw him leave, they thought he was running away. Panic spread, spurred on by the sight of an Ottoman banner on the wall to the north; and those outside the main walls rushed back in an attempt to retreat through the breaches.

Precisely what happened next is obscured by legend. Sultan Mehmet and Zaganos Pasha are both credited with seeing the confusion and sending a unit of Janissaries, led by another man of giant stature named Hasan of Ulubad, to seize the wall. Hasan reached the top of the breach but was felled by a stone. Seventeen of his 30 comrades were also slain but the remainder stood firm until other soldiers joined them.

Janissaries now took the inner wall near the St Romanus Gate and by appearing behind the defenders added still further to their panic. Word now spread that the Ottomans had broken in via the harbour, which may or may not have been true. The time was about four o’clock in the morning and dawn was breaking as yet more Ottoman banners appeared on the Blachernae walls. The Bocchiardi brothers cut their way back to their ships but Minotto and most of the Venetians were captured. According to Doukas, the defenders of the Golden Horn wall escaped over the wall while Ottoman sailors swarmed in the opposite direction.

The defence now collapsed. Foreigners tried to reach their ships in the Golden Horn while local Greek militiamen hurried to defend their own homes. Many defenders in the Lycus Valley were captured. The Studion and Psamathia quarters surrendered to the first proper Ottoman troops who appeared, and so retained their churches undamaged. The Catalans below the Old Palace were all killed or captured, which suggests they were cut off when Ottoman sailors broke through the Plataea and Horaia gates.

There are two basic versions of the death of the Emperor Constantine XI. One maintains that he and his companions charged into the fray as Ottoman soldiers poured through the main breach near the St Romanus Gate. Constantine supposedly shouted: ‘Is there no Christian here who will take my head?’ before being struck in the face and back. A different version is recounted by Tursun Bey and Ibn Kemal. This suggests that a band of naval azaps had dressed themselves as Janissaries so that they could enter the city after Mehmet issued his order preventing any but authorised units going beyond the main wall. They then came across the emperor near the Golden Gate and killed him before realising who he was. Perhaps Constantine was heading towards a tiny harbour just inside the point where the Sea of Marmara walls joined the land-walls, looking for a boat to take him to the Despotate of the Morea.

It is clear that some areas inside Constantinople resisted the first looters before surrendering to regular troops who were sent into the city while the bulk of the army remained outside. Mehmet’s soldiers now advanced methodically, taking control and protecting each quarter from looters. Nevertheless, sailors or marines did enter via the other walls, looting Constantinople on a massive scale before regular troops forcibly stopped them. The rich Orthodox churches and monasteries suffered worst, but the survival of the Church of the Holy Apostles, despite being on the main road to the centre of the city, suggests that the sultan intended to keep it as the main Orthodox church while converting Santa Sofia into Constantinople’s greatest mosque. In fact the ordinary people were treated better by their Ottoman conquerors than their ancestors had been by Crusaders back in 1204; only about 4,000 Greeks died in the siege. Many members of the élite fled into Santa Sofia, apparently believing an ancient prophecy that the infidels would turn tail at the last minute and be pursued back beyond Persia. Instead, Ottoman looters broke down the doors and dragged the people off for ransom.

The sultan himself remained outside the land-walls until about noon on 29 May, when he finally rode to Santa Sofia. There he stopped further damage, had the venerable building converted into a mosque, then joined other worshippers in afternoon prayers. According to Tursun Bey, Mehmet went outside the dome to survey the decrepit state of Constantinople and quote a verse by the Persian poet Firdawsi: ‘The spider serves as gate-keeper in Khusrau’s hall, the owl plays his music in the palace of Afrasiyab.’ Later that afternoon Loukas Notaras was brought before the sultan and apparently reported that the Grand Vizier, Çandarli Halil, had been encouraging the defenders to resist during the course of the siege. In return Mehmet promised to place the old man at the head of the city’s civil administration. Mehmet also had a list of captured officials drawn up and personally paid their ransoms.

On 30 May Sultan Mehmet took the opportunity of removing his independent-minded Grand Vizier, Çandarli Halil. He was replaced by the ultra-loyal Zaganos Pasha, who next day negotiated the surrender of Galata. On 1 June the outlying castles of Silivri and Epibatos surrendered peacefully. Mehmet also ordered all looting to stop and sent his troops back outside the walls. The siege was concluded.

The Battle of Culloden (10-17 April)

In an attempt to surprise Cumberland, Charles and his able general Lord George Murray made a night March toward Inverness, only to find the English ready for them at dawn. Barraged by heavy artillery fire, the tired Highlanders nonetheless attacked, but were quickly repulsed by the well-equipped Hanoverians. With nearly double the number of forces and superior firepower, the English defeated the Jacobites in less than an hour.

At the battle’s end some 750 Jacobites lay dead, in contrast to the loss of about 360 Hanoverians. Charles fled, while ‘Butcher’ Cumberland oversaw the slaughter of the wounded and imprisoned, ushering in an era of severe repressive measures against Highland society. The battle of Culloden marked the end of the Stuart cause.

Further Reading

    • Campaign 106:Culloden Moor 1746 combines a thorough understanding of 18th century tactics, an intimate knowledge of the battlefield itself and a scandalously underused archive of contemporary material from both sides to provide a detailed, accurate and dramatic account of this controversial battle, which marked the final demise of Jacobitism.

  • Warrior 21:Highland Clansman 1689–1746 examines in detail the society that produced these fierce fighters and the tactics they used in battle including the feared ‘Highland Charge’. Also in this series, Warrior 19: British Redcoat 1740–93 provides a comprehensive examination of the lives, conditions and experiences of the late 18th-century infantryman.



Extracts from Campaign 106: Culloden Moor 1746

Opposing Armies


The Jacobite Army

The rebel army liked to call itself the ‘Highland’ Army and it is not difficult to understand why. At the most obvious level instructions such as those issued by Lord Lewis Gordon that all his men ‘are to be well cloathed, with short cloathes, plaid, new shoes and three pair of hose and accoutered with shoulder ball gun, pistolls and sword’ ensured that the army had a readily identifiable uniform. Although some difficulties were encountered in finding sufficient tartan jackets, plaids and hose for all of the Lowland recruits, this was a much more practical expedient than trying to have more conventional uniforms made up. Rather more importantly however it also enabled the Jacobites to capitalise on their best military asset: the fearsome reputation of the Highland clansman.

By laying stress on the claim that they were a Highland Army they not only boosted their own morale by asserting that they were all members of a military elite, rather than just a very ordinary collection of half-trained insurgents – they also hoped with some success to convince their opponents of the same thing.

In reality the army which assembled at Edinburgh after Prestonpans comprised both a Highland Division and a Lowland Division. The first was made up of the clan regiments from the Western Highlands which had fought at Prestonpans, while the latter, perhaps a little surprisingly, included units such as the Atholl Brigade which had some claim to being Highlanders but were considered steadier and a lot less ‘wild’ than the MacDonalds and Camerons in the first.

Otherwise the organisation of the army left something to be desired. Essentially commissions to raise regiments and companies were issued rather optimistically. A number of clan chiefs such as Cameron of Locheil were capable of levying large regiments, while others such as the Laird of MacLachlan could muster only a handful of followers. Similarly some lowland gentlemen such as Lord Ogilvie and the Duke of Perth were able to raise respectable sized units, while others were much less successful. Thus, in Aberdeenshire, James Crichton of Auchengoul obtained a colonel’s commission but never seems to have recruited more than about 30 men, and probably a good deal fewer. In the early days these small regiments with far too many officers led to all manner of organisational problems, and Sullivan grumbled that: ‘All was confused… such a chiefe of a tribe had sixty men, another thirty, another twenty, more or lesse; they would not mix nor seperat, & wou’d have double officers, yt is two Captns & two Lts, to each Compagny, strong or weak… but by little & little, were brought into a certain regulation.’ This was done by disbanding or amalgamating the smaller units, or simply absorbing them into larger ones. Crichton’s men for example were probably incorporated in the regiment of footguards raised for Lord Kilmarnock in Aberdeenshire by his formidable mother-in-law, Lady Erroll.

It should also be pointed out that a fair degree of compulsion was used in raising those men. There were some genuine volunteers of course but the greater number of the men in the ranks joined up because their landlord or clan chief told them to, and sometimes the summons had to be accompanied by threats and even violence. Others were effectively mercenaries hired to fill the quotas demanded from Lowland districts by officers such as Lord Lewis Gordon and obviously in both cases their lack of commitment to the Jacobite cause contributed to the army’s high rate of desertion.

At Prestonpans the Jacobite army’s equipment had also left much to be desired. An admittedly hostile eyewitness, Patrick Crichton of Woodhouselee described how they were armed with a wide selection of firearms, many of them fowling pieces and ‘some tyed with puck threed [string] to the stock, some withowt locks and some matchlocks’. Others only had swords or Lochaber Axes, and there were also the obligatory pitchforks and scythes. Effectively in fact it was only the officers and the ‘gentlemen’ in the front rank who were armed with the combination of broadsword, targe and pistol popularly associated with clansmen.

Afterwards however the Jacobites not only increased their numbers, but also improved their equipment. Initially both John Gordon of Glenbuchat’s Regiment and the first battalion of Lord Ogilvy’s were wholly armed with Land Pattern firelocks and bayonets taken from Cope’s army, while other units received French ones. Some 1,500 to 1,600 stand of arms were landed at Montrose by blockade runners in October alone (probably of the Model 1717) and other shipments followed, including some Spanish weapons landed at Peterhead. The result was that by the time Culloden was fought the whole army was properly equipped with .69 cal. French or Spanish military firelocks.

Indeed it is very noticeable that while the named highland gentlemen caricatured by a contemporary artist in Edinburgh do indeed brandish broadsword and targe, by far the greater number of the ordinary Jacobite soldiers even at that early stage were armed not with broadswords but with firelock and bayonet. This visual evidence is also confirmed by the fact that in the aftermath of Culloden Cumberland reported that his clearance squads had recovered 2,320 firelocks from the battlefield but only 192 broadswords!

Nevertheless the broadsword remained the most potent symbol of the Highland soldier for it lay at the heart of a rough and ready but frighteningly effective tactical system. In short, instead of trying to win the firefight before closing with the enemy, they attempted – with considerable success at Prestonpans – to rely instead on speed and sheer intimidation by attacking immediately. Nevertheless they remained alive to the inherent weaknesses of this approach and in a perceptive memorandum compiled after the Falkirk fiasco in January 1746: ‘…the best of the Highland officers, whilst they remained at Falkirk after the battle, were absolutely convinced that, except they could attack the enemy at a very considerable advantage, either by surprise or by some strong situation of ground, or a narrow pass, they could not expect any great success, especially if their numbers were no ways equal, and that a body of regular troops was absolutely necessary to support them, when they should at any time go in, sword in hand; for they were sensible, that without more leisure and time to discipline their own men, it would not be possible to make them keep their ranks, or rally soon enough upon any sudden emergency, so that any small number of the enemy, either keeping in a body when they were in confusion, or rallying, would deprive them of a victory, even after they had done their best.’

In theory the Lowland Division, being both more regularly equipped and more amenable to training and discipline, should have carried out this supporting role, but rather too many of them simply ran away at Falkirk. At Culloden some of them would perforce have to reinforce the clansmen in the front line while the others would be almost wholly taken up with fending off an unexpected threat which developed in the rear. In the end the only support available to the front line would be two small battalions of French regulars and a newly raised Lowland one (Lord Kilmarnock’s) which had only been issued with firelocks a few days before the battle.

There is no doubt that in conventional terms the Jacobite artillery and cavalry were the least effective arms. While it is quite untrue that the artillery’s performance at Culloden was hampered by a multiplicity of calibres – all but one of those actually emplaced on the moor were 3-pdrs, and the exception was brought up after the engagement began by a French engineer officer named Du Saussey – it is certainly true that dragging it around proved to be more trouble than it was worth since the army’s tactical doctrine relied on speed rather than firepower.

On the other hand the cavalry was actually quite useful. Although an English volunteer named John Daniel acknowledged his dismay at Falkirk when ‘We were about four hundred light Horse ordered to face the enemy’s dragoons…’ the prospect of their doing so was quite exceptional. Ordinarily they were employed not as battle cavalry but as light horse in the reconnaissance role, at which some, particularly Bagot’s Hussars, grew very proficient.

The French

In the later stages of the campaign the Jacobites were joined by various contingents of French regulars, commanded by Lord John Drummond, a younger brother of the Duke of Perth. In addition to technical specialists such as artillerymen and engineers, there were eventually two infantry battalions and a squadron of cavalry, all drawn from the famous Irish Brigade. One of the infantry battalions was a composite formation initially made up from picquets drawn from three different Irish regiments: Dillon, Lally and Rooth, although it was later joined by a picquet from the Regiment Berwick as well. (A second picquet of Berwick was captured after landing in the far north of Scotland.) The other battalion represented the greater part of Drummond’s own newly raised regiment, the Royal Ecossois. It was also intended to ship over the whole of the cavalry regiment Fitzjames Cavallerie or Fitzjames’s Horse, but most of it was captured en route and only the equivalent of a single squadron was actually landed at Aberdeen.

A very high proportion of the mercenaries serving in the ranks of all these units were deserters and ‘turned’ prisoners of war and in fact the majority of the troopers in Fitzjames’s Horse were English, not Irish, and actually included a fair number of merchant seamen. Nearly half of the Irish Picquets who actually fought at Culloden had been press-ganged from the ranks of the prisoners of Guise’s 6th Foot taken at Fort Augustus shortly before. There were also a few deserters serving in the Royal Ecossois, and Drummond also tried to enlist men for a second battalion after arriving in Scotland.

French tactical doctrines fitted in well with Jacobite ones, especially as some French officers helped train the Lowland units. Essentially they boiled down to manoeuvring in column, fighting in a four-rank-deep line and relying upon shock action with the bayonet rather than firepower. If it did come down to a firefight the usual practice was to commence with firing by ranks and then continue with a feu a billebaude, which essentially meant every soldier loading and firing in his own time.

The British Army

The popular view of the British Army at Culloden is still coloured by contemporary propaganda and the stilted imagery of the 1742 Cloathing Book, but some remarkable eyewitness sketches by an artist from Penicuik reveal soldiers who apart from their swords would probably not have looked out of place in the Falklands 250 years later, an initial impression which is amply confirmed by study of surviving records, diaries and letters.

The infantry was the most important element, organised in battalions which in the field rarely exceeded 400 bayonets and often averaged little more than 300 apiece. Their clothing and equipment is often contrasted unfavourably with that of their rebel opponents and claimed to be tight and cumbersome, but in fact it was both practical and comfortable; comprising a red double-breasted greatcoat, canvas gaiters to protect the legs from mud (and heather) and a broad-brimmed slouch hat, a firelock and bayonet, a sword (if it had not been ‘lost’) and the usual impedimenta of knapsack, haversack and canteen required by all soldiers, rebel or regular.

Ordinarily the basic tactical philosophy boiled down to moving into fairly close proximity to the enemy, halting and then blazing away until fire superiority was achieved and the opposing unit retired or even ran away. The conventional view, with a fairly solid history of success in Marlborough’s war to back it up, was that winning the firefight depended on being able to maintain a steady rolling fire and the chosen method of delivering that was Platooning as codified by Humphrey Bland in his immensely influential Treatise of Military Discipline and enshrined in the 1728 Regulations. This required a battalion to be divided into a series of ad hoc platoons each of between 20–30 men who would then fire in a pre-arranged sequence rippling up and down the line. Despite its limitations Platooning was effective enough in conventional operations, especially against the French whose fire discipline was notoriously bad, but service against the Highlanders revealed a fatal flaw. The deliberately paced rate of fire, while well adapted to maintaining a sustained firefight, simply could not kill enough clansmen quickly enough to stop a determined, fast-moving Highland charge.

Consequently a change of tactics was clearly called for and at Culloden heavy massed battalion volleys would be employed with excellent results. There was of course an obvious danger that having fired off everything at once the battalion might then be caught helplessly reloading if the Highlanders ignored their casualties and pressed home the attack. This danger however was obviated by the remarkable expedient, pioneered by some units at Falkirk, of directing the front rank not to reload after that first volley, but instead to charge their bayonets as soon as they had fired, thus protecting the second and third ranks as they reloaded and poured in a succession of volleys at point blank range.

Unfortunately the cavalry displayed no such tactical virtuosity. The Dragoons who made up the bulk of the cavalry regiments employed against the Jacobites had originally been mounted infantry and fought (perhaps for the last time) in this role at Clifton in December 1745, but ordinarily they were employed almost exclusively as heavy battle cavalry. Consequently although the British Army enjoyed an overwhelming numerical superiority in the mounted arm its commanders consistently failed to exploit that superiority in the all-important scouting and intelligence gathering role – an omission which is all the more remarkable in that most of them had a cavalry background. Only Kingston’s provincial regiment was employed as light horse and they, for all their later reputation, were usually outclassed as scouts by their rebel counterparts.

There was no doubting on the other hand the superiority of the Royal Artillery at Culloden, although in all fairness it should be noted that its effectiveness has been overstated. The guns were a mixture of light 3-pdrs and Coehorn mortars and the stories, which are still circulated, that the Jacobites were subjected to accurate artillery fire for upwards of half an hour before commencing their attack are grossly exaggerated.

In addition to these regular forces the army was able to call upon the assistance of a substantial body of Loyalist volunteers and some other, less enthusiastic levies. The famous Argyll Militia was undoubtedly the most prominent of all the Loyalist formations, but active opposition to the ‘Jacks’ in the Highlands was by no means confined to Clan Campbell. During most of the rebellion Inverness was held for the Crown by a Loyalist army substantially made up of Independent Companies recruited in the northern and western Highlands – and including a fair number of Skye Macdonalds. In combat they generally proved to be as brittle as might be expected of ill-trained and poorly motivated levies, but when stiffened with regulars and properly led, as the Argylls were at Culloden, they could be quite effective.

The same, obviously, was true of the various provincial regiments raised in England, some of whom participated in the recapture of Carlisle, and the Lowlands. The most important of these was the Earl of Home’s Brigade comprised of Scottish provincial regiments which successfully defended the Forth crossings late in 1745 and afterwards fought at Falkirk. Even the various rag-tag local volunteer militias such as the Derby Blues or the Aberdeen Militia were of some use in that they could be employed on rudimentary constabulary duties which would otherwise have had to be performed by regulars, and just as importantly by their very existence they deterred spontaneous tumults and even uprisings.

Of rather more dubious utility however were the wretched Vestry Men drafted into the ranks of regular regiments. Unlike their rebel counterparts most of King George’s soldiers were volunteers, but at the height of the emergency in 1745 two acts were rushed through Parliament encouraging magistrates to press-gang ‘all able-bodied men who do not follow or exercise any lawful calling or employment’. For each reluctant recruit thus delivered over to the army £3.00 sterling was paid into their parish Vestry account for the upkeep of any dependants left behind. Popular prejudice notwithstanding the army was actually fairly particular about where it found its recruits and viewed these shabby conscripts with a distinctly jaundiced eye. All of them were discharged as soon as their services could decently be dispensed with and in the meantime they were allotted all the dirty jobs such as battlefield clearance and burial details, and prisoner handling – with unhappy results.