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Trove of Musket Balls Sent to Aid Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Rebellion Found

The ammunition, shipped from France to Scotland in hopes of helping to restore the Stuart dynasty to the throne, arrived too late

The musket balls arrived in Scotland two weeks after the Jacobites' defeat at Culloden Moor. (Conflicts of Interest)
smithsonianmag.com

Amateur archaeologists in Scotland have discovered a cache of musket balls and other artifacts connected to the Jacobite Rising of 1745, which attempted to restore the Stuart dynasty to the United Kingdom’s throne, the Oban Times reports.

Paul Macdonald, Gary Burton and Gary McGovern—all members of the Conflicts of Interest battlefield archaeology group—were surveying a field in the Scottish Highlands this September when they found what appeared to be part of a shipment from France to the Jacobite rebels.

As Macdonald writes in a Facebook post, the trove—which included 215 musket balls, coins, and gold and gilt buttons—was buried near the ruins of a croft house on the shore of Loch nan Uamh. The property once belonged to Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair, Gaelic tutor to Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, or the Young Pretender.

“We knew there were arms landed in the area and it then became a matter of narrowing down where they might be,” Macdonald tells BBC News.

Charles was the grandson of James II, king of England, Scotland and Ireland. A Catholic ruler, James was exiled after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which found his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange, assuming control of the crown. The Stuart dynasty ended in 1714 with the death of Mary’s sister and successor, Queen Anne.

In July 1745, Charles traveled to Scotland in an attempt to take back the throne. Arriving with only about a dozen troops, he soon managed to raise an army of thousands, mainly made up of Highlanders. Though the Jacobites won a number of early victories, they were ultimately defeated by much larger English opposition forces. The uprising drew to a decisive close with a loss at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746.

Battle of Culloden
The British roundly defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie's army at the Battle of Culloden. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

As Hamish MacPherson notes for the National, the English Duke of Cumberland’s army killed 1,500 to 2,000 Jacobite soldiers at Culloden Moor. Macdonald says the shipment his group discovered arrived two weeks after the uprising’s forces were defeated—too late to be of use.

Prior to the Battle of Culloden, France had also sent money to support the Jacobites’ efforts—but these funds were intercepted by Royal Navy ships, according to Jacqueline Riding of History Extra.

“This discovery truly is a remarkable find and confirms that Louis XV was trying to assist the Jacobites,” MacPherson writes. “And no wonder as King George [II] had sent British troops to join the armies against France and her allies in the War of the Austrian Succession.”

Per the Scotsman’s Alison Campsie, Charles wandered the Highlands and islands for five months after his defeat. He then left Scotland, departing from Loch nan Uamh and heading back to France. Following the revolt’s failure, the British government implemented harsh policies aimed at dismantling the Highlands’ clan system and eliminating the Jacobite cause once and for all.

“From what the finds tell us to date, the musket balls were cast for use, yet never fired and correspond with the same caliber of musket balls landed nearby with French arms for the Jacobite Rising by the ships Mars and Bellone on the 30th April 1746,” Macdonald writes on Facebook. “The arms were, of course, landed a couple of weeks after the Battle of Culloden and never saw service, but were rapidly distributed and hidden locally.”

BBC News reports that the new find has been reported to Scotland’s Treasure Trove, which works to protect archaeological discoveries.

About Livia Gershon
Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance journalist based in New Hampshire. She has written for JSTOR Daily, the Daily Beast, the Boston Globe, HuffPost, and Vice, among others.

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