I felt just like I landed in a scene out of Rob Roy.
The actual battle lasted only an hour. The results of Culloden, though, produced waves and waves of consequenses that would surpass geography and culture and even time, as was evident on this day. As a result of this battle clans would be dismantled. Tartans outlawed. Families banned from their land. Families divided. And laments held over 200 years later.
It is said we study history so as not to repeat it. So as not to make the same mistakes. All of the Scots standing on this field this day are too keenly aware of not just what is behind them here, but what is before them as well. The battle for independence from England has not stalled. It has just been moved from the soggy moor to the political halls. Scots will have a choice to vote whether to join the United States and Ireland as sovereign nations in the year 2014. So the battle continues.
Alasdair was right. It remains a civil war of sorts - it is still Scot against Scot. The people are still divided. My quite conversations later back at Culloden house is a testiment to that. Not all attendees to this celebratory day are in favor of full independence. They are still empassioned patriots and love their country, they are just not convinced it is the best thing for Scotland.
Well, you have until 2014 to decide.
In the meantime, there is much to be learned from that sad, sorry day in April of 1746.
I asked Alasdair to bring me back to Culloden moor the next day. It was a grey, cold day with only a few people scattered about. As we walked the paths of the moor we talked about that battle.
"If I understand what happened, Culloden's tragedy and the loss of over 1,200 clansman that day and the subsequent deaths by "The Butcher" rests also at the feet of a very young Charles Stuart, who listened to bad advice to continue with the battle, even knowing the odds were against them."
"Explain to me, then, why Scotsmen today hold him in such high esteem when in actuality he failed them?" I thought it a fair question, and he didn't seem offended or surprised.
"Well, he did take bad advice. Highlanders fight better in the hills"...Alasdair pointed to the surrounding hills..."he was advised by Lord George Murray to wait and take the battle to the hills. But he didn't listen to this, he instead listened to other advisors."
Our conversation continued - about the Prince, his eventual flight out of Scotland to France, military strategy and the passion for independence. I was the student that day - and was lucky enough to be standing on the battlefield with an empassioned Scottish patriot and scholar of history.
|Prince Charles Edwart Stuart "Bonnie Prince Charlie"|
One cannot stand on a battlefield and remain unchanged. I learned this when I stood at Gettysburg last summer. And though not a Scot, I felt it when I stood on Culloden Moor. I've a small slice of that cold air and bitter wind in my blood now. I've visions of faces and stones and fields. I've a soft spot for a young Prince and a love for the people of Scotland who continue the battle to this day.
I'm back home now. But I can close my eyes and still see it. Yes, I really was at Culloden. I really stood on that sacred ground. And I've mud on my boots as proof.