Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today In History: The Forty-Five.

On this date in 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie's Scots got their uprising on with a bang by howling across the misty dawn fields outside the village of Prestonpans and stomping an English force under Sir John Cope to a fine red paste in only fifteen minutes.

Unfortunately, this gave them a somewhat inflated idea of their actual chances in a standup slugfest with the limeys, and the Forty-Five came to a screeching halt some seven months later in the mud of Culloden.

Oddly, despite a slew of dead Englishmen and a perfectly cromulent villain in the person of "Butcher" Cumberland, Mel Gibson has yet to make a movie about the Jacobite Uprising (although I've got a script underway, with the tentative working title of Mel Gibson Kills The English, Part III. If you like it, Mel, have your people call my people; we'll talk.)


Bram said...

I heard Gibson was considering making a movie about Judas Maccabeus. I'll be there opening weekend if he does.

Bob said...

My friend Mike McRae of Scotia Metalwork always calls Cumberland Stinking Billy. He also refers to the English as "bloody Saxons" and refuses to eat Campbell's Soup because of the Massacre at Glen Coe.

the pawnbroker said...

See, if history books were written like that I'd know a lot more about the what, when, and where of the world pre-US.

Kevin Baker said...

I thought the expression was "we'll do lunch."

Ed Foster said...

"Trust to your left, and thrust to your right". The Campbells developed a style of bayonet work that blunted the effect of the Highland charge.

When a Highlander lifted his sword arm to cut through the soft iron barrel of a Brown Bess or swat it aside, his right side was exposed to the bayonet of the soldier adjacent to his intended target.

Speaking of targets, the leather covering on the highland shield was deliberately loose, to trap the point of a bayonet or sword, letting the Scot hold it in place while he pivotted inside and thrust to the midsection.

Also a not good idea if the dood next to your intended victim thrusts to his right and into your kidney.

The battle site is humbling. The various clans built cairns for their dead, and a very nice one for the Irish musketeers who sacrificed themselves covering the retreat of the survivors.

And a smaller one for "The English Dogs".

Still, I wouldn't be here if the battle hadn't been fought. The Russell-MacGregors couldn't speak any English, so they couldn't slip off into the Lowlands and get a mill job.

They skedaddled to western Ireland, claimed they were Protestant (some of them actually were), and became blacksmiths in Tipperary. Like most Highland immigrants, they were well thought of by the local Micks, and took title to the lands of their neighbors until Catholic emancipation a century later, when everything was returned.

It kept the Sassenach absentee landlords far away from both the Irish and Scots who hated them, and probably saved the lives of many Irish land agents (my father's people), whose life expectancy was rather short, what with collecting taxes, handling evictions, and dragging off for execution anybody found with a firearm or unregistered knife.

For reference Senator Schumer, the English started registering all weapons in Ireland in the mid-fifteenth century, on pain of death for those who didn't comply. Look how well that worked out.

Joel said...

Mel Gibson created a desert, and called it a career...

Bubblehead Les. said...

So glad I'm Hungarian. If I had to list all the Battles and Wars we lost since 895 AD.....

kishnevi said...

Mel would have two problems with the '45: first, the English won in the end, and two, other than the Bonnie Prince himself, there's no obviously admirable hero in that whole mess--and I guess a story whose main dramatic interest would lie in someone escaping through the Highlands and Isles after proving themselves a lousy general, on the way to spending the rest of their life as an alcoholic dependent on ultra-conservative Catholics, might not be of interest to him, especially considering how close to the bone that finale would.

I'll be interested in that Judas Maccabeus movie. I suppose he'll have the Greeks talk Greek, but will he have the Jews talk Hebrew or Aramaic?

Drang said...

All those frackin' lunatic leftists in Hollywierd and the only one anyone ever talks about is Mel Gibson.

There's actually a tie-in with the Patriot, but I'm not sure Mel wold like to make a film about it: Most of the Jacobites who emigrated to America were Loaylists in the Revolution, in hopes of getting title to their lands in Scotland back; Flora "Skye Boat Song" MacDonald recruited several regiments.
They don't like to talk about that at the Highland Games...

Jenny said...

Joel... ouch

Most curious things I learned this year:
1. "The Cumberland Gap" - named for the same Cumberland.

2. The rebels at the North Bridge at Concord marched to "The White Cockade." Not because they were Jacobites - but 'cause both Gage and at least one of the Brit units present had *been* at Culloden thirty years previous, and the Americans wanted something to stick in their craw.

Come to think of it - I wonder if the "pieces of paper in the hat" the Whig/Rebel side wore down south might reference the white cockade for the same reason. Off to wiki. :p

... and hey!
I'd go see that Mel Gibson movie.

Ken said...

Score one for kishnevi. Well done.

@Bubblehead Les, we Magyar (part-Magyar in my case -- my maternal grandma, may she rest in peace, was a Babos) are so awesome that we can lose battles and wars and it doesn't matter. Still Magyar, still awesome. :-)

Drang said...

Jenny: I think "white pieces of paper" were simply a convenient expedient in an area where both sides relied heavily on irregular/militia forces. But it's a guess.

The '45 and earlier Scottish dust-ups remind me of the Spanish Civil War, "We lost but we had the best music." I actually prefer Scottish "rebel" songs to Irish, for some odd reason, despite being thoroughly Sassanach in my heritage. (And English folk generally put me right to sleep...)

Firehand said...

A bad general, assisted by French advisors who didn't really want the Scots to win: the longer the mess dragged on the more trouble it caused the English. And they didn't care how many Scots got killed in the process.

Anonymous said...

"For reference Senator Schumer, the English started registering all weapons in Ireland in the mid-fifteenth century, on pain of death for those who didn't comply. Look how well that worked out."

Ummm, a handful of Englishmen ruled all of Ireland for centuries and Ireland speaks English.

Shootin' Buddy

the pawnbroker said...

Kevin, the quote rattling around my noggin, though I have no idea from where -an old SNL maybe?-is "Haveyourpeoplecallmypeople,we'llhavebreakfastlunchdinner..."

Ed Foster said...

Shootin Buddy:

The term "Beyond the pale" meant
beyond the palisade they put up around Dublin, which was all the country they controlled until the Cromwellian wars. So nice to have all the cannons.

They set the various clans and tribes against each other, but didn't gain much except keeping the rebellions localised and away from Dublin and the smaller cities along the east coast.

Basically, the reason England wanted Ireland was because it had the largest unbroken stand of oak in Europe. Without it there was no English merchant marine, and no English navy to protect it.

The rebuilding of London after the great fire pretty much finished off the Irish oak supply, sending the boys in red off to the Scottish Highlands to denude them.

All those "Military Roads" built by Cumberland and Wolfe were primarily to get the wood out rather than the soldiers in.

After the mid-seventeenth century, Ireland became a military liability, constant drain, and threat for the next three centuries.

Can you name a time from 1173 to 1922 when a British soldier was safe walking an Irish road? The longest war in history. They are a stubborn bunch.

One is mindful of a John Steinbeck line from The Moon Is Down. The bit where the young German officer says something about the flies catching the flypaper.

I'm more Scot than I am Irish. More Welsh than Irish too. But I do admire the cheeky bastards.

Ben Franklin spent many months travelling Ireland before he decided on independence as the only pathway open to America that would deny us a similar fate.

25% of Washington's soldiers, and 60% of his Continentals, were Irishmen who had learned their trade in either the British Army, La Brigade Irlandaise, or the regiments Ultonia and Ivernia in the Spanish army.

The only reason the Continental army got off Brooklyn was the suicidal stand of three Irish regiments from Maryland. Otherwise, George would have been hung as a traitor, and we would live in a weaponless place where they sang God Save The Queen.

An often colorful people, with about as many faults as virtues. But if the Purple Meanies ever come from space and wipe us out, I suspect the last man and woman alive will be Irish.

And while they're loading the shotgun and sharpening the kitchen knives, they'll be laughing, singing, and, if they think there's time, knocking off a quick bit on the kitchen table.

Of course, since this is an Irish story, there's a good chance they'll get caught In Flagrante Delicto, and never get a shot in.

But if they get their pants up in time, I bet they do a really good job of what I admire them most for, which is never, ever kissing anyone's ass, regardless of the consequences.

They gave us a lot of that when they came here. I don't know how much remains.

Drang said...

"The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad. For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad."
- G.K. Chesterton
"The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven't seen the joke yet."
- Oliver Herford

Ed: I'm curious as to your sources for ethnicity of American regiments during the Revolution.
Also, the Massachusetts regiments from Marblehead and Gloucester would disputer that anyone else was responsible for evacuating Long Island, as they spent the war pulling oars to help Washington's army escape, or launch surprise attacks.

Tam said...

All you people with yer Scottish and yer English and yer Irish...

I was born in Chicago; I'm Native American. There's not a thing in Europe worth the bones of a single Cubs bat boy.

perlhaqr said...

I would watch that movie.

"Oh, so what are you?"


"No, I mean, where are your people from?"

"Kansas, mostly."

staghounds said...

Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat. Shame Charles Laughton is dead, perfect casting.

Ian Argent said...

I'm mostly with Tam here - though I guess I'd prefer the fighting (if and when) to happen Over There than Over Here. We'll see if this iteration of European Unity ends with a bang or a whimper

Ed Foster said...

Ian, mostly a whimper, until they get hungry enough.

Tam, I think we are the sum total of what made us up, multiplied by the greater wealth and lessened restrictions of a new world. Mostly, I suspect, an amalgam of 18th century British middleclass values and hard-headed German and Scandihoovian pragmatism. You can't tell where you are without knowing where you started. I think a mainstream American is what the British would have been, had they ever grown up.

Drang, The Irish In America And their Early Influence In The Colonies by Haltigan is probably the best read on the subject. Exaustive research of colonial enlistment records and then current commentary of battles. Available free online at New York Public Library

Interestingly, probably a majority of the "Scots-Irish" frontiersmen were Irish "Squireens", native Irish who had turned Protestant rather than lose their property, their vote, and their right to bear arms. They made up about one fourth of the southern white population in 1740, before the Scots-Irish began coming over in any real numbers.

Gaelic was the most common language spoken in the Appalachines until the 1870's and the old court records from the circuit riders were predominantly in Irish idiom, written with Scots Gaelic typesets when printed. No suprising, as Scots uses standard English type forms.

And you're right about the Marblehead men. Glover's regiment was America's first real Marine unit. They got Washington's people across anything that resembled water, and did some really wonderful small boat raiding. They were critical to the early war's success, but at the end of the day, it was the mostly immigrant Continentals that kept the war going.

King's Mountain and Bennington were exceptions, basically ambushes, where the shock and awe of rifle fire overwhelmed better disciplined troops armed mostly with smoothbores. Odd that a rifleman like Ferguson would end his days commanding troops armed mostly with Brown Besses and fowling pieces.