The Skirmish at Clifton Moor took place between forces of the British Hanovarian goverment and Jacobite rebels on the 19th December 1745. With the commander of British forces, the Duke of Cumberland being aware of the Jacobite presence in Derby the Jacobite leader Prince Charles Edward Stuart decided to retreat north back towards Scotland.

Charles began his retreat from Derby on the 6th of December 1745. This was the last battle on English soil between Bonnie Prince Charlie's and the Duke of Cumberland's forces.

Retreat from England
The Jacobite army stayed on the first night of retreat at the town of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, they reached the town of Leek the following day. However Leek being to small to accommodate the entire army Elcho's and Pitsligo's horse, and Ogilvy's and Roy Stuart's regiments of foot, went to the town of Macclesfield where they stayed the night.

The remainder of the army which had stayed at Leek came to Macclesfield the next day and those who had styed the night at Macclesfield went on to Stockport.

On the 9th both of the Jacobite divisions met on the road to Manchester and entered the city as one body.

The Jacobite army left Manchester on the 10th and reached Wigan that night. The next day they reached Preston where they stayed until the 12th.

James Drummond, the Duke of Perth was despatched with 100 horse to travel north and bring back reinforcements from Perth. The Prince and his Jacobite army arrived in Lancaster on the evening of the 13th. Charles had made a decision to stay and fight at Lancaster. A survey of the surrounding ground at Lancaster was carried out by the Jacobite commanders Lord George Murray and Cameron of Lochiel. They found the ground suitable for there army to fight on however Lord George Murray had also received reports that a large body of General George Wade's dragoons had enterd Preston not long after they had left. However Charles had changed his mind and decided to continue with their march back north.

The government forces under General George Wade and the Duke of Cumberland had not arrived in Macclesfiled until the 10th of December, on which day the Jacobites had arrived in Wigan. At Macclesfield the duke received intelligence that the Jacobites had left Manchester that day. Leaving Lancaster on the 15th Charles' army was scarcely out of the town when some of the British horse entered it. The Jacobites formed in order of battle; but the alarm turning out to be false, the army continued its march to Kendal The British horse, however, followed for two or three miles, and appeared frequently in small parties, but attempted nothing. The Jacobite army entered Kendal that night, where they were met by the Duke of Perth and his party. In his way north, the duke had been attacked in this town by a mob, which he soon dispersed by firing on them; but in the neighbourhood of Penrith, Cumbria he met with a more serious obstruction, having been attacked by a considerable body of militia, both horse and foot, and being vastly outnumbered, was obliged to retreat to Kendal.

By the opinion of Lord George Murray the Jacobite army then marched to the village of Shap where they passed the night from the 16th-17th. On the 17th, on orders from Charles, the Jacobite army marched to the village of Clifton, Cumbria

Arrival at Clifton
On the morning of the 18th the Jacobite rearguard left Shap. It had not proceeded far when some parties of English light horse were seen in the distance on the eminences behind the rear-guard. Lord George Murray notified the circumstances to Charles at Penrith; but it was believed that these were militia and the information was treated lightly.

On the 18th a body of between 200 and 300 horse of the Duke of Cumberland's forces, formed in front of the rear-guard, to make a stand. The government party was observed marching two and two abreast on the top of the hill. They disappeared to form themselves in order of battle behind the eminence, and made a great noise with trumpets and kettledrums. At this time two of the companies of Roy Stuart's regiment, which the Duke of Perth had attached to the artillery, were at the head of the column.

The guns and ammunition wagons followed, behind the two other companies of the same regiment.

The Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry regiment, which marched with Lord George Murray at its head, was in the rear of the column. Believing, from the great number of trumpets and kettle-drums, that the British army was at hand, the Jacobites remained stationary for a short time.

It was the opinion of Colonel Brown, an officer of Lally's regiment, who was at the head of the column, that they attack their enemy sword in hand, and either open a passage to the army at Penrith, or perish in the attempt. The men of the four companies adopting this opinion, immediately ran up the hill, without informing Lord George Murray. Murray observing this movement, immediately ordered the MacDonnell of Glengarry men to proceed across the inclosure, and ascend the hill from another quarter, as they could not conveniently pass the wagons which had almost blocked up the roads. The Glengarry men, reached the summit of the hill almost as soon as the head of the other column. Both parties were surprised to find, that the only enemy in view was the light horse they had observed a few minutes before, and who, alarmed at the appearance of the Jacobites, galloped off in disorder. One of them fell from his horse, and was cut to pieces in an instant by the Jacobites.

The rear-guard resumed its march, and on reaching the village of Clifton, Lord George Murray sent the artillery and heavy baggage forward to Penrith under a small escort. Being well acquainted with all the inclosures and parks about Lowther Hall, the seat of Lord Lonsdale, about the distance of a mile from Clifton, Lord George Murray, at the head of the Glengary regiment and some horse, examined these parks and inclosures in the hope of attacking the English light horse. However, although he saw several of them, he only succeeded in taking two prisoners. These prisoners informed Lord Murray that the Duke of Cumberland himself, with a body of 4,000 horse, was about a mile behind him. As Clifton was a very good post, Lord George Murray resolved to remain there on his return to the village he sent Colonel Roy Stuart with the two prisoners to Penrith, to inform Prince Charless of the approach of the duke, and that he would remain at Clifton until further orders. In the event of the prince approving of his intention of making a stand at Preston, his lordship requested that 1,000 men might be sent him from Penrith. On returning to Clifton from Lowther parks, Lord George found the Duke of Perth there aswell as Colonel Roy Stuart's men, who amounted to about 200, he also found the Clan Macpherson with their chief, Cluny Macpherson, and the Stewarts of Appin, headed by Stewart of Ardshiel.

Within the inclosures to the right of the highway he posted the Glengarry men, and within those to their left he placed the Stewarts of Appin and the Macphersons. On the side of the highway, and close to the village of Clifton, he placed Colonel Roy Stuart's regiment. As some ditches at the foot stretched further towards the moor on the right than on the left, and as that part was also covered by Lord Lonsdale's other inclosures, the party on the right could not easily be attacked. This advantage meant that they could with their fire flank the enemy when they attacked the left.

The Skirmish
About an hour after the Duke of Cumberland had formed his men, about 500 of his dragoons dismounted and advanced forward to the foot of the moor, in front of a ditch at the bottom of one of three small inclosures between the moor and the places where Roy Stuart's men were posted at the village. At this time Colonel Stuart returned from Penrith, and, after informing Lord George that the prince had resolved to march immediately to Carlisle, and that he had sent forward his cannon, he stated that it was his royal highness's desire that he should immediately retreat to Penrith. From the situation in which the Lieutenant-general was now placed, it was impossible to obey this order without great danger. The dismounted horse were already firing upon the Jacobites. Lord George proposed to attack the dismounted party.

Lord George Murray went to the right where the Macdonnell of Glengarry men were posted, and ordered them, as soon as they should observe him advance on the other side, to move also forward and keep up a smart fire until they came to the lowest ditch. He observed that if they succeeded in dislodging the enemy from the hedges and ditches, they could give them a flank fire within pistol-shot but he gave them particular orders not to fire across the highway, or to follow the enemy up the moor. After speaking with every officer of the Glengarry regiment, Murray returned to the left, and placed himself at the head of the Macphersons.

It was now about an hour after sunset, and the night was somewhat cloudy; but at short intervals the moon, which was in its second quarter, broke through and afforded considerable light. The Jacobites had to their advantage, that whilst they could see the disposition of the enemy, their own movements could not be observed.

The Stewarts and Macphersons marched forward at the word of command, as did the Macdonalds and MacDonnells on the right. The men on the on the right kept firing as they advanced but the Macphersons, who were on the left, soon came into contact with the English dragoons, and received the whole of their fire. Murray then drawing his sword, he cried out, "Claymore!", and Cluny Macpherson doing the same, the Macphersons rushed down to the bottom ditch of the inclosure, and clearing the diagonal hedges as they went, fell sword in hand upon the enemy, of whom a considerable number were killed at the lower ditch. The rest retreated across the moor, but received in their flight the fire of the MacDonnell of Glengarry regiment.


In the skirmish only twelve Jacobites were killed but the Government forces sustained a loss of about one hundred in killed and wounded, including some officers. The only officer wounded on the side of the Jacobites was the Macdonald of Glengarry chief. Lord George Murray made several narrow escapes.

The only prisoner taken on this occasion was a footman of the Duke of Cumberland. This man was sent back to his royal highness by Charles.

A skeleton, wearing tartan found in the 1920's near Stanhope is believed to have been a Jacobite casualty of the skirmish, though this is uncertain.

In St Cuthbert's churchyard are buried ten men killed in the battle. Near the churchyard gate is a stone commemorating the event.


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