Analysing Jacobite Prisoner Lists with JDB45

Analogous Analysis Paralysis: The Stultifying Weltschmerz of Jacobite Prisoner Lists

DR DARREN SCOTT LAYNE

Jacobite Database Logo. Decorative.

Now nearly three centuries on from Jacobitism’s imminent threat to the British post-revolution state, the movement’s historical record is still a living entity with plenty of room for growth. To wit, the demographic characteristics of both domestic and international participation in the last Jacobite rising, the campaign that perhaps came closest to restoring a Stuart heir upon the throne of the Three Kingdoms, has only cursorily been addressed. This constituency of late-era Jacobitism has long been quantified by a series of published lists, decades ago transcribed from a limited selection of archival sources, and settled upon by many scholars as sufficiently representative.[1]  As I argued in my doctoral thesis, due to the technologies that are now available to historians and more robust access to archival collections, we are well overdue for a modern reassessment of Jacobite engagement through a comprehensive review of primary sources and a consequential revision of the way their data is codified. 

The Jacobite Database of 1745 project was created to carry out this codification of the Jacobite constituency as it stood during the last rising, as well to offer a set of research tools for the subsequent analysis of its collected data. In addition to providing granular social histories of both the martial and civilian facets of Jacobitism, the housing of numerous manipulable data sets within JDB1745 allows us to check the integrity of the transcribed data in previously published lists and to compare and contrast them for focused analysis. This would be an onerous if not nearly impossible task by hand, and even with modern methods it takes a particular, perhaps misguided, willingness to endure prolonged bouts of tedious data entry. The rewards are well worth the routine, however, as once the information is wrangled into a coherent framework, it is immediately ripe for prosopographical scrutiny.

Battle scene: The Battle of Culloden. Two armies meet on a stormy battlefield. On the left, tartan-clad highlanders weld swords. On the right, the British Army wears red coats and are armed with bayonets. Several have fallen on both sides, but it is a state soldier that takes centre-stage and is caught in the act of striking a Jacobite rebel.
Figure 1. David Morier, The Battle of Culloden (1746)

During the nine months of the last effective Jacobite challenge and for years afterward, British government ministers under George II kept an exceptionally vast amount of detailed records concerning the prosecution of suspected and accused rebels. This by itself is a clear indication that a Jacobite restoration in 1745-6 was a very real and pressing threat to Whig officials. Through the process of tracking down and registering these participants, hundreds of lists were compiled by government justices, military personnel, regional sheriffs, keepers of gaols and tolbooths, Presbyterian clergy, officers of the customs and excise, and individual landholders. All of these contributed to form a piecemeal record of just who was involved in either explosive or subversive treason against the Crown, the nature of their involvement, and their degree of guilt based upon personal depositions, eyewitness testimony, and material evidence. The raft of paperwork is enormous, and different lists contain varying amounts of biographical information, the relevance and accuracy of which was usually based upon who was processing the intelligence at the time. As prisoners and ‘still-lurking’ rebels were identified and further evidence was collected, many lists were revised or sent along the chain of prosecution to be copied and re-copied by solicitors, justices, and high-level ministers. Most of these records are fragmentary and plenty of them bear conflicting information about the selfsame persons between documents. While some prominent collections of archival prosecution papers have been partially incorporated into subsequently published lists of Jacobite prisoners (for instance, sections of the Secretary of State Papers and the Treasury Solicitor Papers at Kew, jail returns at the National Library of Scotland, and various documents at the British Library), many hundreds of resources have neither been consulted nor considered.[2]

For example, Treasury Solicitor John Sharpe received a list of 170 prisoners confined at Carlisle that notes each person’s age, trade, and stated religion. State Solicitor Philip Carteret Webb penned a brief of fifty-four captives in York who pleaded guilty at their trials; each person is described with biographical notes and witnesses named against him. William van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, named seventy individuals against whom the government holds evidence of participating in rebellion, but who were not apprehended by November of 1746, and therefore are not included in extant rolls of prisoners. David Bruce, Advocate-General of Scotland, provided four discrete lists of rebel captives held in the tolbooth of Inverness after Culloden that identify a total of ninety-nine persons, their homes of origin, and the engagements at which they fought. David Graham of Orchill, factor to the loyalist William Graham, 2nd Duke of Montrose, furnished his laird with exacting tallies of his individual tenants, including their rent values and known level of involvement in the rising. In Aberdeen, a receipt was given to Captain Lambert of Fleming’s 36th Regiment of Foot for ninety-six prisoners accused of treason before carrying them southward for trial; Keeper of the Gaol of Aberdeen William Murdoch further listed thirty-four of these persons taken by the town guard in the days immediately following Culloden, including their places of origin, military units, and the day upon which they were captured. Briefs of 269 rebels taken at Perth were kept by the sheriff-deputies of that shire. This same bundle of ‘proofs’ was later recorded within the government’s Treasury Solicitor Papers, categorising each witness who testified by number and reference to his or her deposition. Oaths of allegiance, assurance, and abjuration were signed by both exonerated rebels and Hanoverian loyalists seeking positions of public office. Billeting books identify each household in Aberdeen that was charged with the housing and quartering of British army troops after the Jacobites were driven out. Rental books for the estates of Pearsie and Airlie note the names of each tenant residing there in 1745-6 and the payments they owed to their landlords.[3]  Collectively these examples form but a small suggestion of the sources available that can provide further biographical data and prosopographical context for the constituency of the last Jacobite rising. None of these were used in creating the few notable published muster rolls or lists of Jacobite prisoners that serve as authoritative references for modern historians. 

Figure 2. Cumberland’s List of Jacobite Prisoners.

Another of these ‘missed’ sources is found in the military papers of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, at Windsor Castle: a compiled booklet of Jacobite prisoners apprehended by the government troops under his command.[4] The 986 persons in this list were either captured or had surrendered at various points in the campaign, either before, at, or after the Battle of Culloden. The document itself is an intact snapshot of the British intelligence system’s attempt to enumerate the magnitude of the rising before stamping it out for good through a mixture of litigation and violence. Like many of these amalgamated ‘master’ lists, it is likely a transcribed compilation made up of scores of temporary registers in various stages of completion and legibility. Thankfully, the British army clerk in charge of this particular booklet had a fine hand and nearly all of the names are paired with their stated places of origin, ranks or occupations, and fighting units, if applicable. This raw information by itself provides a useful study of a significant cross-section of the Jacobite army. Dropping the entire data set into a nimble and manipulable database like Airtable, however, lets us take a much closer look at prosopographical trends that define the constituency of these captured Jacobites. 

Provisional but satisfactory examinations of this data illustrate a number of demographic points of interest: the international character of what is often considered to have been a categorically Scottish rising, and also granular evidence of the Scottish counties that produced significant Jacobite military support; the distribution and frequencies of ranks and fighting units within that army; and a limited study of the occupational spheres that provided plebeian Jacobite recruits, as well as a number of itemised careers. Of particular interest are the contextual notes written for just under 11% of the entries, which tell us, for instance, that forty of these men were imprisoned on suspicion alone, some of them not having had any material association with the rebel army.[5] Twenty-seven names bear the designation of being pressed into Jacobite service, ten cases of which allegedly occurred just two days before Culloden by George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromarty, during his eleventh-hour recruiting drive north of the Black Isle. Nine men are labeled as beggars, one of them actually having been apprehended in the act of seeking alms. Twenty-six prisoners are marked as volunteers, eight as gentlemen, and four are described as ‘boys’. At least three deserters from the British army also make an appearance.[6]

Figures 3-6. Graphics generated by prosopographical analysis.

Though Cumberland’s name book has no specific date attached to it, the data itself tells us much about the time it was drafted. The largest single unit of prisoners represented here includes the 151 soldiers attached to Cromarty’s regiment. Yet Mackenzie and his some 200 men never made it to Culloden, instead being captured nearly intact by government troops at Golspie, just south of Dunrobin Castle, on the day before the battle.[7] The number of Cromarty’s men in Cumberland’s list matches up rather well with a report from 23 April, which describes the arrival in Inverness of Mackenzie and his son, John, along with ten officers and 150 soldiers ‘taken by the Sutherland Militia’.[8] We can therefore surmise that this list was likely made in the waning days of April as tallies of prisoners were written up in the aftermath of Culloden. 

Other prisoners noted in the back pages of the document include 365 French officers and private men previously captured and held at various places in Britain, including Edinburgh, York, Tilbury, Stirling, and Perth.[9] Government clerks likewise estimate on these pages that by April 1746 as many as 4500 individuals had surrendered their arms to justices of the peace or parish ministers, according to the terms of indemnities offered to plebeian rebels by Cumberland and Field Marshall George Wade.[10] This remarkable number, which at its most optimistic would represent roughly a third of total projected Jacobite army strength through the entire campaign, is a powerful demonstration of the government’s successes in attempting to disperse martial Jacobitism through promises and policy.[11]

Figure 7. Jacobite Prisoners – Occupational Data

The fact that this particular manuscript booklet is but only one roster of prisoners obviously limits the overall impact of the study. The statistics that are charted here do not necessarily overlay cleanly upon broader assessments of the Jacobite constituency.[12] Though numerous categories of helpful data are present, many others are not. Missing from the list, for example, are the ages, estates, and confessional traditions of the captives. Likewise, it does not reveal in which prisons they were held at the time the list was compiled. There are neither stated accusations of particular rebellious acts nor the names of any witnesses who were willing to speak out against them. To follow the trail of prosecution for each of the 986 names, then, we would need to seek out other sources that can ‘fill in the blanks’ and tell us more about the people the government was so intent on cataloguing. 

In this case, perhaps the real test of how valuable this list is to the greater codification of the Jacobite constituency is how it overlaps with later published studies. Are all 986 names accounted, for instance, in Seton and Arnot’s The Prisoners of the ’45 or the 1745 Association’s popular ‘muster roll’ of the Jacobite army?[13] Definitively not. A cursory comparison between the three sources shows that at least 185 persons (18.8%) are absent from the former and 244 (24.8%) do not appear in the latter. Furthermore, 167 (17%) are not included in either of these prominent references, while 669 (67.9%) do appear in one or both but bear erroneous information or discrepancies between records in Cumberland’s name book. This demonstrates that there is still plenty to learn about the people who took part in the Forty-five, as well as what happened to them after their capture and prosecution. 

Figure 8. Jacobite Prisoners – Delineated Numbers

We can, of course, engage with more extensive studies into archival records to both verify and expand upon the data presented in Cumberland’s list. This method allows us to ‘check the work’ in published aggregates and concurrently iron out errors made by the compilers. We can link the names in this list with their self-given depositions, as well as the testimonies of eyewitnesses and any of their trial records that may appear in the archives. Duplicate persons can be identified and the common transposition of names rectified, like the many occurrences of Daniels and Davids, Henrys and Humphries, Patricks and Peters. Recruitment patterns can be established and the stadial post-Culloden diasporas traced; motivations can be more closely examined and loyalties explored, all moving toward charting clearer social and geographical patterns of both ideological and practical Jacobitism, domestically and internationally. 

This typology of historical data and its subsequent prosopographical analysis certainly does not appeal to all historians, nor does it have to. It can be stultifying and monotonous work at times, but clearly the results can bear much fruit. The methodology briefly outlined here and built into the JDB1745 project competently demonstrates what is possible with customised data architecture and the refocused initiative to re-examine and recodify the archival records of the Jacobite constituency. If this limited study of one single archival list can add many scores of hitherto uncounted persons to the historical record, the possibilities still waiting in British, European, and New World archives are nearly limitless. What we know for certain is that the usual printed studies are no longer sufficient. 

Darren Scott Layne received his PhD from the University of St Andrews and is creator and curator of the Jacobite Database of 1745, a wide-ranging prosopographical study of people who were involved in the last rising. His historical interests are focused on the protean nature of popular Jacobitism and how the movement was expressed through its plebeian adherents. He is a passionate advocate of the digital humanities, data cogency, and accessible, open research for all.


[1] D. S. Layne, ‘Spines of the Thistle: The Popular Constituency of the Jacobite Rising in 1745-6’ (PhD thesis, University of St Andrews, 2016), p.179; Christopher Duffy, Fight for a Throne: The Jacobite ’45 Reconsidered (Solihull, 2015), p. 488; Murray Pittock, The Myth of the Jacobite Clans: The Jacobite Army in 1745 (Edinburgh, 2009), p. 73; Bruce Leman, The Jacobite Risings in Britain, 1689-1746 (Aberdeen, 1980), p. 271.

[2] See Layne, ‘Spines of the Thistle’, pp. 20-29 for a detailed assessment of published and unpublished sources containing Jacobite prisoner data. 

[3] TNA SP 36/88/33d; 36/88/116; SP 54/34/29c; 54/32/49d; NRS GD 220/6/1662/11-13; ACA Parcel L/H/1-3; TNA TS 11/760/2361; PKA B59 30/72/2-3, 5-11; B59 33/3; NRS E 379/9-10; ACA Parcel L/P/1; DCA Wedderburn of Pearsie Papers, Box 21, Bundles 1-2. 

[4] ‘List of Rebel Prisoners Taken Before, At, and After the Battle of Culloden’ (1746), RA CP/Main Box 69 Series XI.39.22. 

[5] See Layne, ‘Spines of the Thistle’, pp. 200-201, 253 for more on Jacobite prisoners indicted on suspicion. 

[6] These biographical details are likewise provisionally recorded, usually based upon the skills of the clerks and interrogators who were in charge of collecting intelligence, as well as the time they had to make up their rosters. Many of these details shift, change, or disappear in subsequent government records and should not alone be taken as hard evidence. 

[7] Duffy, Fight for a Throne, p. 401. 

[8] ‘An Authentick Account of Culloden’ (23 April 1746), NLS MS 2960 ff. 121-122. 

[9] It appears that these men were eventually placed on parole at Carlisle pending exchange as prisoners of war. By August 1746, as a list of 351 is noted in TNA SP 36/92/2 ff. 63-68, 348 are mentioned in Carlisle on 2 August, Webb to Sharpe (2 August 1746), TNA SP 36/86/1 f. 18. See also Sharpe to Newcastle (27 September 1746), TNA SP 36/88/2 ff. 103-105; TS 11/157/524. 

[10] Wade’s Declaration of Indemnity (30 October 1745), Scots Magazine (VII: 1745), pp. 537-538; Cumberland’s First Proclamation (24 February 1746), TNA SP 54/29 f. 3c; Cumberland’s Second Proclamation (1 May 1746), TNA SP 54/31 f. 31b. 

[11] Jean McCann, ’The Organisation of the Jacobite Army, 1745-1746’ (PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1963) pp. x-xi; Layne, ‘Spines of the Thistle’, pp. 177-191, 202-203, 228. 

[12] For a much larger demographic study of the Jacobite constituency, see Layne, ‘Spines of the Thistle’, pp. 80-121, 236-246. 

[13] Bruce Gordon Seton, and Jean Gordon Arnot, The Prisoners of the ’45 (3 vols., Edinburgh, 1928-9); Alastair Livingstone, Christian W. H. Aikman, and Betty Stuart Hart, eds., No Quarter Given: The Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army, 1745-46 (Glasgow, 2001). 


Banner Image and Figure 2. ‘List of Rebel Prisoners Taken Before, At, and After the Battle of Culloden’ (1746). RA CP/Main Box 69 Series XI.39.22. Image provided by the author.

Figure 1. David Morier, The Battle of Culloden, oil on canvas (1746). Royal Collection Trust. Available in the public domain.

Figures 3-8. Graphics (with own titles) generated by prosopographical analysis. These charts have been generously provided by the author and acknowledgement must be given if used or cited.

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3 Comments on “Analysing Jacobite Prisoner Lists with JDB45

  1. Pingback: Culling the Herd – Little Rebellions

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