Siege of Carlisle (December 1745)

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Second Siege of Carlisle
Part of the Jacobite rising of 1745
Jacobite broadside - Carlisle.jpg
Carlisle, Thomas Allom
Date21–30 December 1745
Result Government victory
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg  Great Britain Jacobite Standard (1745).svg Jacobites
Commanders and leaders
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Duke of Cumberland
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg George Wade
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg William Belford
Jacobite Standard (1745).svg John Hamilton
Jacobite Standard (1745).svg Francis Towneley
5,050 400
Casualties and losses
2 killed
11 wounded
1 killed
15 wounded
384 captured

The Second Siege of Carlisle took place in December 1745 during the 1745 Rising. The Jacobite army that invaded England in November 1745 captured the city in the first Siege of Carlisle. They reached Derby before turning back and re-entering Carlisle on 19 December; leaving a garrison of 400 men, they left on the morning of 20 December and crossed the border into Scotland.

Advance elements of the government army under the Duke of Cumberland reached Carlisle the next day but their siege artillery did not arrive until 27 December. They commenced firing on 28th and the Jacobites surrendered on 30 December; 396 prisoners were taken, some of whom were later executed and many others sentenced to transportation to the West Indies.


Despite years of neglect, Carlisle Castle remained formidable CarlisleCastle002.JPG
Despite years of neglect, Carlisle Castle remained formidable

The Jacobites crossed into England on 8 November and reached Carlisle on 10th. Previously an important border fortress, its defences had been neglected since the 1707 Union but it remained a formidable challenge for the Jacobites, who had no siege equipment. They insisted town and castle surrender or neither, threatening to burn both if not; although Jacobite officer O'Sullivan later admitted this was a bluff, Carlisle capitulated on 15 November. Leaving a garrison of 100 men under Colonel John Hamilton to hold the castle, the army continued south. [1]

After turning back from Derby on 6 December, the Jacobites reached Carlisle on 19 December and after considerable discussion, continued into Scotland on 20th, leaving a garrison of around 400. It is generally agreed Prince Charles did so to demonstrate his determination to return but the wisdom of the decision almost unanimously condemned, both at the time and by historians since. [2] One Jacobite officer, James Johnstone, later recorded he refused an order to remain with the garrison, as he 'would never be a victim by choice.' [3]

The siege

Hamilton commanded the castle, with the town held by Colonel Francis Towneley, colonel of the Jacobite Manchester Regiment, the only significant unit recruited in England. He held a commission in the French army from 1728 to 1736, which was renewed in 1744 and the Jacobite cavalry officer Sir John MacDonald viewed him as having "the greatest intelligence and prudence" of those on Prince Charles' staff. [4] This opinion was not universally shared; he had a reputation for being hot-tempered and one of his subordinates James Bradshaw transferred to another unit, rather than continue serving under him. [5]

Government records show that of the 396 prisoners taken when the garrison surrendered, 114 were English members of the Manchester Regiment, 274 were Scots, mostly from Lowland units like Glenbuckets' and Lord Ogilvie's regiments, while 8 were French. The Duke of Newcastle later suggested the garrison was made up of 'the worst of their troops;' many of the Manchester recruits were unarmed, while a subsequent inventory showed most of the 46 pieces of artillery available were unused, as the defenders had plenty of powder but very little ammunition. [6]

On 21 December, advance elements of Cumberland's army arrived outside the town; over the next few days, their numbers increased to over 5,000, including a contingent from Newcastle under George Wade. In their attempts to catch up with the retreating Jacobites, the heavy guns had been left at Lichfield and Cumberland was forced to wait for additional artillery to be brought up; meanwhile, his troops blockaded the town and began constructing gun positions. [7]

An 18 pounder cannon; William Belford used ten of these to fire on the castle Cannon at Berry Head.jpg
An 18 pounder cannon; William Belford used ten of these to fire on the castle

Taking even a rundown fort was not easy, a fact acknowledged by Cumberland, who wanted to prosecute the civic officials who surrendered the town to the Jacobites in November, despite their complete lack of siege equipment. The Duke of Richmond, grandson of Charles II and one of Cumberland's officers, wrote to Newcastle on 24 December predicting the capture of Carlisle would take some time. [8] Towneley reinforced the defences and his men fired 'upon every body who has shown himself;' while this did little damage, it demonstrated an assault would face determined resistance. [9]

The first battery of siege guns arrived on 25 December; more arrived on 27th from Whitehaven, along with 70-80 naval gunners under William Belford, an experienced artillery specialist who served under Cumberland in Flanders. On 28th, they began firing on the castle and apart from a short pause caused by shortage of ammunition, continued until the morning of 30 December, when Hamilton offered to surrender. [10]

In contests between regular armies, the garrison would have surrendered on terms, which at the minimum meant being treated as prisoners of war; as rebels, Cumberland only granted their lives, subject to the 'King's pleasure' ie they would not be summarily executed but receive a trial. Towneley opposed surrender and felt they could have held out for better terms; he was over ruled and the garrison capitulated on the afternoon of 30 December. [11]


1750 cartoon; public executioner John Thrift confronted by his Jacobite victims, including Lovat (front), Towneley and Hamilton Jacobite broadside - Squire Ketch in Horrors or The Sneering Apparitions.jpg
1750 cartoon; public executioner John Thrift confronted by his Jacobite victims, including Lovat (front), Towneley and Hamilton

Due to fears of a possible French invasion of south-East England, Cumberland returned to London, sending Henry Hawley to Edinburgh. His immediate objective was to secure Lowland Scotland but an attempt to lift the siege of Stirling Castle was defeated at Falkirk Muir on 17 January. The Jacobites were unable to follow up their victory and retreated to Inverness on 1 February; the rebellion ended on 16 April with defeat at Culloden. [12]

Two Irish officers, Captains Brown and Maxwell, escaped over the walls and made their way to Scotland. [13] Prince Charles at first refused to believe their report but the loss of nearly 400 men for little gain placed further strain on the already poor relationship between him and his Scottish officers. [14]

Most of the Carlisle garrison were initially held in a dungeon in the castle without food or water for several days; in January, nearly 200 were transferred to York Castle, where they joined 80 prisoners taken at Clifton Moor. [15] 27 members of the Manchester Regiment were executed, including nine officers who were hanged, drawn and quartered in London on 30 July 1746; these included Towneley, whose argument he was a French officer was rejected by the court. [16] Hamilton, along with a number of others including James Bradshaw and Sir John Wedderburn, was executed on 28 November. [17]

In all, 3,471 Jacobite prisoners were indicted for treason; in addition to those from the Manchester Regiment, 93 suffered death, including 40 recaptured British army deserters. 33 of these executions were carried out between October and November 1746 at Harraby Hill outside Carlisle, most of whom are thought to have been members of the garrison. [18] Of the remainder, 650 died awaiting trial, 900 pardoned and the rest transported; the 1747 Act of Indemnity pardoned any remaining prisoners, among them Flora MacDonald. [19]

One of those captured at Carlisle was Richard Riding, an 24 year old unemployed weaver who joined the Manchester Regiment in November 1745; in May 1747, he was one of 150 Jacobites transported to the West Indies. En route, the ship was taken by a French privateer and the prisoners released in the French colony of Martinique; some eventually made their way home, others went on to North America but the majority disappear from the historical record, including Riding. [20]

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  1. Riding, Jacqueline (2016). Jacobites: A New History of the 45 Rebellion. Bloomsbury. pp. 218–219. ISBN   978-1408819128.
  2. Oates, Jonathan (2003). "The Last Siege on English Soil; Carlisle, December 1745". Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. New Series, volume III: 172.
  3. Johnstone, James (1822). Memoirs of the Rebellion in 1745 and 1746 (2010 ed.). Kessinger Publishing. p. 128. ISBN   978-1163445273.
  4. Riding, p. 251
  5. Oates, Jonathan (2010). "The Manchester Regiment of 1745". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 88 (354): 134.
  6. Oates, The Last Siege on English Soil; Carlisle, December 1745; p. 173
  7. Riding, p. 328
  8. Oates, The Last Siege on English Soil; Carlisle, December 1745; p. 174
  9. Riding, p. 328
  10. Oates, The Last Siege on English Soil; Carlisle, December 1745; p. 174
  11. Riding, p. 328
  12. Royle, Trevor (2016). Culloden; Scotland's Last Battle and the Forging of the British Empire. Little, Brown. pp. 64–65. ISBN   978-1408704011.
  13. Johnstone, p. 34
  14. Oates, The Last Siege on English Soil; Carlisle, December 1745; p. 180
  15. Pickard, Steve. "York Castle and the 1745 Rebellion". York Museum Trust. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  16. Riding, p. 473
  17. Chambers, Robert (1830). History of the Rebellion in Scotland, vol II. Hurst, Chance & Co. pp. 290–2.
  18. "Cumberland; 1735-1799". Capital Punishment UK. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  19. Roberts, John (2002). The Jacobite Wars: Scotland and the Military Campaigns of 1715 and 1745. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 196–197. ISBN   978-1902930299.
  20. Riding, p. 502