Page last updated at 00:02 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 01:02 UK

Clues to Culloden friendly fire

Jacket of Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the Last Clan Battle
Historians and military experts have contributed to the book

Government artillery gunners may have hit their own troops while firing mortars into a Jacobite charge, a new book has suggested.

A chapter in Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the Last Clan Battle said the risk of friendly fire was a "very real one".

Archaeologists found shrapnel from mortar shells close to where frontline infantry had stood.

Sites where fallen government soldiers were buried have also been discovered.

University of Glasgow's Dr Tony Pollard, who edited the book, said large pieces of shrapnel were found close to where the Barrel's and Munro's regiments were lined up against the Jacobites during the battle, near Inverness, in April 1746.

Culloden still has secrets to give up
Dr Tony Pollard
University of Glasgow

He said: "Mortar shells were being dropped very close to the government troops and the risk from friendly fire must have been very high, and something not likely to be recorded in government accounts.

"It suggests the government troops on the left were under huge pressure and the mortars were fired on the Jacobites to break up their charge.

"There is a reference which we found late on that tells of mortar known as 'royals' being brought forward to break up the Jacobite charge as it was starting to fall back."

Dr Pollard said the precise location of where fallen government soldiers may be buried was a breakthrough as the graves had been previously unknown.

He said: "I believe a German coin dated 1752 and found in the Field of the English at Culloden was dropped by a soldier who was visiting the graves when they were still marked.

"The location also corresponds with a geophysics anomaly which suggests a pit."

Musket balls

Researchers also uncovered clues which suggest the Jacobites were well armed with muskets - dispelling a myth that Charles Edward Stuart's forces were mostly equipped with sword and targe.

They found hundreds of French calibre musket balls and a French-made bayonet.

Dr Pollard said there would be a margin of error with the sampling of the balls, but the number of finds showed the large number of firearms on the Jacobite side, including the use of Brown Bess muskets captured in early battles in which the Jacobites had been victorious.

The book, which will raise money for ex-services personnel charity Erskine, has chapters on the British Army, the battle's significance and a collection of maps drawn by those who witnessed it.

Chapters have been written by historians and military experts Christopher Duffy, Stuart Reid, David Blackmore, Robert Woosnam-Savage, Jeffrey Stephen, Elspeth Morrison, Jill Harden and Daniel Szechi.

Dr Pollard said more details on the battle have yet to be unearthed.

He said: "Culloden still has secrets to give up."

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