The Battle of Prestonpans, also known as the Battle of Gladsmuir, was fought on 21 September 1745, near the town of Prestonpans, in East Lothian; it was the first significant engagement of the Jacobite rising of 1745, which is generally viewed as a subsidiary conflict of the War of the Austrian Succession.

Battle of Prestonpans
Part of the Jacobite rising of 1745
Cairn in memory of Battle of Prestonpans 1745 - geograph.org.uk - 957225.jpg
Cairn in memory of the Battle of Prestonpans
Date21 September 1745
Location
Result Jacobite victory
Belligerents
Kingdom of Great Britain Government forces Jacobites
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain Sir John Cope
Kingdom of Great Britain Thomas Fowke
Kingdom of Great BritainPeregrine Lascelles
Kingdom of Great Britain James Gardiner  
Charles Stuart
George Murray
John O'Sullivan
Strength
2,191 [a][1] 2,500
Casualties and losses
300 to 500 killed or wounded
500 to 600 captured
35 to 40 killed, 70 to 80 wounded[2]
Designated21 March 2011
Reference no.BTL16

Coordinates: 55°58′N 2°57′W / 55.96°N 2.95°W / 55.96; -2.95

Jacobite forces led by the Stuart exile Charles Edward Stuart defeated a government army under Sir John Cope, whose inexperienced troops broke in the face of a highland charge. The battle lasted less than thirty minutes and was a huge boost to Jacobite morale, while a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

 
The military road through Corrieyairack Pass; control allowed the Jacobites to descend on Edinburgh

In the late 1730s, French statesmen grew increasingly concerned by the expansion of British commercial power but while most agreed the threat had to be dealt with, very few considered the Stuarts a useful tool in that process.[3] Those who did included Louis XV, who backed an invasion of England to restore the Stuarts in February 1744 but storms sank much of the screening force and the transports never left harbour. In March, he abandoned these plans and declared war on Britain.[4]

Charles Stuart had travelled to France to join the proposed invasion and despite its failure, he continued to agitate for another attempt. With the bulk of British forces in Flanders and encouraged by the French victory at Fontenoy in April 1745, he sailed for Scotland in July 1745, gambling once there the French would have to support him.[5]

He landed at Eriskay on 23 July, accompanied only by the companions later known as the Seven Men of Moidart; many of those he contacted advised him to return to France, but enough were eventually persuaded. The most important was Donald Cameron of Lochiel, whose tenants provided a large proportion of the Jacobite force and the rebellion was officially launched at Glenfinnan on 19 August.[6]

Sir John Cope, government commander in Scotland, was a competent soldier with between 3,000 – 4,000 troops available, although many were inexperienced recruits. He was hampered by poor intelligence and advice, particularly from the Marquess of Tweeddale, then Secretary of State for Scotland, who consistently underestimated the severity of the revolt.[7]

Once Charles' location was confirmed, Cope left his cavalry and artillery at Stirling under Thomas Fowke and marched on Corrieyairack Pass with his infantry. The Pass was the primary access point between the Western Highlands and the Lowlands and its control would allow Cope to block the route into Eastern Scotland; however, he found the Highlanders already in possession and withdrew to Inverness on 26 August.[8]

Jacobite objectives remained unclear until early September, when Cope learned they were using the military road network to advance on Edinburgh. Concluding the only way to reach the city first was by sea, his troops were loaded onto ships at Aberdeen. They began disembarking at Dunbar on 17 September but once again he was too late; Charles had entered the Scottish capital earlier the same day, although Edinburgh Castle remained in government hands.[9]

BattleEdit

 
Battle of Prestonpans; Cope's army originally faced south with a marshy area in front (marked in blue), then pivoted to the east, along the Tranent waggonway

Cope was joined at Dunbar by Fowke and the cavalry, although they arrived in poor condition. He was determined to bring on a battle, feeling he had sufficient resources to deal with a Jacobite army numbering around 2,000 and though chiefly composed of fit and hardy men, badly armed.[10]

Hearing of Cope's landing, Charles ordered his forces to move north and intercept, the two armies making contact on the afternoon of 20 September; Gardiner's home Bankton House was nearby and Cope used his local knowledge to select his position (see Map). His forces were drawn up facing south, with a marshy area immediately in front, park walls protecting their right and cannon behind the embankment of the Tranent waggonway, which crossed the battlefield.[11] The court-martial set up in 1746 to review Cope's conduct agreed the ground was well chosen and the disposition of his troops appropriate.[12]

However, the effectiveness of his army was undermined by various factors, one being the poor quality of some of his senior officers; James Gardiner was described as being a 'nervous wreck.'[13] This was partly caused by the episode on 16 September when his regiment of dragoons fled in panic from a small party of Highlanders in the so-called 'Coltbridge Canter.'[14]

This was compounded by the inexperience of Cope's infantry; until May, Lascelle's Regiment had been employed building a military road near Loch Lomond.[15] In addition, his gunners were so poorly trained, he sent a messenger to Edinburgh Castle asking for replacements which were sent but never reached him.[16]

The review of Cope's positions led to a fierce debate between Prince Charles, who wanted to attack immediately and Lord Murray; he argued it would be slowed by the marshy ground in front of Cope's centre, exposing the Highlanders to superior firepower, which is what happened at Culloden in April 1746.[17] Murray convinced the majority only an attack against the open left flank of Cope's army stood any chance of success and Robert Anderson, a local farmer's son who knew the area well, told him of a route through the marshlands. At 4 am, the entire Jacobite force began moving three abreast along the Riggonhead defile, east of Cope's position.[18]

 
The remains of the Tranent colliery waggonway

To prevent a surprise attack during the night, Cope kept fires burning in front of his position and posted no fewer than 200 dragoons and 300 infantry as pickets. Three companies of Loudon's Highlanders were detailed to guard the baggage park in Cockenzie, while some 100 volunteers were dismissed until the next morning and missed the battle.[19]

 
As at Killiecrankie in 1689, the government infantry was over-run by the Highland charge

Warned by his pickets of the Jacobite movement, Cope had enough time to wheel his army to face east (see Map) and reposition his cannon. As the Highlanders began their charge, his artillerymen fled; the guns were fired by their officers but only managed one shot each.[20]

The two dragoon regiments on the flanks panicked and rode off, leaving Gardiner mortally wounded on the battlefield and exposing the infantry in the centre. Attacked on three sides, they were over-run in less than 15 minutes, with their retreat blocked by the park walls to their rear; some escaped, largely due to the delay caused while the Highlanders looted the baggage train. Government losses were from 300 to 500 killed or wounded and 500 to 600 taken prisoner, many of whom were soon paroled to save the expense of holding them; the Jacobites estimated their own casualties as 35 to 40 dead and 70 to 80 wounded.[21]

Deserted by his gunners, the artillery commander, Lt-Colonel Whitefoord made his escape after being spared by Stewart of Invernahyle; he returned the favour after Culloden by obtaining a pardon for him.[22] Cope also escaped and Lascelles fought his way out, although most of his regiment were captured; with Fowke and the dragoons, they reached Berwick-upon-Tweed the next day with some 450 survivors.[23] Gardiner was later carried from the field to Tranent, where he died during the night and an obelisk commemorating his death was set up in the mid 19th century.[24] In 1953, a memorial to the dead of both sides was erected near the battle site, with a coal bing providing a vantage point for visitors.

AftermathEdit

 
Colonel Gardiner's Monument

Several hours after the battle, Cope wrote to Tweeddale, disclaiming responsibility for the defeat; I cannot reproach myself; the manner in which the enemy came on was quicker than can be described...and the cause of our men taking on a destructive panic...[25] Some observers were more critical; in a letter of 18 October, William Blakeney, an experienced Irish veteran in command at Stirling Castle, questioned Cope's dispositions, pointing out that 'it is a maxim in the art of War, not to place Horse on any Wing of an Army near woods..., from whence they may be annoyed by Infantry without being able to offend them.'[26]

He, Fowke and Lascelles were later tried by a court-martial; all three were exonerated, with the Court deciding defeat was due to the 'shameful conduct of the private soldiers' but Cope never held a senior command again.[27] As Governor of Gibraltar, Fowke was court-martialled again in 1756 and this time dismissed from the army, although he was reinstated in 1761.[28]

Killiecrankie in 1689 showed even experienced troops struggled with the ferocity of the Highland charge, a lesson reinforced at Prestonpans and Falkirk Muir in January 1746. Its weakness was that if the initial charge failed, the Highlanders were not equipped to hold their ground; by the time of Culloden in April, Cumberland's troops had been drilled in countering this tactic and inflicted heavy losses on the Scots as a result.[29]

Victory meant the rebellion was now taken more seriously; in mid-October, two French ships arrived at Montrose, bringing money, weapons and an envoy, the Marquis d'Eguilles.[30] The Duke of Cumberland and 12,000 troops were recalled from Flanders, including 6,000 German mercenaries who arrived in Berwick-upon-Tweed a few days after Cope.[31] These were immediately available, having been captured at Tournai in June, then released on condition they did not fight against the French.[32]

 
Contemporary depiction of Cope's arrival in Berwick

The argument prior to the battle between Prince Charles and Lord Murray was the first episode in an increasingly fractious relationship and the Jacobite Council spent the next six weeks arguing strategy. Reversing the 1707 Union was a significant factor in Scottish Jacobite support; this now appeared possible and Charles and his exile advisors argued only the removal of the Hanoverian regime could ensure the end of Union, which meant an invasion of England. The Scots eventually agreed after Charles assured them of substantial English and French support; they left Edinburgh on 4 November, entering England on 8 November and government forces under General Handasyde retook the city on 14th.[33]

On the march south, the Council met daily to discuss strategy and at Derby on 5 December, its members overwhelmingly counselled retreat, the only significant dissenter being Charles. There was no sign of the promised French landing and despite the large crowds that turned out to see them, only Manchester provided a significant number of recruits; Preston, a Jacobite stronghold in 1715, supplied three.[34] News of another French supply convoy arriving in Montrose seemed to validate the original preference for remaining in Scotland and the Jacobites turned north the next day.[35] The Rising eventually ended with defeat at Culloden in April 1746.

LegacyEdit

In 2006, the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust was established locally to provide information on the battle, while the battlefield site is included in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland and protected by Historic Scotland under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009.[36]

Popular perception of the battle and Cope's role has largely been set by third party accounts, none of whom were present and in one case not yet born. In his 1747 book Life of Colonel Gardiner, nonconformist minister Philip Doddridge turned evangelical convert Gardiner into a hero, largely by ridiculing Cope; this is an enduring myth which is still recycled today.[37]

Gardiner also features in Sir Walter Scott's 1817 novel 'Waverley,' whose hero is an English Jacobite; Gardiner's heroic death helps convince him the future lies not with the Stuarts but in the Union.[38] The often quoted quip by Lord Mark Kerr that Cope was the first general to bring news of his own defeat appears to have been another embellishment by Scott.[39]

The best known legacy comes from Skirving, a local farmer who visited the battlefield later that afternoon where he was, by his own account, mugged by the victors. He wrote two songs, "Hey, Johnnie Cope, Are Ye Waking Yet?", and "Tranent Muir"; the former is quite well known, and is a short, catchy, and mostly historically inaccurate insult to Cope. The tune is still played by some Scottish regiments for Reveille and was also played as the 51st (Highland) Division disembarked on Juno Beach in Normandy on 6 June 1944.[40] While Cope's troops fled the battle, he himself did not; nor is it true that he slept the night before. Poet Robert Burns later wrote his own words to the song, but these are not as well known as Skirving's.

The participants included Allan Breac Stewart, a soldier in Lee's Regiment; he switched sides after being taken prisoner and joined the Jacobite Stewart of Appin's regiment. Scots author Robert Louis Stevenson used him as a lead character in his 1886 novel Kidnapped.[41]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Murrays Regiment, 580; Lascelles & Guise Regiments, 570; Lee's Regiment,291; Highlanders, 183; Gardiner & Hamilton dragoons; 567

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Charles, George (1817). History of the transactions in Scotland, in the years 1715–16 & 1745–1746; Volume II. Gilchrist & Heriot. p. 59.
  2. ^ Charles, George (1817). History of the transactions in Scotland, in the years 1715–16 & 1745–1746; Volume II. Gilchrist & Heriot. pp. 51–52.
  3. ^ Zimmerman, Doron (2004). The Jacobite Movement in Scotland and in Exile, 1749–1759. AIAA. p. 51. ISBN 978-1403912916.
  4. ^ Riding, Jacqueline (2016). Jacobites; A New History of the 45 Rebellion. Bloomsbury. p. 29. ISBN 978-1408819128.
  5. ^ Riding pp=55–56
  6. ^ Riding, pp 98–99
  7. ^ Royle, Trevor (2016). Culloden; Scotland's Last Battle and the Forging of the British Empire. Little, Brown. pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-1408704011.
  8. ^ Royle, p 20
  9. ^ Duffy, Christopher (2003). The '45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the untold story of the Jacobite Rising. Orion. p. 198. ISBN 978-0304355259.
  10. ^ Tomasson, Katherine, Buist, Francis (1978). Battles of the Forty-five. HarperCollins Distribution Services. p. 42. ISBN 978-0713407693.
  11. ^ Smiles, Samuel (1859). The Life of George Stephenson, Railway Engineer (Fourth ed.). Boston MA: Ticknor and Fields. p. 67.
  12. ^ "The London Gazette" (PDF) (8585). 4 November 1746. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  13. ^ Royle, p.26
  14. ^ Corsar, Kenneth Charles (1941). "The Canter of Coltbridge; 16th September 1745". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 20 (78): 93–94. JSTOR 44228252.
  15. ^ Hill, David (12 May 2018). "Turner and Scotland #2: Loch Lomond from Colonel Lascelles' monument, 1801". Sublime Sites. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  16. ^ Thomasson and Buist, p.60
  17. ^ Thomasson and Buist, p.52
  18. ^ Thomasson and Buist, pp.62–63
  19. ^ Thomasson and Buist, p.60
  20. ^ Thomasson and Buist, pp.66–67
  21. ^ Charles pp. 51–52
  22. ^ Anand, A Mck (1960). "Stewart of Appin's Regiment in the army of Prince Charles". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 38 (153): 17.
  23. ^ Duffy, Christopher. "Victory at Prestopans and its significance for the 174 campaign". p. 14. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  24. ^ James Gardiner
  25. ^ Lord Elcho, David (author), Charteris, Edward Evan (ed) (1907). A short account of the affairs of Scotland : in the years 1744, 1745, 1746. David Douglas, Edinburgh. p. 303.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  26. ^ "Letter from Brigadier William Blakeney [later 1st Baron Blakeney], Stirling Castle [Scotland], to Henry Pelham; 18 Oct. 1745". Manuscripts and Special Collections; University of Nottingham. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  27. ^ Blaikie (ed), Walter Biggar (1916). Publications of the Scottish History Society (Volume Ser. 2, Vol. 2 (March, 1916) 1737–1746). Scottish History Society. p. 434.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  28. ^ Dalton, Charles (1904). English army lists and commission registers, 1661–1714 Volume V. Eyre and Spottiswood. p. 269.
  29. ^ Reid, Stuart (1996). British Redcoat 1740–93. Osprey Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 978-1855325548.
  30. ^ Riding, p. 195
  31. ^ Royle, p. 30
  32. ^ Lord Elcho, p. 256
  33. ^ Riding, pp 199–201
  34. ^ Pittock, Murray (1998). Jacobitism. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 115. ISBN 978-0333667989.
  35. ^ Riding, pp 304-305
  36. ^ "Inventory battlefields". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  37. ^ Cook, Faith (December 2015). "The surprising story of Colonel James Gardiner (1688–1745)". The Evangelical Times. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  38. ^ Sroka, Kenneth M. (January 1980). "Education in Walter Scott's Waverley". Studies in Scottish Literature. 15 (1): 139–162. eISSN 0039-3770.
  39. ^ Cadell, Sir Robert (1898). Sir John Cope and the Rebellion of 1745. William Blackwood & Sons. p. 269.
  40. ^ "Johnny Cope – Highland Bagpipes traditional tunes' stories by Stephane BEGUINOT".
  41. ^ Anand, p. 18

SourcesEdit

  • Anand, A Mck (1960). "Stewart of Appin's Regiment in the army of Prince Charles". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 38 (153).
  • Blaikie (ed), Walter Biggar (1916). Publications of the Scottish History Society (Volume Ser. 2, Vol. 2 (March, 1916) 1737–1746). Scottish History Society.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Charles, George (1817). History of the transactions in Scotland, in the years 1715–16 & 1745–1746; Volume II. Gilchrist & Heriot.
  • Corsar, Kenneth Charles (1941). "The Canter of Coltbridge; 16th September 1745". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 20 (78): 93–94. JSTOR 44228252.
  • Dalton, Charles (1904). English army lists and commission registers, 1661–1714 Volume V. Eyre and Spottiswood.
  • Duffy, Christopher (2003). The '45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the untold story of the Jacobite Rising (First ed.). Orion. ISBN 978-0304355259.
  • Lord Elcho, David (author), Charteris, Edward Evan (ed) (1907). A short account of the affairs of Scotland : in the years 1744, 1745, 1746. David Douglas, Edinburgh.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Margulies, Martin (2013). Battle of Prestonpans 1745: 2nd Edition. Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust.
  • Pittock, Murray (1998). Jacobitism. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333667989.;
  • Reid, Stuart (1996). British Redcoat 1740–93. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1855325548.;
  • Riding, Jacqueline (2016). Jacobites; A New History of the 45 Rebellion. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1408819128.
  • Royle, Trevor (2016). Culloden; Scotland's Last Battle and the Forging of the British Empire. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1408704011.
  • Smiles, Samuel (1859). The Life of George Stephenson, Railway Engineer (Fourth ed.). Boston MA: Ticknor and Fields.
  • Tomasson, Katherine, Buist, Francis (1978). Battles of the Forty-five. HarperCollins Distribution Services. ISBN 978-0713407693.;
  • Zimmerman, Doron (2004). The Jacobite Movement in Scotland and in Exile, 1749–1759. AIAA. ISBN 978-1403912916.

External linksEdit