The Battle at Prestonpans

September 1745

Prehistory

During the War of Succession in Austria in early 1744, a french Invasion of England was planned but not carried out. Even the Jacobites in England and Scotland were reluctant to rise, so Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) equipped and landed two french Warships at his own expense -before he was on the West Coast of Ireland in a naval Battle with the english H.M.S. Lion entangled- July 1745 with seven Companions near Moidart in the Highlands. He wanted to start a Revolt of the Jacobites, move the French to their Support and conquer the Throne for his Father.
The Reception of the Highland Clans was not very cordial. He was urged to drive home, and Charles said, “I came home.”

Despite great Concerns of the Jacobites, especially Members of the Clans Cameron, Macdonald and MacLean joined in and Charles marched in Edinburgh in September, where he proclaimed his Father James Francis Edward Stuart as James VIII. King of Scotland. The Garrison of two Dragoon Regiments hastily fled the City. Only ‘Edinburgh Castle’ remained in british Hands. The Commander-in-Chief of Government Troops in Scotland, General Sir John Cope, had his Infantry Troops moved to Dunbar and joined Forces with the two escaped Regiments to recapture Edinburgh. Since the best british Soldiers were in Austria, Cope had only inexperienced and poorly trained Men.

The Battle

Charles met with his Troops at Prestonpans, south-east of Edinburgh, on Cope´s Troops stationed behind a Samp.
At Night, however, Charles found a way through the Swamp, which brought him to the left Flank Cope´s. He then swung around and placed the Infantry in the Center, the Artillery on the right and the Dragoons on both sides.
When the Highlanders, under the Leadership of Lord George Murray, attacked with their Broadswords, the Artillery fled. Only two Officers remained and tried to serve the six Guns left behind. The Cavalry fled, whereupon Cope´s Army collapsed and the remaining Soldiers were overrun.

Now Cope escaped and rode to the Top of the escaping ‘Berwick upon Tweed’.
Later, he was ridiculed for being the first General to report the News of his Defeat. After the Battle Charles wrote to France asking for an immediate Invasion of England. Louis XV. then sent Weapons and Money and promised an Invasion by the end of the year.

Consequences

With the Defeat of Cope, apart from the Forts in Edinburgh and Stirling, all of Scotland fell into the Hands of Prince Charles and brought him a temporary Success. The Battle demonstrated the poor Quality of the Government Forces and the psychological Effect of the Highlander attacking with the Weapon drawn.