Reign of George II. (Continued.) page 11
At length, when the rebels had come up so near that there was only Falkirk moor betwixt the armies, Hawley, roused by fresh messengers, came galloping up without his hat, and in the utmost confusion. In the middle of this rugged and uneven moor, covered with heath, rose a considerable ridge, and it appeared to be a race betwixt the two enemies which should gain the advantage of the summit. On the one side galloped the English cavalry, on the other sped the Highlanders, straining for this important height; but the fleet- footed Gael won the ground from the English horse, and Hawley's horse halted a little below them. Neither of the armies had any artillery, for the Highlanders had left theirs behind in their rapid advance, and Hawley's had stuck fast in the bog. So far they were equal; but the prince, by taking a side route, had thrown the wind in the teeth of the English, and a storm of rain began with confounding violence to beat in their faces.
The prince then formed his forces in two lines, his right, commanded by lord George Murray, having under him the Macdonalds, and the left commanded by lord John Drummond, with the Macphersons, the Frazers - for old Lovat had now sent all his men - the Camerons, and the Stuarts. Betwixt them fought the Farquharsons, the Mackenzies, and the Macintoshes. Lord Lewis Gordon and lord Strathallan brought up the second line, in which Charles placed himself on a hill, whence he could survey the whole battle, and still called Charlie's Hill. The English cavalry remained, as it had galloped up, in front, commanded since the death of Gardiner by colonel Ligonier, and the infantry formed, like the Highlanders, in two lines, the right commanded by general Huske, and the left by Hawley. Behind, as a reserve, stood the Glasgow regiment and the Argyll militia. The order being given, the cavalry under Ligonier charged the Macdonalds, who coolly waited till the English horse was within ten yards of them, when they poured such a murderous volley into them, as dropped a frightful number from their saddles, and threw the whole line into confusion. The Frazers immediately poured an equally galling crossfire into the startled fine, and the two dragoon regiments which had fled at Coltbridge and Prestonpans waited no longer, but wheeling round, galloped from the field at their best speed. Cobham's regiment stood firm, but the Highlanders continued their fire with such steady effect, and the hill and the storm were so against the English cavalry, that they also wheeled to the right and went off betwixt the two armies, under a galling discharge from the Highland left wing. The Macdonalds, seeing the effect of their fire, in spite of lord George Murray's endeavours to keep them in order, rushed forward, loading their pieces as they ran, and fell upon Hawley's two columns of infantry. Having discharged their pieces, they ran in upon the English with their targets and broad swords. They would have suffered severely from the English infantry, but the muskets of the English had got wet, and many of them would not go off, while the Highlanders had protected their locks with their plaids. The left, therefore, soon gave way, and Hawley, who had got involved in the crowd of flying horse, had been swept with them down the hill, and thus had no means of keeping them to their colours.
On the right of the royal army, however, the infantry stood firm, and as the Highlanders could not cross the ravine to come to close quarters with sword and target, they inflicted a severe slaughter upon them, and Cobham's cavalry rallying, soon came to their aid and protected their flank, and increased the effect on the Highlanders, many of whom began to run, imagining that the day was lost. Charles, from his elevated position observing this extraordinary state of things, the enemy's left being squandered, but his right being in the act of routing his own left, advanced at the head of his second line, and checked the advance of the English right, and, after some sharp fighting, compelled them to a retreat. But in this case it was only a retreat, not a flight. These brave regiments retired with drums beating and colours flying in perfect order. They found Burrel's regiment, and part of two other regiments, making a portion of Hawley's column, still standing their ground, and, uniting with them, they marched in order to the front of their camp, where the rest of the army had rallied, except the two regiments of unparalleled infamy, which never drew rein till they reached Linlithgow.
Had the Highlanders been able to follow up the blow, the royal army must have been, if not destroyed, completely disorganised. But the battle began late in the day, and though it is said not to have lasted more than half-an-hour, it was now near five o'clock, and growing dark, not only from the season, but from the stormy rain clouds which loaded the sky. Hawley endeavoured to fire his tents before galloping off, but they were too wet to burn, and tents, artillery, baggage, and ammunition were all left a prey to the victor. A pursuit of cavalry might still have been made; but the retreat of the English was so prompt, that the Highlanders suspected a stratagem; and it was only when their scouts brought them word that they had evacuated Falkirk that they understood their full success. Prince Charles then advanced to Falkirk, and was conducted by torchlight to lodgings engaged for him. His Highlanders spent the night, amid torrents of drenching rain, on the field, stripping the dead and dying. Of these there were about four hundred, including Sir Robert Munro, of Foulis, three lieutenant-colonels, and nine captains. So thoroughly did the Highlanders perform the stripping, that a gentleman of Falkirk, surveying the field the next morning from a distance, said the naked slain resembled a flock of sheep scattered over the moor.
Hawley continued his flight from Linlithgow to Edinburgh; and though he could not succeed in firing his tents, his soldiers purposely burnt down the fine old palace of Linlithgow when they quitted it, raking the embers from the hearth into the straw pallets. The act was worthy the myrmidons of such a general. When the news of such a defeat reached London, which was on a drawing-room day, consternation overwhelmed every one but the king and the duke of Cumberland. George showed not a sign of trouble, and the duke said he desired nothing better than to fight the Highlanders with the troops that Hawley had left. Sir John Cope, whom Hawley had so frequently and grossly abused, was radiant on Hawley's fall. The Highlanders professed to have only lost forty men, but the real number was three or four times that amount. They also took about a hundred and fifty prisoners, of whom John Home, the historian of the rebellion, was one.
The battle of Falkirk, which in itself appeared so brilliant an affair for prince Charles, was really one of the most serious disasters. The Highlanders, according to their regular custom when loaded with plunder, went off in great numbers to their homes with their booty. His chief officers became furious against each other in discussing their respective merits in the battle. Lord George Murray, who had himself behaved most bravely in the field, complained that lord John Drummond had not exerted himself, or the pursuit might have been made, and the royal army utterly annihilated. These feuds and recriminations extended in many directions, and descended even to the common men. All unity in the army appeared to cease with the battle, and a new accident occurred to heighten the discord. One of the Macdonalds of Keppoch, whilst examining a musket which he had picked up on the field, let it by chance go off, and killed the second son of the chief of Glengarry, colonel AEneas Macdonald. The unfortunate young man, who was mortally wounded, declared his confidence in the innocence of his destroyer with his dying breath, and begged that no revenge might be taken for it. But nothing could satisfy the custom of the clan, that blood must be exacted for blood, whether shed in murder or in homicide. In vain did Charles do all in his power to save the life of the offender, and to soothe the irritation of the Glengarrys. He attended the funeral as chief mourner, but of no avail; they insisted on the man's death, and he was led out and shot. But even this did not appease them; the Glengarrys from that day began to desert. The infection spread, and there appeared every prospect of the camp becoming eventually deserted. This spirit of discontent was greatly aggravated by the siege of the castle of Stirling. Old general Blakeney, who commanded the garrison, declared he would hold out to the last man, spite of the terrible menace of lord George Murray if he did not surrender. The Highlanders grew disgusted with work so contrary to their habits; and, indeed, the French engineer, the so-called marquis De Mirabelle, was so utterly ignorant of his profession, that the batteries which he constructed were commanded by the castle, and the men were so much exposed, that they, were in danger of being annihilated before they took the fortress. Accordingly, on the 24th of January, they struck to a man, and refused to go any more into the trenches.
This was followed by a memorial, signed by most of the chief officers, including lord George Murray, Lochiel, Keppoch, Clanranald, and Simon Frazer, master of Lovat. This was sent by lord George to Charles, and represented that so many men were gone home, and more still going, spite of all the endeavours of their chiefs, that if the siege were continued they saw nothing but absolute destruction to the whole army. It added - "We are humbly of opinion that there is no way of extricating the army out of the most imminent danger but by retiring immediately to the Highlands, where we can be usefully employed the remainder of the winter by taking and mastering the forts of the north; and we are morally sure that we can keep as many men together as will answer that end, and hinder the enemy from following us into the mountains at this season of the year; and in spring we doubt not but an army of ten thousand men, effective Highlanders, can be brought together, and follow your royal highness whosesoever you think proper."
This was sensible counsel. It was not only the siege, but Cumberland was now at the head of the army, and was in Edinburgh, on the point of marching against them with an army, not large, but fresh and well supplied, and in high spirits from his presence. With the Highland army, on the contrary, there was a continual desertion; and, in the language of the memorial, the only safety and chance for the future was to get into the mountains and keep the English out till spring, when the spirits of the men would have been restored, and reinforcements or money might have come from France. Yet Charles is said to have been so astonished and mortified at the proposal, that he struck his head against the wall with such violence that he staggered, and exclaimed, "Good God! is it come to this?" that lord George Murray had been with him but the day before, and had approved his plan of fighting Cumberland when he came; and that the sick and wounded had been already sent to the rear of Dumblane. Most likely lord George had assented only to the prince's obstinate determination to fight, and that the memorial was in consequence of his consultations with the officers. However, the prince sent Sir Thomas Sheridan to remonstrate with the chiefs, but they would not give way, and Charles, it is said, sullenly acquiesced in the retreat.
It was time, if they were to avoid a battle. Cumberland was already on the march from Edinburgh. He quitted Holyrood on the 31st of January, and the insurgents only commenced their retreat the next morning, the 1st of February, after spiking their guns. As it was, Cumberland was close upon them. He only left London on the 27th of January, reached Edinburgh on the 30th, and immediately made arrangements for proceeding. He seemed to come in a most determined and arbitrary spirit. He marched Iiis troops into the city, contrary to the law, and the remonstrances of the magistrates, whom he refused to see. He located himself in the same apartments which Charles had occupied in the old palace, and occupied the same bed. When the citizens and Lowland gentlemen waited on him he treated them very curtly, as if by no means pleased with their past conduct, or holding very flattering ideas of their loyalty. Instead of ordering Hawley to be tried by court- marshal, as he ought to have done, he continued him in command immediately under him as one of his lieutenants- general, the earl of Albemarle being the other. Hawley was of too savage and congenial a disposition for the "butcher" to part with him, though he restrained some of his vagaries, for, not having rebels to hang on his new gibbets, he was using them to make an example of some o. his own soldiers, who, like himself, had run away from the battle of Falkirk.
Cumberland at Linlithgow, where he lay for the night, heard that the rebels were decamping, and sent forward brigadier-general Mordaunt with Cobham's dragoons and the Argyll militia to harass their rear, and early next morning followed rapidly himself. Mordaunt found that the insurgents had already evacuated Falkirk, and he could see their rear-guard hastily retiring at his approach; but before he reached Stirling there was heard the shock of a most tremendous explosion, which, on arriving, he found to have been the firing of six thousand pounds of gunpowder, which they had kept near the church of St. Ninian's. This had been done in such trepidation, that it not only destroyed the magazine, but the church and buildings near; it blew out all the windows in the town, and killed many of the inhabitants.
The bridge of Stirling having been blown up some time before by the garrison, the rebels crossed the river at the Ford of Frew, and took their way for Crieff, where they parted into two divisions, and took separate roads towards the same place of rendezvous - Inverness. The duke did not care to pursue them instanter, but made a halt to have the bridge of Stirling repaired, and refreshed his men in the town. He complimented general Blakeney on his brave defence of the castle, and had the satisfaction of receiving the surrender of a whole company of the Irish brigade, which had deserted from lord John Drummond. He made a strict search for concealed rebels, many of whom were discovered and Reserved in prison for their punishment; Mistress Jenny Cameron, who used to ride with the rebel army with a drawn sword in her hand, and a cap and scarlet feather, was taken amongst the rest.
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