OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George II. (Continued.) page 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

The dragoons tended more to weaken Cope than to strengthen him by their discouraging account of the force of the Highlanders. Nor did the sight of the judges and crown officers who had fled out of Edinburgh at the approach of the Highlanders tend to revive their spirits. Sir John took the level road towards Edinburgh, marching out of Dunbar on the 19th of September. He does not appear to have sent before him reconnoitring parties, like a good general, to scour the hills, and enable him to assume more commanding ground should they have taken that way, in which case, by being on the heights and morasses in front, they could give battle, or delay it, at pleasure. There were two or three divergent paths along the plain, and these he did reconnoitre, sending two young volunteers on horseback along each road. These young men kept ahead, and returned at midnight, reporting all quiet. Others were then sent to look out till the dawn, two of whom never came back, being tempted by sherry and oysters at a country public-house, and there taken prisoners by an attorney's clerk, a mere lad. On the following morning Sir John quitted the high post-road near Haddington, becoming aware that his cavalry could not act if entangled amongst the defiles and inclosures around him. He took the lower road by St. Germains and Seaton. Home says that the spirits of the royal troops now became as unduly elevated as they had before been depressed, the country people who flocked from all sides to see the army declaring that there would be no battle - the Highlanders would run as soon as they saw them; and some of the officers themselves talked in this strain.

Lord Loudon, who acted as adjutant-general, now rode forward with a reconnoitring party, and soon came back at a smart trot to announce that the rebels were not approaching by the road and the open country to the west, but along the heights to the south. Sir John, therefore, altered his route, and pushed on to Prestonpans, where he formed his army in battle array. He placed his foot in the centre, with a regiment of dragoons and three pieces of artillery on each wing. His right was covered by Colonel Gardiner's park wall, and the village of Preston; his left extended towards Seaton House, and in his rear lay the sea, with the villages of Prestonpans and Cockenzie. When the hostile vans descried each other they set up a loud shout. The armies halted at about a mile apart, and then Charles sent forward Ker of Gradon to ascertain whether there was any obstacle to an immediate advance upon the enemy. Ker, mounted on a small white pony, proceeded to execute his commission with the utmost coolness. He rode over the ground in front of the enemy, paying no attention to various shots fired at him, and on coming to one or two stone walls he deliberately pulled down a gap in each to pass through. He at length returned, announcing that there was a morass in front of the English army of such a formidable character, that to attempt to charge across it would risk the loss of his whole army. This compelled them to defer the onset, much to the discontent of the men, who were afraid of the enemy escaping again, as they had done at Corry Arrack; nor were they satisfied till lord Nairn, with five hundred men, was dispatched to the westward to prevent Cope stealing away towards Edinburgh.

On the other hand, the troops of Cope were equally damped by the appearance of thus only standing on the defensive. Colonel Gardiner urged the importance of an immediate attack, but Cope did nothing more than discharge a few cannon-shots to drive a party of Highlanders out of Tranent churchyard. The night was cold, and the two armies lay on the ground. Cope retired to comfortable lodgings at Cockenzie; but Charles, after dining with the duke of Perth and another general, at a little inn, on a pound of meat, and the kail or broth which it was boiled in, with only two wooden spoons and one butcher's knife amongst the three, slept in a heap of pease in a pea field. In the evening, numbers of the Highlanders who had come with lord Loudon's regiment from Inverness, stole away to their countrymen in the prince's army; and in the middle of the night Anderson of Whitburgh, a gentleman, whose father had been out in the 'Fifteen, and who knew the country well, suddenly recollected a way across the bog to the right. He communicated this to Hepburn of Keith and lord George Murray, who went to waken the prince, who, sitting up in his heap of pea-straw, received the news with exultation. He started up, a council was called, and as it drew towards morning it was resolved to follow Anderson as their guide immediately. An aide-de-camp was dispatched to recall lord Nairn and his five hundred, and the army marched after Anderson in profound silence. It was not without some difficulty that they crossed it, after all; some of the soldiers sank knee-deep, and the prince himself stumbled and fell. When they reached the firm ground the mounted picquets heard the sound of their march, though they could not see them for the thick fog. The dragoon sentinels demanded who went there, fired their pistols, and galloped off to give the alarm.

The Highland army was now hastily formed into order of battle. As on all occasions with the clans, there was some controversy which should take the right; it was claimed by the Macdonalds, and finally yielded by the Camerons and Stuarts. The first line consisted of six regiments, with the Clanronalds, the men of Glengarry and Keppoch on the right, the Macgregors and the duke of Perth's men in the centre, and the men of Appin and Lochiel on the left. Behind this first line stood the men of Athol, the Robertsons of Strowan, the Macdonalds of Glencoe, and the Maclauchlans, all commanded by lord Nairn. Charles placed himself at the head of this second line, and said, "Follow me, gentlemen, and, by the blessing of God, I will this day make you a free and happy people."

On the other hand, Cope maintained the order of battle arranged the day previous, except that he turned the men's faces towards the east instead of the west, to meet the new position of the enemy. His infantry was posted in the centre; Hamilton's dragoons were on the left, and Gardiner's, with the artillery in front, on the right, leaning on the morass. The mass of the infantry consisted of four regiments, Lees's, Guise's, Lascelles', and Murray's. There was no body of reserve, but they still had Preston in their rear, with Prestonpans and some strong stone walls. Their baggage was left in the village of Cockenzie. As the sun rose the mists rolled away, and revealed the two hostile hosts in their positions. There lay between them a level and naked plain, without bush or tree - in fact, it was a stubble-field. The Highlanders no sooner saw the enemy than, taking off their caps, they uttered a short prayer, and pulling their bonnets over their brows, they rushed forward in their separate clans with a yell that was frightful. The stubble rustled under their feet as they ran, and there was a deep murmuring of their voices, as they all continued talking as they went. The cannon, consisting of seven pieces and four cohorns, fired upon them, but did little execution, and rushing up to their muzzles they took them by storm. Till then the Highlanders had had a great terror of artillery; from that moment they acquired a contempt of it. The men who served the guns were not regular artillery-men, but seamen, whom Cope had brought from the fleet. They fled at the furious onset of the Gaels, and left the guns in their possession.

Colonel Gardiner now endeavoured to charge the advancing enemy with his dragoons; but it was in vain that he attempted to animate their craven souls by word and example - at the first volley of the Highlanders they wheeled and fled. The same disgraceful scene took place on the left, at nearly the same moment. Hamilton's regiment of horse dispersed at the first charge of the Macdonalds, leaving the centre exposed on both its flanks. The infantry made a better stand than the cavalry; it discharged a steady and well-directed volley on the advancing Highlanders, and killed some of their best men, amongst others a son of the famous Rob Roy. But the Highlanders did not give them time for a second volley; they were up with them, dashed aside their bayonets with their targets, burst through their ranks in numerous places, so that the whole, not being able fco give way on account of the park wall of Preston, were thrown into confusion, and at the mercy of the foe.

The brave colonel Gardiner made a vain effort to continue the fight, and thereby lost his life. Seeing a party of the foot battling bravely, but without any officer to direct them, he exclaimed, "These brave fellows will be cut to pieces for want of a commander!" and galloping up he cheered them on to the charge. In a few moments, however, he was cut down by the scythe of a Highlander, and fell, pierced by a number of wounds, close to his own park wall. Thus fell the only officer who had shown any bravery in the English army, and one of the best and most pious men of the age. He was carried into the manse, and was buried by the side of his children in his own village church, just by.

Never was a battle so instantly decided - it is said not to have lasted more than five or six minutes; never was a defeat more absolute. The Highlanders were hewing down the English mercilessly, and especially venting their fury on the few horses that they could come near, having a notion that they were trained to kick and bite in the battle. Charles, who in the second line had not had the opportunity to strike a single blow, rushed forward, and did his utmost to restrain the murderous fury of his soldiers, and thus to rescue the vanquished. He continued till midday on the field, taking measures for the wounded of both parties without distinction. On no occasions did the prince show more favourably than in his humanity to friend or foe, presenting a striking contrast to the conduct of both Cumberland and the British government afterwards.

Of the royal army four hundred fell, and of the infantry not more than a hundred and seventy, escaped death, or being taken. Of the rebels there were only twenty killed, and seventy wounded. The Highlanders, according to their established plundering propensities, no sooner were victors, than they commenced stripping the slain and ransacking the living. The standards, the cannon, and the military chest, containing two thousand five hundred pounds, were given up to the prince; but everything else they appropriated themselves. They were speedily loaded with spoil, and about as quickly hundreds of them were on their way towards their mountains to deposit their booty. Some of the luxuries which they found they did not comprehend the use of, and chocolate was soon after cried in the streets of Perth as "Johnnie Cope's salve." One man exchanged a horse for a horse-pistol; and another, selling a watch for a trifle, said he "was glad to be rid of the creature, for she lived no time after he caught her" - the fact being that he did not understand winding it up.

The dragoons, which from first to last had displayed the most dastardly conduct of any in English history, fled partly to Edinburgh, but by far the greater proportion southwards. A hundred of them presented themselves at the gates of Edinburgh Castle, as well as sundry stragglers from the foot, and sought admittance as the only place of refuge; but the brave general Guest bade them begone, as cowards who had deserted their colours, or he would open his guns upon them; and in terror they galloped off westward. Sir John Cope, or Johnnie Cope, as he will be styled in Scotland to the end of time, by the assistance of the earls of Loudon and Home, collected about four hundred and fifty of the recreant dragoons, and fled to Coldstream that night. There not feeling secure, they continued their flight till they reached Berwick, where Sir Mark Kerr received Cope with the sarcastic remark, that he believed that he was the first general on record who had carried the news of his own defeat.

Charles lay that night at Pinkie House, and the next day- returned to Edinburgh in triumph, with flags flying, the trophies of victory displayed, and bagpipes playing the old cavalier tune, "The king shall enjoy his own again." In their wild exultation the Highlanders fired their pieces into the air, and one of them slightly wounded in the forehead a young Jacobite lady, Miss Nairn, who was watching the procession from a balcony. She thanked God that the accident happened to a Jacobite, for, had a whig been hurt, it would have been said to have been done on purpose.

Charles was anxious to follow up his victory by marching directly into England, trusting to the effect of this signal triumph to bring all inclined to the Stuart dynasty to his standard. He was confident that if he met with anything like success on the way, a rapid march would put London in his possession. And, in truth, such was the miserably misgoverned condition of the country at the time, that, had he come with a tolerable French army, nothing could have prevented him making himself master of the kingdom. Never was England so thoroughly exposed to foreign danger, so utterly unarmed and unprotected, whilst it had been sending such armaments to the continent. Nothing but Providence was left to watch over the land, and by Providence alone was it saved. Henry Fox, at that time writing to a friend, said, "England is for the first comer; and if you can tell whether the six thousand Dutch and the ten battalions of English we have sent for from Flanders, or five thousand French or Spaniards, will be here first, you know our fate." And on the 19th of September he added to the same friend, "The French are not come, God be thanked! but had five thousand landed in any part of this island a week ago, I verily believe the entire conquest would not have cost them a battle." Fortunately, the French had not supported the pretender on this occasion, as they had promised, and as fortunately, when Charles came to review the army with which he proposed to enter England, there only remained of it one thousand four hundred men. The rest had gone home with their booty; nay, some had gone and were returning, not to fight, but to carry up more which they had concealed.

Accordingly, Charles could do nothing but maintain his position for the present in Scotland, and send off a messenger to France to announce his wonderful success, and to urge that now was the moment to hasten over troops and supplies, and secure the crown and friendship of England for ever. He sent over Mr. Kelly to the French court and to his father, and for a moment there was a lively disposition at Versailles to strike the blow. The king immediately dispatched some supplies of money and arms, some of which were seized by English cruisers, and some of which arrived safely. There was also a talk of sending over Charles's brother, Henry, duke of York, at the head of the Irish regiments and of others, and active preparations were made for the purpose at Dunkirk. But again this flash of enthusiasm died out, and Charles, three weeks after Kelly, sent ever Sir James Stewart to aid him in his solicitations. But all was in vain. The French again seemed to weigh the peril of the expedition, and on their part complained that the Jacobites showed no zeal in England, without which the invasion would be madness. Thus the time went by, till the Dutch and English troops landed in England, and the opportunity was lost.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Pictures for Reign of George II. (Continued.) page 5

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About