The Battle of Prestonpans
September 21, 1745
Prestonpans, Lothian, Scotland
Jacobite Scots under Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) vs. British troops under General Cope
Charles returned from exile in France to launch yet another Jacobite attempt to seize the English throne. The response to his landing was lukewarm among the Scots, despite the Prince's belief in popular support for his cause.
Prince Charles gathered what troops he could at Glenfinnan and marched south to take Edinburgh. General Cope acted immediately with his own small force of untested British troops. Both sides took to the field with roughly 2500 men.
General Cope established a protected position with a large marsh between him and the Jacobites. The Jacobite council of war quarrelled over what course to take (this bickering was to beset the entire campaign), and Lord George Murray initiated action without informing the Prince or his other advisors.
A local man led the advancing Jacobites through the marsh via a winding track, and they charged through the morning mist at the British line.
The British dragoons refused to obey orders to charge, and a single volley from the advancing Highlanders put them to flight. The infantry took the brunt of the Jacobite attack, and they crumpled before the fierce charge of Murray's men.
Although the actual loss of life at Prestonpans was comparatively slight - about 300 British troops - over 1000 men and 80 officers were captured. To their credit, the Jacobites ordered that the British wounded receive the best medical care available.
The success at Prestonpans was a terrific morale-booster for the Stuart cause, and more recruits flocked to the Jacobite standard. For the moment at least, the situation looked bright for Bonnie Prince Charlie.
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