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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

II. Jacobitism

8. The Battle of Prestonpans, 21 September 1745

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1Prestonpans, a few miles east of Edinburgh, was the place where the royal troops of King George II, led by Lieutenant-General John Cope, were defeated by the Jacobite army, led by Lord George Murray. Thanks to Murray’s military skills the battle only lasted about ten minutes, with hundreds of government troops killed or wounded. The victory of Prestonpans meant that the whole of Scotland, except Edinburgh and Stirling castles, was now controlled by the Jacobite forces.

2The document is introduced by the following words: “A short account of the battles of Preston, Falkirk and Culloden; by a gentleman who was in these actions.”

3Account of the Battle of Prestonpans by Andrew Lumisden, Private Secretary to the Prince (National Library of Scotland, MS, 279, p. 13-15).

  • 11 The Camerons, led by their chief, Donald Cameron of Lochiel, were among the main supporters of Pri (...)

The Highlanders, pulling off their bonnets and looking up to heaven, made a short prayer, and ran forward. In advancing Lord George Murray observed that by the turn of the morass, there was a great interval between his left and the ditch of the before mentioned inclosure: he therefore ordered the Camerons11 to incline that way, in order to take it up, to prevent being flanked by the enemy’s dragoons. By this movement there became a considerable interval in the center, which the second line was ordered to fill up.

We were now discovered by the enemy, who played their artillery furiously upon our left; yet only one private man was killed, and one officer wounded. The Highlanders ran on with such eagerness that they immediately seized the canon. The Dragoons on right and left made a very regular fire, which was followed by close platoons of all their infantry, which our men received with great intrepidity. But what by the huzzahs of the highlanders, and their fire, which was very brisk, the Dragoons were immediately thrown into disorder, which occasioned some confusion among their foot. The highlanders threw down their muskets, drew their swords, and carried all before them like a torrent: so that in seven or eight minutes both horse and foot were totally routed, and drove from the field of battle.

The Prince during the action was on foot in the second line. He was with great difficulty prevailed on not to attack with the first line inasmuch that the officers refused to march if he insisted on it. As soon as the victory declared for him, he mounted his horse and put a stop to the slaughter, calling out–“make prisoners: spare them, spare them, they are my father’s subjects”.

When General Cope saw how things were going, and that he could not rally his forces, he, with about 350 Dragoons, and some volunteer officers, gained Carberry-hill, by a road that led to it from Preston, and, as we had not time, nor horse to pursue, got away undisturbed to Lauder and from thence to Berwick.

As our second line had no occasion to engage, it may with justice be said that 1,400 highlanders, unsupported by horse or canon, routed a regular army of 2,000 foot and 700 dragoons defended by a fine train of artillery, and obtained a most compleat victory. Such is the impetuosity of a highland attack! We took all the enemy’s canon, drums, tents, baggage and military chest. […].

Of the enemy were killed about 500, wounded 400 and taken prisoners 1,400 among the prisoners were about 80 officers.

Our loss was very inconsiderable, viz. killed 2 captains, 1 lieutenant, 1 ensign, and about 30 private men, and wounded 6 officers and 70 private men.

All care immaginable was taken of the wounded, plenty of able surgeons having been provided for that purpose.


11 The Camerons, led by their chief, Donald Cameron of Lochiel, were among the main supporters of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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