Tales of a Grandfather, by Walter Scott

Chapter 77

Edinburgh had lung been a peaceful capital; little accustomed to the din of arms, and considerably divided by factions, as was the case of other towns in Scotland. The rumours from the Highlands had sounded like distant thunder during a serene day, for no one seemed disposed to give credit to the danger as seriously approaching. The unexpected intelligence, that General Cope had marched to Inverness, and left the metropolis in a great measure to its own resources, excited a very different and more deep sensation, which actuated the inhabitants variously, according to their political sentiments. The Jacobites, who were in considerable numbers, hid their swelling hopes under the cover of ridicule and irony, with which they laboured to interrupt every plan which was adopted for the defence of the town. The truth was, that in a military point of view there was no town, not absolutely defenceless, which was worse protected than Edinburgh. The spacious squares and streets of the New Town had then, and for a long time after, no existence, the city being strictly limited to its original boundaries, established as early as the fourteenth or fifteenth century. It had defences, but they were of a singularly antique and insufficient character. A high and solid wall enclosed the city from the West Port to the Potterrow Port. It was embattled, but the parapet was too narrow for mounting cannon, and, except upon one or two points, the wall neither exhibited redoubt, turret, or reentering angle, from which the curtain or defensive line might be flanked or defended. It was merely an ordinary park-wall of uncommon height and strength, of which you may satisfy yourself by looking at such of its ruins as still remain. The wall ran eastward to what is called the South Back of the Canongate, and then, turning northward, ascended the ridge on which the town is built, forming the one side of a suburb called Saint Mary’s Wynd, where it was covered by houses built upon it from time to time, besides being within a few feet of the other side of the wynd, which is narrow, and immediately in its front. In this imperfect state tile defence reached the Netherbow Port, which divided the city from the Canongate. From this point the wall ran down Leith Wynd, and terminated at the hospital called Paul’s Work, connecting itself on that point with the North, or Nor’ Loch, so called because it was on the northern side of the city, and its sole defence on that quarter.

The nature of the defensive protections must, from this sketch, be judged extremely imperfect; and the quality of the troops by which resistance must have been made good, if it should be seriously thought upon, was scarce better suited to the task. The town’s people, indeed, such as were able to hear arms, were embodied under the name of Trained Bands, and had firelocks belonging to them, which were kept in the town’s magazines. They amounted nominally to sixteen companies, of various strength, running between eighty and a hundred men each. This would have been a formidable force, had their discipline and good-will corresponded to their numbers. But, for many years, the officers of the Trained Bands had practised no other martial discipline, than was implied in a particular mode of flourishing their wine-glasses on festive occasions; and it was well understood that, if these militia were called on, a number of them were likely enough to declare for Prince Charles, and a much larger proportion would be unwilling to put their persons and property in danger, for either the one or the other side of the cause.1 The only part of the civic defenders of Edinburgh who could at all be trusted, was the small body of foot called the City-guard, whom we have already seen make some figure in the affair of Porteous. The two regiments of dragoons, which General Cope had left behind him for the protection of the Lowlands, were the only regular troops.

Yet, though thus poorly provided for defence, there was a natural reluctance on the part of the citizens of Edinburgh, who were in general friendly to Government, to yield up their ancient metropolis to a few hundred wild insurgents from the Highlands, without even an effort at defence. So early as the 27th of August, when it was known in the capital that the regular troops had marched to Inverness, and that the Highlanders were directing their march on the Lowlands, a meeting of the friends of Government was held, at which it was resolved that the city should be put in a state of defence, its fortifications repaired or improved, as well as time would permit, and a regiment of a thousand men raised by general subscription among the inhabitants. This spirit of resistance was considerably increased by the arrival of Captain Rogers, aid-decamp to General Cope, who came from Inverness by sea, with directions that a number of transports, lying then at Leith, should be despatched, without loss of time for Aberdeen. He announced that General Cope was to march his troops from Inverness to Aberdeen, and embark them at the latter seaport, by the means which he was now providing for that purpose. The General, he stated, would with his army thus return to Lothian by sea, in time, as he hoped, for the safety of the city.

These tidings highly excited the zeal of those who had thus voted for defending the capital. As the regiment which had been voted could not be levied without the express warrant of Government, several citizens, to the number of an hundred, petitioned to be permitted to enrol themselves as volunteers for the defence of the city. Their numbers soon increased. At length, on the 11th September, six companies were appointed, and officers named to them. In the mean time, fortifications were added to the walls, under the scientific direction of the celebrated M’Laurin, professor of mathematics in the University of Edinburgh. The volunteers were taught with all possible speed the most necessary parts of military discipline; cannon were also mounted on the walls, chiefly obtained from the shipping at Leith. The whole city rung with the din of preparation; and much seemed to depend on the event of a struggle for time. The party which was uppermost for the moment, expressed their eager wishes and hopes for General Cope’s arrival from Aberdeen; while those who hoped soon to change positions with them, whispered to each other in secret their hopes that the English general would he anticipated by the arrival of the Highland army.

In the mean time, Charles Edward, having stopped at Perth only long enough to collect some money, refresh and regulate his army, and receive a few supplies of men, proceeded on his venturous march on the 11th September. His manifestoes, in his father’s name and his own, had already announced his purpose of remedying all the grievances of which the nation could complain. Among these the dissolution of the Union was proposed as a principal object of reformation. It certainly continued to be felt as a grievance by many of the country gentlemen in Scotland, whose importance it had greatly diminished; but the commercial part of the nation had begun to be sensible of its advantages, and were not greatly captivated by the proposed dissolution of the national treaty, which had so much enlarged their sources of foreign traffic. Another proclamation was issued, in answer to one which had set the price of L.30, 000 upon the Adventurer’s head. He should reply to this, he said, by a similar announcement, but in confidence that no adherent of his would ever think of doing any thing to merit such a reward. Accordingly, he published a reward for the Elector of Hanover’s person. Charles’s original idea was to limit the sum offered to L.30, but it was ultimately extended to the same amount which had been placed upon his own.

On the evening of the 11th, the Chevalier reached Dunblane with the vanguard of his army, or rather detachments of the best men of every clan. It was found very difficult to remove the others from the good quarters and provisions of Perth, which were superior to what they had to expect on a march. The fords of Frew, situated on the Forth about eight miles above Stirling, which the Earl of Mar, with a much more numerous army, of Highlander’s, had in vain attempted to cross, formed no obstacle to the advance of their present more adventurous leader.1 The great drought, which prevailed that year, and which in Scotland is generally most severe towards the end of autumn, made it easy to cross the river. Gardiner’s regiment of dragoons, which had been left at Stirling, offered no opposition to the enemy, but retreated to Linlithgow, to interpose betwixt the Highlanders and Edinburgh,-a retrograde movement, which had a visible effect on the spirits of the soldiers.

In the mean time, the confusion in the capital was greatly increased by the near approach of the insurgent army. The volunteers had at no time amounted to more than about four hundred men, a small proportion of the population of the city, sufficiently indicating that the far greater majority of the inhabitants were lukewarm, and probably a great many positively disaffected to the cause of Government. Of those also who had taken arms, many had done so merely to show a zeal for the cause, which they never expected would be brought to a serious test; others had wives and families. houses and occupations, which they were, when it came to the push, loath to put in hazard for any political consideration. The citizens also entertained a high idea of the desperate courage of the Highlanders, and a dreadful presentiment of the outrages which a people so wild were likely to commit, if they should succeed, which appeared likely, in forcing their way into the town. Still, however, there were many young students, and others at that period of life when honour is more esteemed than life, who were willing, and even eager, to prosecute their intentions of resistance and defence. The corps of volunteers, being summoned together, were informed that Gardiner’s dragoons, having continued to retreat before the enemy, were now at Corstorphine, a village within three miles of the city; and that the van of the rebels had reached Kirkliston, a little town about seven or eight miles farther to the west. In these critical circumstances, General Guest, lieutenant-governor of the castle of Edinburgh, submitted to the corps of volunteers, that instead of waiting to be attacked within a town, which their numbers were inadequate to defend, they should second an offensive movement which he designed to make in front of the city, in order to protect it, by an instant battle. For this purpose he proposed that the second regiment of dragoons, called Hamilton’s, should march from Leith, where they were encamped, and form a junction with Gardiner’s at Corstorphine; and that they should be supported by the volunteer corps of four hundred men. The Provost, having agreed to this proposal, offered, after some hesitation, that ninety of the City-guard, whom he reckoned the best troops at his disposal, should march out with the armed citizens. Mr Drummond, an active officer of the volunteers, and who displayed more than usual zeal, harangued the armed association. The most spirited shouted with sincere applause, and by far the greater part followed their example. Out of the whole volunteers, about two hundred and fifty were understood to pledge themselves to the execution of the proposed movement in advance of the city. The sound of the fire-bell was appointed as the signal for the volunteers to muster in the Lawnmarket. In the mean time, orders were sent to Hamilton’s dragoons to march through the city on their way to Corstorphine. The parade and display of these disciplined troops would, it was thought, add spirit to the raw soldiers.

The following day was Sunday, the 15th of September. The fire-bell, an ominous and ill-chosen signal, tolled for assembling the volunteers, and so alarming a sound, during the time of divine service, dispersed those assembled for worship, and brought out a large crowd of the inhabitants to the street. The dragoon regiment appeared, equipped for battle. They huzza’d and clashed their swords at sight of the volunteers, their companions in peril, of which neither party were destined that day to see much. But other sounds expelled these warlike greetings from the ears of the civic soldiers. The relatives of the volunteers crowded around them, weeping, protesting, and conjuring them not to expose lives so invaluable to their families to the broadswords of the savage Highlanders. There is nothing of which men, in general, are more easily persuaded, than of the extreme value of their own lives; nor are they apt to estimate them more lightly, when they see they are highly prized by others. A sudden change of opinion took place among the body. In some companies, the men said that their officers would not lead them on; in others, the officers said that the privates would not follow them. An attempt to march the corps towards the West Port, which was their destined route for the field of battle, failed. The regiment moved, indeed, but the files grew gradually thinner and thinner as they marched down the Bow and through the Grassmarket, and not above forty-five reached the West Port. A hundred more were collected with some difficulty, but it seems to have been under a tacit condition, that the march to Corstorphine should be abandoned; fur out of the city not one of them issued.1 The volunteers were led back to their alarm post, and dismissed for the evening, when a few of the most zealous left the town, the defence of which began no longer to be expected, and sought other fields in which to exercise their valour.

In the mean time, their less warlike comrades were doomed to hear of the near approach of the Highland clans. On the morning of Monday, a person named Alves, who pretended to have approached the rebel army by accident, but who was, perhaps, in reality, a favourer of their cause, brought word that he had seen the Duke of Perth, to whom he was personally known, and had received a message to the citizens of Edinburgh, informing them, that if they opened their gates, the town should be favourably treated, but if they attempted resistance, they might lay their account with military execution; “ and he concluded,” said Alves, “ by addressing a young man by the title of Royal Highness, and desiring to know if such was not his pleasure.” This message, which was publicly delivered, struck additional terror into the inhabitants, who petitioned the Provost to call a general meeting of the citizens, the only purpose of which must have increased the confusion in their councils. Provost Stewart refused to convoke such a meeting. The town was still covered by two regiments of dragoons. Colonel Gardiner, celebrated for his private worth, his bravery, and his devotional character, was now in command of Hamilton’s regiment, as well as his own, when he was suddenly superseded by General Fowkes, who had been sent from London by sea, and arrived on the night of the 15th of September. Early the next morning, the new general drew up the dragoons near the north end of the Colt Bridge, which crosses the Water of Leith, about two miles from Corstorphine, from which last village the Highlanders were now advancing. On their van coming in sight of the regulars, a few of the mounted gentlemen who had joined the insurgents were despatched to reconnoitre. As this party rode up, and fired their pistols at the dragoons, after the usual manner of skirmishers, a humiliating spectacle ensued. The soldiers, without returning a shot, fell into such disorder, that their officers were compelled to move them from the ground, with the purpose of restoring their ranks. But no sooner did the two regiments find themselves in retreat, than it became impossible to halt or form them. Their panic increased their speed from a trot to a gallop, and the farther they got even from the very appearance of danger, the more excessive seemed to be their terror. Galloping in the greatest confusion round the base of the Castle, by what were called the Lang Dykes, they pursued their disorderly course along the fields where the New Town is now built, in full view of the city and its inhabitants, whose fears were reasonably enough raised to extremity, at seeing the shameful flight of the regular soldiers, whose business it was to fight-a poor example to those who were only to take up the deadly trade as amateurs. Even at Leith, to which, as they had last encamped there, they returned by a kind of instinct, those recreant horsemen could only be halted for a few minutes. Ere their minds had recovered from their perturbation, some one raised a cry that the Highlanders were at hand; and the retreat was renewed. They halted a second time near Prestonpans, but, receiving a third alarm from one of their own men falling into a waste coal-pit, the race was again resumed in the darkness of the night, and the dragoons only stopped at Dunbar, North Berwick, and other towns on the coast; none of them, at the same time, able to render a reason why they fled, or to tell by whom they were pursued. In Edinburgh the citizens were driven to a kind of desperation of terror. Crowds gathered on the streets and surrounded the Provost, entreating him to give up all thoughts of defending the town, which would have been indeed an impossibility after the scandalous retreat of the dragoons. Whatever the Provost might think of the condition of the city, he maintained a good countenance; and convoking a meeting of the magistracy, sent for the Justice–Clerk, the Lord Advocate, and Solicitor–General, to come and partake their councils. But these functionaries had wisely left the city when the danger of its falling into the hands of the rebels became so very imminent. In the mean time, other citizens, uninvited, intruded themselves into the place where the council was held, which speedily assumed the appearance of a disorderly crowd, most part of whom were clamorous for surrender. Many of the loudest were Jacobites, who took that mode of serving the Prince’s cause. While the council was in this state of confusion, a letter, subscribed Charles Stewart, P. R., was handed into the meeting, but the Provost would not permit it to be read, which gave rise to a furious debate. The volunteers, in the mean time, were drawn up on the street, amid the same clamour and consternation which filled the council. They received no orders from the Provost, nor from any one else. At this juncture, a man, who was never since discovered, mounted on a grey horse, rode along the front of their line, calling out, fro the great augmentation of the’ general alarm, that the Highlanders were just at hand, and were sixteen thousand strong! The unlucky volunteers, disheartened, and in a great measure deserted, resolved at length to disembody themselves, and to return their arms to the King’s magazine in the Castle. The muskets were received there accordingly, and the volunteers might be considered as disbanded as well as disarmed. If some wept at parting with their arms, we believe the greater part were glad to be fairly rid of the encumbrance. In the interim the letter with the alarming signature was at length read in the council, and was found to contain a summons to surrender the city, under a promise of safety to the immunities of the corporation, and the property of individuals. The conclusion declared, that the Prince would not be responsible for the consequences if he were reduced to enter the city by force, and that such of the inhabitants as he found in arms against him must not expect to be treated as prisoners of war. The perusal of this letter increased the cry against resistance, which, indeed, the flight of the dragoons, and dispersion of the volunteers, rendered altogether impossible, the armed force being reduced to the City-guard, and a few recruits of the newly-raised Edinburgh regiment. It was at length agreed on, by general consent, to send a deputation of the council to wait on the young Prince at Gray’s Mill, within two miles of the city; they were instructed to require a suspension of hostilities until they should have time to deliberate on the letter which had been forwarded to them. The deputation had not long set forth on its destination, when one of those turns of fortune which so unexpectedly threaten to derange the most profound calculations of human prudence, induced many of the citizens to wish that the step of communicating with the rebels had been delayed. Intelligence arrived, acquainting the magistrates and council, that Sir John Cope’s army had arrived in the transports from Aberdeen, and that the fleet was seen off Dunbar, where the General intended to land his troops, and move instantly to the relief of Edinburgh. A messenger was sent to recall the deputation, but he proved unable to overtake them. General Guest was resorted to with various proposals. He was asked to recall the dragoons; but replied, he considered it better for the service that they should join General Cope. The more zealous citizens then requested a new issue of arms to the volunteers; but General Guest seems to have been unwilling to place them again in irresolute hands; he said the magistrates might arm those whom they could trust from the city’s magazine. Still, as it appeared that a day’s time gained might save the city, there were proposals to resume the purpose of defence, at least for the time which Cope’s march from Dunbar was likely to occupy. It was therefore proposed to beat to arms, ring the fire-bell, and reassemble the volunteers, schemes which were abandoned as soon as moved, for it was remembered that the deputation of the magistrates and counsellors were in the power of the Highlandmen, who, on the sound of an alarm in the town, were likely enough to hang them without ceremony.

About ten o’clock at night the deputation returned, with an answer to the same purpose with the previous summons, demanding, at the same time, a positive reply before two in the morning’. The deliberations of the magistrates were farther embroiled by this peremptory demand of instant surrender, which made them aware that the insurgents were as sensible as they could be of the value of hours and minutes in a discussion so critical. They could think of nothing better than to send out a second deputation to Gray’s Mill, with instructions to entreat for farther time. It is important to state, that this party went to the Highland headquarters in a hackney-coach. The Prince refused to see them, and dismissed them without an answer.

In the mean time, the Chevalier and his counsellors agitated several plans for carrying the city by a sudden surprise. There was more than one point which gave facilities for such a coup-demain. A house belonging to a gentleman of the name of Nicolson stood on the outside of the town-wall, only a few feet distant from it, and very near the Potterrow Port. It was proposed to take possession of this house, and, after clearing the wall by a fire of musketry from the upper windows, either to attempt an escalade, or to run a mine under the fortification. At the same time, the position of the hospital called Paul’s Work was favourably situated to cover an attack on the main sluice of the North Loch. The College Church gave ready means of gaining the hospital; and an alarm on the northern termination of the wall would have afforded a point of diversion, while the main attack might be made by means of the row of houses in St Mary’s Wynd, composing the western side of that lane, and actually built upon, and forming part of the wall, which in that place was merely a range of buildings. Such were the points of assault which might be stormed simultaneously, and with the greater prospect of success, that their defenders were deficient both in numbers and courage. With these and similar views, the Chevalier ordered Lochiel to get his men under arms, so as to be ready, if the magistrates did not surrender at the appointed hour of two in the morning, to make an attack on either of the points we have mentioned, or take any other opportunity that might occur of entering the city; Mr Murray of Broughton, who was familiar with all the localities of Edinburgh, acting as a guide to the Camerons. The party amounted to about nine hundred men. The strictest caution was recommended to them in marching, and they were enjoined to rigid abstinence from spirituous liquors. At the same time, each man was promised a reward of two shilling’s, if the enterprise was successful. Colonel O’Sullivan was with the party as quarter-master. The detachment marched round by Merchiston and Hope’s Park, without being observed from the Castle, though they could hear the watches call the rounds within that fortress. Approaching the Netherbow Port, Lochiel and Murray reconnoitred the city-wall more closely, and found it planted with cannon, but without sentinels. They could, therefore, have forced an entrance by any of the houses in St Mary’s Wynd; but having strict orders to observe the utmost caution, Lochiel hesitated to resort to actual violence till they should have final commands to do so. In the mean time, Lochiel sent forward one of his people, disguised in a riding coat and hunting cap, with orders to request admission by the Netherbow Port. This man was to personate the servant of an English officer of dragoons, and in that character to call for admittance. An advanced guard of twenty Camerons were ordered to place themselves on each side of the gate; a support of sixty men were stationed in deep silence in St Mary’s Wynd; and the rest of the detachment remained at some distance, near the foot of the lane. It was Lochiel’s purpose that the gate, if opened, should have been instantly secured by the forlorn-hope of his party. The watch, however (for there were sentinels at the gate, though none on the city-wall), refused to open the gate, threatened to fire on the man who desired admittance, and thus compelled him to withdraw. It was now proposed by Murray, that as the morning was beginning to break, the detachment should retire to the craggy ground called Saint Leonard’s hill, where they would be secure from the cannon of the Castle, and there await for further orders. Just when the detachment was about to retreat, an accident happened which gratified them with an unexpected opportunity of entrance. I have told you of a second deputation sent out by the magistrates, to entreat from the Chevalier additional time to deliberate upon his summons, which he refused to grant, declining even to see the messengers. These deputies returned into the city long after midnight, in the hackney-coach which had carried them to the rebel camp. They entered at the West Port, and left the coach after they had ascended the Bow and reached the High Street. The hackney-coachman, who had his own residence and his stables in the Canongate, was desirous to return to that suburb through the Netherbow Port, which then closed the head of the Canongate. The man was known to the waiters, or porters, as having been that night engaged in the service of the magistrates, and, as a matter of course, they opened the gate to let him go home. The leaves of the gate had no sooner unfolded themselves, than the Camerons rushed in, and secured and disarmed the few watchmen. With the same ease they seized on the city guard-house, disarming such soldiers as they found there. Colonel O’Sullivan despatched parties to the other military posts and gates about the city, two of which were occupied with the same ease, and without a drop of blood being spilt. The Camerons, in the dawn of morning’, were marched up to the Cross, when the Castle, now alarmed with the news of what had happened, fired a shot or two expressive of defiance. These warlike sounds waked such of the citizens of Edinburgh as the tumult of the Highlanders’ entrance had not yet roused, and many with deep anxiety, and others with internal exultation, found that the capital was in the hands of the insurgents.

Much noisy wonder was expressed at the tame surrender of the metropolis of Scotland to the rebels; and, as if it had been necessary to find a scapegoat to bear the disgrace and blame of the transaction, a great proportion of both was imputed to the Lord Provost Stewart, who, after a long and severe imprisonment, was brought to trial for high treason, and although he was honourably acquitted, his name was often afterwards mentioned in a manner as if his judicial acquittal had not been sanctioned by the public voice. There is no room to enquire of what cast were Provost Stewards general politics, or how far, even from the mere circumstance of namesake, he was to be accounted a Jacobite. Neither is the chief magistrate of a corporation to be condemned to death as a traitor, because he does not possess those attributes of heroism, by means of which some gifted individuals have raised means of defence when hope seemed altogether lost, and, by their own energies and example, have saved communities and states, which were, in the estimation of all others, doomed to despair. The question is, whether Provost Stewart, as an upright and honourable man, sought the best advice in an exigency so singular, and exerted himself assiduously to carry it into execution when received? The flight of the dragoons, the disbanding of the volunteers, the discontinuance of the defence, received no encouragement from him; even the opening a communication with the enemy was none of his fault, since lie was one of the last who either despaired of preserving the city, or used discouraging language to the citizens. But he could not inspire panic-struck soldiers with courage, or selfish burghers with patriotic devotion, and, like a man who fights with a broken weapon, was unequal to maintain the cause which to all appearance he seems to have been sincere in defending.

The Highlanders, amid circumstances so new and stimulating to them as attended the capture of Edinburgh, behaved themselves with the utmost order and propriety. The inhabitants, desirous to conciliate their new masters, brought them provisions, and even whisky; but having been enjoined by Lochiel not to taste the latter spirits, they unanimously rejected a temptation which besets them strongly. They remained where they were posted, in the Parliament–Square, from five in the morning till eleven in the forenoon, without a man leaving his post,1 though in a city taken, it may be said, by storm, and surrounded with an hundred objects to excite their curiosity, or awaken their cupidity. They were then quartered in the Outer Parliament–House.

About noon on this important day (the 17th of September), diaries Edward prepared to take possession of the palace and capital of his ancestors. It was at that time, when, winding his march round by the village of Duddingston, to avoid the fire of the Castle, he halted in the hollow between Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags. As Charles approached the palace by the eastern access, called the Duke’s Walk, he called for his horse, as if to show himself to the populace, who assembled in great numbers, and with loud acclamations. The young Adventurer had begun his march on foot, but the immense crowd with which he was surrounded, many of whom pressed to touch his clothes, or kiss his hand, almost threw him down. He again mounted his charger as he approached the palace, having on his right the Duke of Perth, on his left Lord Elcho, the eldest son of the Earl of Wemyss, who had joined him a few days before, and followed by a concourse of chiefs and gentlemen. The personal appearance of the Chevalier was as prepossessing, as the daring character and romantic circumstances of his enterprise were calculated to excite the imagination. His noble mien, graceful manners, and ready courtesy, seemed to mark him no unworthy competitor for a crown. His dress was national. A short tartan coat, a blue bonnet with a white rose, and the order and emblem of the thistle, seemed all chosen to identify himself with the ancient nation he summoned to arms; and, upon the whole, so far as acclamations and signs of joy could express it, he was so favourably received, that none of his followers doubted that he might levy a thousand men in the streets of Edinburgh, in half an hour, if he could but find arms to equip them. But they who were able to look beyond the mere show and clamour, discerned symptoms of inward weakness in the means by which the Chevalier was to execute his weighty undertaking. The duinhewassels, or gentlemen of the clans, were, indeed, martially attired in the full Highland dress, with the various arms which appertain to that garb, which, in full equipment, comprehends a firelock, a broadsword, dirk and target, a pair of pistols, and a short knife, used occasionally as a poniard. But such complete appointments fell to the lot of but few of the followers of the Prince. Most were glad to be satisfied with a single weapon, a sword, dirk, or pistol. Nay, in spite of all evasions of the Disarming Act, it had been so far effectual, that several Highlanders were only armed with scythe blades, set straight on the handle, and some with only clubs or cudgels. As arms were scarce among the Highlanders, so the scanty and ill-clothed appearance of the poorer amongst them gave them an appearance at once terrible and wretched. Indeed many were of the opinion of an old friend of your Grandfather’s, who. as he looked on a set of haggard and fierce-looking men, some wanting coats, some lacking hose and shoes, some having their hair tied back with a leathern strap, without bonnet or covering of any kind, could not help observing, that they were a proper set of ragamuffins with which to propose to overturn an established government.1 On the whole, they wanted that regularity and uniformity of appearance, which, in our eye, distinguishes regular soldiers from banditti; and their variety of weapons, fierceness of aspect, and sinewy limbs, combined with a martial look and air proper to a people whose occupation was arms, gave them a peculiarly wild and barbarous appearance.

The Prince had been joined by many persons of consequence since he reached Lothian. Lord Elcho has already been mentioned. He was a man of high spirit and sound sense, but no Jacobite in the bigoted sense of the word; that is, no devoted slave to the doctrines of hereditary right or passive obedience. He brought with him five hundred pounds on the part of his father. Lord Wemyss, who was too old to take the field in person. This was an acceptable gift in the state of the Prince’s finances. Sir Robert Threipland had also joined him as he approached Edinburgh; and by the private information which he brought from his friends in that city, had determined him to persevere in the attack which proved so successful. The Earl of Kelly, Lord Balmerino, Lockhart, the younger of Carnwath, Graham, younger of Airth, Rollo, younger of Powburn, Hamilton of Bangour, a poet of considerable merit, Sir David Murray, and other gentlemen of distinction, had also joined the standard.

Amongst these, James Hepburn of Keith, son of that Robert Hepburn, respecting whose family a remarkable anecdote is mentioned at page 289 of the preceding volume, and whose escape from Newgate is narrated at page 387 of the same volume, distinguished himself by the manner in which he devoted himself to the cause of Charles Edward. As the Prince entered the door of the palace of Holyrood, this gentleman stepped from the crowd, bent his knee before him in testimony of homage, and, rising up, drew his sword, and, walking before him, marshalled him the way into the palace of his ancestors. Hepburn bore the highest character as the model of a true Scottish gentleman. He, like Lord Elcho, disclaimed the slavish principles of the violent Jacobites, but, conceiving his country wronged, and the gentry of Scotland degraded by the Union, he, in this romantic manner, dedicated his sword to the service of the Prince who offered to restore him to his rights. Mr John Home, whose heart sympathised with acts of generous devotion, from whatever source they flowed, feelingly observes, that “ the best Whigs regretted that this accomplished gentleman-the model of ancient simplicity, manliness, and honour-should sacrifice himself to a visionary idea of the independence of Scotland.” I am enabled to add, that, after having impaired his fortune, and endangered his life repeatedly, in this ill-fated cause, Mr Hepburn became convinced that, in the words of Scripture, he had laboured a vain thing. He repeatedly said in his family circle, that, had he known, as the after progress of the expedition showed him, that a very great majority of the nation were satisfied with the existing Government, he would never have drawn sword against his fellow-subjects, or aided to raise a civil war, merely to replace the Stewart dynasty.


Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29