THE possession of Edinburgh threw a gleam of splendour upon Charles Edward’s fortunes, but can scarcely be said to have produced very important consequences.
King James VIII. was proclaimed at the Cross. At this ceremony the heralds and pursuivants were obliged to assist in their official dresses, and the magistrates in their robes. A great multitude attended on this occasion, and made the city ring with their acclamations. The gunners of the castle were disposed to give a different turn to this mirth, by throwing a bomb, so calculated as to alight near the Cross, and interrupt the ceremonial. Fortunately this act of violence, which might have endangered the lives of many of King George’s good subjects, whom mere curiosity had drawn to the spot, was prohibited by General Guest. At night there was a splendid ball at Holyrood, where might be seen a great display both of rank and beauty, the relatives of the gentlemen who were in arms. But it was a remarkable and ominous circumstance, that of the common people, who by thousands crowded round the Prince’s person when he went abroad, pressing to kiss his hands and touch his clothes, with every display of affection, scarcely one could be induced to enlist in his service. The reflection, that a battle must take place betwixt Prince Charles and General Cope in the course of a very few days, was to the populace of a large city, a sufficient check upon their party zeal.
One of the most solid advantages which the Prince obtained by his possession of the city, besides the encouragement which his adherents received from such a signal proof of success, was the acquisition of about a thousand muskets, in indifferent condition, being the arms of the Trained Bands, which were lodged in the city magazine. These served to arm many of his followers, but still some remained unprovided with weapons. Charles also laid upon the city a military requisition for a thousand tents, two thousand targets, six thousand pairs of shoes, and six thousand canteens. The magistrates had no alternative but to acquiesce, and employ workmen to get ready the articles demanded.
Upon the 18th of September, the day after the occupation of Edinburgh, Lord Nairne came up from the north, and joined the Highland camp with a thousand men, consisting of Highlanders from Athole, together with the chief of MacLauchlan and his followers. The Prince visited his camp, and passed in review, at the same time with the rest of his forces, these new associates of his enterprise.
While these things were passing in Edinburgh, General Cope landed his troops at Dunbar, anxious to repair the false step which he had committed in leaving the Lowlands open to the young Adventurer, and desirous to rescue the capital of Scotland, since he had not been able to protect it. He began the disembarkation of his troops on the 17th, but it was not completed till the next day. The two regiments of cavalry, which had made such extraordinary speed to join him, were also united to his army, though their nerves had not yet recovered the rapid and disorderly retreat from Colt–Bridge to East Lothian. The number of infantry was about 2000, that of the two regiments of dragoons about 600; Sir John Cope was also joined by volunteers, among whom the Earl of Home was the most conspicuous, making his army up to near 3000 men in all. They had six pieces of artillery, but, what seems strange, no gunners or artillery-men to work them. In other respects they formed a small, but very well-appointed force, and made an impressive appearance in a country so long disused to war, as had been the case with Scotland. At the head of this respectable body of men Sir John departed from Dunbar, and marched as far as Haddington, or its vicinity, on his proposed advance on Edinburgh.
In the mean time, Charles Edward had taken a resolution corresponding with the character of his enterprise. It was that of moving eastward, to meet Sir John Cope upon his route, and give him battle. All his counsellors agreed in this courageous sentiment. The Prince then asked the Chiefs, what was to be expected from their followers. They answered by the mouth of Keppoch, who had served in the French army, that the gentlemen of every clan would lead the attack with determined gallantry, in which case, there was no doubt that the clansmen, who were much attached to their chiefs and superiors, would follow them with fidelity and courage. The Prince declared he would himself lead the van, and set them an example bow to conquer or die. The Chiefs unanimously remonstrated against his exposing a life on which the whole success of the expedition must depend, and declared, that if he persisted in that resolution, they would break up the army and return home. There can be little doubt that Charles was sincere in his resolution, and no doubt at all that he was very wise in withdrawing from it on the remonstrance of his faithful followers. Orders were given to prepare next morning for the evacuation of Edinburgh, in order that the whole Highland army might be collected for the battle, which was expected to ensue. For this purpose, the troops employed in mounting the several guards of the city, in number 1000 men, were withdrawn to the camp at Duddingston. It might have been expected, that a sally from the Castle would have taken place in consequence of their retreat, if not for any ulterior purpose, at least to seize on the different articles which had been got ready at the requisition of the Prince, and put a stop to their completion The presence of mind of a common Highlander prevented this. The man being intoxicated when his countrymen were withdrawn, found himself, when he recovered his senses, the only one of his party left in the town. Being a ready-witted fellow, to those who enquired of him, why he had lingered behind his countrymen, he answered, “ That he was neither alone, nor alarmed for his safety; five hundred Highlanders,” he said, “ had been left in cellars and secret places about town, for the purpose of cutting off any detachment that might sally from the Castle.” These false tidings being transmitted to General Guest, were for the time received as genuine; nor was there time to discover the deceit, before the victory of Preston enabled Charles Edward to return in triumph to the capital. The man’s presence of mind secured also his own safety. The men had lain on their arms the night of the 19th, their Chiefs and the Chevalier occupying such houses as were in the neighbourhood. On the morning of the 20th, they were all on the march, in high spirits, determined for action, and eager to meet the enemy. They formed in one narrow column, keeping the high ground from Duddingston towards Musselburgh, where they crossed the Esk by the old bridge, and then advanced to the eminence of which Carberry hill is the termination to the south-west, near which, about Musselburgh or Inveresk, they expected to meet the enemy. On putting himself at the head of his army, the Prince drew his sword, and said to his followers, “ Gentlemen, I have flung away the scabbard,” which was answered by shouts of acclamation. Their movements were the simplest imaginable. On their march they formed a column of three men in front. When about to halt, each individual faced to the right or left as directed, and the column became a line of three men deep, which, by filing off from either flank, might again become a column at the word of command. Their handful of cavalry, scarcely amounting to fifty men, were occupied on the march in reconnoitring. They obtained a tolerably accurate account of the strength of Cope’s army, excepting as to the number of his guns, which one report augmented to twenty field-pieces, and none rated under twelve, though, as I have already said, there were only six in all. When the Highlanders had advanced as far as Falside hill, near Carberry, their scouts brought in notice that they had seen parties of dragoons about Tranent, and it was reported that Sir John Cope was in that quarter with his whole army. The Chevalier’s army, which had hitherto marched in one column, now divided into two, being their intended line of battle, and keeping towards the right, so as to preserve the upper ground, which was a great point in Highland tactics, marched onward with steadiness and celerity. When they arrived where the hill immediately above Tranent slopes suddenly down upon a large cultivated plain, then in stubble, the harvest having been unusually early, the Highlanders beheld the enemy near the western extremity of this plain, with their front towards the ridge of high ground which they themselves occupied.
It appears that Sir John Cope had directed his march under the idea, that because a road, passing from Seaton house to Preston, was the usual highway from Haddington, therefore the Highlanders would make use of that, and no other, for their advance. He either did not know, or forgot, that an irregular army of mountaineers, unencumbered with baggage and inured to marching, would nut hesitate to prefer the rougher and less level road, if it possessed any advantages.
Two mounted volunteers, Francis Garden, afterwards Lord Gardenstone, and a Mr Cunninghame, had been detached by the English general to collect intelligence; but unhappily, as they halted to refresh themselves beyond Musselburgh, they fell into the hands of John Roy Stewart, a more skilful partisan than themselves, by whom they were made prisoners, and led captive to the Chevalier’s headquarters. Sir John Cope, deprived of the information he expected from his scouts, seems to have continued to expect the approach of the rebels from the west, until he suddenly saw them appear from the southward, on the ridge of the acclivity upon his left. He immediately changed his front, and drew up his troops with military precision in order of battle. His foot were placed in the centre, with a regiment of dragoons and three pieces of artillery upon each flank. The wall of Colonel Gardiner’s park (for his mansion was in the vicinity of the plain which was destined to prove fatal to him), as well as that of Mr Erskine of Grange, covered the right flank of the regulars; Cope’s baggage was stationed at Cockenzie, on the rear of his left, and a small reserve was stationed in front of the village of Prestonpans, which lay on the rear of the General’s right. In front of both armies, and separating the higher ground on which the Highland army was drawn up from the firm and level plain on which the regulars were posted, lay a piece of steep and swampy ground, intersected with ditches and enclosures, and traversed near the bottom by a thick strong hedge running along a broad wet ditch, and covering the front of the royal army. It was the object of the Chevalier to indulge the impatience of his troops, by pressing forward to instant battle. For this purpose he employed an officer of experience, Mr Ker of Graden, who, mounted on a grey pony, coolly reconnoitred the seemingly impracticable ground which divided the armies, crossed it in several directions, deliberately alighted, pulled down gaps in one or two walls of dry stone, and led his horse over them, many balls being fired at him while performing this duty, This intrepid gentleman returned to the Chevalier, to inform him that the morass could not be passed so as to attack the front of General Cope’s army, without sustaining a heavy and destructive fire of some continuance. A waggon-way for the conveyance of coal worked in the vicinity of Tranent, for the use of the salt-works at Cockenzie, did indeed cross the morass, but it would have been ruinous to have engaged troops in such a narrow road, which was exposed to be swept in every direction both by artillery and musketry. The position of General Cope might therefore be considered as unassailable; and that general, with a moderation which marked Ills mediocrity of talent, was happy in having found, as he thought, safety, when he ought to have looked for victory. Lieutenant–Colonel Gardiner, and other officers, pressed on the commander the necessity of a bolder line of tactics. They were of opinion that the regular soldiers should be led against the rebels while the former showed spirit for the encounter, and that remaining merely on the defensive was likely to sink the courage of the troops, as delay gave the infantry time to recollect that they had avoided an encounter with these Highlanders at Corryarrack, and the cavalry leisure to remember their recent and ignominious flight from the vicinity of Edinburgh, before this new description of enemy. The lieutenant-colonel pressed his advice with earnestness, dropped some expressions of the result, which was to be apprehended, and, finding his suggestions rejected, made the preparations of a good and brave man for doing his duty, and, if necessary, for dying in the discharge of it. Some movements now took place. The regular troops huzza’d, to show their willingness to come to action; the Highlanders replied in their manner, by wild shouts. A party of Highlanders were stationed in Tranent churchyard, as an advantageous post; but Sir John Cope, advancing two light field pieces, made that position too hot for them. Still the insurgents continued anxiously bent on battle, and expressed the most earnest desire to attack the enemy, who, they supposed, intended to escape from them, as at Corryarrack. They offered to make the attack through the morass, without regard to the difficulties of the ground, and to carry fascines with them, for the purpose of rendering the ditch passable. They were exhorted to patience by their Chiefs; and, to allay their fears of the escape of the enemy, the Chevalier detached Lord Nairne with five hundred men to the westward, that he might be in a situation to intercept Sir John Cope, in case he should attempt to move off towards Edinburgh without fighting. Satisfied with this precaution, the Highlanders lay down to rest in a field of pease, which was made up in ricks upon the ground. The minds of the Chiefs were still occupied with the means of discovering a path by which they might get clear of the morass, gain the open and firm ground, and rush down on Cope and his army, whom they regarded as their assured prey, if they could but meet them in a fair field.
There was in the Chevalier’s army a gentleman named Anderson, of Whitburgh, in East Lothian, to whom the ground in the vicinity was perfectly known, and who bethought him of a path leading from the height on which their army lay, sweeping through the morass, and round the left wing of General Cope’s army, as it was now disposed, and which might, conduct them to the level and extensive flat, since called the field of battle. Mr Anderson communicated this important fact to Mr Hepburn of Keith. By Mr Hepburn he was conducted to Lord George Murray; who, highly pleased with the intelligence, introduced him to Prince Charles Edward.
The candidate for a diadem was lying with a bunch of pease-straw beneath his head, and was awakened with news which assured him of battle, and promised him victory. He received the tidings with much cheerfulness, and immediately, for the night was well spent, prepared to put the scheme into execution.
An aide-decamp was instantly despatched to recall Lord Nairne from his demonstration to the westward, and cause him with his detachment to rejoin the army as speedily as possible. In the mean time, the whole of the Highland army got under arms, and moved forward with incredible silence and celerity, by the path proposed. A point of precedence was now to be settled, characteristic of the Highlanders. The tribe of MacDonalds, though divided into various families, and serving under various chiefs, still reckoned on their common descent from the great Lords of the Isles, in virtue of which, they claimed, as the post of honour, the right of the whole Highland army in the day of action. This was disputed by some of the other clans, and it was agreed they should cast lots about this point of precedence. Fortune gave it to the Camerons and Stewarts, which was murmured at by the numerous Clan–Colla, the generic name for the MacDonalds. The sagacity of Lochiel induced the other chiefs to resign for the day a point on which they were likely to be tenacious. The precedence was yielded to the MacDonalds accordingly, and the first line of the Highlanders moved off their ground by the left flank, in order that the favoured tribe might take the post of honour. They marched, as usual, in two columns of three men in front. The first of these was led by young Clanranald with about sixty men, under the guidance of Anderson of Whitburgh. The first line consisted of the following clan regiments:— Clanranald, 250 strong; Glengarry, 350; Keppoch and Glencoe, 450; Perth, with some MacGregors, 200; Appin, 250; and Lochiel, 500. The second line consisted of three regiments,-Lord George Murray’s Athole men, 350; Lord Nairne’s regiment, 350; and Menzies of Shian’s, 300. Lord Strathallan, with his handful of cavalry, was appointed to keep the height above the morass, that they might do what their numbers permitted to improve the victory, in case it should be gained. This troop consisted of about thirty-six horsemen. From these details, it appears that the Highland army was about 3000 in number, being very nearly the same with Sir John Cope’s.
Anderson guided the first line. He found the pathway silent and deserted; it winded to the north-east, down a sort of hollow, which at length brought them to the eastern extremity of the plain, at the west end of which the regular army was stationed, with its left flank to the assailants. No guns had been placed to enfilade this important pass, though there was a deserted embrasure which showed that the measure had been in contemplation; neither was there a sentinel or patrol to observe the motions of the Highlanders in that direction. On reaching the firm ground, the column advanced due northward across the plain, in order to take ground for wheeling up and forming line of battle. The Prince marched at the head of the second column, and close in the rear of the first. The morass was now rendered difficult by the passage of so many men. Some of the Highlanders sunk knee-deep, and the Prince himself stumbled, and fell upon one knee. The morning — was now dawning, but a thick frosty mist still hid the motions of the Highlanders. The sound of their march could, however, no longer be concealed, and an alarm-gun was fired as a signal for Cope’s army to get under arms.
Aware that the Highlanders had completely turned his left flank, and were now advancing from the eastward along a level and open plain, without interruption of any kind, Sir John Cope hastened to dispose his troops to receive them. Though probably somewhat surprised, the English general altered the disposition which he had made along the morass, and formed anew, having the walls of Preston-park, and that of Bankton, the seat of Colonel Gardiner, close in the rear of his army; his left flank extended towards the sea, his right rested upon the morass which had lately been in his front. His order of battle was now extended from north to south, having the east in front. In other respects the disposition was the same as already mentioned, his infantry forming his centre, and on each wing a regiment of horse. By some crowding in of the piquets, room enough was not left for Gardiner’s corps to make a full front upon the right wing, so that one squadron was drawn up in the rear of the other. The artillery was also placed before this regiment, a disposition which the colonel is said to have remonstrated against, having too much reason to doubt the steadiness of the horses, as well as of the men who composed the corps. There was no attention paid to his remonstrances, nor was there time to change the disposition.
The Highlanders had no sooner advanced so far to the northward as to extricate the rear of the column from the passage across the morass, and place the whole on open ground, than they wheeled to the left, and formed a line of three men deep. This thin long line they quickly broke up into a number of small masses or phalanxes, each according to their peculiar tactics containing an individual clan, which disposed themselves for battle in the manner following. The best-born men of the tribe, who were also the best armed, and had almost all targets, threw themselves in front of the regiment. The followers closed on the rear, and forced the front forward by their weight. After a brief prayer, which was never omitted, the bonnets were pulled over the brows, the pipers blew the signal, and the line of clans rushed forward, each forming a separate wedge.
These preparations were made with such despatch on both wings, that the respective aides-decamp of the Duke of Perth and Lord George Murray met in the centre, each bringing news that his general was ready to charge. The whole front line accordingly moved forward, and, as they did so, the sun broke out, and the mist rose from the ground like the curtain of a theatre. It showed to the Highlanders the line of regular troops drawn up in glittering array like a complete hedge of steel, and at the same time displayed to Cope’s soldiers the furious torrent, which, subdivided into such a number of columns, or rather small masses, advanced with a cry which gradually swelled into a hideous yell, and became intermingled with an irregular but well-directed fire, the mountaineers presenting their pieces as they ran, dropping them when discharged, and rushing on to close conflict sword in hand. The events of the preceding night had created among the regulars an apprehension of their opponents, not usual to English soldiers. General Cope’s tactics displayed a fear of the enemy rather than a desire to engage him: and now this dreaded foe, having selected his own point of advantage, was coming down on them in all his terrors, with a mode of attack unusually furious, and unknown to modern war There was but an instant to think of these things, for this was almost the moment of battle. But such thoughts were of a nature which produce their effect in an instant, and they added to the ferocity of the Highlanders, while they struck dismay into their opponents. The old seamen and gunners, who had been employed to serve the artillery on the right wing, showed the first symptoms of panic, and fled from the guns they had undertaken to work, carrying with them the priming flasks. Colonel Whitefoord, who had joined Cope’s army as a volunteer, fired five of the guns on the advancing Highlanders, and, keeping his ground while all fled around him, was with difficulty saved from the fury of the Camerons and Stewarts, who, running straight on the muzzles of the cannon, actually stormed the battery. The regiment of dragoons being drawn up, as has been said, in two lines, the foremost squadron, under Lieutenant-colonel Whitney, having received orders to advance, were, like the gunners, seized with a panic, dispersed under the fire of the Highlanders, and went off without even an attempt to charge, riding down the artillery guard in their flight. The rearmost squadron, commanded by Gardiner, might, if steady, have yet altered the fate of the day, by charging the Highlanders when disordered with attacking the guns. Gardiner, accordingly, commanded them to advance and charge, encouraging them by his voice and example to rush upon the confused masses before them. But those to whom he spoke were themselves disordered at the rapid advance of the enemy, and disturbed by the waving of plaids, the brandishing and gleaming of broadswords and battle-axes, the rattle of the dropping fire, and the ferocious cry of the combatants. They made a feint to advance, in obedience to the word of command, but almost instantly halted, when first the rear-rank went off by four or five files at a time, and then the front dispersed in like manner; none maintaining their ground, except about a score of determined men, who were resolved to stand or fall with their commander.
On Cope’s left, the cause of King George was not more prosperous. Hamilton’s dragoons receiving a heavy rolling fire from the MacDonalds as they advanced, broke up in the same manner, and almost at the same moment, with Gardiner’s, and scattering in every direction, left the field of blood galloping some from the enemy, some, in the recklessness of their terror, past the enemy, and some almost through them. The dispersion was complete, and the disorder irretrievable. They fled west, east, and south, and it was only the broad sea which prevented them from flying to the north also, and making every point of the compass witness to their rout.
Mean time, the infantry, though both their flanks were uncovered by the flight of the dragoons, received the centre of the Highland line, with a steady and regular fire, which cost the insurgents several men,-among others, James MacGregor, a son of the famous Rob Roy, fell, having received five wounds, two of them from balls that pierced through his body. He commanded a company of the Duke of Perth’s regiment, armed chiefly with the straightened scythes already mentioned, a weapon not unlike the old English bill. He was so little daunted by his wounds, as to raise himself on his elbow, calling to his men to advance bravely, and swearing he would see if any should misbehave. In fact, the first line of the Highlanders were not an instant checked by the fire of the musketry; for, charging with all the energy of victory, they parried the bayonets of the soldiers with their targets, and the deep clumps, or masses, into which the clans were formed, penetrated and broke, in several points, the extended and thin lines of the regulars. At the same moment, Lochiel attacking the infantry on the left, and Clanranald on the right flank, both exposed by the flight of the dragoons, they were unavoidably and irretrievably routed. It was now perceived that Sir John Cope had committed an important error in drawing up his forces in front of a high park-wall, which barred their escape from their light-heeled enemies. Fortunately there had been breaches made in the wall, which permitted some few soldiers to escape; but most of them had the melancholy choice of death or submission. A few fought, and fell bravely. Colonel Gardiner was in the act of encouraging a small platoon of infantry, which continued firing, when he was cut down by a Highlander, with one of those scythes which have been repeatedly mentioned. The greater part of the foot soldiers then laid down their arms, after a few minutes’ resistance. The second line, led by Prince Charles himself, had, during the whole action, kept so near the first, that to most of Sir John Cope’s army they appeared but as one body; and as this unfortunate Prince’s courage has been impeached, it is necessary to say, that he was only fifty paces behind the vanguard in the very commencement of the battle, — which was, in fact, a departure from his implicit paction with the Chiefs, that he should not put his person in imminent danger. Had there been any possibility of rallying the fugitives, the day might have been in some degree avenged, if not retrieved, for the first line of the Highlanders dispersed themselves almost wholly, in quest of spoil and prisoners. They were merciful to the vanquished after the first fury of the onset, but gave no quarter to the dragoon horses, which they considered as taught to bear a personal share in the battle.
The second line were with difficulty restrained from disbanding in like manner, until a report was spread that the dragoons had rallied, and were returning to the field. Lochiel caused the pipes to play, which recalled many of his men. But the dragoons looked near them no more. It is true, that Sir John Cope himself, the Earl of Home, General Whitney, and other officers, had, with pistols at the men’s heads, turned a number of the fugitives off the high-road to Edinburgh, into a field close to Preston on the west, where they endeavoured to form a squadron. But the sound of a pistol-shot, which was discharged by accident, renewed their panic, the main body followed Sir John Cope in his retreat, while a few stragglers went off at full gallop towards Edinburgh, entered by the Watergate, and rode up the High Street in the most disorderly manner.
An old friend, whom I have already quoted, gave me a picturesque account of the flight of such fugitives as took this direction, which he had himself witnessed. Although the city was evacuated by the Highlanders, an old Jacobite of distinction was, nevertheless, left there with the title of Governor. This dignitary was quietly seated in a well-known tavern (afterwards Walker’s, in Writers’ Court), when a tremendous clatter on the street announced the arrival of the dragoons, or a part of them, in this disorderly condition. The stout old commander presented himself before them, with a pistol in his hand, and summoned them to surrender to his Royal Highness’s mercy. The dragoons, seeing but one or two men, received the proposal with a volley of curses and pistol-balls, and having compelled the Jacobite commandant to retreat within the Thermopylae of Writers’ Court, they continued their race up to the Castlehill, thinking that fortress the most secure place of refuge. Old General Preston, who had now thrown himself into the Castle, of which he was governor, and superseded General Guest in his office, had no idea of admitting these recreant cavaliers into a fortress which was probably on the eve of a siege. He therefore sent them word to begone from the Castle-hill, or he would open his guns on them, as cowards, who had deserted their officers and colours. Alarmed at this new danger, the runaways retreated, and scrambling down the steep declivity called the Castle–Wynd, rode out at the West–Port, and continued their flight to Stirling and the west country.
The greater part of the dragoons were collected by Sir John Cope, with the assistance of the Earls of Home and Loudon, and conducted in a very disreputable condition by Lauder to Coldstream, and from thence to Berwick. At the latter place, Lord Mark Ker, of the family of Lothian, a house which has long had hereditary fame for wit as well as courage, received the unfortunate General with the well-known sarcasm,” That he believed he was the first general in Europe who had brought the first tidings of his own defeat.” But the presence of the general in person on the field, since there was not even the semblance of an army, could not have remedied the disaster. There was never a victory more complete. Of the infantry, two thousand five hundred men, or thereabout, scarce two hundred escaped; the rest were either slain or made prisoners. It has been generally computed that the slain amounted to four hundred, for the Highlanders gave little quarter in the first moments of excitation, though those did not last long. Five officers were killed, and eighty made prisoners. The number of prisoners amounted to upwards of two thousand. Many of them exhibited a frightful spectacle, being hideously cut with the broadsword. The field-artillery, with colours, standards, and other trophies, remained in the hands of the victors. The military-chest of the army was placed during the action in the house of Cockenzie, the baggage in a large field adjoining, originally in the rear of Cope’s line of battle, but at the moment of action, upon the left. It was guarded by a few Highlanders of the regiment which the Earl of Loudon was raising for Government, and which was much reduced by desertion, many of the privates joining their clans so soon as the Rebellion broke out. The baggage-guard surrendered themselves prisoners on seeing the event of the battle, and the baggage and military-chest, with L.2500 in specie, became the booty of the conquerors.
The Highlanders looked with surprise and amazement upon the luxuries of a civilized army. They could not understand the use of chocolate; and watches,1 wigs, and other ordinary appurtenances of the toilette, were equally the subject of wonder and curiosity. On the part of the victors, the battle, though brief, had not been bloodless. Four officers, and thirty privates of their army, were killed; six officers and seventy men wounded. Such were the results of the celebrated battle of Preston, or, as some have it, of Prestonpans, in which the pride of military discipline received an indelible disgrace at the hands of a wild militia. Sir John Cope, whom it would be easy to vindicate so far as personal courage goes, was nevertheless overwhelmed with a ridicule due to poltroonery, as well as to want of conduct,: and was doomed to remain,
“Sacred to ridicule his whole life long,
And the sad burden of a merry song.”
[Among the numerous metrical effusions abounding in sly humour and sarcasm which the events of 1715 and 1745 called forth, there is perhaps not one that continues to this day so universally “familiar in our mouths as household words,” over the whole length and breadth of Scotland, as is the song set to the burden of “Hey, Johnnie Cope, are you waking yet.” The following ballad of “The Battle of Prestonpans” has preserved also for its author a memorial of his name outlasting the period of his own day and generation. It was composed by an East Lothian farmer named Skirving, father of the late eccentric Mr Skirving, the celebrated painter. There is in it a considerable spice of malevolence, and its author had, it was alleged, a disposition to lampoon his neighbours.]
“The Chevalier being void of fear,
Did march up Birsle Brae, man,
And through Tranent, ere he did stent,
As fast as he could gae, man;
While General Cope did taunt and mock,
Wi mony a loud huzza, man,
But ere next mom proclaim’d the cock,
We heard anither craw, man.
“The brave Lochiel, as I heard tell,
Led Camerons on in clouds, man;
The morning fair, and clear the air,
They loosd with devilish thuds, man.
Down guns they threw, and swords they drew,
And soon did chase them aff, man;
On Seaton’s crafts they buff’d their chafts,
And gart them rin like daft, man.
“The bluff dragoons swore blood and oons!
They’d make the rebels run, man;
And yet they flee when them they see,
And winna fire a gun, man.
They turn’d their back. the foot they brake,
Such terror seized them a’, man;
Some wet their cheeks, some ———
And some for fear did fa’, man,
“The volunteers prick’d up their ears,
And vow gin they were crouse, man;
But when the bairns sawt turn to earns’t,
They were na worth a louse, man.
Maist feck gade hame, O fie for shame!
They’d better staid awa’, man,
Than wi’ cockade to make parade,
And do nae gude at a’, man.
“Monteith the great, when ——
Unwares did ding him owre, man;
Yet wadna stand to bear a hand,
But aff fu’ fast did scour, man,
O’er Soutra hill, ere he stood still,
Before he tasted meat, man.
Troth, he may brag of his swift nag,
That bore him aff sae fleet, man.
“And Simpson, keen to clear the een
Of rebels far in wrang, man,
Did never strive wi’ pistol’s five,
But gallop’d wi’ the thrang, man;
He turn’d his back, and in a crack
Was cleanly out o’ sight, man.
And thought it best, it was nae jest,
Wi’ Highlanders to fight, man.
“Mangst a’ the gang, nane bade the bang
But twa, and ane was ta’en, man;
For Campbell rade, but Myrie staid,
And sair he paid the kane, man;
Four skelps he got, was waur than shot,
Frae the sharp-edged claymore, man;
Frae many a spout came running out
His reeking bet red gore man.
“But Gard’ner brave did still behave
Like to a hero bright, man;
His courage true, like him were few
That still despised flight, man.
For king and laws, and country’s cause,
In honor’s bed he lay, man,
His life, but not his courage, fled,
While he had breath to draw, man.
“And Major Bowie, that worthy soul,
Was brought down to the ground, man,
His horse being shot, it was his lot,
For to get mony a wound, man.
Lieutenant Smith, of Irish birth,
Frae whom he call’d for aid, man,
But full of dread, lap o’er his head,
And wadna be gainsaid, man.
“He made sic haste, sae spurr’d his beast,
’Twas little there he saw, man;
To Berwick rade, and falsely said,
The Scots were rebels, a’, man.
But let that end, for weel ’tis kend
His use and wont’s to lie, man.
The Teague is naught; he never faught
When he had room to flee. man.
“And Cadell, drest, amang the rest.
With gun and gude claymore, man.
On gelding grey he rade that day
With pistols set before, man.
The cause was guid, he’d spend his blood
Before that he would yield, man;
But the night before he left the core,
And never fac’d the field, man.
“But gallant Roger, like a soger (soldier),
Stood and bravely fought, man;
I’m wae to tell, at last he fell,
And mae down wi’ him brought, man.
At point of death, wi’ his last breath,
Some standing round in ring, man,
On’s back lying flat, he wav’d his hat,
And cried ‘ God save the King,’ man.
“Some Highland rogues, like hungry dogs,
Neglecting to pursue, man,
About they fac’d, and, in great haste,
Upon the booty flew, man.
And they, as gain for all their pain,
Are deck’d wi’ spoils o’ war, man;
Fu’ bauld can tell how her nain sell
Was ne’er sae praw pefore, man.
“At the thorn-tree, which you may see
Bewest the meadow mill, man,
There mony slain lay on the plain,
The clans pursuing still, man;
Sic unco hacks, and deadly whacks,
I never saw the like, man;
Lost hands and heads cost them their deads,
That fell ne’er Preston dyke, man.
“That afternoon, when a’ was done,
I gaed to see the fray, man;
But had I wist what after past,
I’d better staid away, man;
On Seton sands, wi’ numble hands,
They pick’d my pockets bare, man,
But I wish ne’er do dree sic fear,
For a’ the sum and mair, man.”
Last updated Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 12:16