Battle Prestonpans 1745

Battle Prestonpans 1745 Map of route Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Army marched. Prestonpans to Derby and back to Culloden. September 1745 – April 1746. The beginning of the end of the fight for the throne of Britain for the Young pretender Charles Edward Stuart known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. The battle for the crown began in Prestonpans on 21 September 1745 and ended in Culloden on 16 April 1746 less than 7 months and thousands of deaths with Charles escaping to France where he lived till his death. After Culloden the English troops run riot through Scotland and made the kilt illegal dress and disbanded the clans a dark time in Scottish history.

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Army, Battle Prestonpans 1745
(The Final Jacobite Uprising).

Black Line shows land coastline  Blue Line shows the Sea  |   Purple line shows Jacobite Army route from Prestonpans – Derby | Red Line Shows Jacobite Route from Derby – Culloden and where it ends.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Map of Jacobite route from Prestonpans to Culloden

Important place on the map and Battles


Battle Prestonpans Flag and Pyramid

The Pyramid marks the area where the Battle of Prestonpans took place in 1745. Bonnie Prince Charlie led the Jacobite Army in a triumph over the English. There is a story board at the summit of the Pyramid with the story of the Jacobite uprising and the route to glory and defeat.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 flag   Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Pyramid

 Battle Prestonpans Story

At the summit of the pyramid there are plaques with the story-line of the Battle. Each section has a title and a short story

Battle Prestonpans Stuart Dynasty  |  Exile

Charles Edward Stuart was born in Rome in 1720 the son of James Francis your and Princess Maria Clementine Sobieski of Portland Charles’s father was James VII of Scotland and second of England a Roman Catholic convert who is unpopular rule and favour towards Catholics led him to forfeit the throne in 1688 when William of Orange became King James fled to exile in France.

James’ Catholics son, James Francis was excluded from the succession, but his Protestant daughter Anne became Queen after William’s death. When she died without an heir in 1714, the crown passed to the Hanoverian George I.  James Francis and his son Charles both grew up in Exile but never relinquished their royal heritage. They became known as the “old pretender” and the “young pretender”.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Clan Support  |  ill-Fated Invasion

Even after James’ death in 1710, there was support in Scotland for the Jacobite cause and with the aid of France and Spain several attempts were made to restore the Stewart’s to the throne. As Charles grew up, he knew he could count on the loyalty of certain clan chiefs, whose own loyal forces would rally without question to the command.

In 1739, the British became involved in war with Spain and three years later where drawn into conflict with France. In 1743 Prince Charles Edward and the Jacobites joined with the French in a plot to invade England. In 1744, the French fleet sailed from Dunkirk, but a storm at sea forced them to turn back and the project was abandoned.

Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans  Island Landing 

In 1745, without the knowledge or permission of his father Charles travelled to Scotland to recruit the help of James’ supporters. On July 23rd he landed on the Hebridean island of Eriskay, accompanied by nine companions, few arms and little money. The local clan chiefs tried to dissuade him from his plan of attacking the Hanoverian government without foreign aid or sufficient weapons.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans Edinburgh Captured

The Jacobites took advantage of a clear route to the lowlands and reached Perth on the 4th September. Cope and his troops set out for Aberdeen, intending to sail to Leith and prevent the capture of Edinburgh. However, bad weather forced this ships to divert to Dunbar and the Jacobites captured Stirling on September 14th and Edinburgh on the 17th. 

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans Jacobites

The Jacobite army consisted of the most part of Highlanders, numbered around 2400 when the left their camp at Duddingston near Edinburgh on the morning of 20 September. They marched eastward via Musselburgh’s old brig over the Esk and took to the high ground behind Tranent, where they halted and faced the government forces drawn up on the plain below.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Government Forces  |  The Armies

Sir John Cope’s army of some 2200 men reached Dunbar on 17 September and two days later marched to Haddington. On 20th September, they took the post road to Tranent but turned off northwards towards Preston, where they took up a position on the flat piece of ground protected to the north by the sea and to the south by the impassable marsh.

The two sides were more evenly matched than might be supposed. Many of the government troops and the cavalry horses were new and inexperienced. Although the Jacobites were mostly clansmen, who were not, as Cope described them ‘a parcel of rabble’. The clan system was martial culture, the men used to wielding weapons crude and makeshift through some of these were.

Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans Dawn Attack

Both armies bivouacked for the night in the fields, to be ready for action at short notice. The strength of the government army’s position made a frontal attack very difficult. However one of the Prince’s followers, Robert Anderson of Whitburgh knew of a path through the Marsh, passing close to the farm of Riggonhead, and shortly before 4 a.m. the Jacobites began the silent march.

As dawn broke, the government dragoons, raised the army and entire army was hurriedly swung round to face the Jacobites to the east. As they re-formed those at the head of the column could see the Jacobites extending their line towards the sea. Just after sunrise the Princes army became its attack.  

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans Weapons

Charles had brought little weaponry with him, so before leaving Edinburgh, he ordered the citizens to surrender their arms and ammunition. By the time we went into battle at Prestonpans, his men were equipped with muskets, swords, targes (light shields) and pistols. Some had only hand-made weapons, such as scythe-blades attached to pitchfork shafts.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards 

Hey Johnnie Cope Are you Waulken’ yet?

With a hideous shout, the Cameron’s on the left wing led the Jacobite charge, amid a volley of musket fire. The government’s artillery opened fire and the Highland line was seen to give a ‘great shake’, but recovered at once and advanced again. Most of the government dragoons galloped off, soon followed by the infantry.  Cope, failing to rally his men, retreated at the head

of a group of terrified dragoons, along a lane ever since known as ‘Johnnie Cope Road’. In 10 minutes, the government army had sustained some 500 wounded and 300 dead, including the brave Colonel Gardiner of Bankton House who died the next day of his wounds. The Jacobites had about 70 wounded and 30 dead.

                Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards  

Battle Prestonpans Weapons

Government infantry soldiers carried a musket and possibly a bayonet and a sword, dragoons also carrying a cavalry sword. Officers carried a pistol, sword the possibly half pike. The artillery consisted of six 1 ½ pounder cannon, firing round-shot of 2 ¼ inches in diameter. There are also six Coehorn mortars, though the shells were damp and unreliable.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans Advance into England

After the victory at Prestonpans, Charles and his army returned to Edinburgh to wait reinforcements. By November 1st when the marched for England, the numbered 5000 infantry and 500 cavalry. They occupied Carlisle on November 15th the marched via Kendall, Lancaster, Preston, to Manchester, where at last they receiving English support of money and recruits.

    Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards 

Battle Prestonpans Victory Glimpsed

Derby was taken on December 4th. The Jacobites were now within 130 miles of London, and Charles was sure success was within his grasp.  London was in panic with shops closing, the Bank of England paying out in sixpences to stop the run on money, and George II ready to return to Hanover.

Charles felt that, if only he and his army could reach London, victory would be theirs. He was expecting support from the Welsh and also from the French, though the latter where being very cautious. They had provided minor support at Derby, but were reluctant to commit themselves fully until they were sure of the situation.

Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards 

Battle Prestonpans Tactical Retreat

However, to the Princes dismay, has military commanders advised retreat? They pointed out that, with Cumberland in Lichfield, Wade at Wetherby and a large force of militia at Finchley, the Jacobites were virtually surrounded by more than 30,000 fighting men. The English were largely unsympathetic and the cause already seemed lost. Out-voted, Charles was forced to agree to a retreat.

Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans Border Re-crossed

On 6th December 1745, a dejected Jacobite army began the return marched to Scotland. They reached Carlisle on 19th December, re-crossed the border the following day and entered Glasgow on the 26th. By now their numbers were reduced to approximately 3600 foot and 500 horse. However with enforcement of 3,000 to 4,000 men were gathered at Perth under Lord Strathallan.

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards

Battle Prestonpans Victory at Falkirk

On 8 January, 1746 Jacobites took the city of Stirling and laid siege to the castle. On the 17th January they defeated Hawley’s army at Falkirk. By February 1st Stirling Castle had still not fallen and Charles reluctantly agreed to retreat to the Highlands. By April his army had captured Inverness and Fort Augustus but he had run out of money and supplies.  

 Battle @ Prestonpans 1745 Story Boards


The Chase to Culloden

Also the might of the English government forces were at their backs led by the King’s son the Duke of Cumberland, so they continued further into the highlands. On the 16th April 1746 the English caught up with the Jacobite army and on Culloden field the Jacobite army was wiped out and the remainder scattered throughout the Highlands. Charles eluded the English and on the 19 September fled to France where he remained till his death.

Battle Prestonpans Ban on Tartan

Cumberland took measures to stop the clans from uniting again and with an act of parliament in 1746 the wearing of tartan except as a uniform for officers and soldiers in the British Army was banned. Tartan became popular again in 1822 with George IV wearing full tartan dress a prerequisite of his visit to Scotland arranged by Sir Walter Scott and Henry Dundas. When George the IV stepped on Scottish land at Leith it was the first regaining monarch to stand on Scottish soil since King Charles I for his Scottish coronation in 1633.


Battle Prestonpans  Cairn

 The Prestonpans Battle Cairn

Battle Prestonpans Bankton House

Bankton House was originally called Olivestob and built by the Monks of Newbattle circa 1130. The house changed hands over the years, owned by many of the rich and powerful of the time. the Ker’s of Newbattle, Seton’s, Hamilton’s and Colonel James Gardiner purchased the house circa 1730 as his family home. and that is where he died at the end of the Battle of Prestonpans which took place on the lands to the east and north of the house. 

 Bankton House Prestonpans sign

 Bankton House Prestonpans

Battle Prestonpans Bankton Doocot

The Bankton Doocot is a visitor attraction and once inside the story of James Gardiner of Bankton House will be told. Which includes Battle Prestonpans 1745.

 Bankton Doocot Prestonpans Bankton Doocot Prestonpans sign 

Battle Prestonpans Colonel James Gardiner’s Obelisk

The Obelisk stands near to Bankton House his family home in Prestonpans. Colonel James Gardiner was one of Sir John Cope’s Dragoon commanders at the battle of Prestonpans in 1745. James Gardiner was born in Carriden West Lothian in 1687 and became a career soldier in the British Army as was his father. He died gallantly due to wound sustained on the 21st of September 1745 at the Battle of Prestonpans, when battling against the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Bankton House was where Colonel Gardiner was taken and subsequently died of his wounds sustained in the battle.

Colonel James Gardiner’s Obelisk

Battle Prestonpans The Thorntree Memorial Stone

The Thorntree Memorial Stone stands in the vicinity of where Colonel Gardiner was to be fatally injured beside a Thorntree. Near to Bankton House can be seen a monument which was erected in 1853 in Colonel Gardiner’s memory. The inscription reads; During the Battle of Prestonpans fought on 21st September 1745 Colonel Gardiner of Bankton was fatally injured beneath a Hawthorn tree in this area.

  Thorntree Memorial Stone  Thorntree Memorial Stone  Thorntree Memorial Stone 

The inscription at the foot of the triangular stones reads;  

 “The Battle was fought between the Jacobite’s” |  “Led by Bonnie Prince Charlie and” |  “The Gov’t forces led by Johnie Cope”

  “The Battle was fought between the Jacobite’s”    “Led by Bonnie Prince Charlie and”   “The Gov’t forces led by Johnie Cope”

Prestonpans Tapestry 

The Prestonpans Tapestry has 104 tapestry panels that tell the journey of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite army against the mighty army of the English in 1745, the final Jacobite uprising.  The tapestry was first viewed in July 2010 and has been on show across the UK and in France. The Tapestry was designed by Andrew Crummy and was created by Dorie Wilkie and a small core team plus over 200 crafts people. This is a historic document that should be on show all year round and not put in a cupboard to rot.

 Battle Prestonpans Tapestry one small section


Link to All About Edinburgh

Prestonpans East Lothian