A highland officer

The Battle of Falkirk 1746

Battle: Falkirk

War: The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745

Date: 17th January 1746 (Old Style) (28th January 1746 New Style). The dates in this page are given in the Old Style. To translate to the New Style (current dating system) add 11 days.

Place: On the moor to the south west of Falkirk some ten miles south of Stirling in Scotland.

Combatants: The Highland Army of Prince Charles and the royal troops of George II

Generals: Prince Charles, Lord George Murray, and Lieutenant General Henry Hawley.

Size of the Armies: Around 5,000 highlanders and 7,000 royal troops.

Account:

Following the defeat at Prestonpans, Cope was replaced by Lieutenant General Henry Hawley as commander in chief of the royal forces in Scotland. During the latter part of 1745 the highland army marched south towards London.

Highland Piper at the Battle of Falkirk
A highland officer

It got no further than Derby before turning back and marching into the North of Scotland where it joined the Jacobite forces besieging Major General Blakeney in Stirling Castle.

Hawley led his army out of Edinburgh to relieve Blakeney and arrived at Falkirk for the final approach. On 17th January 1746 the rebels were seen marching up onto Falkirk Moor to the south west of the town.

The royal army formed up while word was sent to Hawley in his lodgings. Hawley at first refused to believe the rebels could be advancing. Finally he galloped into the camp, his napkin still tucked under his chin.

Hawley ordered the army to march up onto the moor. The weather had broken and it was raining hard. It was also nearly dark.

Hawley had formed the view in the 1715 Jacobite rising that the highlanders would not stand against cavalry. The royal army formed facing the rebels on the moor with the three regiments of dragoons in

Prince Charles at the battle of falkirk 1745
“Prince Charles at the Battle of Falkirk”

The artillery was stuck in the mud at the bottom of the hill. Hawley ordered his dragoons to charge. The dragoons approached the highlanders and received a volley which caused them to break and flee down the hill back to Falkirk. The highlanders then attacked the two lines of royal foot.  the front line on the left.

Most of the royal regiments fled, other than three regiments that held their ground; Ligonier’s, Barrel’s and Price’s. The royal army made its way back to the camp and headed off towards Edinburgh.

The steady regiments followed, Barrel’s grenadiers attaching themselves to the traces of abandoned guns and dragging them into the camp. The highlanders had become considerably dispersed and many of them were in doubt as to who had won the battle, which had lasted around 20 minutes.


The Battle of Falkirk

Casualties:
 
The reports indicate that the royal army lost around 350 men killed, wounded and missing. Some 300 were captured. The highlanders lost some 50 dead and 70 wounded.

Highland Piper at the Battle of Falkirk
Highlander

Follow-up:
Following the battle Hawley led his army back to Edinburgh. There the Duke of Cumberland arrived to take over command on 30th January 1746.

Regimental anecdotes and traditions:

  • It is said that Cope made ₤10,000 in a wager that his successor would be beaten by the Highlanders as he had been.
  • Hawley was a protégé of the Duke of Cumberland. He was said by Horace Walpole to be illiterate, was a brutal disciplinarian and had the nickname ‘Hangman’ Hawley. As had Cope, he wholly neglected to ensure that he had a proper train of artillery. His handling of the army, mostly veteran regiments of foot from the Flanders war, was grossly inept.
  • Hawley hanged all the deserters from the army he could lay his hands on. Captain Cunningham the artillery officer was tried by court martial and thrown out of the army after a ceremony of “degradation”.

References:

  • Fortescue’s History of the British Army Volume 1 Part II
  • Battles of the ’45 by Tomasson and Buist



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