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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
The Edinburgh Volunteers


When intelligence of the prince's departure from Perth reached Edinburgh, the anxiety for the arrival of Cope increased every hour. The Jacobites, of whom there was a respectable party in the city, on the other hand, longed for the arrival of Charles. No certain information of the movements of the Highland army reached Edinburgh till the morning of Sunday the 15th, when a messenger brought intelligence that the insurgents were in full march upon the capital, and that their van had already reached Kikliston. The last part of this in formation was, however, incorrect.

At the time the message arrived, all the armed volunteers, in terms of an order given the preceding evening, were assembled in the college yards. About ten o'clock, Drummond, the ex-provost, who was captain of a company, which, from its being partly composed of students belonging to the university, was called the college company, made his appearance. After consultation with his brother-officers, he informed the company of the advance of the Highland army, - that it had been proposed to General Guest to make a stand with the two dragoon regiments, and fight the insurgents on their way to the city; but that the general did not think the measures advisable, as there was not a body of foot to act with the dragoons to draw off the fire of the enemy, - that he (Drummond), knowing that he could answer for 250 volunteers, if Provost Stewart would allow 50 of the town-guard to go along with them, had asked the general if that number would be sufficient; and that Guest had given him an answer in the affirmative. "Now, gentlemen", said the ex-provost, "you have heard the general's opinion, judge for yourselves. If you are willing to risk your lives for the defence of the capital of Scotland and the honour of your country, I am ready to lead you to the field". The volunteers to whom Drummond seemed particularly to address himself, threw up their hats in the air, at the conclusion of this address, and began a huzza, in which the rest of the company joined.

Having obtained the consent of his own company to march, he went to the other companies in succession; but instead of advising them to follow the example which his own men had set, he told them that though his men were, al of them, going out to conquer or die with him, yet that such a resolution was only proper for young unmarried men, who were at liberty to dispose of their own lives. Accordingly very few of the volunteers in the other companies would give their consent; but Drummond's company became clamorous, the others seemed to yield, and Drummond despatched a messenger to the castle to inform General Guest that the volunteers were ready to march out with the dragoons and engage the rebels. At the request of the general, Provost Stewart ordered a detachment of the town guard and the Edinburgh regiment to accompany the volunteers. General Guest, on being informed of this, directed Hamilton's dragoons, who were encamped on Leith links, to march through the city, and join Gardiner's regiment at Corstorphine.

For the first time since they had been embodies, the volunteers now loaded their pieces. In terms of an order which had been issued the preceding day, the fire-bell was rung as a signal of approaching danger, and the volunteers, who had assembled in the college-yards, instantly repaired in a body to the Lawnmarket, the appointed place of rendezvous. Most of the city ministers had enrolled themselves as volunteers, but they were absent on the present occasion, being engaged celebrating divine service in their respective churches. Semper parati being the motto they had adopted in their new vocation, they had gone to church equipped a la militaire, and when the alarm-bell sounded, were preaching with their swords by their sides. In an instant the churches were deserted by the worshippers, and a universal panic seized all classes on learning the intelligence. The Lawnmarket, where the volunteers had drawn up waiting for the arrival of Hamilton's dragoons, was soon crowded with inhabitants: many of them, the wives, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends of the devoted volunteers who clustered around them, and implored them, by ties the most sacred, to desist from the dangerous enterprise they were about to engage in. The attention of the people was diverted for a time by the appearance of Hamilton's dragoons who rode up the street. They were received with huzzas by the volunteers, and the dragoons in passing huzzaed in return, and with a gasconading air clashed their swords against each other as they went along. The alarm among the relatives and friends of the volunteers was increased, and nothing was to be heard but the cries and lamentations of unhappy females. These doughty champions, who never had any serious intention of exposing their persons to the blows of the Highland broad-sword, moved in appearance by the tears, the entreaties, and embraces of their female friends, seemed rather inclined to allow the dragoons to shift for themselves; but neither the expostulations of the men, (for the male relations of the volunteers were equally solicitous with the females in dissuading the volunteers from marching), nor the tears of the women, had any effect upon the volunteers of Drummond's company, who had agreed to march.

An order being given to march, Drummond placed himself at the head of the volunteers of his company, and marched them up the Lawnmarket and down the West Bow to the Grassmarket: they were followed by an immense crowd of people lamenting their unhappy fate. Only 42 privates of Drummond's company followed him, but he certainly expected some accessions from the other companies. Not a single individual, however, belonging to them, accompanied him. Finding himself and his little party alone, Drummond halted his men near the West Port, and sent a lieutenant, named Lindsay, back to the Lawnmarket to ascertain the reason why the volunteers, who were expected to follow, had not joined their associates. Lindsay, on his return to the Lawnmarket, found the volunteers, who still remained in the street, in great confusion. Several of the officers told Lindsay that they themselves were willing to follow Drummond and his party, but that very few of their men would consent to march out. On the other hand, many of the privates complained that they could not get one officer to lead them. After some altercation, Lindsay, with the assistance of Captain Sir George Preston, and some other officers, succeeded in collecting 141, who professed a willingness to march with the dragoons, out of about 350 volunteers who had remained behind; Lindsay led off these to the Grassmarket, where they joined Drummond's party; but if we are to believe a pamphleteer of the day, even this small force was diminished by the way. The descent of The Bow presenting localities and facilities equally convenient for desertion, the volunteers are said to have availed themselves of these on their march. The author alluded to facetiously compared this falling off "to the course of the Rhine, which rolling pompously its waves through fertile fields, instead of augmenting in its course, is continually drawn off by a thousand canals, and at last becomes a small rivulet, which loses itself in the sands before it reaches the ocean". The foot now assembled, comprehending the town guard and the Edinburgh regiment, which numbered only 189, amounted exclusive of officers, to 363 men.

Alarmed at the departure of the volunteers, Dr Wishart, principal of the university of Edinburgh, with others of the city clergy, proceeded to the Grassmarket, and with great earnestness addressed the volunteers, and conjured them by every thing they held most sacred and dear, to reserve themselves for the defence of the city by remaining within the walls. Principal Wishart addressed himself particularly to the young men of Drummond's company, some few of whom affected to contemn his advice; but it was perfectly evident that there was scarcely an individual present, who did not in his heart desire to follow the advice of the ministers. The volunteers, however, had offered to service without the walls, and they could not withdraw with honour. Drummond, on the departure of the clergy, and after a short consultation with his officers, sent a lieutenant with a message to the provost, to the effect, that the volunteers had resolved not to march out of town without his express permission, and that they could wait for his answer. In all this we have no reason to doubt the sincerity and courage of Drummond, but to the great satisfaction of his men, who were at first ignorant of the nature of the message, an answer was returned by Provost Stewart, stating that he was much opposed to the proposal of marching out of town, and was glad to find that the volunteers had resolved to remain within the walls. No sooner was this answer received, than Drummond returned with his men to the college-yards, where they were dismissed for a time. The town guard, and the men of the Edinburgh regiment, however, although shamefully deserted by their companions in arms, marched out of the city on receiving an order to that effect from the provost, and joined the dragoons at Corstorphine, about four miles west from Edinburgh, where the regiments of Hamilton and Gardiner formed a junction.

Seeing no appearance of the enemy, Colonel Gardiner retired at sunset with the two regiments of dragoons, to a field between Edinburgh and Leith, to pass the night, leaving a party of his men behind him to watch the motions of the Highlanders; and the foot returned at the same time to the city. To guard the city during the night, 600 or 700 men, consisting of the trained bands, the volunteers, and some auxiliaries from the town of Musselburgh and
Dalkeith, were stationed along the walls and at the different gates; but the night passed off quietly. The same night, Brigadier General Fowkes arrived from London. Early next morning, he received an order from General Guest, to take the command of the dragoons, and to march to a field a little to the east of Coltbridge, about two miles west of the city, where he was joined in the course of the forenoon by the town guard and the Edinburgh regiment.


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