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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Plan of the Prince for capturing Edinburgh


Apprehensive of the speedy arrival of Cope, Charles resolved not to lose a moment in obtaining possession of the capital. He saw that no effectual resistance could be made by the inhabitants in case of an assault; but as opposition might exasperate the Highlanders, and make them regardless of the lives of the citizens, he proposed to his officers that an attempt should be made to carry the city by surprise, which, if successful, would save it from the horrors which usually befall a city taken by storm. The plan of a surprise having been resolved upon, a select detachment of about 900 men, under Lochiel, Keppoch, Ardshiel, and O'Sullivan, was sent under cloud of night towards the city. They marched with great secrecy across the Borough moor, and reached the south-eastern extremity of the city, where they halted. A party of 24 men was thereupon despatched with directions to post themselves on each side of the Netherbow Port, the eastern or lower gate of the city, and another party of 60 men was directed to follow them half-way up St. Mary's Wynd, to be ready to support them, while a third body, still farther removed, and finally the remainder of the detachment, were to come up in succession to the support of the rest. In the event of these dispositions succeeding without observation from the sentinels on the walls, it had been arranged that a Highlander in a lowland garb should knock at the wicket and demand entrance as a servant of an officer of dragoons, who had been sent by his master to bring him something he had forgot in the city; and that if the wicket was opened, the party stationed on each side of the gate should immediately rush in, seize the guard, and make themselves masters of the gate. The different parties having taken the stations assigned them without being perceived by the guards, the disguised Highlander knocked at the gate and stated his pretended errand; but the guard refused to open the gate, and the sentinels on the walls threatened to fire upon the applicant if he did not instantly retire. The commanders were puzzled by this unexpected refusal, and were at a loss how to act. It was now near five o'clock, and the morning was about to dawn. The alternative of an assault seemed inevitable, but fortunately for the city, the Highlanders were destined to obtain by accident what they could not effect by stratagem.

While the party at the gate was about to retire to the main body in consequence of the disappointment they had met with, their attention was attracted by the rattling of a carriage, which, from the increasing sound, appeared to be coming down the High street towards the Netherbow Port. It was, in fact, the hackney coach which had been hired by the deputies, which was now on its way back to the Canongate, where most of the proprietors of hackney coaches at that time lived. The Highlanders stationed at the gate stood prepared to enter, and as soon as it was opened to let out the coach, the whole party, headed by Captain Evan Macgregor, a younger son of Macgregor of Glencairnaig, rushed in, made themselves masters of the gate, and disarmed the guard in an instant. In a short time the whole of the Highlanders followed, with drawn swords and targets, and setting up one those hideous and terrific yells with which they salute an enemy they are about to encounter, marched quickly up the street in perfect order, in expectation of meeting the foe; but to the surprise, no less than the pleasure, of the Highlanders, not a single armed man was to be seen in the street. With the exception of a few half-awakened spectators, who, roused from their slumbers by the shouts of the Highlanders, had jumped out of bed, and were to be seem peeping out at the windows in their sleeping habiliments, all the rest of the inhabitants were sunk in profound repose.

Having secured the guard-house and disarmed the guards who were within, the Highlanders took possession of the different gates of the city and of the stations upon the walls. They made the guards prisoners, and replaced them with some of their own men, with as much quietness as if the had been merely changing their own guard. The Highlanders conducted themselves on this occasion with the greatest order and regularity, no violence being offered to any of the inhabitants, and the utmost respect being paid to private property.

Anxious about the result, Charles had slept only two hours, and that without taking off his clothes. At an early hour he received intelligence of the capture of the city, and immediately prepared to march toward it with the rest of the army. To avoid the castle guns, the prince took a circuitous direction to the south of the city, till he reached the Briad burn, when, turning towards the city, he marched as far as the Buck Stone, a mass of granite on the side of the turnpike road, near Morningside. On reaching this stone, he drew off his army by a solitary cross road, leading to the ground now occupied by Causewayside and Newington. Arrived near Priestfield, he entered the king's park by a breach, which had been made in the wall, and proceeded to the Hunter's bog, a deep valley between Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, where his army was completely sheltered from the guns of the castle.


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