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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Aftermath of the Battle of Preston


Of the infantry of the royal army, only about 170 escaped. From a report made by their own sergeants and corporals, by order of Lord George Murray, between 1,600 and 1,700 prisoners, foot and cavalry, fell into the hands of the Highlanders, including about 70 officers. In this number were comprehended the baggage-guard, stationed at Cockenzie, which amounted to 300 men, who, on learning the fate of the main body and the loss of their cannon, surrendered to the Camerons. The cannon and all the baggage of the royal army, together with the military chest, containing 4,000, fell into the hands of the victors. The greater part of the dragoons escaped by the two roads at the extremities of the park wall, one of which passed by Colonel Gardiner's house in the rear on their right, and the other on their left, to the north of Preston-house. In retiring towards these outlets, halted once or twice and faced about to meet the enemy; but at them, they wheeled about and fled. Cope, who was by no means deficient in personal courage, assisted by the Earls of Home and Loudon, collected about 450 of the panic-struck dragoons on the west side of the village of Preston, and attempted to lead them back to the charge; but no entreaties could induce these cowards to advance, and the whistling of a few bullets discharged by some Highlanders near the village, so alarmed them, that they instantly scampered off in a southerly direction, screening their heads behind their horses necks to avoid the bullets of the Highlanders. The general had no alternative but to gallop off with his men. He reached Coldstream, a town about forty miles from the field of battle, that night; and entered Berwick next day.

Among six of Cope's officers who were killed, was Colonel Gardiner, a veteran soldier who had served under the Duke of Marlborough, and whose character combined a strong religious feeling with the most undaunted courage. He had been decidedly opposed to the defensive system of Cope on the preceding evening, and had counselled the general not to lose a moment in attacking the Highlanders; but his advice was disregarded. Anticipating the fate which awaited him, he spent the greater part of the night in devotion, and resolved at all hazards to perform his duty. He was wounded at the first onset at the head of his dragoons; but disdaining to follow them in their retreat, he joined a small body of foot, which attempted to rally near the wall of his own garden, and while fighting at their head was cut down by the murderous scythe of a Macgregor, within a few yards of his own house. He was carried by a friend to the manse of Tranent in an almost lifeless state, where he expired within a few hours, and was interred in the north-west corner of the church of Tranent. Captain Brymer of Lee's regiment, who appears to have participated in Gardiner's opinion as to attacking the Highlanders, met a similar fate. Having been at the battle of Sheriffmuir, he was satisfied of the capability of the Highlanders to contend with regular troops, and dreaded the result of an encounter if assailed by the Highlanders. When encamped at Haddington, his brother officers were in high spirits, and making light of the enemy; but Brymer viewed matters in a very different light. While reading one night in his tent he was accosted by Mr Congalton of Congalton, his brother-in-law, who, observing him look pensive and grave, when all the other officers appeared so cheerful, inquired the reason. Brymer answered that the Highlanders were not to be despised, and that he was afraid his brother officers would soon find that they had mistaken the character of the Highlanders, who would, to a certainty, attack the royal army, with a boldness which those only who had witnessed their prowess could have any idea of. These gloomy forebodings were not the result of an innate cowardice - for this officer was, as he showed, a brave man - but from a well-founded conviction that Cope's men could not stand the onset of such a body of Highlanders as Charles had assembled. Brymer was killed, with his face to the enemy, disdaining to turn his back when that part of the line where he was stationed was broken in upon by the Highlanders.

The loss on the side of the Highlanders was trifling. Four officers, and between 30 and 40 privates, were killed; and 5 or 6 officers, and between 70 and 80 privates, wounded.

After the termination of the fight, the field of battle presented an appalling spectacle, rarely exhibited in the most bloody conflicts. As almost all the slain were cut down by the broadsword and the scythe, the ground was strewed with legs, arms, hands, noses, and mutilated bodies, while, from the deep gashes inflicted by these dreadful weapons, the field was literally soaked with gore. An instance of the almost resistless power of the broadsword occurred when a Highland gentleman, who led a division, broke through Mackay's regiment: a grenadier, having attempted to parry off with his hand a blow made at him by the gentleman alluded to, had his hand lopped off and his skull cut above an inch deep. He expired on the spot.

It was a most fortunate circumstance that the Highlanders, having no revengeful feeling to gratify on the present occasion, were easily induced to listen to the dictates of humanity. After the fury of their onset was abated, they not only readily gave, but even offered quarter; and when the action was over, appear to have displayed an unwonted sympathy for the wounded. A Highland officer this exultingly notices the conduct of his companions in arms. "Now, whatever notions or sentiments the low country people may entertain of our Highlanders, this day there were many proofs to a diligent spectator, amidst all the bloodshed, (which at the first shock was unavoidable), of their humanity and mercy; for I can, with the strictest truth and sincerity, declare, that I often heard our people call out to the soldiers if they wanted quarter; and we, the officers exerted our utmost pains to protect the soldiers from their first fury, when either through their stubbornness or want of language they did not cry for quarters, and I observed some of our private men run to Port Seaton for ale and other liquors to support the wounded. And as one proof for all, to my own particular observation, I saw a Highlander supporting a poor wounded soldier and carry him on his back into his horse, and left him a sixpence at parting.

In their attentions to the wounded, the Highlanders had a good example in Charles himself, who not only issued orders for taking care of the wounded, but also remained on the field of battle till mid-day to see that his orders were fulfilled. Finding the few surgeons he had carried along with him inadequate to meet the demands of the wounded, he despatched one of his officers to Edinburgh to bring out all the surgeons, who accordingly instantly repaired to the field of battle. As the Highlanders felt an aversion to bury the dead, and as the country people could not be prevailed upon to assist in the care of the wounded, Charles experienced great obstacles in carrying through his humane intentions. Writing to his father, on the evening of the battle, he thus alludes to them: "Tis hard my victory should put me under new difficulties which I did not feel before, and yet this is the case. I am charged both with the care of my friends and enemies. Those who should bury the dead are run away, as if it were no business of theirs. My Highlanders think it beneath them to do it, and the country people are fled away. However, I am determined to try if I can get people for money to undertake it, for I cannot bear the thought of suffering Englishmen to rot above the ground. I am in great difficulties how I shall dispose of my wounded prisoners. If I make a hospital of the church, it will be lookt upon as a great profanation, and of having violated my manifesto, in which I promise to violate no man's property. If the magistrates would act, they would help me out of this difficulty. Come what will, I am resolved not to let the poor wounded men lye in the streets, and if I can do no better, I will make a hospital of the palace and leave it to them.

When congratulating themselves on the victory they had obtained, the Highlanders related to each other what they had done or seen. Instances were given of individual prowess which might appear incredible, were it not well-known that when fear seizes an army all confidence in themselves or their numbers is completely destroyed. On this occasion "the panic-terror of the English surpassed all imagination. They threw down their arms that they might run with more speed, thus depriving themselves by their fears of the only means of arresting the vengeance of the Highlanders. Of so many, in a condition from their numbers to preserve order in their retreat, not one thought of defending himself. Terror had taken entire possession of their minds". Of the cases mentioned, one was that of a young Highlander about fourteen years of age, scarcely formed, who was presented to the prince as a prodigy, having, it was said, killed fourteen of the enemy. Charles asking him if this was true, he replied, "I do not know if I killed them, but I brought fourteen soldiers to the ground with my sword". Another instance was that of a Highlander, who brought ten soldiers, whom he had made prisoners, to the prince, driving them before him like a flock of sheep. With unexampled rashness, he had pursued a party of Cope's men to some distance from the field of battle, along a road between two inclosures, and striking down the hindermost man of the party with a blow of his sword, called aloud at the same time, "Down with your arms". The soldiers, terror-struck, complied with the order without looking behind them; and the Highlander, with a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other, made them do as he pleased. Yet, as the Chevalier Johnstone observes, these were "the same English soldiers who had distinguished themselves at Dettingen and Fontenoy, and who might justly be ranked amongst the bravest troops of Europe".

After doing every thing in his power for the relief of the wounded of both armies, and giving directions for the disposal of his prisoners, Charles partook of a small repast upon the field of battle, and thereafter proceeded to Pinkie House, a seat of the Marquis of Tweeddale, where he passed the night.


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