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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Composition of the Highland Army


When Charles's resolution to march into England was finally agreed to by his officers, the next thing to be determined was the route to be taken. After some deliberation the council advised the Prince to march straight to Berwick, of which town they thought he could easily make himself master, and thence to Newcastle and give battle to Marshal Wade, who had collected a force in the neighbourhood of that town. If victorious, the prince was to march to London, by the east coast, so as to favour the disembarkation of any troops that France might send over destined to land on that coast. But this plan, though unanimously approved of, was overturned by Lord George Murray, who was of a very different opinion from the rest of the council. In presence of several of the principal officers of the army he represented the plan of a march along the east coast as an affair of great difficulty, and that its advantages, if it really had any, would be more than compensated by the loss of time it would occasion, which at the present juncture was very precious. He therefore proposed that the army should march into England by the western road, and that to conceal its route it should march in two columns, one by Kelso and the other column by Moffat, so that both columns could easily join near Carlisle, on a day to be appointed. Finding that Lord George's arguments had prevailed with most of his officers, Charles agreed to his scheme, though he considered the route by Berwick as the better of the two.

Preparatory to their march the insurgents removed their camp to a strong position to the west of
Dalkeith, six miles south of Edinburgh, having that town on their left, the South Esk in front, the North Esk in their rear, with an opening on their right towards Polton. From this camp a detachment was sent with three pieces of cannon to secure the pass of the Forth above Stirling, lest Lord Loudon should march south with the independent companies he was forming, and attempt to force the passage.

On the evening of Thursday the 31st of October, Prince Charles finally left Holyrood House accompanied by his life-guards, and several of the clan-regiments, amid the regrets of a vast concourse of spectators, most of whom were never to see him again. He slept that night at Pinkie House, and went next morning to Dalkeith, and took up his quarters in Dalkeith House, the seat of the Duke of Buccleuch. On that day he was joined by the clan Pherson, under the command of their chief, Macpherson of Cluny, by Menzies of Shien and his men, and some small parties of Highlanders, amounting altogether to between 900 and 1,000 men.

At this period the state of the insurgent army was as follows. Of cavalry, the first troop of horse-guards, which was commanded by Lord Elcho, consisted of 62 gentlemen with their servants, under 5 officers. It amounted in all to 120. The second troop, which was commanded by the honourable Arthur Elphinstone, afterwards Lord Balmerino, was not complete, and did not exceed 40 horse. A small squadron, called the horse-grenadiers, was commanded by the Earl of Kilmarnock, with which were incorporated some Perthshire gentlemen, in absence of Lord Strathallan their commander, who had been appointed governor of Perth and commander of the Jacobite forces in Scotland during the stay of the Highland army in England. These last united, amounted to nearly 100. Lord Pitsligo was at the head of the Aberdeen and Banffshire gentlemen, who, with their servants, amounted to about 120; and besides those enumerated, there was a party of between 70 and 80 husars, under the nominal command of Secretary Murray as colonel, but in reality under the direction of one Baggot, an Irish officer, who had lately arrived from France. The infantry, all of whom wore the Highland garb, consisted of thirteen battalions or regiments, six of which, consisted of the clans, properly so called; of these six regiments, three were of the Macdonalds, and the other three were each composed of the Camerons, the Stewarts of Appin, and the Macphersons. Three regiments of Athole men, commonly called the Athole brigade, the regiments of the Duke of Perth, Lord Ogilvy, Glenbucket, and Roy Stewart, made up the thirteen regiments. Of the infantry, which amounted to about 5,000 men, about 4,000 were real Highlanders. Thus the total amount of the army did not exceed 6,000 men.

The clan-regiments, according to custom, were commanded by their respective chiefs; but in some instances, in the absence of the chief, the regiment of the clan was commanded by his son, and failing both, by the nearest kinsman of the chief. In these regiments every company had two captains, two lieutenants, and two ensigns, all of whom were generally related, by ties of blood, to the chief. The pay of a captain in the army was half-a-crown per diem; that of a lieutenant two shillings; and of an ensign one shilling and sixpence. The front rank of each clan-regiment was composed of persons who were considered gentlemen by birth, though without fortune or means. The pay of these was one shilling per diem. The gentlemen in the front rank were better armed than the men in the rear rank. All the former had targets, which many of the latter had not. When fully armed, as was generally the case, every gentleman of the front rank carried a musket and broadsword, with a pair of pistols and a dirk stuck in the belt which surrounded his body. In some rare instances another dagger was stuck within the garter of the right leg, to be used in cases of emergency. A target, formed of wood and leather thickly studded with nails, covered the left arm, and enabled the wearer to parry and protect himself from the shots or blows of an assailant.

Thus armed, the success of a Highland army depended more upon individual bravery than upon combined efforts, and their manner of fighting was, as the Chevalier Johnstone observes, adapted for brave but undisciplined troops. "They advance", says that writer, "with rapidity, discharge their pieces when within musket length of the enemy, and then, throwing them down, draw their swords, and holding a dirk in their left hand with their target, they dart with fury on the enemy through the smoke of their fire. When within reach of the enemy's bayonets, bending their left knee, they, by their attitude, cover their bodies with their targets that receive their thrusts of the bayonets, which they contrive to parry, while at the same time they raise their sword-arm, and strike their adversary. Having once got within the bayonets, and into the ranks of the enemy, the soldiers have no longer any means of defending themselves, the fate of the battle is decided in an instant, and the carnage follows; the Highlanders bringing down two men at a time, one with their dirk in the left hand, and another with the sword. The reason assigned by the Highlanders for their custom of throwing their muskets on the ground is not without its force. They say they embarrass them in their operations, even when sling behind them, and on gaining a battle they can pick them up along with the arms of their enemies; but if they should be beaten, they have no occasion for muskets. They themselves proved that bravery may supply the place of discipline at times, as discipline supplies the place of bravery. The attack is so terrible, that the best troops in Europe would with difficulty sustain the first shock if it; and if the swords of the Highlanders once come in contact with them, their defeat is inevitable".

In entering upon such a desperate enterprise as the invasion of England with the handful of men he had mustered, Charles certainly must have calculated on being supported by a large party in that country. Indeed, his chief reason for urging such a step was the numerous assurances he alleged he had received from his friends in that kingdom, that he would be joined by a very considerable body of the people; but there seems reason to believe, that, in his expectations of support, he was guided almost solely by the reports of his agents, and that he had very little communication with any of the parties on whose support he relied. In a memoir which the prince presented to the King of France on his return from Scotland, he states, that, if after the battle of Preston he had had 3,000 regular troops under his command, in addition to his other forces, he could have penetrated into England, and marched to London, without opposition, as none of the English troops which were on the continent had arrived; but the case was now widely different, and without a general rising, it was next to impossible to succeed in the face of a large regular army, which was assembling at different points, supported by a numerous militia.


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