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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Skirmishing on the Forth


Being in want of battering cannon for a siege, Charles had, before his departure from Glasgow, sent orders to Lord John Drummond, to bring up the pieces which he had brought over from France. As General Blakeney had broken down part of Stirling bridge, to prevent the insurgents at Perth from crossing the Forth at Stirling, some of the battering cannon were sent to the Frews, and were transported across that ford by means of floats, while the rest were brought to Alloa as a nearer road for the purpose of being transported across the Firth of Forth.

Great difficulty was experienced in getting over these pieces, and as there was but a small guard along with them, they might have fallen into the hands of a party of troops sent up the Frith by Hawley, had not Lord George Murray, on hearing of their embarkation, sent over Lochiel with his regiment, which had lately been augmented by recruits, and was now 700 strong.

As there were no ships at Alloa, Lord George seized a vessel lying off Airth to transport his cannon across the Frith. This was a fortunate circumstances, as two sloops of war, the Pearl and Vulture, sailed up the Frith next tide from Leith roads to seize all the vessels and boats in the neighbourhood, and otherwise to obstruct the conveyance of the cannon. General Hawley, about the same time, viz., on the 8th of January, sent up some armed boats, and a small vessel with cannon from Leith, manned with 300 men under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Leighton, to destroy all the works the Highlanders had made to cover the passage of their cannon.

The sloops of war anchored in Kincardine roads, whence, on the morning of the 8th, two long boats well manned were sent up towards Airth, in conjunction with the other boats and small armed vessel, to burn two vessels lying in the neighbourhood which could not be launched till the spring tides. This service they effected without loss of a single man, though the boats were fired upon by the Highlanders who were posted in the village. Having been prevented from returning to the station off Kincardine, by the lowness of the tide, the Highlanders opened a battery of three pieces of cannon next morning upon the flotilla, but without doing it any damage. The Highlanders are said to have had two of their cannon dismounted on this occasion by the fire from the sloop, and to have sustained a loss of several men, including their principal engineer.

Apprehensive that the flotilla would next attempt to set fire to the other vessel, Lord George Murray erected a battery of four guns at Elphinstone Pans to command the river, and to keep off the sloops of war, should they attempt to come up. In addition to the troops stationed at Airth, his lordship sent a reinforcement of between 300 and 400 men from Falkirk, which arrived at Elphinstone and Airth on the 10th. At this time the vessel which had been seized at Airth was lying at Alloa, and had taken two out of seven pieces of cannon, with some ammunition on board. To capture this vessel, a large boat, having 50 soldiers on board, along with the boats belonging to the sloops of war, well manned and armed, were sent up the river during the night of the 10th, with instructions to lie all night a mile above Alloa, in order to intercept the vessel should an attempt be made to carry her up the river during the night. Unfortunately, however, for this design, the boats grounded after passing the town, and the Highlanders who were posted in the town, having, by this accident, come to the knowledge that the enemy was at hand, immediately beat to arms, and commenced a random fire from right to left, which forced the boats to retreat down the river.

Next morning, however, the two sloops of war, accompanied by some smaller vessels, went up the river with the tide, and casting anchor opposite to, and within musket-shot of the battery, opened a brisk fire. Three of the smaller vessels anchored in a convenient place to play upon the village of Elphinstone, and two more hovered along as if inclined to land some soldiers, with which they were crowded. The firing was kept up on both sides, for upwards of three hours, without much damage on either side. The cable of one of the sloops of war having been cut asunder by a cannon shot, an accident which forced her from her station, and the two pilots in the other having each lost a leg, the assailants abandoned the enterprise, and fell down the river with the ebb-tide. Being now relieved from the presence of the enemy, Lord George brought over the cannon and stores without further opposition.

On the 12th of January, two days after he had taken possession of the town, Charles broke ground before Stirling castle, between the church and a large house at the head of the town, called Marr's work. Here he raised a battery against the castle, upon which he mounted two sixteen-pounders, two pieces of eight, and three of three. The prince there-upon summoned General Blakeney to surrender, but his answer was, that he would defend the place to the last extremity; that as honour had hitherto been his rule through life,he would rather die than stain it by abandoning his post, and that his royal highness would assuredly have a very bad opinion of him, where he to surrender the castle in such a cowardly manner. To prevent any intelligence of their operations being carried to the enemy, the Highlanders shut the gates of the town, and placed guards at all the outlets.

The siege went on very slowly, and Charles soon perceived that he had chosen a bad situation for his battery, which was so exposed to the fire of the castle, that its works were speedily demolished, and the cannon dismounted.

While the siege was going on, the forces in the north under Lord Strathallan and Lord John Drummond began to arrive at Stirling. By these reinforcements the prince's army was increased to 9,000 men, all in the highest spirits. The Macdonalds, the Camerons, and the Stuarts, were now twice as numerous as they were when the Highland army entered England, and Lord Ogilvy had got a second battalion, under the command of Sir James Kinloch, as lieutenant-colonel, much stronger than the first. The Frasers, the Mackintoshes, and Farquharsons, were reckoned 300 men each, and in addition to these, the Earl of Cromarty, and his son, Lord MacLeod, had also brought up their men.


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