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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Preparations for the Battle of Falkirk


Having received intelligence of the advance of the royalists to Falkirk, Charles, on the evening of 16th, ordered the different detachments of his army to concentrate upon Plean moor, about seven miles from that town, and two miles to the east of Bannockburn, where his head-quarters were. He, however, left several battalions, amounting to about 1,000 men, in Stirling, under the Duke of Perth, to push on the seige of the castle. Nobody supposed that the prince, in issuing this order, had any other object in contemplation than to review his army, and of so little importance was it considered, that although the order was immediately made known on all sides, it was near twelve o'clock next day before the different parts of the army arrived from their quarters.

After the army had been drawn up in a line of battle, Charles called a council of war, and for the first time stated his intention of giving immediate battle to Hawley. That general had, it is believed, been informed of the probability of an attack, but he treated the information lightly, and instead of attending to the affairs of his camp, spent the morning at Callander House with the Countess of Kilmarnock, with whom he breakfasted. The Torwood, once a forest of great extent, celebrated as the chief retreat of the heroic Wallace, but now greatly decayed, lay between the two armies; and through what was once the middle of the forest, the high road from Stirling to Falkirk, by Bannockburn, passes.

From information which Charles had received, he supposed that Hawley would have advanced and offered him battle; but seeing no appearance of him, he put his army in motion about mid-day, towards Falkirk. While the main body of the army marched in two columns along the moor, on the west side of the Torwood, where they could not be seen from Hawley's camp, a third body of horse and foot, under Lord John Drummond, appeared upon the high road which runs through the centre of the Torwood, and moved about, displaying their colours in view of the enemy, as if they intended to attack Hawley's camp. The object of this parade was to draw off the attention of the enemy from the main body, which was advancing unperceived towards Falkirk, by a different route.

After the two columns had advanced about half a mile, lord George Murray received an order from the prince to delay passing the water of Carron till night, as he did not think it advisable to cross in the face of the enemy, but his lordship having satisfied his royal highness of the impropriety of the order, he was allowed to proceed. Ignorant of the approach of the main body of the Highlanders, Hawley's officers thought the demonstration made by the body on the high road unworthy of attention; but they were aroused from their apathy by a countryman, who arrived in the camp with intelligence that the Highlanders were close upon them. Two of the officers immediately ascended a tree, and, by means of a telescope, descried the Highland army marching towards Falkirk, by the south side of the Torwood. This was a little before one o'clock, and the officers having communicated the circumstance to Lieutenant-colonel Howard, their commanding officer, he went to Callander House and informed the general of it. Instead, however, of ordering his men to get under arms, Hawley directed that they should merely put on their accoutrements. This order was obeyed, and the troops sat down to dinner, but before they had finished their repast, they were summoned to arms.

When the Highlanders came in sight of the water of Carron, the town of Falkirk, and the enemy camp, also opened upon their view. It was now between one and two o'clock, and some well mounted scouts, who were on the opposite side of the water, on observing the Highlanders, immediately rode off at full gallop, and reported that the Highland army was about to cross the Carron at Dunnipace. The alarm which this intelligence produced in the royalist camp was very great. Hawley was instantly sent for, and the commanding officers, who were exceedingly perplexed, formed their regiments as quickly as possible upon the ground in front of the camp. The general, instantly mounting his horse, galloped to the camp, and in his haste left his hat behind him.

In taking the circuitous route by the south side of the Torwood, Charles had a double object in view - to conceal his approach from the enemy as long as he could, and to obtain possession of Falkirk moor, about two miles south-west of Hawley's camp, and which, from the nature of the ground, was considered well fitted for the operations of a Highland army. Suspecting that it was the prince's design to secure the heights of the moor, Hawley at once determined to prevent him, if possible, and accordingly on his arrival at the camp he ordered the three regiments of dragoons to march towards the moor, and take possession of the high ground between them and the insurgents. He also directed the infantry to follow them with fixed bayonets. This was a rash and inconsiderate step, as Hawley had never examined the ground, which he found, when too late, was by no means a suitable field of battle for his troops. In ordering his army to march up the moor, the English commander is said to have been impressed with the idea that the Highlanders did not mean to attack him, but to give him the slip, and march back to England, and that his object was to intercept them and bring them to action. This explanation, however, is by no means satisfactory.

After crossing the Carron at Dunnipace Steps, the main body of the Highlanders stretched along the moor in two parallel lines, about two hundred paces asunder. The column next the royal army consisted of the clan regiments which had been in England, and of the recruits which had lately arrive from the Highlands, with the Frasers, and a battalion of the Farquharsons. The other column, which was to the right of the last mentioned, consisted of the Athole brigade, the Maclauchlans, the battalions of Ogilvy and Gordon, and Lord John Drummond's regiment. After reaching the bottom of the hill, the columns faced to the left, and began to ascend the eminence. Almost simultaneously with this movement, Hawley's dragoons, proceeding along the eastern wall of Bantaskin inclosures, rapidly ascended the hill also, followed by the foot with fixed bayonets. At this instant, the sky, which till then had been unusually serene, became suddenly overcast, and before the foot had advanced far, a violent storm of wind and rain burst from the south-west, which beat directly in the faces of the soldiers, and retarded their march up the hill. A running contest seemed now to take place between the dragoons and the advanced divisions of the Highlander columns, consisting of the Macdonalds and the Athole men, to gain the summit of the ridge of the moor. Both parties reached the top of hill about the same time, and possessed themselves of two eminences, within musket-shot of each other. To prevent the dragoons gaining the advantage of the ground and the wind, the Macdonalds and Athole men had advanced with such rapidity, that they had left the rear of the columns considerably behind, and on reaching the height of the moor, they halted to give time to the rear to come up.

Meanwhile Lord George Murray, who commanded the right wing, proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for battle. In forming, the two columns merely faced to the left, by which simple movement the eastern column at once became, as originally designed, the front line. When completed, the order of battle of the Highland army was as follows. On the extreme right of the first line, stood the Macdonalds of Keppoch, next to these the Macdonalds of Clanranald, and in succession the regiment of Glengary, a battalion of Farquharsons under Farquharson of Bumarrel, the Mackenzies, the Mackintoshes, the Macphersons under Cluny their chief, the Frasers under the master of Lovat, the Stuarts of Appin, and the Camerons, who formed the extreme left of this line.

The second line, which chiefly consisted of the country regiments, was composed of the Athole brigade, which formed the right wing, of Lord Ogilvy's regiment of two battalions in the centre, and of the regiments of Lord Lewis Gordon, also of two battalions, which formed the left of the line. At the distance of about twenty yards in the rear of the centre of the second line, the prince was stationed with some horse and foot, and was joined before the commencement of the action by Lord John Drummond, with a large body of horse, the Irish piquets and the other troops, with which he had made the feint, as a corps de reserve. Some of the horse guards under Lord Elcho and Balmerino, and also some of the hussars, who were on the right of the prince, were sent farther to the right to protect the flank, but they were prevented from extending farther, by a morass, which covered the right wing, and were obliged to draw up behind the Athole men. At the opposite extremity on the left of the prince, Lord Pitsligo's and Kilmarnock's horse were stationed.

The infantry of the royal army was also formed to two lines, with a body of reserve in the rear; but the disposition of the cavalry, as will be seen, was altogether different from that of the insurgent army. The first line consisted of the regiments of Ligonier, Price, Royal Scots, Pulteney, Cholmondeley, and Wolfe, and the second of those of Battereau, Barrel, Fleming, Munro, and Blakeney. The names of the regiments are here given according to the order they held, beginning with the right. Behind the right of the second line, Howard's regiment was stationed as a reserve. The Glasgow regiment, and other Lowland militia, were posted as another body of reserve, near some cottages behind the left of the dragoons; and the Argyleshire men were placed at some distance from the right of the royal army, to watch the motions of the forces under Lord John Drummond, who seemed, before they joined the two columns on the moor, to threaten an attack upon the camp. The left of the dragoons was directly opposite to Keppoch's regiment, but by keeping large intervals between their squadrons, their right extended as far down as the centre of Lord Lovat's regiment, which stood the third from the left of the insurgent army.

In consequence of this extension of the front line of the royal army, Lochiel's regiment, which was upon the left extremity of the opposite line, was outflanked by three of the royal regiments. With the exception of one or two regiments in each line, which, by their proximity to the top of the moor, had reached ground somewhat level, the rest of the kings infantry stood on the declivity of the hill, and so great was the inequality if the ground, that the opposite wings alone of either army were visible to each other. Between the right of the royal army and the left of that of the insurgents, there was a ravine, which, beginning on the declivity of the hill, directly opposite the centre of the Fraser battalion, ran in a northerly direction, and gradually widened and deepened till it reached the plain. The right of the royal army was commanded by Major-general Huske, the centre by Hawley himself, and the left by Brigadier Cholmondeley, but the three regiments of dragoons on the left were under the immediate command of Lieutenant-colonel Ligonier. The colonel's own dragoon regiment, formerly Gardiner's was stationed on the extreme left. Hamilton's dragoons were posted on the right, and Cobham's in the centre.

Plan of the Battle of Falkirk
Plan of the Battle of Falkirk


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