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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Progress of the Battle


In the action about to commence, the combatants on both sides were deprived of the use of their artillery. The Highlanders, from the rapidity of their march, left their cannon behind them, and those belonging to Hawley's army, consisting of ten pieces, stuck fast in a swamp at the bottom of the hill. The royal forces were greatly superior to the Highlanders in numbers, but the latter had the advantage of the ground, and having the wind and the rain in their backs, were not annoyed to the same extent as their adversaries, who received the wind and rain directly in their faces.

The right wing of the Highland army and Hawley's cavalry had remained upwards of a quarter of an hour within musket-shot of each other, waiting the coming up of the other forces, when General Hawley sent an order to Colonel Ligonier, to attack the Highlanders. At the time this order was despatched, some of this troops destined for the centre of his second line had not reached their posts, but Hawley, impatient of delay, and led astray by a mistaken though prevalent idea, that the Highlanders could not stand the shock of Cavalry, resolved to commence the action with the dragoons only Ligonier, who appears to have entertained more correct notions on this subject than the general-issimo, was surprised at the order; but he proceeded to put it in execution.

Before advancing, Colonel Ligonier made several motions, with the design of drawing off the fire of the Highlanders, and riding in among them , and breaking their ranks; but they did not fire a shot. Conjecturing that the dragoons were to be supported by a body of infantry in their rear, Lord George Murray, to whom no such description of force was discernible at the time, sent Colonel Roy Stuart and Anderson, the guide at the battle of Preston, forward on horseback to reconnoitre. On receiving their report that they had not observed any foot, Lord George resolved to anticipate his opponent Ligonier, by attacking the dragoons. Accordingly he gave orders to the right wing to advance slowly, and, passing along the line, desired the men to keep their ranks, and not to fire till he gave them orders.

Lord George, with his sword in his hand, and his target on his arm, then took his station at the head of the first line, which, with the second, continued to advance in good order. The dragoons, on observing the approach of the Highlanders, also began to move forward, and were instantly at the full trot. They came up in very good order, till within pistol-shot of the first line of the Highlanders, when Lord George Murray presented his piece as the signal to fire. The Highlanders, thereupon, discharged a volley with such precision and effect, that the dragoons were entirely broken, and many of them were killed and wounded. Hamilton's and Ligonier's regiments instantly wheeled about, and galloped down the hill, riding over and trampling upon some of their party, and carrying along with them a company of the Glasgow regiment.

Cobham's regiment, which had just returned from foreign service, however, stood its ground for some time, and breaking through the first line of the Highlanders, trampled many of them under foot. A singular combat then ensued. Deprived of the use of their broadswords, some of the Highlanders, who lay stretched on the ground, had recourse tom their dirks, which they plunged into the bellies of the horses. Others seized the riders by their clothes, and dragging them from their horses, stabbed them with the same weapon.

In this melée the chief of Clanranald made a narrow escape, having been trodden down, and before he was able to rise a horse fell dead upon him, the weight of which prevented him from extricating himself without assistance. While in this perilous situation, he saw a dismounted dragoon and a Highlander struggling near him, and for a time the issue seemed doubtful. The anxiety of the chief, whose own preservation seemed to depend on the success of this clansman, was soon relieved, when he saw the Highlander throw his antagonist, and instantly despatched him with his dirk. The Highlander thereupon came up to the prostrate chief, and drew him from under the horse. The dragoons, unable any longer to contend with the Macdonalds, galloped off to the right between the two armies, and received the fire of the remainder of the front line of the Highlanders, as they went along, as far down as Lord Lovat's regiment.

Afraid that, after the flight of the dragoons, the Highlanders would commence a disorderly pursuit, Lord George Murray ordered the Macdonalds of Keppoch to keep their ranks, and sent a similar order to the two other Macdonald regiments. But notwithstanding this command of the lieutenant-general, and the efforts of the officers, who, with drawn swords and cocked pistols, endeavoured to restrain them from an immediate pursuit, a considerable number of the men of these two regiments, along with all the regiments on their left, as far down as the head of the ravine, rushed down the hill in pursuit of the enemy. They were received with a volley from some of the regiments on the left of the first line of the royal army, and having returned the fire, the Highlanders threw away their muskets, and drawing their swords, rushed in upon the enemy.

Unable to resist the impetuosity of the attack, the whole of the royal army, with the exception of Barrel's regiment, and part of the regiments of Price and Ligoniers, gave way. At first the Highlanders supposed that the rout was complete, and General Hawley himself, who was huddled off the field among a confused mass of horse and foot, was of the same opinion; but the Highlanders were undeceived, when coming near the bottom of the hill, they received a fire in flank from these regiments, which threw them into great disorder, and obliged them to retire up the hill. The Camerons and the Stuarts, who were on the opposite side of the ravine, suffered also from the fire of this body, and were likewise obliged to fall back.


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