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Battle of Falkirk


The English imputed their defeat chiefly to the violence of the storm, which was full in their faces during the action; but this, though certainly a formidable difficulty, was not the only one they had to encounter.

To a combination of unfortunate circumstances, and not to any particular incident, is to be ascribed the result which ensued; but mainly to Hawley's ignorance of the resistance which the Highlanders could oppose to cavalry. He had been major of Evans's dragoons at the battle of Sheriffmuir, where that regiment and the Scots Greys, led by the Duke of Argyle, after getting over a morass, which the intense frost of the preceding night had rendered passable, attacked the flank of the insurgent army, which conceived itself secure from that quarter, and rode down, and drove off the field several regiments of Highlanders. Imagining from this precedent, that the Highlanders could not withstand the charge of cavalry, he observed one day in a company of officers in Flanders, who where talking of the battle of Preston, that "he knew the Highlanders; they were good militia; but he was certain that they could not stand against a charge of dragoons, who attacked them well." Under this impression he began the battle with his dragoons, before his infantry had been fully formed into line; but he soon saw the consequences of his indiscretion.

Though the field of battle is about twenty-six miles distant from Edinburgh, the intelligence of Hawley's defeat was known there before nine o'clock at night, by the arrival of some spectators who had witnessed the action, and by some of the dragoons who, impelled by fear, did not halt till they reached the capital. The English general passed the evening of the battle at Linlithgow, and marched next morning with the mass of his army to Edinburgh, where he arrived about four o'clock in the afternoon. A prey to disappointment and vexation, the appearance of Hawley on the morning after the battle is said by an observer to have been most wretched, and even worse than that of Cope a few hours after his "scuffle", when the same person saw him at Fala on his retreat to Berwick.

Before the return of Hawley's army, the greatest consternation prevailed among the friends of the government at Edinburgh from the reports of the fugitives, who brought accounts of the total rout and dispersion of the army, exaggerated by the relation of circumstances which had no existence, save in their own terrified imaginations; but the arrival of the greater part of the army served to dissipate their fears in some measure.

Since the commencement of the rebellion, however to its final close, never were the apprehensions of the supporters of the existing government more alarmingly excited than on the present occasion, when they saw the veteran troops, who had fought the battles of Dettingen and Fontenoy, return from Falkirk discomfited by a body of undisciplined mountaineers whom they had been taught to despise. The Jacobites, on the other hand, exulted at the victory, and gave expression to their feelings by openly deriding the vanquished.

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