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Battle of Falkirk


On Sunday the 19th, the prince returned to Bannockburn, leaving Lord George Murray with the clans at Falkirk. At Bannockburn he issued, by means of a printing-press which he had carried with him from Glasgow, an account of the battle of Falkirk, a modest document when compared with that of Hawley who gravely asserted that had it not been for the rain his army would have continued in his camp, "being masters of the field of battle!"

After the battle of Falkirk, the Duke of Perth again summoned the castle of Stirling to surrender, but the governor returned the same answer he had sent to the first message. The prince therefore resumed the siege on his return to his former head quarters, and fixed his troops in their previous cantonments. An able mathematician, named Grant, who had been employed many years with the celebrated Cassini, in the observatory at Paris, and who had conducted the siege of Carlisle, had at the commencement of the siege communicated to the prince a plan of attack, by opening trenches and establishing batteries in the church-yard. He had assured the prince that this was the only place where they could find a parallel almost on a level with the batteries of the castle; and that if a breach were effected in the half-moon, which defended the entry to the castle, from a battery in the church-yard, the rubbish of the work would fill the ditch, and render an assault practicable through the breach.

In consequence, however, of a remonstrance from the inhabitants, who stated that the fire from the castle in the direction of the church-yard would reduce the greater part of the town to ashes, the prince abandoned this plan, and consulted M. Mirabelle, with the view of ascertaining whether there was any other practicable mode of making an attack on the castle with effect. To borrow an expression of the Chevalier Johnstone, in reference to the conduct of Mirabelle on this occasion, that it is always the distinctive mark of ignorance to find nothing difficult, not even the things that are impossible, this eccentric person, without the least hesitation, immediately undertook to open the trenches on the Gowling or Gowan Hill, a small eminence to the north of the castle, about forty feet below its level.

As there were not above fifteen inches depth of earth above the rock, it became necessary to supply the want of earth with bags of wool and earth, an operation which occupied several days. On breaking ground a fire was opened on the trenches from the castle, which was renewed from time to time during the progress of the works, and was answered from the trenches; but the fire from the castle was not sufficiently strong to hinder the operations, which, from the commanding position of the castle guns, could have been easily prevented. The design of General Blakeney in thus allowing the besiegers to raise their works, was, it is understood, to create a belief among them, that the castle would not be tenable against their batteries, and by this impression to induce the Highland army to remain before the fortress till Hawley should be again in sufficiently strong condition to advance from Edinburgh.

Having, on the evening of the 28th, completed the battery on the Gowan hill, which consisted of three pieces of cannon, the rebels quickly raised another on a small rocky eminence called the Ladies' hill, on the south-east of the town. They were both unmasked on the morning of the 29th, and immediately opened with a brisk fire, which shattered two of the embrasures of the castle. As the guns of the batteries were pointed upwards, the balls generally went over the castle, and the few that struck the walls produced little effect; but the case was totally different with the besieged, who, from their elevated situation, from which they could see even the shoe- buckles of the French artillerymen behind the batteries, poured down a destructive fire upon the besiegers from two batteries mounting together thirteen pieces, which dismounted the besiegers' guns, broke their carriages, and forced them to retire with considerable loss.

Thus defeated in their attack, the rebels abandoned the siege after wasting three weeks in a fruitless attempt to obtain possession of a post, which could have been of no essential service to them, and before which they lost some of their best men, chiefly among the French piquets, whom least of all they could spare.

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