Battle of Prestonpans

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Battle of Prestonpans
date September 21, 1745
place east of Prestonpan's coordinates: 55 ° 57 ′ 36 "  N , 2 ° 57 ′ 0"  WWorld icon
output Jacobite victory
Parties to the conflict

Jacobite Standard (1745) .svg Jacobites

Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain British Government Forces


Charles Edward Stuart

John Cope

Troop strength
2500 2300

30 killed
70 wounded

300 killed,
400–500 wounded,
1,400–1500 prisoners

Jacobite Rebellion , Battle of
Prestonpans , Battle of Falkirk , Battle of Culloden

The Battle of Prestonpans on September 21, 1745 between forces of the British Crown and the Jacobite army under Prince Charles Edward Stuart took place southeast of Edinburgh in Scotland during the Scottish Jacobite Rising of 1745 and ended in a Jacobite victory.

Monument near the battlefield

Historical background

After a French invasion of England during the War of the Austrian Succession in early 1744 was planned but not materialized and the Jacobites in Scotland and England were also reluctant to rise, Charles Edward Stuart equipped two French warships at his own expense and landed on May 25. July 1745 with seven companions near Moidart in the Scottish highlands, in order to start a revolt of the Jacobites, to convince the French to support him and to regain the throne of his father. At Glenfinnan he set up his standard on August 19th. Despite the great misgivings of the Jacobites, members of the highland clans Cameron , Macdonald and MacLean joined him. With about 3,000 men he marched into the capital Edinburgh on September 17, 1745 . The garrison consisting of two dragoons fled hastily and left the city to Prince Charles. Only the fortress Edinburgh Castle was held by British soldiers.

General Sir John Cope , Commander in Chief of Government Forces in Scotland, was with four infantry regiments in Aberdeen . His troops were transferred by ship to Dunbar to retake the capital from the south, teamed up with the Dragoons and marched along the coast road towards Edinburgh. In total, his army consisted of 2,300 men with six guns. Since the best British troops of the line were in Belgium because of the War of the Austrian Succession , he only had inexperienced and poorly trained soldiers who were hardly fit for combat. Prince Charles' highlanders, on the other hand, were undisciplined but highly motivated.

Course of the battle

Caricature of John Cope fleeing after the lost battle.

Charles faced Cope's troops at Prestonpans, southeast of Edinburgh, with about 2,500 men. After the cavalry discovered the Jacobites, Cope posted his army behind a swamp with their backs to the sea. However, during the night of September 20-21, the Highlanders found a path through the swamp that brought them to the left flank of government forces. Cope then turned his soldiers and placed his infantry in the center, the artillery on the right wing and the dragoons on either side. The highlands attacked with broadswords drawn, whereupon the artillerymen fled. Only two officers stayed and tried to operate the six guns. The cavalrymen also fled in the face of the attack, whereupon Cope's entire army broke up and was overrun if they did not flee. There was no significant resistance. Only some of the officers managed to hold parts of the regiments together. Only the dragoons managed to escape in significant numbers, the infantrymen were killed, wounded or taken prisoner up to about 170 soldiers. Cope's army lost about 300 dead, 400 to 500 wounded, and between 1,400 and 1,500 prisoners. The highlands counted only about 30 dead and 70 wounded. Cope escaped and rode into Berwick-upon-Tweed at the head of the refugees . He was later mocked for having been the first general to bring news of his own defeat.


With the destruction of Cope's army, all of Scotland fell unopposed into the hands of Prince Charles. Only the fortresses of Edinburgh and Stirling remained in the hands of the government troops. The battle demonstrated their poor quality as well as the fighting power of the highlands, whose attacks with drawn weapons had a considerable psychological effect. The Prestonpans victory brought Prince Charles the temporary success of his bold undertaking, which, however, ended in the disaster of the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746 after a futile invasion of England and another victory for the Highlands at Falkirk .


The battle is detailed in Walter Scott's novel Waverley and is also featured in the television series Outlander .


  • Michael Brander: Scottish and Border Battles and Ballads. Barnes & Noble, New York 1993, ISBN 1-56619-088-6 .
  • Martin Margulies .: The Battle of Prestonpans, 1745 . Tempus, Stroud (Gloucestershire) 2007. ISBN 0752440357
  • Katherine Tomasson, Francis Buist: Battles of the '45. Batsford, London 1978, ISBN 0-7134-0769-7 (new edition).
  • Stuart Reid: 1745. A Military History of the Last Jacobite Rising. Spellmount, Staplehurst 2000, ISBN 1-86227-130-5 .

Web links

Commons : Battle of Prestonpans  - collection of images, videos and audio files