Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Jacobites Fail to Take Stirling Castle..

Through November and December 1745, many groups of Jacobite recruits had been arriving in Perth from various quarters, so that by the beginning of January 1746 there were, including the 800 men who came from France with Lord John Drummond, about 4,000 more troops than the Prince had in his army which had originally marched South into England. Leaving Glasgow on 3 January, Charles' immediate goal was to take the town and castle of Stirling, still held by government forces. Charles had made his way via Kilsyth to Bannockburn a few miles from Stirling, where in the house of the Jacobite Sir Hugh Paterson, he met Sir Hugh's niece, Clementina Walkinshaw, a handsome girl of 23 years. She would play a big part in the Prince's life in years to come. The Prince now had 9,000 men at his disposal, and as before, one column under Lord George Murray, which on 3 January marched to Falkirk leaving the Hanoverian forces thinking they were making for Edinburgh, which they had held since shortly after Prestonpans. Lord George returned to join the Prince on 5 January, while Lord Elcho was left to patrol the Edinburgh road with a force of cavalry, reinforcing the notion that the Jacobite army were moving on Edinburgh. As well as the 800 men who had come from France, Lord John Drummond had brought with him a quantity of sizeable artillery (16 pounders, 12 pounders and 8 pounders) which were to be used now in the seige of Stirling. They were transported from Perth to the Forth estuary, whence they were ferried across river 'with great labour and in the teeth of a squadron of frigates' of the Royal Navy. The guns arrived safely. On the 5 January, a drummer was sent into Stirling to demand the surrender of the town, now completely surrounded by the Jacobites. The garrison consisting of 500 militiamen opened fire on the poor drummer boy, who dropped his drum and ran like hell back to his lines. Next morning the Jacobite guns were set within a short distance of the town, forcing the council to think again. On 8 January the surrender of the town was signed, but not the castle, garrisoned by some regulars and militia commanded by Major-General William Blakeney. Against this the Jacobites had the expertise of a Monsieur de Gordon, a French engineer officer who came across with Lord John Drummond. Also known as the Marquis de Mirabelle, and of Scottish descent, he was said to be one of the finest engineers in France, decorated with the Order of St. Louis. But, said the Chevalier de Johnstone "He was totally destitude of judgement, discernment and common sense," and Lord George Murray stated that "He was so volatile that no one could depend on him." Mr. Mirabelle, known to the Highlanders as 'Mr. Admirable', was always drunk. The siting of the batteries and the conduct of the seige were so unsuccessful, that General Blakeney had little fear that Stirling Castle would be surrendered to the Jacobite army. The failure to take Stirling Castle was not Charles' only cause for concern. Desertion was now rife among the troops, particularly among the Murray Athollemen, the regiment of Lord George's brother Duke William of Atholl. Lord George wrote to his brother about "the scadalous desertion of your men." Since the Prince had refused to hold any more coucils, more and more he came to heed the advice of his 'friends', Murray of Broughton and Sir Thomas Sheridan. The Highland Chiefs deeply resented that they were no longer called to council, and Lord George Murray in a memorandum to the Prince pointed out that "upon any sudden emergency such as a battle or a seige, a discretionary power must be allowed to those in command." He pointed out the importance of these councils of war in the past, and that they be resumed forthwith. An indignant Prince, probably egged on by his intimates, repeated that he would have no more truck with these army councils. Ever since Derby, the pent up feelings and antagonism which had been building up between the Prince and Lord George and the chiefs were now manifestly clear. This did not bode well for the future.

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