Friday, 6 June 2014
Battle Is Joined On Falkirk Muir.
On the 15 January,1746, the opposing armies formed battle lines on Falkirk Hill. We quote from Lord Elcho's Memoirs. " The Prince's army consisted of three lines drawn up in battle order. The clans made the first line, the Lowland foot the second and Lord John Drummond formed the third line of the Prince's army. The whole army consisted of 6,000 foot and 360 horse. General Hawley's army consisted of 12 battalion of foot, making about 6,000 men, three regiments of horse (ie.six squadrons of dragoons),900 men, 1500 Glasgow and Paisley malitia and 1,000 Highlanders under a Campbell colonel, fighting for the government side. There were in all about 9,400 men commanded by Lt. General Hawley, Major General Huske and Brigadeers General Cholmondely and Mordaunt.. The Prince commanded the Corps de Reserve of his army, Lord George Murray the right wing and Lord John Drummond the left." The English were very surprised to see the Highlanders appear over the summit of Falkirk Hill. "General Hawley arranged his order of battle in two lines, being three regiments of infantry with his cavalry placed before his infantry, to the left of his first line." Because of the nature of the terrain, the opposing lines of the armies were not as one would expect, right wing of one army opposite the left of the other, left wing opposite right wing etc.. As such, they found a wing of their battle line directly opposite cavalry at the centre of the enemy line. There was much confusion, and some officers were not sure of their command or what to do. "The Engish commenced the attack by a corps of cavalry of 100 men, who advanced quite safely against the right of our army, and did not stop till about the distance of about twenty paces from our first line, on purpose to await our fire," says the Chevalier de Johnstone. " The Highlanders advanced slowly and as they were trained to wait 'till about touching muzzles' and at the moment the cavalry halted, they let go their discharge which brought down to ground about twenty four men, every one aimed at a horseman." One of those killed was the officer in charge of the cavalry who had led from the front. The English cavalry managed to regroup and rushed at the Highlanders at a great trot, driving all before them, and trampling the Highlanders under the horses' feet. In a unique and remarkable tactic, the Highlanders lay flat on their backs on the ground, and with their dirks pointing up, they thrust them into the horses' bellies. Others seized the horsemen by their clothing, pulling them down and dispatching them with their dirks or pistols. In this melee there was no room to wield their claymores. In time, the English cavalry broke ranks and were forced to retreat, but as usual, the Highlanders pursued the fleeing horsemen with sabre strokes, keeping up with the horses at speed. The English cavalry rushed through their own infantry positioned behind them on the battlefield. There the cavalry fell into disorder, and dragged their army along wth them in this rout. The Chevalier, an expert on ancient and modern military theory, says in one of his many pronouncements that " The battle of Falkirk confirms me in my opinion that it is a very bad disposition to place cavalry in front of infantry." As night fell, the English army entered Falkirk and many fires were lit throughout their camp. The enemy had retired, and we were left with the feeling that our victory was far from complete and that today's battle had advanced us nothing. The Jacobites had no reason to believe that they had lost the battle since the English army had left the field. The opinion in the Prince's camp was that the battle was indecisive, mainly caused by the disorder which had spread through their ranks. The Highlanders were in the greatest confusion, with all their corps intermingled, and in the darkness which had fallen, many did not know whether they had won or lost until the next morning. Lord Elcho says that "General Hawley's army had between 500 and 600 killed and 600 taken prisoners, few upon the field. Among the slain were 30 officers. They lost seven piece of cannon which were never fired, three standards and several colours and all their camp and baggage. The Prince's army had about fifty killed and sixty wounded." This, in some small way, resembled the outcome of the Battle of Killiecranckie during the First Jacobite Rising of 1689 for which was penned the song "Some say that we won, and some say that they won, And some say that nane won at a' "