Prestonpans Battlefield

Monument to the Battle of Prestonpans (1745)
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Monument to the Battle of Prestonpans (1745)

Located a mile (1.5 km) east of the centre of Prestonpans, the battlefield is marked today by a pyramid-shaped mound, formed from the waste from local coal-mining activities, which is topped by explanatory display boards. An artificial ski slope lies on one side of the mound.

The Battle of Prestonpans was the first of the 1745 Jacobite rising. The rising was timed to take advantage of many government troops being tied up fighting the French on the continent. Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-88) had landed in the Outer Hebrides and then Moidart, moving south to gather support. The government commander Sir John Cope raced to crush the rebellion before it gained strength, but the 'Bonnie Prince' had raised his standard at Glenfinnan, declared his father James Francis Edward Stuart (1688 - 1766) to be the rightful King, and already gained thousands of supporters. Stuart took Perth and Edinburgh, with the incompetent Cope failing to stop him. Cope landed his army of 2300 at Dunbar and advanced to Prestonpans to wait for the Jacobites. He expected an attack from the west, but Stuart and his skilled general Lord George Murray, circled their army of 2500 round to the east taking Cope by surprise on 21st September. Despite their lack of artillery and inferior weapons, the Jacobites quickly over-ran the government troops, killing 500 and capturing 1500, with their own losses numbering less than a tenth of that number. Other than a few highland forts and lowland castles, the whole of Scotland was now under Jacobite control, considerably boosting their morale and influence.

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