The Battle of Falkirk Muir
by Ellen Castelow
The Jacobite Rising was an attempt to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne, through the person of Charles Edward Stewart, The Young Pretender, or Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Having failed in their attempt to gain support in England and advance on London, the Jacobites had retreated all the way back to Scotland and besieged the government forces under the command of Major General Blakeney at Stirling Castle. In an attempt to relieve the siege, Lieutenant General Henry Hawley led an army of around 7,000 men from Edinburgh.
Marching north, Hawley was surprised to find his way blocked by a Jacobite force under the command of Lord George Murray on Falkirk Muir, to the south of the town. The Jacobite army was deployed with the Highlanders in the front line and the Lowland infantry in support in the second line.
The battle started late in the day with a charge by the government dragoons on the Jacobite right flank, although the advance slowed as they came into musket range. Abandoning their firearms in preference for dirks, the Highlanders dropped to the ground thrusting their daggers into the soft underbellies of the horses and stabbing the riders as they fell.
Due to the failing light and atrocious weather conditions, confusion ensued on the battlefield and Hawley made a tactical withdrawal back to Edinburgh.
With most of the government forces routed, the Highlanders seized upon the chance to pillage their camp.
The following morning it became clear to Murray that he had in fact emerged victorious. A hollow victory perhaps, as lacking the resources for a winter campaign the Jacobites abandoned their siege of Stirling and returned home to await the spring.
Date: 17th January, 1746
War: Jacobite Rising
Belligerents: Great Britain (Hanoverians), Jacobites
Numbers: Great Britain around 7,000, Jacobites around 8,000
Casualties: Great Britain 350, Jacobites 130
Commanders: Henry Hawley (Great Britain), Charles Edward Stuart (Jacobites)