The Order of Battle
Use this specially-adapted image from the Prestonpans Tapestry (stitched by Elizabeth Jones) to explore the battle lines of the two armies. Hover your mouse over the armies, and click on a highlighted unit to discover which clan or regiment it represents.
Commander: Captain Edmund Beavor
Fox was a sixth-rate frigate of 24 guns, and had provided a complement of sailors to help man Sir John Cope's artillery. Although most sources do not mention her presence directly, there is some evidence to suggest the ship was close to the shore when the battle was fought. For example, early Jacobite battle reports suggested Cope had escaped by sea. The above image, taken from a contemporary plan of the battlefield, may be an illustration of HMS Fox.
Commander: Lt-Colonel William Wright
This was a full regiment of around 300 men, formed in three squadrons. The first two were posted on the left flank of the British Army, whilst the third was held back behind the infantry to form a small reserve. They wore red coats with yellow cuffs.
As the Jacobites advanced, Hamilton's found themselves outflanked and attempted to pull back to avoid being surrounded. As they did, with the Macdonald regiments falling on, they saw the routing 13th dragoons to their rear and rode off to join them.
Commander: Lt-Colonel Jaspar Clayton
The only full infantry regiment on the field, all ten companies of Thomas Murray's Regiment of Foot were present. They had been formed in 1741 at Newcastle, and despite their colonel being a son of he Earl of Dunmore, most of the soldiers were English.
The regiment wore red coats with green facings. Illustration by Peter Dennis.
Commander: Captain Sir Patrick Murray
The Baggage Train was posted to the rear of the British army as it was formed on 20th September, which meant that when the battle re-aligned the following morning it was out on their extreme left. The baggage, including the whole waggon train, encampment, and officer's equipment, was protected by one company of John Murray's Highland Regiment (the Black Watch), and 3 newly recruited and incomplete companies of Loudoun's Highlanders (most of whom didn't have their uniforms yet).
After the main body of the British Army had been routed, the Jacobites turned their attention to the Baggage Guard. They were persuaded to surrender by a captured senior officer, Peter Halkett, who acted as intermediary to prevent further loss of life. Some of the recruits deserted to join their fellow Highlanders in the Jacobite Army.
Commander: Major John Severn
Peregrine Lascelles' Regiment of Foot was incomplete at the battle, as its two remaining companies had been detached to strengthen the crucial garrison at Edinburgh Castle. Lascelles (pictured) was present in person, serving on Cope's staff as his infantry brigadier.
The regiment had been raised in Scotland in 1741, and wore red coats with yellow facings. Before the Rising, the regiment had been tasked with road-building in the west of Scotland before being posted to the Edinburgh area. Lascelles escaped the battlefield and was one of the three officers under investigation at the official Inquiry the following year. Exonerated, he subsequently campaigned with his regiment in North America.
Unlike its companions, Sir John Guise's Regiment was a long-established unit with many battle honours. It had, however, lost many of its veterans in the West Indies in 1741, so many of its rank and file would have been similarly inexperienced in live battlefield operations. With most of the regiment holding the network of forts and barracks which had been intended to contain any troubles in the Highlands, only 2 companies were available for Cope's field army. The regiment wore red coats with yellow facings.
Illustration showing an officers of Guise's Regiment, by Peter Dennis.
Commander: Lt-Colonel Peter Halkett
This half-strength regiment was commanded by its Scottish lieutenant colonel, Peter Halkett of Pitfirrane Castle, Dumfermline. When the army broke, Halkett was able to rally a small group in the ditch beside the Meadows, and deter the Jacobites from pursuing into Preston village. He surrender on good terms and agreed to intercede with the Highland companies in Cockenzie to ensure their safe surredender.
For honouring his parole, Halkett was later dismissed from the army by the Duke of Cumberland, although the king reinstated him. Halkett later served in North America and were badly cut up at Monongahela in 1755, where Halket (then full Colonel) was killed.
The regiment wore red coats with white facings.
Illustration by Peter Dennis
Around 300 foot soldiers had been on sentry (picket) duty when the Jacobites were detected. There was no time for them to all rush off to join their own regiments, and so they formed a composite unit at the end of the infantry line. They had been awake longer than their comrades, but perhaps not to their advantage.
GARDINER'S (13th) DRAGOONS
Commander: Colonel James Gardiner
The 13th Dragoons had fought the Jacobites at Preston, Lancashire in 1715 and had subsequently been stationed in Ireland until 1743. At Prestonpans, they mirrored on the right flank the deployment of Hamilton's Dragoons on the left, with two squadrons up front and one stationed behind the infantry as a reserve. However, the right flank was badly formed and there was insufficient space for both forward squadrons, leaving one stuck behind the artillery.
The front squadron was led by Lt-Colonel Shugborough Whitney, who was wounded and captured in the fighting. The dragoons had initially attempted to advance on the charging Camerons, but then wheeled back in disorder and, under fire, broke. The forward squadron carried away those behind.
Colonel Gardiner, a veteran of Marlborough's wars, was posted with the reserve squadron. He failed to rally his regiment but disdained flight himself and was mortally wounded beneath a hawthorn tree. He was, by chance, a Prestonpans resident. The dovecot at his former home, Bankton House, is now a micro-museum.
The regiment wore red coats with green facings, probably with white small clothes. One squadron carried a banner with the slogan "Britons Strike Home", which was subsequently captured by the Jacobites at Falkirk.
ARTILLERY & GUARD
Commanders: Major Eaglesfield Griffiths and Lt-Colonel Charles Whitefoord
6x light cannon
4x coehorn mortars
2x royal mortars
The artillery train could have been effective at disordering the Jacobite charge, if only if it had been more effectively manned. From the outset of the campaign Cope had lacked sufficient artillery crews to man his guns. At Prestonpans they were served by a small and inadequate mix of sailors, Invalid soldiers, and volunteers. They fled before the charge of the Camerons, leaving the two officers to fire the guns themselves.
Canister and grapeshot have been found on the battlefield, suggesting that is what the guns fired at the Highlanders. The previous day they had fired round shot at the Camerons based around Tranent church. The effectiveness of the mortars was undermined by the bomb fuses, which had been spoiled in storage and failed to ignite the explosive charges.
At the start of the battle, Cope ordered his cannons to be divided into two batteries to support the infantry, but the civilian drivers had already left the frontline and it was too late to move the guns again. The flight of the artillery crews disordered the dragoons behind them. There was an infantry guard of 100 men on the extreme right of the line, and these were very vulnerable if the guns weren't firing. These men wisely fled as soon as they saw the gun crews going.
The Jacobites captured the entire artillery train, including tools and ammunition. The picture above shows a mortar which was left behind by the Jacobites in Derbyshire - it may be one of those captured at Prestonpans.
Commander: William Drummond, Viscount Strathallan
Strength: 36 gentlemen, and their servants
By the time it fought at Prestonpans the Jacobite army only possessed one small cavalry troop, the Perthshire Horse. It was raised after the Prince's march from Blair Atholl to Perth, and as gentlemen the troopers were expected to be able to mount and equip themselves and their servants. This tiny regiment served as scouts on the march to the battle, but were considered too few in number to counter the 600 horsemen riding with Cope's army. As a result, they were held back at Tranent during the battle itself, only sweeping round onto the field once the Government army was broken. Their pursuit of fugitives was not without risk, however: David Threipland of Fingask was shot down by fleeing dragoons near St Clements Wells, having outpaced his companions and become isolated.
Laurence Oliphant of Gask Snr served as the lieutenant-colonel, whilst his son and namesake served as a captain and as an ADC on the Prince's staff.
Image by Peter Dennis.
CAMERON OF LOCHIEL'S
Commander: Donald Cameron of Lochiel
The largest regiment of the Jacobite army was that of Cameron of Lochiel, one of the Western Highlands' most influential clan leaders. Lochiel was technically the acting chieftain of his clan, since his father was still alive. The latter was however still in exile for his role in former Jacobite risings. The support of Lochiel was critical in persuading others to join with the Jacobites, and although Lochiel had originally been minded to dissuade the Prince he had been persuaded to change his mind following their meeting.
As a large, efficient and well-equipped force, Lochiel's Regiment played an important part in key operations such as the seizure of Edinburgh and the charging of the guns at Prestonpans. They were rallied to the pipes after their success, maintaining discipline, and were then redeployed to face down the baggage guard at Cockenzie.
The Regiment appears to have borne two colours (or standards) during the rising, which may have been present at Prestonpans. One was a red banner centred with a variant of the chief's coat of arms; the other was a flag of red and yellow horizontal strips, a design taken from the arms.
Commander: Charles Stewart of Ardsheal
Raised in the Appin region of the Western Highlands, this regiment was dominated by Stewarts. The chief's uncle led them out, and as well as Stewarts there were MacColls, MacInnes, MacLarnes, MacKenzies and others amongst the ranks. The Stewarts charged alongside the Camerons, overrunning the redcoat right. In the fighting, Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle prevented the killing of Lt-Colonel Whitefoord close to the gun-line. Whitefoord would later intervene on his saviour's behalf after he was captured in turn at the Battle of Culloden.
The Appin Regiment carried a blue silk banner crossed with a yellow saltire. It hangs today in the National Museum of Scotland. It is the only flag carried at the Battle of Prestonpans which is on public display. A replica can usually be seen at our re-enactment events, carried by nembers of the "Claymore" society.
DUKE OF PERTH'S
Commander: probably James Mor MacGregor (son of Rob Roy)
Strength: c.200, including a company of MacGregors
The titular colonel of this mixed regiment, James Drummond, Duke of Perth, had joined the Prince at Perth and been made a Lieutenant-General. He therefore held the same rank as Lord George Murray and was second only to the Prince himself. This was largely due to his high social rank, as Perth lacked military experience. Fortunately, he knew his limits and often deferred to others as required. He was however brave and popular with the men. At Prestonpans he was detached to command the right wing, so was not with the regiment which bore his name.
The regiment was probably led by James Mor MacGregor, a son of the famous Rob Roy, and a parcel of MacGregors appears to have been temporarily brigaded with Perth's men. Perth's Regiment would later grow into a substantial unit with little geographic association, and its Perthshire roots would have probably given it a mixed Highland/Lowland character even at Prestonpans.
The MacGregors are singled out by Captain James Johnstone as being poorly equipped at Prestonpans, some of their number carrying Lochaber axes rather than muskets or swords. Nevertheless, they were also praised for their ferocity in the charge!
Image of a Jacobite officer, by Peter Dennis
KEPPOCH & GLENCOE
Commander: Alexander MacDonnell of Keppoch; Alexander MacDonald of Glencoe
Strength: c.250 & c.100
All the Clan Donald units formed the Duke of Perth's division, in the place of honour on the Jacobite right. The Glencoe men were informally brigaded with the Keppochs, as their strength alone was insufficient for a discrete regiment. Both bodies were commanded by their chiefs in person, and Keppoch's brother Archibald was killed at Prestonpans. Glencoe also lost an officer Angus MacDonald of Achtriachtan, reminding us that Highland officers were expected to lead the charge from the front.
Illustration by Peter Dennis.
Commander: Angus Og MacDonell
Led by the second son of their chief and augmented by the Grants of Glenmoriston, the men of the Glengarry regiment formed a large and effective fighting force at Prestonpans. They charged towards the only complete infantry regiment in the redcoat lines, which was unhindered in its deployment unlike its colleagues further along. This meant they charged into a "hot fire" as they crossed the stubble field.
Illustration by Peter Dennis
Commander: Ranald MacDonald of Clan Ranald, the Younger
The extreme right of the Jacobite line, the position of the highest honour, was held at Prestonpans by the Clanranald Regiment. These Highlanders were led by the son of their chief, owing to the caution of his father who declined to over-commit. As a result, the regiment primarily comprised mainland MacDonalds rather than their island brethren. The Prince had landed in Clanranald territory, and as a matter of honour they were obliged therefore to protect his person in the early weeks of the putative uprising.
The Clanranald position on the battlefield extended further towards the north than the extremity of General Cope's line, and was protected on its flank by soft marshy ground. Both factors prevented Hamilton's Dragoons from being able to threaten the flank of the Duke of Perth's division.
Commander: John Murray, Lord Nairne
The head of this brigade, which would later grow to three battalions in strength, was the Jacobite Duke of Atholl, (often termed Tullibardine to distinguish him from his younger brother, whom the government recognised as the duke). Atholl was not present at Prestonpans in person however, having remained in Perthshire to coordinate the raising and despatch of fresh levies.
Lord Nairne led the Athollmen into Edinburgh just two days before the army marched out to battle, which probably accounts for their placement in the second line. The Prince honoured them with his presence for the battle, charging on foot at their head.
The day before the battle, the Atholl Brigade had been posted on Birslie Brae long into the night in order to fixate the redcoats' attention on the western approach to the battlefield. For that purpose, they descended the hill in the evening and exchanged skirmish fire with the pickets near Bankton House. They were the last unit to be recalled to the site of the "camp" east of Tranent.
The first battalion carried a white silk banner with a red saltire across it, and the second probably a similar colour with the saltire in blue. The soldiers probably exhibited a mixed Highland and Lowland character, as befits a force recruited largely from Perthshire.
Commander: Alexander Robertson of Struan
It is unclear if the Clan Donnachaidh formed as a fully independent regiment at Prestonpans or were already recognised as part of the Atholl Brigade. After the battle, the Prince directed the elderly chief to delegate command so as to save himself from the exertions of further campaigning. In return, he was permitted to carry Sir John Cope's coach back to the Highlands along with the best of his baggage. As a result, the general's travelling fiddle is still in Robertson hands and is now on display at the clan's museum at Bruar.
Illustration by Peter Dennis
Commander: Lachlan MacLachlan of MacLachlan
This small unit was formed on the left flank of the second line, effectively the Jacobite rear-guard. Led by their chief, the MacLachlans were late in reaching the army as they had been forced to circumvent the neighbouring lands of the hostile Duke of Argyll.
Although they charged at Prestonpans, like most in the second line the MacLachlans did not make direct contact with the redcoat line until it was already in route.