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On Gladsmuir Shall the Battle Be!

The Battle of Prestonpans 1745

Series : From Reason to Revolution 1721-1815 #6

Author : Arran Johnston

On Gladsmuir Shall the Battle Be! : The Battle of Prestonpans 1745

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eBook (epub)  20.88MB

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General - Pages : 232 | Images : 25 b/w ills, 13 maps

Hardback - Date of Publication : September 2017 | Size : 234mm x 156mm | ISBN : 9781911512837 | Helion Book Code : HEL0820

eBook - ISBN : 9781914059490

In the summer of 1745, a charismatic (but inexperienced) young Prince sailed to Scotland - determined to wrest the crowns of Great Britain from the head of George II. In a few short weeks, he raised an army large enough to challenge the government’s forces in Scotland and, against the odds, stormed to a shocking victory over them at the Battle of Prestonpans. Celebrated ever since in song and art, Prestonpans nevertheless proved to be a false dawn on the road to defeat at the Battle of Culloden seven months later, but without his victory at Prestonpans and all the opportunities it provided, Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie') could never have invaded England and his short uprising would then have been but a footnote in the history of Georgian Britain.

This book - the climax of years of on-site investigation and source analysis - pieces together the events of the Prestonpans campaign in unprecedented detail. Focusing on the week of the battle, the author’s knowledge of the towns and villages through which the armies marched brings their motions vividly to life. Combined with eyewitness testimonies and close scrutiny of the evidence presented to the Board of Inquiry in 1746, this allows the reader to understand the build-up to the battle from an individual, as well as strategic, level. Such an understanding is revealed as critical, as the effects of morale, landscape and personality are shown to have determined the fate of the battle far more than the relative power of broadsword and bayonet.

The book opens with an exploration of the battlefield area prior to the Rising, before analysing the political and military strengths and weaknesses of the opposing causes; this includes rarely-provided information on the career of Sir John Cope. After following the opening campaign in the Highlands, the reader is then taken on a detailed day-by-day journey through the week leading to the battle. The account of the engagement itself - driven by eyewitness testimony and contemporary evidence - also incorporates the latest archaeological analysis of the site to create the most detailed and engaging presentation yet of this famous and dramatic event. Its aftermath and legacy, both on a local and national level, is then considered before the book concludes with a look at the changes which have occurred across the battlefield landscape up to the present day.

This is a study of one of Britain’s best-documented, but least analysed, battles - seen from within the landscape and communities around which it was fought. No longer should the two days of events which make up the Battle of Prestonpans be viewed simply as the prologue to a future defeat; instead, they are presented as they were understood at the time: as the climax of a month-long campaign which, it seemed, would determine the fate of Scotland.


“ … An amazing and vivid account of the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.” Books Monthly


“Even if the Jacobite wars are not your main interest, you will enjoy this book as a good example of modern military historical writing; if you are at all interested in the 'Forty-five' it should definitely be on your shelves.” Miniature Wargames


“The book is valuable, not only for its depiction of events, but also for its insights into the principal actors. Under Johnston’s expert guidance, we follow both armies on their inexorable course to contact - Cope’s, from Dalwhinnie to Inverness, Aberdeen and Dunbar; Charles’s, from Glenfinnan across the Corrieyairack to Edinburgh– culminating in a quarter hour’s one-sided butchery. Above all, Johnston shows that Prestonpans was important. It was important in its own day because it shook a throne and altered the course of a European nation.” History Scotland


“There is much to commend in this study. The welcome use of the title ‘British Army’ to describe Cope’s forces is completely correct and overdue: British regulars are still exposed to being called ‘Government’ troops or even worse ‘Hanoverian’ ones in this one context alone. This detaches them from their role, and their link - especially later in the campaign…The geography of the field itself is laid out in painstaking and precise detail and is some of the very best study of the battle available, while the stress on the ‘day one’ conflict on 20th September is also excellent. Arran Johnston has produced the fullest and most detailed study yet of Prestonpans, and for that reason alone this book is worth having on the shelves of anyone interested in the Jacobite movement.” British Journal of Military History

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