The Battle of Falkirk Muir - 17th January 1746


The Jacobites charge at Falkirk Muir - the last Scottish victory

The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-46 (known as The '45) had begun in August 1745 when the "Young Pretender", Charles Stuart affectionately known as Bonnie Prince Charlie had landed in Scotland at Glenfinnan and raised the standard for the Stuart claim to the throne.

The Stuart's had be dethroned two generations earlier, when the last Stuart king, catholic King James II (youngest son of Charles I and younger brother to Charles II) had been overthrown by the arrival of the protestant William of Orange at the request of parliament. Through the early 1700's James II's son, also James, and known as the "Old Pretender" had stirred up rebellion in Scotland with the 1708,1715 and 1719 Jacobite Rebellions, now thirty years later, his son Charles would attempt the same, and come far closer than he would realise to achieving his goal.


The whole thing was perfectly timed for maximum opportunity. Britain was heavily engaged in war on the European mainland and the Austrian War of Succession fighting their favourite enemy, the French. Consequently many of the best British regiments were on the Continent fighting and home defence was largely reliant on local yeomanry forces. In addition, the French had offered Charles support, both financial and in the promise of a French invasion of southern England if his rebellion could invade the north and draw the British army's attention away from the south. After an inspiring victory at Prestonpans in September, the Jacobites decided to invade England. Advancing past Carlisle, Preston and Manchester, the Scots continued their march south heading for London. Their plan though was not going quite to plan; they had hoped to gather English support for the Stuart cause as they advanced, which had largely failed to materialise. In addition, the promised French invasion hadn't happened, in fact worse had happened, with news of several veteran British regiments returning from Europe and now forming up in London under The Duke of Cumberland's command. Afraid of being cut off from Scotland, the Clan leaders told Charles that they were returning and began the long march home. After a small engagement at Clifton Moor in Cumbria, the Scots crossed the border and back into Scotland.


The Clan leader's plan was now to clear all Government forces out of Scotland and make the British come to them, they hoped that if they maintained the rebellion long enough that the British government would seek peace by agreeing terms, hopefully with an independent Scotland. To start this process, in early January they began to lay siege to the Government stronghold of Stirling Castle. Lieutenant-General Henry Hawley, veteran of several major battles in Europe, set off with a relief force of 7,000 men, many of them veterans, from Edinburgh. They arrived at Falkirk on the 15th January. Charles Stuart gathered as many men as could be spared from the siege and on the morning of the 17th the two armies prepared for battle.


Initial deployment at the Battle of Falkirk Muir

ORDERS OF BATTLE

Using a 1 to 25 figure ratio

BRITISH / GOVERNMENT ARMY


Lieutenant General Henry Hawley - Commander in Chief - experienced, average ability

Left Wing

Ligonier's Dragoons (300 men) - 12 figures - Heavy cavalry, veteran, trained, sword

Cobham's Dragoons (300 men) - 12 figures - Heavy cavalry, veteran, trained, sword

Hamilton's Dragoons (300 men) - 12 figures - Heavy cavalry, veteran, trained, sword

First Line of Battle

Wolfe's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Cholmondeley's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Pulteney's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Royal's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, elite, musket

Price's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Ligonier's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Second Line of Battle

Blakeney's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Munro's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Fleming's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Barrel's Regiment of Grenadiers (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, elite, musket

Battereau's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Reserve Forces

Howard's Regiment (400 men) - 16 figures - Veteran, trained, musket

Glasgow Militia (1000 men) - 40 figures - Militia, raw, musket


JACOBITE ARMY


Lord George Murray - Commander in Chief - experienced, inspiring leader

First Battle Line (Highlanders)

MacDonald's Clan (800 men) - 32 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

Cameron's Clan (600 men) - 24 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

MacPherson's Clan (600 men) - 24 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

Fraser's Clan (500 men) - 20 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

Mackintoshes Clan (500 men) - 20 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

Mackenzies Clan (500 men) - 20 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

Farquharsons Clan (750 men) - 30 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

Stewart's Clan (750 men) - 30 figures - veteran, warband, fanatical, musket, broadsword

Second Line of Battle (Lowland Scots)

Athol Brigade (750 men) - 30 figures - veteran, militia, steady, musket

Ogilvy Brigade (750 men) - 30 figures - veteran, militia, steady, musket

Gordon Brigade (750 men) - 30 figures - veteran, militia, steady, musket

Reserve Forces

Irish Piquets (750 men) - 30 figures - veteran, trained, steady, musket

Scottish Hussars (150 men) - 6 figures - Light cavalry, veteran, trained, steady, sword


THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

On the morning of the 17th January, the Jacobite army took up position on the moor overlooking the British camp. Hawley had a very poor opinion of the Jacobite army, a view that would cost him dearly later, but in holding this view he felt confident the Scots wouldn't dare attack him. When skirmishing fire started to echo around his camp, he decided otherwise, and hastily ordered his men out onto the moor to face the Scots. The weather was a mix of sleet and snow which had made the ground very soft, and failing to take note of this the British artillery guns got bogged down in a sodden marsh north of the battlefield and took no part in the fighting.

The British cavalry charge the Clans

In line with his poor view of the Scots, Hawley believed that a determined cavalry charge against their leading Clans would rout the entire army, so placed all three of his Dragoon regiments opposite the Clans MacDonald and Cameron. Predicting Hawley's plan, Lord Murray dismounted from his hose and took his command in the MacDonald Clan to ensure that his orders were followed precisely.


At 16:00 the British cavalry began their charge, finding the wet ground heavy going. Murray stood in the front line of his men and held the order to fire until the troopers were within 50 paces when they fired a deadly volley that hit the cavalry like a wall of lead. A handful made contact with the Scots, but the vast majority halted their charge and turned in panic, with two routing regiments ploughing straight into their own infantry behind them. With in minutes the entire left wing of the British army had disintegrated, all the Scots had to do now was attack Hawley's right wing.

The Jacobites rout the British Dragoons

Luckily for Hawley, his right wing was still solid, and his veteran troops received the Highland charge and held their ground, managing to even send some of the Jacobites running back, before eventually pure weight of numbers overwhelmed the remaining British regiments, who broke and followed the retreat back to their camp.


As they routed through the marshy ground they met Captain Cunningham, the captain of artillery, who was still there trying to rescue his train and guns from the mud. Seeing the entire army pass by in panic, he abandoned his guns and joined the rout; later he committed suicide with the shame of missing the battle and losing the entire artillery train.


It was now dark and the weather had worsened to a storm, which deterred the Jacobites from a pursuit. Had they done so they may have changed history, but instead the British army was allowed to restore order and retreat to Edinburgh, where they would go on assist Cumberland in his advance into the Highlands and final victory at Culloden in April.


WARGAMING THE JACOBITE REBELLION

Although a relatively short conflict, it is a piece of history that to this day stirs emotions. There are plenty of figures out there to play too, from 54mm right down to 6mm. In the popular scales, we especially like the 28mm range from Front Rank Figurines and the 15mm range from Essex Miniatures. For those who enjoy the look of "big battles" on the table then the 10mm Pendraken range is a perfect mix of detail, convenient size, and low cost. You can find these in our online store.

Pendraken 10mm Jacobites

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