BATTLE re-enactors will take up swords this weekend for a new event exploring the historic Jacobite Risings.
Highlands stronghold Fort George will host the two-day “Stuarts’ Struggle” event, with costumed actors recounting the 60 years of civil war and unrest.
Living history camps and guided tours will help teach visitors about the risings of 1689, 1715 and 1745 as Stuart supporters fought to restore the exiled King James VII and his descendants to the throne.
Fort George was built in response to the Jacobite threat, commissioned by the government following the disastrous Battle of Culloden to put a stop to any further show of arms.
The military base was strategically positioned and held more than 80 guns, with accommodation for a garrison of 2,000 redcoats.
Fran Caine of Historic Environment Scotland said: “The Jacobite Risings form an important period in Scottish history.
“Spanning around 60 years, these events shaped the Scotland, and in particular the Highlands, of today and their legacy is still visible in battlefields and defences – such as Fort George.
“The Stuarts’ Struggle event, which is new for this year, will offer an insight into the three main rebellions, as visitors discover the history behind this period of unrest and civil war in 18th-century Scotland.
“There will also be opportunities to discover what life could have been like for Jacobite soldiers during the Risings of 1689, 1715 and 1745 as well as learning about Fort George itself, which was built by the government in a strategic move to stop any further risings by the Jacobites.”
Book readers and history buffs know the outcome of the Battle of Prestonpans, which is the focus on Outlander, Episode 210. If you don’t know, then there may be a little spoiler here.
Initially known as the Battle of Gladsmuir, the Battle of Prestonpans, fought on September 21, 1745, was the first battle of the second Jacobite Rising. The Jacobite army, consisting of loyal followers of James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son, Charles Edward Stuart (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie), met and defeated England’s King George’s forces led by Sir John Cope. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobite army.
How did the Jacobites win the Battle of Prestonpans?
“On September 20, Cope’s forces encountered Charles’ advance guard. Cope decided to stand his ground and engage the Jacobite army. He drew up his army facing south with a marshy ditch to their front and the park walls around Preston House protecting their right flank. A Highlander supporter, Robert Anderson, was a local farmer’s son who knew the area well and convinced Charles’ Lieutenant General, Lord George Murray, of an excellent narrow route through the marshlands. Commencing at 4:00 a.m., he moved the entire Jacobite force, walking three abreast along that route, known as the Riggonhead Defile, in silence, arriving to the east of Cope’s army at Seton West Mains. Although Cope kept fires burning and posted picket during the night as the Highlanders were making their move, they were not spotted by the pickets until around 5:00 a.m.
“At 6:00 a.m., as dawn broke on September 21, 1745, Cope’s foot soldiers and dragoons beheld the spectacle of some 2000 Highlanders charging through the early mist, making ‘wild war cries and with the blood-curdling skirl of the pipes.’
“Cope’s inexperienced army had just wheeled round from facing south to facing east in great haste but could only fire their cannons and muskets just once before the Highlanders were upon them. They they fled, despite Cope and his officers’ attempts to force them at pistol point to make a stand. Cope’s army, facing east to confront the Jacobites, now had the ditch to their south and the walls of Preston House to the west behind them, blocking their panicked retreat.
“The ‘battle engagement’ was all over in less than fifteen minutes with hundreds of government troops killed or wounded and 1500 taken prisoner as the redcoats fled the field. The Hanoverian baggage train at Cockenzie was captured with only a single shot fired, and it contained £5000, many muskets, and ammunition. The Highlanders suffered less than 100 troops killed or wounded. The wounded and prisoners were given the best care possible at Prince Charles’ insistence.”
Their good fortune would not hold when the Jacobite army met British troops, led by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, in their final confrontation at Culloden Moor on April 16, 1746.