The Battle of Falkirk Muir

The Battle of Falkirk Muir, also known as the second Battle of Falkirk, was fought on 17th January 1746 and was a victory for the Jacobite army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart over their Hanoverian adversaries of the British army. The battle was fought in a tempest of rain and wind, as illustrated in this painting by Lionel Edwards (1878-1966). The artist was famous for painting scenes depicting horses and riders.

Battle of Falkirk Muir 1746. (Lionel Edwards)

For an excellent summary of the context of battle and photographs of the memorial to it, see this post on Undiscovered Scotland.

James Johnstone, later the Chevalier de Johnstone, was a young Edinburgh man who fought on the Jacobite side throughout the Rising of 1745. He later wrote A Memoir of the ‘Forty-Five, a vivid account of the Year of the Prince. He escaped from the field at Culloden and after many adventures successfully evaded capture by the victorious Redcoats. You can also read more about him in my book Bare-Arsed Banditti: The Men of the ’45 .

At Falkirk, Johnstone was dispatched up the hill the next day with a sergeant and 20 men, with instructions to bury the bodies and gather up the cannons left behind by the Government troops as they retreated in terror from the ferocity of the Jacobite army. The rain and the wind had not lessened, as Johnstone described in his memoir.

‘The sergeant carried a lantern, but the light was soon extinguished, and by that accident we immediately lost our way and wandered a long time at the foot of the hill among heaps of dead bodies, which their whiteness rendered visible notwithstanding the obscurity of a very dark night. To add to the disagreeableness of our situation from the horror of this scene, the wind and rain were full in our faces. I even remarked a trembling and strong agitation in my horse, which constantly shook when it was forced to put its feet on the heap of dead bodies and climb over them. However, after we had wandered a long time amongst these bodies, we at length found the cannon.’

The memory of that horrific scene and the trembling of his horse haunted James Johnstone for the rest of his long life.

2 Comments

  1. georgie nicholson
    18th January 2021

    Didn’t know about the second Battle of Falkirk or James Johnstone, no surprises there. Pleased there was an article in the National which I have still to read, also Hamish included a question on it in his Scottish quiz in the Sunday National. Thank you for your information about James Johnstone.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Craig
      19th January 2021

      Hi Georgie,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      The Jacobite Battle of Falkirk doesn’t usually get much coverage. There are plans for a visitor centre to help remedy that. Guy called Roddy Tulloch and his daughter have been working on it for the last couple of years, interrupted at the moment for obvious reasons.

      https://www.falkirkmuir1746.scot/

      Stay well.

      Reply

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