Page images
PDF
EPUB

banners, to a descendant of the Stuarts ; and at length, on the 17th, from the heights of Corstorphine, he caught his first view of Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, the royal city was a scene of confusion and dismay ; for of all its old fortifications the castle alone was tenable, and the army on which it had relied for defence was still at a distance. A few corps of volunteers had been hastily raised, in the urgency of the moment, and there were still two companies of Cope's dragoons, which he had left behind him on his march into the Highlands. But the danger from within was no less imminent than that from without ; for the Jacobites formed a large proportion of the population, and hatred to the Union would probably range many of the Whigs on the same side. The lord

and counsellors themselves were well known to favor the prince in their hearts ; and although they continued to perform all their functions with a strict regard to their oath of office, it was difficult to believe that they would neglect so favorable an opportunity of aiding a cause to which they were so warmly attached. When the news of Charles Edward's landing first came, his enterprise had seemed so rash that no one ever dreamed of any thing like a serious contest. His followers were said to be a few wild Highlanders and men of desperate fortunes, whom the riot act alone would be sufficient to disperse. Thus every apprehension was lulled, and men continued their usual avocations with little or no interruption. Every other question was absorbed in the approaching elections. But when it was known that Sir John Cope had commenced a retreat, that the prince was in full march for the capital, and that the country was rising on all sides to his support, men began to look upon his undertaking in a more serious light; the Jacobites, with hopes which they could but imperfectly conceal, and the Hanoverians, with a dejection proportioned to their former confidence. Every thing now wore the aspect of a surprise ; sudden alarms, exaggerated reports, hope and fear prevailing by turns, each transition equally sudden and equally extreme; counsels uncertain, and varying with every new tale ; the ill disguised exultation of anticipated triumph and party hate, the more bitter from having been so long suppressed ; and that indefinable agitation with which men look forward to some great event, from which they know not whether they have most to hope or to fear.

provost

In the midst of this uncertainty came a letter from the prince to the lord provost and council, summoning them to throw open their gates without delay, and receive the representative of their sovereign with the submission which they owed him. A deputation was sent to negotiate, which soon returned with a letter signed John Murray, saying that the prince's manifesto was a sufficient guaranty for the citizens, and calling upon them to open their gates without further delay. This had hardly been read, when a despatch from Sir John Cope was brought in, announcing his speedy arrival with all his forces. This was a last ray of hope for the Hanoverians, and some few again ventured to talk of resistance. At length, it was resolved to send another deputation to the prince, and thus contrive to gain time, the favorite resource of men who are at a loss what to decide. But Charles Edward, refusing to receive them, sent forward a body of seven or eight hundred men, with orders to find or force an entrance. They arrived just as a gate was opening to let out the carriage of the deputation on its way back to the stables, and some of them, springing forward, forced their way into the streets. Their companions quickly followed, and when, next morning, the citizens awoke from their slumbers, Edinburgh was in the hands of the Highlanders.

The joyful intelligence was quickly carried to the prince's head-quarters, at the little village of Slateford, where, curbing his impatience as best he could, he had thrown himself upon his bed in his clothes, and had barely slept two hours when the messenger came. He immediately mounted his horse and put his army in motion. It was still early in the morning as he approached the city; but the King's Park, by which he was to enter, was already filled with a crowd of both sexes and every age.

From an eminence near the Hermitage of St. Anthony, he could see the white banner of the Stuarts waving once more from his ancestral towers of Holyrood. But the guns of the castle, which was still in the hands of the Hanoverians, commanded the usual entrance, and it became necessary to throw down a part of the parkwall for his passage. The Duke of Perth had presented him with a beautiful bay charger for the occasion, which he mounted on entering the park. He was still dressed in his Highland costume, distinguished only by a scarf of azure and gold, and the glittering cross of the national order of St.

Andrew. His hair fell in ringlets from under his simple blue cap, and as he rode along, the youthful bloom of his countenance, and the mingled grace and dignity of his manners, drew forth a burst of admiration from the assembled multitude. Some stubborn old Whigs pretended to discover in his smile a slight dash of melancholy, which was of no good augury for a day of triumph. But for far the greater part it was the smile and air of Robert Bruce, and as they fed their fancies upon this resemblance to one so dear, they promised themselves that the Bruce's star, too, would shine upon him, and that his simple bonnet of blue would soon be exchanged for the crown of the three kingdoms. At the palace-gate stood James Hepburn of Keith, a gray-headed old man, well known for his hostility to the principles of divine right, but who, seeing in the return of the Stuarts the only hope of obtaining the revocation of the detested act of Union, now advanced, with his sword drawn and a solemn air, to usher the prince to his apartment.

It was a happy day for Charles Edward. Thus far every thing had succeeded even beyond his warmest hopes ; and as he paced his paternal halls of Holyrood, the cries of the crowd below compelled him from time to time to show himself at the window, and he could hear the distant shout from another quarter of the city, where the herald was solemnly proclaiming the accession of James the Eighth. But this very success imposed the necessity of a still greater display of vigor, for his strength consisted almost wholly in an excited feeling, which nothing but constant action and fresh triumphs could keep alive. Without waiting, therefore, to enjoy the welcome he was receiving at Edinburgh, he advanced directly towards Sir John Cope, who was already within a few miles of the city, with an army formidable both by numbers and discipline.

The English general was just entering the plain between Preston and Seaton, when two officers, whom he had sent forward to select a camp for the night, came back at the top of their horses' speed, to announce the approach of the enemy. He instantly halted, and ranged his troops in order of battle, extending his wings towards the sea on one side, and the village of Tranent on the other. In a few moments the enemy came in sight, and each army, as they drew nigh, sent up a shout of defiance. Charles Edward had chosen a

road which brought him out upon a high ground on his adversary's flank, from which his Highlanders could charge down with their mountaineer impetuosity. This manœuvre compelled Cope to change his order, resting his right on Preston and his left on Seaton house, with the sea behind him, and in his front a morass defended by a broad, deep ditch. The position seemed impregnable.

Meanwhile, these manœuvres had drawn out the day, and when both armies came into position, it was too late for an attack. Charles Edward went with the Duke of Perth and another officer to dine at a little village inn. The hostess had hidden away her pewter spoons, for fear of the Highlanders, and had only a couple of wooden ones to supply their place with. Dividing these as they could, they contrived to drink the little dish of mutton-broth which was set before them, cutting the meat with a cleaver, and eating it with their fingers instead of forks. The British general was well supplied with every article of convenience and luxury.

Night set in cold and foggy. Through the mist gleamed the fitful light of the British watch-fires, and from time to time a random cannon-shot, breaking in upon the stillness of the scene, served to show that their experienced foe was keeping good guard. The Highlanders slept upon the ground, in their plaids, the prince in their midst, ever ready to share in the hardships that he imposed. He had hardly closed his eyes, when Lord George Murray came to tell him of a passage over the morass, which had just been pointed out by the owner of the ground, who at the same time offered to serve them as a guide. The offer was gladly accepted, and at three the men were under arms, and, filing off silently, began the passage under favor of the darkness, which effectually concealed their movements until the head of the column had reached the morass. Here they were challenged by the videttes, who discharged their pieces and galloped off to give the alarm. Charles Edward was the first to spring upon the little bridge which led across the ditch, and the head of the column, turning towards the sea, gave room for the rest to pass without breaking their ranks. The moment that all were over, a half-wheel to the left brought them into line, and the whole army pressed forward in battle order. On the right was the Duke of Perth, at the head of the MacDonalds, who claimed this as the post which Bruce himself had as

signed them on the field of Bannockburn. The Camerons and Appin Stuarts formed the left wing, under Lord George Murray ; and in the centre were the MacGregors, with the levies of the Duke of Perth. The second line was composed of the Athols and Robertsons on the right, and the MacLachlans and MacDonalds of Glencoe on the left. The prince placed himself, with a small body-guard, between the two lines. An old cannon, too much shattered to be loaded with any thing but powder, but which the Highlanders looked upon with a sort of blind veneration, was their only artillery. The English army, though nearly equal in number, was drawn up in a single line, with the cavalry on the flanks, and six pieces of artillery on the right.

Although the men had been under arms since three o'clock, it was broad day when the battle began ; but the mist was still dense, and, swaying to and fro as the sunbeams broke through it, served to conceal the inequalities of the Highland line. As they came within gun-shot, they discharged their firelocks, and, shouting their war-cry, rushed forward, with drawn claymores, upon the enemy's ranks. Each man held a naked dirk in his left hand, and on his arm the little target,

" Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
Had death so often dashed aside."

The English presented their bayonets, and stood firm to receive the shock. But the hardy mountaineers, stooping on one knee, struck up the bayonets with their targets, pierced their enemies from below with their swords, and throwing the dead bodies upon the second line, pressed on in their headlong career. Two balls pierced the chief of the MacGregors, as he was advancing to the charge :

66 I am not dead, my children,” cried he, instantly raising himself upon his elbow, “ I am looking at you to see if you do your duty.” The Stuarts and Camerons rushed upon the artillery, and mastered it in a moment. The British line wavered; the cavalry turned and Aed, and in a moment the field was covered with the flying and their pursuers, and wounded and dead, and scattered arms ; while here and there a few, held at bay by the nature of the ground, strove to make good their stand, or yielded themselves prisoners, without waiting to count their enemies. A large number of standards, six cannon, a supply of tents, ammunition, and baggage, and a military chest of four thou

« PreviousContinue »