General Guest’s “Bravery” – Popularity of the Prince – Castle Blockaded – It Fires on the City – Leith Bombarded – End of the Blockade – Departure of the Highland Army for England – Prisoners in the Castle – Macdonald of Teindreich – Duke of Cumberland in Edinburgh – Burning of the Standards.
GENERAL JOSHUA GUEST took no active part in the operations subsequent to his council of war, though the inscription on his tomb in Westminster eulogises the bravery of his defence of the Castle, when “besieged by the rebels.”
The officers of state had now fled from Edinburgh to England or the remote districts of Scotland. The old Chevalier was proclaimed as James VIII., in all large towns where, and particularly in the capital, the concealed friends of his cause avowed their sentiments, and joined the old Jacobites in drinking deep potations to a prince, who, as his organ the Caledonian Mercury, had it, “could eat a dry crust, sleep on pease straw, take his dinner in four minutes, and win a battle in five.” The ladies especially, by their enthusiasm, contributed not a little to produce great action in his favour. “All Jacobites,” wrote President Forbes at this time, to Sir Andrew Mitchell, “how prudent soever, became mad; all doubtful people became Jacobites; all bankrupts became heroes, and talked of nothing but hereditary rights and victory. And what was more grievous to men of gallantry – and, if you will believe me, much more mischievous to the public – all the fine ladies, if you will except one or two, became passionately fond of the young adventurer, and used all their arts and industry for him in the most temperate manner.”
Meanwhile the garrison in the Castle obtained from certain Whig friends a supply of provisions, which, by ropes, they drew up in barrels and baskets, on the west side of the rock; but neither the Highlanders nor the citizens suffered any molestation till the night of the 25th September, when the veteran Preston, on going his rounds in a wheel-chair, being alarmed by a sound like that of goats scrambling among the rocks, he declared it to be a Highland escalade, and opened a fire of musketry and cannon from Drury’s battery, beating down several houses in the West Port.
In consequence of this the prince strengthened his picket at the Weigh-house, to prevent all intercourse with the fortress, upon which Preston wrote to Provost Stewart, intimating that unless free communication was permitted he would open a heavy cannonade. On this, the town council represented to the prince the danger in which the city stood. “Gentlemen,” he replied, “I am equally concerned and surprised at the barbarity of those who would bring distress upon the city for what its inhabitants have not the power to prevent; but if, out of compassion, I should remove my guards from the Castle, you might with equal reason require me to abandon the city.”
He also assured them that the injuries of the citizens would be repaid out of the estates of the officers in the Castle, “and that reprisals would be made upon all who were known abettors of the German government.” General Preston being further informed that his brother’s house at Valleyfield would be destroyed, he replied that in that case he would cause the war-ships in the Forth to burn down Wemyss Castle, the seat of Lord Elcho’s father; but after some altercation with the council, the grim veteran agreed to suspend hostilities till he received fresh orders from London. Next day, however, owing to some misunderstanding, the Highland picket fired on certain persons who were conveying provisions into the Castle, the guns of which opened on the Weigh-house, killing and wounding several in the streets. Charles retaliated by enforcing a strict blockade; and, in revenge, Preston’s garrison fired on every Highlander that came in sight.
On this, by order of the Adjutant-General, Lord George Murray, the picket was removed to the north side of the High Street; but, as it was found inconvenient to relieve the post by corps, the gallant Lochiel undertook the entire blockade with his Camerons, who for that purpose were placed in the Parliament House.
Several loose characters, among whom was Daddie Ratcliff – who occupies so prominent a post in Scott’s “Heart of Midlothian” – dressed as Highlanders, committed some outrages and robberies; but all were captured and shot, chiefly by Perth’s Regiment, on Leith Links.
Charles contemplated the summons of a Scottish Parliament, but contented himself with denouncing, on the 3rd of October, “the pretended Parliament summoned by the Elector of Hanover at Westminster,” and declaring it treason for the Scots to attend. On the preceding day the following proclamation was issued from Holyrood.
“CHARLES P. R being resolved that no communication shall be open between the Castle and town of Edinburgh during our residence in the capital, and to prevent the bad effects of reciprocal firing, from thence and from our troops, whereby the houses and inhabitants of our city may innocently suffer, we hereby make public notice, that none shall dare, without a special pass, signed by our secretary, upon pain of death, either resort to, or come from the said Castle, upon any pretence whatsoever; with certification of any persons convicted of having had such intercourse, after this our proclamation shall immediately be carried to execution. Given at our palace of Holyrood House, 2nd Oct., 1745.
(Signed) J. MURRAY.”
Another guard was posted the next day at the West Church, while the Camerons began to form a trench and breastwork below the reservoir across the Castle Hill, but were compelled to retire under a fire of cannon from the Half-moon, and musketry from the tête-du-pont, with the loss of some killed and wounded. Among the former was one officer. Another picket was now placed at Livingstone’s Yard, where a Highlander was assassinated by a soldier, who crept towards him with a pistol. The same night a party of the 47th made a sally against the same post, and captured Captain Robert Taylor and thirty privates.
On the morning of the 4th Preston commenced a wanton and destructive bombardment, chiefly in the direction of James’s Court, and continued it till dusk, when, “led by Major Robertson, a strong party, with slung muskets, sallied with spades and axes to the Castle Hill, where they formed a trench fourteen feet broad and sixteen deep, midway between the gate and the reservoir. From the breastwork formed by the débris that night 200 muskets, besides field pieces, continued to blaze upon the city, in unison with the heavy 32-pounders, which from the lofty batteries above swept the entire length of the High Street with round shot, grape, and canister. Many persons were killed and wounded; but the following night the same operations were renewed with greater vigour. Under this tremendous fire the 47th (then numbered as the 48th) made another sally, pillaged all the houses in their vicinity, and, after obtaining a supply of bread and ale, and several barrels of water from the reservoir, set on fire several houses, and a deserted foundry, after which they retired behind their trench. Many of the poor citizens who attempted to extinguish the flames were killed, for once more the batteries opened with greater fury than ever. The glare of the burning houses, the boom of so many field and battery guns, the hallooing of the soldiers, the crash of masonry and timber as chimneys and outshots came thundering down on all sides, together with the incessant roar of 200 muskets, struck the inhabitants with such consternation, that, abandoning their houses, goods, and chattels, they thought only of saving themselves by flight. A miserable band of half-clad and terrified fugitives, bearing their children, their aged parents, their sick and infirm friends, to the number of many hundreds, issued from the Nether Bow Gate, and fled towards Leith, but were met midway by the inhabitants of that place, flying from similar destruction, for at that time the Fox, and Ludlow Castle, two frigates (whose captains, from the Roads, had heard the cannonading, and seen the blaze of the conflagration) were hauled close in-shore, and lay broadside towards Leith, and with a villainous cruelty – for which English hostility towards Scotland was no apology – were raking and bombarding the streets with the most fatal effects. When the fugitives met ‘all was perplexity and dismay; the unhappy citizens stood still, wringing their hands, and execrating the cruel necessities of war.’ Fourteen days after, the Fox was wrecked on the rocks of Dunbar, when Captain Edmond Beavor and all his crew perished.”
The Highlanders maintained their posts without flinching amid all this peril and consternation, and at five o’clock next evening, in defiance of field and battery guns, led by their officers, and inspired by their pipers, they stormed the breastwork by one wild rush, sword in hand, driving in the garrison, which retired firing by platoons; but the capture was made with such rapidity that the Prince lost only one officer and twenty privates. As the trench was too exposed, it was abandoned. Several balls went through the Luckenbooths, and many lodged in the walls of the Weigh-house, where they were found on its demolition in 1822; and Charles Edward, seeing the misery to which Preston exposed the people, generously withdrew the blockade; and thus ended the last investment of the Castle of Edinburgh; and it was said to be about this time that he made the narrow escape from capture in the Provost’s house in the West Bow.
An act of hostility was committed by General Preston on the 21st September, when, overhearing some altercation in the dark at the West Port, where the Highland guard made some delay about admitting a lady in a coach drawn by six horses, he ordered three guns to be loaded with grape, depressed, and fired. Though aimed at random, the coach was pierced by several balls, and its fair occupant, Mrs. Cockburn, authoress of the modern version of the “Flowers of the Forest,” had a narrow escape, while William Earl of Dundonald, captain in Forbes’s Foot, who rode by her side, had his horse shot under him. At that moment, Mrs. Cockburn, who was returning from Ravelston, and who was a keen Whig, had in her pocket a burlesque parody on one of Prince Charles’s proclamations, to the air of “Clout the Cauldron.”
Another hostile act was committed when the Highland army, now increased to double its first strength, was reviewed on the Links of Leith prior to the march for England, when the guns from the Argyle Battery compelled Charles to change the scene of his operations to the Links of Musselburgh, at a time when the Forth was completely blocked up by ships of war. On the 30th the Prince slept at Pinkie House, and “on the 31st he commenced his memorable invasion of England, with an army only six thousand in number, but one in rivalry and valour. They departed in three columns; at the head of the third Charles marched on foot, clad in the Highland garb, with his claymore in his hand, and a target slung over his left shoulder.”
General Preston saluted with cannon the officers of State who returned to Edinburgh on the 13th November, and hauled down his colours, which had been flying since the 16th of September. Guest then assumed the command, and was nobly rewarded, while Preston was consigned to neglect, and the humble memorial of his long service was laid in vain before the Duke of Cumberland. Thus he reaped no advantage from his loyal adherence to the House of Hanover, whose policy it was then to slight the Scots in every way.
By a letter from the Lord President to the Marquis of Tweeddale (the last Scottish Secretary of State), we learn that at this crisis bank notes had ceased to be current, that all coin was locked up, “so that the man of best credit in this country cannot command a shilling;” that bills on Edinburgh or London were of no value; and that bills drawn for the subsistence of the Earl of Loudon’s regiment had been returned protested.
On the departure of the Prince the Castle was crowded with those persons who had fallen under the suspicion of Government; among these were Alexander Earl of Kellie, and upwards of sixty gentlemen, all of whom were heavily ironed, closely confined in damp vaults, and treated by the irritated soldiers with every indignity and opprobrium. To these were soon added a multitude of prisoners of all ranks, belonging to the regiments of Buckley, Berwick, and Clare, of the Irish Brigade in the French service, captured by the Milford Haven (40 guns), on board the Louis XV., off Montrose. On the 9th December, Lord John Drummond, en route to join the Prince in England, marched through Edinburgh, with 800 men and a train of 18-pounders. He sent a drummer to the Castle to effect an exchange of these prisoners, without avail; and sixteen who were proved to have been deserters from our army in Flanders were thrown into the Castle pit, from whence four were taken to the gallows in the Grassmarket. In the same month young Macdonald of Kinlochmoidart, aide-de-camp to the Prince, was treacherously captured in the night, near Lesmahago, by the Reverend Mr. Linning, who, as the price of his blood, received the incumbency of that parish, according to “Forbes’s Memoirs”; and from the Castle he was taken to Carlisle, where he was hanged, drawn, and quartered.
About the end of November, when the Highlanders, after their retreat from England, were besieging Stirling, Lord Tweeddale wrote to General Guest stating that they meant to take the capital again. On this, the Edinburghers at once held a solemn council of war, and valiantly resolved to defend the city; and once more all their plate and valuables were committed to the care of General Guest. It was arranged that a store of provisions should be immediately laid in, that the cannon should be mounted on travelling carriages, that the walls and gates should be more completely fortified, that a corps of really resolute soldiers should be embodied; and again arms were issued to the Seceders, and all who required them; but on hearing that Charles had actually made a requisition for horses to draw his battering train, their courage evaporated a second time, and all ideas of fighting were abandoned; but the arrival of General Hawley’s army relieved them from immediate apprehension.
Erecting an enormous gallows in the Grassmarket, whereon to hang all prisoners he might take, Hawley, who had served as a major at Sherriffmuir, and always expressed contempt for the Highlanders, marched with fourteen battalions, besides cavalry and artillery, to Falkirk, where his army was routed as completely as that of Cope had been, and all his guns were taken, save one brought off by the 4th Regiment.
In the Castle he lodged his sole trophy, the brave Major Donald Macdonald of Teindreich, who struck the first blow in the revolt at the Spean Bridge, and who had been captured in the smoke at Falkirk. He was brought in bound with ropes, and kept in a dungeon till he was sent in chains to Carlisle, to be butchered with many others. He was a handsome man, and bore his sufferings with great cheerfulness.
“It was principle, and thorough conviction of its being my duty to God, my injured king and oppressed country,” said he, “which induced me to take up arms under the standard of his Royal Highness Charles Prince of Wales, and I solemnly declare I had no bye views in drawing my sword in his just and honourable cause.” His wife pleaded for his pardon at the feet of George II. In vain, and, like the others, “he died with his last breath imploring a blessing on Prince Charles.”
Lord Arundel of Wardour relates the following anecdote:- “Many years after the Stuart rising, the Duke of Cumberland being present at a ball at Bath, indicated as a person with whom he would like to dance, a beautiful girl, the daughter of Major Macdonald who was executed at Carlisle, and the circumstances of whose last moments supplied Sir Walter Scott with the incidents of McIvor’s execution in ‘Waverley.’ The lady rose in deference to the prince, but replied in a tone which utterly discomfited his Royal Highness, ‘No, sir, I will never dance with the murderer of my father!‘ “
The Duke, with an army overwhelming in numbers, as contrasted with that of Charles, passed through Edinburgh on the 21st of February, 1746, not marching at the head of his troops, like the latter, but travelling in a coach-and-six presented to him by the Earl of Hopetoun; and on being joined by 6,000 Hessians, who landed under the Landgrave at Leith, he proceeded to obliterate “all memory of the last disagreeable affair” as the rout at Falkirk was named. As he passed up the Canongate and High Street he is said to have expressed great surprise at the number of broken windows he saw; but when informed that this was the result of a recent illumination in his honour, and that a shattered casement indicated the residence of a Jacobite, he laughed heartily, remarking, “that he was better content with this explanation, ill as it omened to himself and his family, than he could have been with his first impression, which ascribed the circumstance to poverty or negligence.”
A vast mob followed his coach, which passed through the Grassmarket, and quitted the city by the West Port, en route to Culloden, and “at mid-night on Saturday the 19th of April Viscount Bury, colonel of the 20th Regiment, aide-de-camp top the Duke of Cumberland, reined up his jaded horse at the Castle gate, bearer of a despatch to the Lieutenant-General, announcing the victory; and at two o’clock on the morning of Sunday a salute from the batteries informed the startled and anxious citizens that, quenched in blood on the Muir of Drummossie, the star of the Stuarts had sunk for ever.”
The standard of Charles, which Tullybardine unfurled in Glenfinnan, and thirteen others belonging to chiefs, with several pieces of artillery and a quantity of arms, were brought to the Castle and lodged in the arsenal, where some of the latter still remain; and one field-piece, which was placed on a battery to the westward, was long an object of interest to the people. With a spite that seems childish now, by order of Cumberland those standards, whose insignia were all significant of high descent and old achievement, were carried in procession to the Cross. The common hangman bore that of Charles, thirteen Tronmen, or sweeps, bore the rest, and all were flung into a fire, guarded by the 44th Regiment, while the heralds proclaimed the name of each chief to whom they belonged – Lochiel, Clanranald, Keppoch, Glengarry, and so forth; while the crowd looked on in silence. By this proceeding, so petty in its character, Cumberland failed alike to inflict an injury on the character of the chiefs or their faithful followers, among whom, at that dire time, the bayonet, the gibbet, the torch, and the axe, were everywhere at work; and, when we consider his blighted life and reputation in the long years that followed, it seems that it would have been well had the Young Chevalier, the “bonnie Prince Charlie” of so much idolatry, found his grave on the Moor of Culloden.