Inventory Battlefield

Battle of Falkirk IIBTL9

Date of Battle: 17 January 1746

Status: Designated


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Designation Record and Full Report Contents

  • Name
  • Summary Information
  • Overview and Statement of Significance
  • Inventory Boundary
  • Historical Background to the Battle
    • The Armies
    • Numbers
    • Losses
    • Action
    • Aftermath and Consequences
  • Events and Participants
    • Context
  • Battlefield Landscape
    • Location
    • Terrain
    • Condition
  • Archaeological and Physical Remains and Potential
  • Cultural Association
    • Commemoration and Interpretation
  • References


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
NS 86913 78703
286913, 678703

Overview and Statement of Significance

The second battle of Falkirk is significant as the penultimate battle of the period of the Jacobite Risings. The Jacobite army at Falkirk is the largest ever assembled, and it was the first time in the '45 Rising that the Jacobites faced an experienced Government force in battle. It is the last time the Jacobites would win a battle in pursuit of their long standing goal to restore the Stuart dynasty, although it does nothing in the end to improve their fortunes.

The battle of Falkirk was the first battle to be fought in Scotland following the return of the Jacobite army from its unsuccessful invasion of England in 1745. The Jacobite army, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie (grandson of the exiled King James VII and II), returned to Scotland and had reached Stirling by early January where they laid siege to the Castle.

The Hanoverian army , tasked with bringing the Jacobite army to battle, marched from Edinburgh to Falkirk, planning to advance on Stirling. The Jacobites moved first and set out to meet the Government forces. Although the ensuing battle was a victory for the Jacobites, it was clumsy and unsatisfying and marked the beginning of a downturn in their fortunes.

Inventory Boundary

The Inventory boundary defines the area in which the main events of the battle are considered to have taken place (landscape context) and where associated physical remains and archaeological evidence occur or may be expected (specific qualities). The landscape context is described under battlefield landscape: it encompasses areas of fighting, key movements of troops across the landscape and other important locations, such as the positions of camps or vantage points. Although the landscape has changed since the time of the battle, key characteristics of the terrain at the time of the battle can normally still be identified, enabling events to be more fully understood and interpreted in their landscape context. Specific qualities are described under physical remains and potential: these include landscape features that played a significant role in the battle, other physical remains, such as enclosures or built structures, and areas of known or potential archaeological evidence.

The Inventory boundary for the Battle of Falkirk II is defined on the accompanying map and includes the following areas:

  • Lands to the west and south-west of Greenbank. The direction of the advance of the Jacobite army and their initial deployment into battle array.
  • South Bantaskine Estate and land to the north of Greenbank. The direction of the approach of the Government troops and their initial deployment into battle array. This land includes the potential remains of buildings which were used as shelter by the Government right.
  • Greenbank Farm and lands to the south. The core of the battlefield including the vantage point of Charlie's Hill.
  • Lands to the east and south-east of Greenbank, now housing estates on the west of Falkirk. The probable route of the Government retreat. This area includes the possible location of the mass grave at Dumyat Drive and has high potential for burials.
  • The terrain of the moor including the Greenbank ravine and the views out from the marshland from the Jacobite position and the steep sloping scarp to the north which the Government troops climbed onto the moor. These well preserved landscape features are key to understanding the manoeuvres of both armies.

Historical Background

The Jacobite Risings intermittently spanned more than half a century between 1689 and 1746. Their motivation was the return of the exiled Stuart monarchy to the throne, James II & VII having been ousted in 1688 by the Glorious Revolution. The last of the risings commenced in 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of the exiled king, and better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, arrived in Scotland from France in July, raising his standard at Glenfinnan on 19 August. His aim was to put his father, known by his supporters as King James III and VIII, on the throne in place of the Hanoverian George II.

Following victory at Prestonpans in September, the Jacobite army marched south, hoping to collect support from England before moving on London. Upon arriving at Derby it became clear that advance further south was futile, especially as two Government armies were now in pursuit, one of them led by the George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland. Following a rearguard action at Clifton, the Jacobite army crossed back into Scotland on 20 December. After combining with fresh forces raised in the north and limited numbers of Scots and Irish troops in French service, the Jacobite army began a siege of Stirling Castle. Meanwhile, a strong Government force under Lt-General Hawley began its preparations for a counter-offensive in Edinburgh. Following a foraging raid by Jacobites into Linlithgow, the Government army marched out of Edinburgh and occupied Falkirk, establishing their camp to the west of the town.

Instead of waiting for the Government force to attack them at Stirling, the Jacobites advanced to the high ground to the south of Falkirk, from where they proposed to attack the Government camp. In the absence of effective Government scouting, the Jacobite commander, Lord George Murray, was able to take the initiative and approached Falkirk Moor, located to the south of the town, from the west. The Jacobite position on the moor had good flank protection but the topography did not facilitate clear lines of sight. The Government army, under Major General Hawley, responded and marched on to the moor from the north. Due to the wet ground and steepness of the hill the artillery had to be abandoned part way up. The two forces deployed roughly north-south, with a steep slope defining the battlefield on the north side and marshy ground to the south. A deep, steep sided ravine, cutting into the ground from the north, separated the armies but there was open ground in the centre and to the south.

The Jacobite army comprised a combination of Highland clan forces, traditionally dependent on the Highland charge, together with Lowland infantry that included a small body of professional French troops, trained according to contemporary European military practice. The Highlanders were placed in the front line, with the Lowland infantry as support in the second line, together with a small infantry and cavalry reserve. But the Highland charge that was so successful at Prestonpans in 1745 had been against troops that had never seen action. At Falkirk the Government army was made up largely of veterans trained to form up three deep and volley fire muskets at about two rounds a minute. Hawley believed this tactic, when employed by battle hardened troops, would be effective against the Highland charge. He therefore deployed in two lines of infantry, with the dragoons on the front left. He placed his inexperienced troops, the militias (often ordinary citizens), which were well trained but had no combat experience, as a left rear flank guard and on the slopes on the right.

The first engagement came with a left flank Government dragoon attack on the Jacobite right, but this was fought off, initially by the delivery of a musket volley by the Highland troops under Murray. Despite heavy losses to this fusillade, the dragoons crashed into the Jacobite line but were fought back at point of sword and dirk; while fleeing to the east they disordered Government infantry regiments on the left, including the militia. Some of the dragoons fled northward between the lines and suffered flanking fire from the Jacobite centre. The left flank units were unable to reform in time to fire the intended volley before the Highlanders charged and came in to hand to hand combat. The Highlanders had supposedly attacked contrary to Lord George Murray's intentions, forcing him to send the second line of Lowland infantry forward in support. Under this pressure, the Government regiments on the left and centre left broke, carrying the militia reserve with them. Highlanders then rushed on in pursuit. Though it was important to keep the broken Government troops from reforming, the success on the Jacobite right ought to have led to a flank attack on the hard pressed Government left. Instead, many of those troops on the Jacobite right pursued the Government forces off the moor and pillaged their camp.

Meanwhile, Ligonier's regiment on the Government right, which had not been disordered and had the added protection of a steep ravine to prevent enemy attack, held the line against the Jacobites. They were joined by Barrel's and other rallied units, some from the second line, and a strong fighting position was at last adopted, with the left flank anchored on some buildings and the right on the ravine. Just as Hawley had expected from all his infantry, the intense musket fire caused the Jacobite left to recoil and some fled. There is some disagreement between several of the secondary accounts as to the detail of the action on the Jacobite left, but it would appear that the lack of effective command and control within the Jacobite forces put them at a severe disadvantage. The failing light and heavy rain precluded a Government offensive at such a late stage, even though so many of the Jacobite forces were disordered or had left the field, and Hawley therefore retreated back to his camp and then back towards Edinburgh.

The battle was relatively short and saw the Jacobites effectively left in command of the field but in reality the victory was a hollow one. The Government forces certainly did not see Falkirk as a defeat, though the round of courts martial and executions which followed suggest that the outcome had caused considerable embarrassment. Faced by the difficulties of a winter campaign and growing numbers of deserters, the Jacobites abandoned the Stirling siege and marched north, with many of the Highlanders dispersing until a new muster in the spring.

The Armies

A detailed break down of the units involved on both sides is provided by Reid (1996). The Jacobite front line, which appears to have been arrayed three men deep, ran from the left to right thus: Lochiel's Regiment, The Stewarts of Appin, The Master of Lovat's Regiment, Lady MacIntosh's Regiment, Farquharson of Monaltirie's Battalion, Lord Cromartie's Regiment, Cluny's Regiment, and then the MacDonald Regiments of Clanrannald, Glengarry and Keppoch.

In the second line were: Two battalions of Lord Lewis Gordon's Regiment, two battalions of Lord Ogilvy's Regiment and the three battalions of the Atholl Brigade. The third line was made up from cavalry under Sir John MacDonnell and French regular infantry, including Picquets from the Irish and Royal Ecossois (Scots in regular French service) under Lord John Drummond.

In total, Reid has some 5,800 Jacobite infantry on the field and 360 cavalry, but this is considerably less than other commentators have suggested, with figures ranging from 10,000-8,000.

As far as the Government force is concerned Reid, in agreement with all others, has from left to right: three dragoon regiments (mounted infantry - Ligonier's 13th, Cobham's 10th and Hamilton's 14th). Then came the infantry: Wolfe's 8th, Cholmondley's 34th, Pulteney's 13th, 2/Royals, Price's 14th and Ligonier's 59th.

The second line consisted of: Blakeney's 27th, Munro's 37th, Fleming's 36th, Barrell's 4th and Battereau's 62nd with Howard's 3rd in reserve. In addition, there were troops from the Glasgow and Paisley Regiments, volunteers from Edinburgh and Stirling and around 800 Highlanders from the 43rd and 64th and the Argyll Militia.

According to Reid's figures, based on Hawley's returns from January 13 and later arrivals, the Government force at Falkirk numbered around 5,488 regular infantry, 800 dragoons, 800 Highlanders and around 700 militia (often ordinary citizens).


No further information.


Overall, losses appear to have been heavier on the Government side, though most of the Government accounts from the time claimed the opposite '

'the rebels, by all accounts lost many more men than the King's forces'

According to one Government account, 300 were reported missing, while in another Munro is listed as wounded and captured by the enemy. In addition to Munro and his surgeon brother, who died while tending him on the field, Lt-Colonels Whitney, Powell and Biggar were also killed. A number of prominent Jacobites were wounded, these being Lochiel, Lord Perth and his brother, while MacDonald is the only named captured Jacobite. The official Jacobite account puts Government losses at more than 600 with 700 captured, while their own losses were said to be around 40, with double that figure wounded. To be added to Government losses should be those men shot after courts martial for dereliction of duty, while four Irishmen, formerly of the Royal, Ligonier's, Pultney's regiments and Hamilton's dragoons, were hung for deserting to the French army while on the Continent the year before. Large numbers of spectators, including a number of churchmen killed by the Jacobites, were also victims of the battle.


The Government dragoons formed on the crest of the hill to the south of the Slamannan road as it runs east to west. The Jacobite right, made up of highlanders under the command of Murray, were already formed up on a marsh down slope to the dragoons. Kept under strict control by Murray and his aides de camp, the Jacobites held their fire until the dragoons were within ten yards, first having goaded them forward by delivering a front rank only volley which largely went over the enemy's heads (Bailey 1996). At this close range, the second volley had a devastating effect and around 80 dragoons fell dead from their saddles. The charge, however, continued and a fierce melee ensued as Jacobites thrust their dirks into horse's bellies and pulled riders from their horses. Some of the dragoons turned and fled to the north-east, scattering the Glasgow militia as they went. Cobham's dragoons, however, on the right, retired up the hill to the north-west, passing along the now forming Jacobite centre, which delivered a second damaging fire into their flank. Despite Murray's attempts to hold them back, many of his Highlanders set off in pursuit of their routed foe and, if to return at all, were very slow in doing so. Murray, who due to the lie of the land had little idea what the Government centre and right (infantry) was doing, had little option but to try and plug the gap in the line by bringing the second line forward, though some of the Lowland troops had already fled at the site of the impressive dragoon charge, which in places had managed to crash through the front rank.

All of this occurred while the Jacobite centre and left was still forming up, with the centre straddling the spine of the ridge and the left linking up with the ravine on the relatively flat ground to the north, before the ground dropped down toward Falkirk.

Even before the Government infantry line had finished forming, it was first disrupted by the galloping horses of Cobham's retiring dragoons and then further by the Jacobite centre and left, which charged sword in hand toward the enemy. It was too much for the front line regiments on the Government infantry left and Blakeney's and Wolfe's regiments broke almost immediately. Soon after, all the front line regiments but Ligonier's on the right had broken, to be pursued off the hill by sword-wielding Jacobites. Sir Robert Munro was killed at the head of his regiment in the second left, which broke behind him and abandoned him to his fate. The Government force was now perched on the edge of total disaster and surely would have been entirely shattered if the Jacobite right moved to fold up the Government line by moving on its exposed left flank. Even Hawley, who had been stationed on the Government left, from where he had tried to stem the retreat of the regiments, was swept back down off the hill, back toward the camp. However, due to the topography of the moor it was impossible for Murray, down in the hollow, to see what was happening up on the top of the ridge, and vice versa. This situation was quickly exploited by Government commanders such as Cholmondley, who had seen his own regiment flee along with Wolfe's from the first line and Blakeney's from the second line of the Government left. Under his leadership, Ligonier's regiment, which was on the far right, remained anchored to the edge of the ravine and was joined on the left by Barrel's, which moved forward from the second line and anchored its own left on a farmhouse (Bailey 1996).

With nothing further to do on the right wing, Murray climbed the hill toward the Government left, but the Jacobite centre and much of the right had already surged toward the north-east, and in doing so suffered controlled flanking fire from the Government right. As the storm worsened the battle continued. The left wing of the Jacobite army, which up until that time had been positioned on the west side of the ravine, moved out to charge the Government left, in the form of Barrell's and Ligonier's regiments. With great composure these regiments began to deliver platoon fire into a charge by the Jacobite left and centre, the latter having moved up the line to engage the only intact part of the Government line remaining.

The Jacobite left suffered a terrible mauling and, like the Government left before it, was broken by the right wing of their enemy. It was estimated that by the time the fighting was over, every man from these regiments had fired around 15 rounds apiece, an incredible quantity by the standards of warfare at the time. In the wake of this success, the Government line joined Howard's, the only other Government regiment not to have folded. In addition, remnants of Price's and Battereau's, both of which had been on the far left, were rallied by Huske and joined onto Howard's to complete a re-formed line well over 1,000 men strong.

Cholmondley, having set in motion the rebuilding of the infantry, set about assembling a body of dragoons and leading them back up the hill but they dawdled behind him and at one point he was forced to discharge a pistol in their direction in order to provide some encouragement. On reaching the top of the hill it became obvious that the Jacobite army was scattered and spent and so he brought the three regiments of foot on the left forward.

The Jacobite right was isolated and some distance away, but Murray's force was bolstered by elements of the centre which had disengaged from the reformed Government right. Some confusion was, however, caused by a body of spectators to the left, which were at first thought to be an enemy force and therefore delayed Murray's move to join up with the depleted left, which by this time consisted largely of John Drummond's Irish Picquets and some cavalry, from the second and third Jacobite lines. These troops were advancing on the newly returned dragoons (Cobham's), which quickly turned and went back down the hill that they had so cautiously climbed. Cholmondley had returned to the Government right and given the failing light, the lack of a coherent force to fight and the added issue of damp powder he wisely led his troops off the field in good order. The removal of these men effectively brought a very confused battle to an equally confused close.

Hawley abandoned the camp for the town, taking with him what provisions and equipment he could. The horses from his carriage were used to pull three of the four mired guns out of the mud and what couldn't be carried was put to the torch, though after several hours of heavy rain this cannot have had much of an effect. The Jacobites were scattered across the moor, many of them not knowing whether the battle was won or lost. Murray arrived at the deserted camp with a force of around 700 men and joined with other Jacobite elements, none of them really knowing what the situation was. Hawley, by this time, had retired into the town where he may have initially intended to set up a defence. It was not long, however, before Jacobite scouts, some of whom had apparently gone into the town disguised as women, reported that the Government army was retiring toward Linlithgow. Eager to find shelter the Jacobites, whose numbers were all the while growing as stragglers came off the hill, cautiously made their way into the town and looked for somewhere to rest their tired bones. Only slowly did it dawn that they had won a victory, but as Hawley marched away with most of his army intact, it must have seemed a rather hollow one.

Aftermath & Consequences

The circumstances of the battle which, like Sheriffmuir in 1715, was to a degree an encounter battle, with both armies hurrying to get into position on high ground, had a quite profound impact on the outcome; this parallel extends to the outflanking of both left wings and their defeat by the opposing right. In order to fight off a Government dragoon attack over ground more suitable to cavalry than the Highland charge, the Highlanders on the right delivered what appears to have been at least one very effective volley of musketry; it is said that up to 80 dragoons were killed by this. The breaking of Munro's regiment (Munro being killed in the battle) was to signal the introduction of a change of bayonet practice and a stress on the importance of discipline in the period following the battle. It is no coincidence that one of the few regiments to remain intact was Barrel's, which also stood in the face of the Jacobite onslaught during the charge at Culloden. Coincidentally, Munro's regiment, which had much to prove after shaming itself at Falkirk, was to stand alongside Barrell's at Culloden and by then it had obviously learned its lesson well, as it stood up to the most determined of hand-to-hand assaults.

In terms of the 1745 and 1746 rising, the battle was of great significance as it was the first time the Jacobites had faced an experienced Government army in pitched battle. The army it defeated at Prestonpans in September the previous year had been much smaller in size and composed of largely unseasoned troops. The Jacobite army at Falkirk was also the largest to be fielded in the 1745 rising and probably the largest ever to take the field during the 60 years or so of Jacobite conflict, which was to come to a bloody end at Culloden in April.

Tactically, there can be little doubt that the battle was rather clumsy, with the Jacobite commanders losing control of their troops and much of the Government army breaking very quickly. Although the Jacobites had firmly anchored their line, on the right on the marsh and on the left on the ravine, the terrain did not suit the extended line as it was stretched over the back of the ridge, with the right out of sight of the left and vice-versa.

Despite the imperfect nature of the Jacobite assault, which saw troops on various parts of the line pursue their opposite numbers from the field in an undisciplined fashion, and without awareness of what was happening to their left or right, and the flight of other elements, the battle was to have a profound impact on the tactics that the Government army was to deploy in the next battle, Culloden. It was not lost on either of the commanders or their men that the only regiments not to suffer serious losses and to be largely immune to Jacobite attack were those which held firm and refused to break ranks. Munro's regiment is a good example of this; at Falkirk the regiment broke, leaving its commanding officer to his fate; while at Culloden, despite bearing the brunt of the Jacobite charge, the regiment held firm. The fact that, at Culloden, the regiment was posted directly to the right of Barrell's regiment, one of the few to have remained intact at Falkirk, and perhaps the shame of having lost their commander, may have helped to inspire this resolve.

The success of the Jacobite charge was also to bring about the introduction of an adaptation to Government tactics with regard to the way that bayonets were deployed. This change of drill was introduced by Cumberland during the interim between Falkirk and Culloden and involved each man not taking on the man to his front but instead plunging his bayonet into the Jacobite to his right as they came into hand to hand contact. The theory was that the bayonet would pierce the right hand side of the enemy soldier while his sword arm was raised and unprotected by the targe (shield) carried on the left. This obviously required discipline as each man was dependent on the comrade on his right to dispatch the man to his front. Historians have made much of this shift in fighting practice and its effectiveness at Culloden. However, none of the original accounts comment on its deployment in the battle; as Duffy has stated (2003, 142), in reality the change in drill probably served more to bolster confidence in troops who were perhaps in danger of thinking their foe invincible in such combat, rather than a sure fire way of beating an enemy who in any case may well have dropped their targes in order to increase manoeuvrability in the press of combat.

Events & Participants

Falkirk represented the first major battle of the 1745-6 rising since the initial overwhelming Jacobite victory at Prestonpans in September of 1745. It was the first time in the campaign that the Jacobites had faced seasoned Government troops in pitched battle and presented both sides with an opportunity to deliver a decisive blow in the campaign before an inevitable winter recess. Interest in the outcome could not have been greater, and it is said that General Cope, commander of the defeated Government force at Prestonpans, had made a heavy bet that the commander of the next major battle would also suffer defeat at the hands of the Jacobites; as it happened he won his bet. This interest also made itself known in the form of a large body of civilian spectators which climbed onto the moor to watch the battle, so many in fact that they were mistaken for enemy troops by the Jacobites and treated accordingly. A number of these spectators were killed, while others were taken into custody for their suspected Government sympathies and locked up in Doune Castle. One of these men was John Witherspoon, who escaped from the castle and eventually found his way to America, where he was later to earn fame as a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

The battle is notable for the number of Jacobites fielded (around 8,000), probably the largest Jacobite force to fight as a body in the entire sixty year period of the Jacobite risings (Sheriffmuir being a close second). It was also the first time during the '45 that the Jacobites had fought with such a mixed force, including Highlanders, Lowlanders and troops in regular French service.

Many of the participants in the Battle of Culloden on April 16 1746 were at Falkirk, including Charles Edward Stuart and General Hawley. Lord George Murray commanded the Jacobite right and numerous important clan chiefs were present. The same is also true of the Government side, which had among its officers Major James Wolfe.

Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, was born in 1720 and was the grandson of the deposed King James VII & II. His father, James Frances Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, had made previous unsuccessful attempts to restore his line to the British throne, and Charlie, the Young Pretender, subsequently took up the cause. Landing at Glenfinnan on 19 August 1745, he embarked on an eight month campaign which initially met with some success, entering Edinburgh without resistance and then swiftly routing a Government force at Prestonpans, before advancing into England. His army reached as far as Derby by December, but by this point the campaign was already beginning to unravel. The Jacobites withdrew to Scotland, and despite continued attempts to gain the upper hand, including a victory at Falkirk, they were slowly driven back into the Highlands and their final fate at Culloden. After the battle, Charlie was able to escape back to the continent, and would never again openly return to Britain, despite initial attempts to resurrect his cause. As the years passed he grew increasingly bitter about his defeat, before he finally died an overweight alcoholic in Rome in 1788.

Lord George Murray was one of the senior commanders of the Jacobite army in the '45 Rising. Born at Huntingtower Castle near Perth in 1694, at aged 18 he served with the British Army in Flanders. Murray and two of his brothers took part in the Jacobite Rising in 1715, after which he had to flee into exile in Europe. He returned and commanded part of the Jacobite forces at Glenshiel in 1719. Murray was wounded in the battle and again forced to escape to Europe after the Jacobite defeat. After being pardoned for his involvement in 1725, Murray returned to Scotland and in 1728 married Amelia Murray, heiress of Strowan. Murray initially refused to join the 1745 rising, but later sided with the Jacobites once more, being made a lieutenant-general by Charles. He commanded the left wing in the Jacobite victory at Prestonpans, but opposed the subsequent plan to advance into England. During the debate at Derby, Murray was a strong supporter of withdrawing to Scotland. Murray commanded the rearguard during the retreat, but Charles increasingly distrusted him. At Culloden, Murray unsuccessfully attempted to convince Charles of the unsuitability of the location for the Jacobite army. In the aftermath of the defeat Murray attempted to gather the remnants of the force at Ruthven Barracks, but with the failure of the Rising and Charles' flight back to Europe Murray had no choice but to return into exile himself at the end of 1746. This third exile would be his last, and he never returned to Scotland before his death in 1760 in Holland.

The Government Army was commanded by Lieutenant General Henry Hawley. He was known by his own men as Hangman Hawley due to his harsh treatment of the men. Certainly his treatment of the defeated Jacobites after Culloden was very severe when he was tasked with suppressing Highland areas still deemed as hotbeds of dissent.

James Wolfe was an officer in the British Army from 1741 until his death in 1759. He was serving on the continent as Captain in the 4th Regiment of Foot when it was among the forces recalled to Britain in 1745 to deal with the Jacobite Rising. He was present at the battle of Falkirk, after which he was promoted to serve as aide-de-camp to Lieutenant-General Hawley, and Culloden, where in the aftermath it is said he refused a direct order from Cumberland himself to execute a wounded Jacobite. Although he served in many capacities in his career, including several postings within Scotland after Culloden, and was held in high regard for his abilities by many, remaining so today, his most famous accomplishment is undoubtedly the victory over the French at Quebec in 1759. As Major-General, he devised a plan to draw French forces out from the city and fight the British on ground which favoured Wolfe's force. He led the assault himself on 13 September 1759, but was fatally wounded in the early stages of the battle, and Wolfe died shortly afterwards.

Another notable personality was Sir Robert Munro of Foulis who was killed at Falkirk leading his regiment, which had fled behind him. He was tended in the field by his brother who was also cut down and killed by the Jacobites. Both men are buried in the churchyard in Falkirk town.


The Jacobite risings intermittently spanned more than half a century between 1689 and 1746. Their motivation was the return of the exiled Stuart monarchs to the throne, James VII & II having been ousted in 1688 by the Glorious Revolution. The last of the risings commenced in 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart arrived in Scotland from France in July, raising his standard at Glenfinnan on 19 August. His aim was to put his father, known by his supporters as King James VIII & III, on the throne in the place of the Hanoverian George II.

Following Charles' call to arms, a number of Highland chiefs joined the Jacobite cause, bringing with them their retainers and dependants. The Jacobite army, which initially consisted of just over 1,000 men, mainly from the MacDonald and Cameron clans, marched eastward in order to recruit more men. The Government and Crown were quick to react, sending a force under the command of General Sir John Cope in pursuit of Charles, which narrowly missed an encounter with the Jacobite host on several occasions. Charles and his army arrived in Perth in early September, where they were joined by Lord George Murray, who had played an active role in the earlier Jacobite risings in 1715 and 1719.

Having strengthened his force and found an experienced military commander in Murray, Charles marched south, while Sir John Cope put his troops aboard ships in Aberdeen and sailed to Dunbar where he received the news that the Jacobites were in Edinburgh. Cope marched toward the city, intent on delivering it from Jacobite hands, but on 21 September was intercepted at Prestonpans to the east of the city. After a determined charge by the Jacobites the Hanoverian line broke and Cope's troops were chased from the field in a merciless pursuit.

Following victory at Prestonpans, the Jacobite army continued south, hoping to collect support from England before moving on London. Although there was some enthusiasm for the Jacobite cause south of the border, this did not translate into the swelling of the army's ranks as Charles had hoped. Upon arriving at Derby, it became clear that advance further south was futile, especially as two Government armies were now in pursuit, one of them led by the Duke of Cumberland. They had also received false information, possibly from a spy within their own ranks, that a third army lay between them and London. On 6 December, Charles made the decision to withdraw to Scotland. Following a rear-guard action at Clifton the Jacobite army crossed back over the border on 20 December.

In response to the return of the main Jacobite army (a second, smaller force had been recruited in the north), General Hawley marched from Edinburgh with 8,000 Government troops and the inevitable battle took place at Falkirk on 17 January 1746. Although by rights a Jacobite victory, Charles failed to follow up his slim success on the field and from that point on the Government forces took the initiative. Abandoning the siege at Stirling on 1 February 1746, the Jacobite army turned north and by 21 February had arrived in Inverness, which had been evacuated by most of its Government garrison, consisting largely of Independent Highland units, just a couple of days before. Charles took up residence while his army divided into several units and commenced a relatively successful programme of engaging Highland forts and garrisons including Fort Augustus, Fort William, Blair Castle and Fort George. However, the tide was about to turn in favour of the Government forces and the end was fast approaching.

The Duke of Cumberland, after taking command of the main Government army in Edinburgh, quickly marched north via Perth and Aberdeen. After crossing the Spey on 12 April, Cumberland's force, which numbered some 9,000 men, rapidly closed on Inverness, being provisioned by the fleet which shadowed the army's progress close off shore. In response to this threat Charles reunited what he could of his army and prepared to do battle near his new headquarters at Culloden, on ground then known as Drummossie Moor.

The tired and starving Jacobite army was in no fit state for a pitched battle, and on 16 April, at the battle of Culloden, the 60 year struggle to restore the Stuart dynasty to the throne came to a final, bloody end with their total defeat by Cumberland's force. In the aftermath, the very way of life of the the Scottish Highlands, long a Jacobite stronghold, would be forcibly and violently transformed.

Battlefield Landscape

The general location of the battlefield is well understood through a series of plans and a large number of written accounts from both sides. The Battle of Falkirk was fought on the high moor which rises up to the south of the town to a height of around 120-125m. The battle lines were arrayed roughly north to south and deployments were heavily influenced by the nature of the landscape. The Jacobites reached the moor first and deployed with their left flank resting against the western side of a deep ravine and their right against marshy ground close to the Glen Burn, some 800 m to the south. Despite existing on the fringes of ongoing urban development, the field of the battle is probably one of the best preserved 18th century battlefields in Scotland. The core of the battlefield, where most of the major fighting took place, on both the Jacobite left and right, is still well preserved as farmland and the overall character of the site survives. Although now enclosed by hedges and field walls, the impression of a largely open landscape is broadly retained, in part because coniferous tree plantations are largely confined to the west of the main battlefield area.

Many of the important terrain features of the battle are still visible. The ravine, to the north of the monument, can still be clearly seen, though is heavily wooded. The location of the Government right, including the point at which Ligonier's and Barrel's regiments made their stand probably corresponds to the former grounds of South Bantaskin House (a large 19th century house which was demolished in the 1970s; the walled garden still stands). The ground occupied by this 19th century complex of structures appears to have been previously occupied by a number of farms, shown on the 1746 map and Roy's map from the 1750s.

To the south of the field there is still some trace of marshy ground in the vicinity of Seafield Farm and the fields to the north of this point retain a sweeping, open aspect and give a good impression of the terrain over which the Jacobites deployed. The Slammanan road existed at the time of the battle, though none of the accounts make mention of it, but this is not an uncommon feature of 18th century descriptions of Scottish battles.

The majority of the land within the Inventory boundary is enclosed farmland and the site has not suffered the impact of intensive commercial forestry, though some small pockets of deciduous woodland are present. Much of the battlefield has escaped modern development, though housing estates are gradually beginning to encroach on the site from the east. However, some areas on the moor will have been impacted on by the coal mining which took place here from at least the late 18th century until the 20th.


Identifying the general location of the battle lines is relatively straightforward, given a number of contemporary maps and a greater number of eye witness accounts. The Jacobites, approaching in two columns from the west from Dunipace, where they crossed the Carron, reached the high moor to the south of the Government camp before the arrival of the Government infantry. The Highland units under Murray were at the head of the front line column and formed the Jacobite right, oriented roughly north to south on the southern slope of the moor. The first Government elements to make the top of the hill were the dragoons, under Huske, and took the Government left to face Murray's men. All accounts that mention topographic features are in agreement that the Jacobite left was to the west of a ravine while the right wing was anchored on a morass. A map of around 1746 showing the Falkirk area, reproduced in Bailey 1996, shows the area of low lying ground immediately to the north of the watercourse as marshy ground known as Abbots Moss. This wet ground does not appear on General Roy's map from the 1750s but today the ground here still retains pockets of reedy, wet ground for some distance to the north of the farm at Seafield, which does appear on Roy's map. Although a straightforward north-south disposition along the line of the ravine is suggested by at least one map (by an officer in Battereau's regiment) some of the eye witness accounts and map evidence suggests a lightly wooded hill behind the Jacobite left falling down to the south eastwards and then rising up to form an open hill behind the Government left, and this does not match with this orientation.

The best attempt at matching these sources is Bailey's 1996 book Falkirk or Paradise, which is one of the most detailed modern interpretations of any battle from the 1745 rising. Bailey has the Jacobites matching the general details, with the right on a marsh and the left behind the ravine, by orienting the line north west to south east. The Jacobite right is deployed to the east of Seafield, from where they faced the charge of the Government dragoons down the slope from the north east, while the Jacobite left is positioned behind the ravine to the north west. Interestingly, Roy has a series of small patches of marsh scattered across this area, to the north of the Slammanan Road, and these may have further assisted the Jacobites if not themselves representing the marsh on which they were anchored.

On the Jacobite left, which was probably located some distance behind the western side of the ravine, the ground on the ridge rises to a highpoint which is certainly today covered with forestry - the name Canada Hill possibly referring to Canadian lumberjack units operating during the Second World War - but may have been lightly wooded at the time of the battle. Roy does not show trees here but in this area only substantial forests or parks are shown on the map. Thus, there is a hill behind the Government left, being the crest of the ridge which drops down to the south, and a possibly lightly wooded hill behind the Jacobite right, at a high point along the same ridge but around 700m to the north-west (in the vicinity of Canada Wood).

Alternatively, however, the Government left may have been located on a hill to the south of the Slammanan road, which slopes down to the west toward the boggy ground in the vicinity of Seafield. This is more in keeping with the north-south alignment and also matches with a number of accounts which suggest this. Cholmondley, for instance, states

'All the cavalry were order'd to march to the Left, to take post there, and the two Lines of infantry were order'd to face to the left (while in their camp), and in this position, we marched to the Left near half a mile, but as we had hollow roads, and very uneven ground to pass we were in great Confusion. (quoted in Reid 1996, 99)'.

This is certainly in keeping with a north-south deployment with the line climbing straight up the hill rather than moving up at an angle, which would surely be even more difficult to accomplish given the conditions described by Cholmondley. This is matched by a Jacobite account of the initial jockeying for position

'Their cavalry, being in front, and a good way before the foot, had now taken possession of a rising ground opposite to our right, and within half a cannon shot; upon which we immediately formed.'

If the Jacobite right was positioned toward the south then it is the hill to the south of the Slamannan road which would be to their front, rather than the top of the ridge further to the north-east. It should perhaps also be considered that this hill would potentially provide an obstacle to both lines of sight and movement as it effectively sits between the top of the ridge and the Seafield position if the Jacobites were oriented south-east to north-west as suggested by Bailey. According to one Government account

'No sooner were the troops got thither (onto the moor) but we saw the rebels moving up, their right extending southwards. As there was a morass of boggy ground upon our left, so that their left was pretty much opposite our centre. The dragoons were posted upon the left, and our foot was formed in two lines, part upon plain ground, and the rest upon a declivity. When all was formed and our first line within 100 yards of the rebels, orders were given for the lines to advance, and a body of dragoons to attack them sword in hand..' (Whitehall account Jan 23, 1746, 116).

This description has the Government line outflanked on the left by the Jacobite right and also deployed both on flat ground and on a slope (though declivity here may refer to the ravine). Given that the dragoons appear to have advanced down the southern slope of the ridge the Government centre is likely to have been positioned on the flatter ground on the ridge, while the right was positioned further down the northern slope, towards Falkirk. This would certainly put the main part of the Government line (the infantry) out of sight of the Jacobite right and was probably partly responsible for the confused nature of the fighting which was to follow, with the right being almost entirely dislocated from the Jacobite centre and left which engaged with the Government infantry. Such a disposition matches the map by one of Battereau's officers, though it seems unlikely that the left was positioned so far down slope ' indeed apparently at the base of the slope up which the army climbed to get onto the moor.

From the above it is clear that an accurate relocation of the opposing armies is difficult on the basis of the available evidence, with at least two slight variations seeming plausible. In the absence of detailed archaeological work, primarily in the form of a metal detector survey, it is important to note that at present much of the area under discussion remains relatively undisturbed, surviving as farmland or undeveloped areas of open ground, though housing developments do fringe the eastern part of the site and undoubtedly cover areas where fighting took place during the Government retreat; the supposed grave site is located within this area. Commercial forestry is limited to the west of the site. The area across which the Jacobite line formed is very well-preserved and the gentle southern slope from the crest of the ridge down to Seafield and the burn retains a generally open aspect and gives some idea of the large expanse of ground over which the armies deployed.


Closest to the eastern edge of the ravine is Tomure, with Muirfoot and Dykehead further to the east. None of these buildings are shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map and, relative inaccuracies on the earlier maps notwithstanding, may well have been subsumed beneath South Bantaskine, though the ground previously given over to Muirfoot and Dykehead is probably now be occupied by modern housing further to the east (there is no trace of these buildings on the 1st Ed OS map prior to the construction of the 20th century housing). Tomure may represent the buildings which some accounts have Barrel's left anchored on (Bailey 1996). Despite this 19th century disturbance, it is possible that the open ground around the walled garden may contain evidence for the fighting on the Government right and indeed some buried remains of contemporary buildings may also exist, though the area has also suffered from coal mining activity.


Modern development has encroached on the eastern part of the battlefield, though the true extent of loss depends on the exact placing of the deployments and action. The area of the pursuit is certainly built over. On the north, the canal skirts the northern edge of the scarp while on the north-west, probably beyond the area of action, there has been extensive mineral extraction. The majority of the battlefield appears, however, to remain as enclosed agricultural fields with limited areas of woodland.

Archaeological & Physical Remains and Potential

The discovery of burials was noted during the construction of Falkirk High railway station in the 19th century, though the provenance of the graves was unproven. Local tradition places a mass grave site (called the 'English graves') on an area of grass surrounded by trees by Dumyat Drive, on the north-east side of the defined area. There are a number of ornate graves of Government officers within Falkirk Parish churchyard.

As the majority of the land within the Inventory boundary is undeveloped farmland, there is good potential for the recovery of artefacts and for the survival of buried remains relating to the buildings which are mentioned in various accounts of the battle and were utilized as an anchor point by the Government right. As the battle had a high number of Government losses, it is likely that burials will also survive within the defined area.

Cultural Association

There is a monument to the battle at the side of the road at the southern end of the ravine which was paid for by public subscription and unveiled by the Duke of Atholl, an ancestor of Lord George Murray, in June 1927. The brass plaque bears the inscription The Battle of Falkirk was Fought Around Here 17th January 1746. Interestingly there is some graffiti stamped into the top left corner of the plaque: James Dick 6/5/42. This may have been created by a soldier or Home Guard member who was at the time manning a check point at the nearby road junction.

Like other battles of the '45, the battle of Falkirk has been remembered through stories and songs, though not to the same extent as either Prestonpans or Culloden. One local place name associated with the event is Charlie's Hill located to the south of the monument. This was supposedly the spot from which the prince watched the battle and is marked by two standing stones.

The battlefield has very high interpretive potential and as yet there are no interpretation boards or way markers on the site, despite the entire line between the initial position of the two armies coinciding with a public footpath, which passes along the western side of the ravine and up over the crest of the ridge to drop down toward the Jacobite right toward the Glen Burn. Falkirk Local History society offers a guided historical walk leaflet on their website.

Commemoration & Interpretation

There is a permanent exhibition about the battle in Falkirk museum, which coincidently is housed in Callendar House, which is where Hawley was to be found on the morning of the battle; the resident of the house, Lord Kilmarnock, was a cavalry commander in the Jacobite army, though his wife is thought to have had Whig sympathies.



Bailey, G. B. 1996 Falkirk or Paradise: the Battle of Falkirk Muir, 17 January 1746. John Donald, Edinburgh.

Black, C. S. 1936 Scottish Battles. Brown, Son & Ferguson, Glasgow.

Brander, M. & Macgregor, J. 1975 Scottish and Border Battles and Ballads. : Seeley, London. 210-12

Chambers, R. 1829 History of the Rebellions in Scotland, Under Montrose, Dundee, Mar, and Prince Charles Stuart. Constable & Co, Edinburgh.

Edwards H. N. 1924 'Battle of Falkirk, 17 January 1745/6', J Soc Army Hist Res, 4 (1924).

Graham, D. 1812 An Impartial History of the Rise, Progress, and Extinction of the late Rebellion in Britain in the years 1745 & 1746: Falkirk. T. Johnston.

Home, J. 1802 The History of the Rebellion in the year 1745. T. Cadell Jnr and W. Davies, London.

Hunter, D. M. 1959 The Second Battle of Falkirk, 1746. [Falkirk: s.n.].

Neele, S. J. 1802 Battle of Falkirk, 17 January, 1745. Neele sculp. T. Cadell & W. Davies, London.

Reid, S. 2004 Battles of the Scottish Lowlands. Pen & Sword, Barnsley.

Seymour, W. 1979 Battles in Britain and their Political Background, 1066-1746. Book Club Associates, London.

Tomasson, K. & Buist, F. 1962 Battles of the Forty-five. Pan, London.

Whyte, I. & Whyte, K. 1990 On the Trail of the Jacobites. Routledge, London.

Information on Sources & Publication

There are possibly as many as six separate plans of the battle, including plans from both sides. There are also large number of written accounts and related documents including accounts from both sides. A number of these accounts were collected together in the Scots Magazine and published in 1755 (Douglas 1755; available as an online resource from 18th Century collections online).

The most useful and accessible short account of the battle is that by Reid, who includes various extracts from the primary accounts, though he places a somewhat different perspective on the outcome than some other authors. Undoubtedly, the best modern study is that by Bailey (1996), as it includes much local knowledge.

Primary Sources

MPF 1/350 1 item extracted from SP 36/80 (page 428). Map of the battle of Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland, showing the positions and movements of the King's troops and the rebel army. Also shows buildings, common, woods, and high ground in relief. Explanatory table. 1746

SP 54/27/32D List of the rebel army at Falkirk; giving their commanders and their numbers [1746 Jan]

SP 54/27/33A Lord Justice Clerk Fletcher to Secretary Newcastle. Giving an account of the battle of Falkirk: 'the rebels by all accounts lost many more men than we did; and could not improve the advantages they had at the beginning of the action, but were drove back by, and fled before, a handful of our army; and we remained masters of the field' 1746 Jan 19

SP 54/27/33B Falkirk: account of the battle which was inserted into the newspapers, similar in tone to the Justice Clerk's comments in SP 54/27, number 33A, above [1746 Jan]

SP 54/27/34 Gen Hawley, enclosing a list of the casualties at Falkirk 1746 Jan 20

SP 54/27/35 Gen Hawley, reporting that Capt Cunningham, due to face a court martial for running away with the horses after Falkirk, has 'opened his arteries of his arms' and must shortly die; also on the deaths of Sir Robert Munro and Col Whitney; and concerning his army officers retaken from the rebels 1746 Jan 20

SP 54/27/38A Gen Hawley, on a report that the rebel dead at Falkirk numbered 500; also asking if the articles of war made for Flanders could be put into force in Scotland, or whether he could have an indemnity for all his actions contrary to law, as he is assured Wade and Argyll have 1746 Jan 21

SP 54/27/38B Return of the casualties in the several corps at Falkirk 1746 Jan 17

SP 54/27/38C Return of the casualties in the regiments of dragoons at Falkirk 1746 Jan 17

SP 54/27/39 Capt Vere, giving an account of panic at Falkirk and Gen Huske's bravery in holding back the highlanders' advance; on reports of rebel losses as high as 1,200 including MacDonald of Keppoch and John Roy Stewart; also concerning the siege of Stirling 1746 Jan 21

SP 54/27/40 Secretary Newcastle to Gen Hawley. Reporting the king's continuing confidence in him, despite the unfortunate engagement at Falkirk, for which the regiments of dragoons should be disciplined; confirming that reinforcements have been ordered; and concerning the imminent arrival of HRH the Duke of Cumberland to command forces in Scotland 1746 Jan 24

SP 54/27/41A Gen Hawley, on his situation in Edinburgh; sending the Glasgow regiment home; concerning the escape of men taken prisoner by the rebels at Falkirk, who are near to starvation; and reporting the rebels' lack of progress in the siege of Stirling, 'Mr Blakeney has killed so many they can get none of their people to go near their batteries' 1746 Jan 24

SP 54/27/41B Jacobite account of the battle of Falkirk 1746 Jan 18

SP 54/27/41C Tho[mas] Jack: intelligence report on the condition of the Jacobite forces in the aftermath of the battle of Falkirk, giving their number as 5,000 1746 Jan 22

SP 54/27/4ID James Hill: memorial from Stirling, concerning the rebels' lack of progress, their losses at Falkirk and the great numbers of desertions; also reporting that Charles Edward visited his men only once, and immediately returned to Bannockburn 1746 Jan 22

SP 54/27/42 Secretary Newcastle to Lord Justice Clerk Fletcher. On the state of the army after Falkirk and reporting that the Duke of Cumberland is to take command 1746 Jan 24

SP 54/27/43 Secretary Newcastle to Robert Dundas. Giving permission for his resignation as Solicitor-General, and reporting the king's satisfaction with his conduct of the office; also concerning the battle of Falkirk 1746 Jan 24

SP 54/27/51A Gen Hawley to Secretary Newcastle. On this gratitude that the king does not blame him for the failure at Falkirk; reporting that his troops will be ready to march when Cumberland arrives; and on Blakeney's continued success in holding off the rebel attack on Stirling Castle 1746 Jan 28

SP 54/27/55B Capt Masterton, on the battle of Falkirk 1746 Jan 21

SP 54/27/58 Memorial from [Stirling]: on rebel activity; and mentioning the shooting of Glengarry in Falkirk undated

SP 54/28/1B Cumberland to Lord Justice Clerk Fletcher. On his march to Falkirk; and reporting that the rebels' have retreated from Stirling, leaving their artillery and blowing up their powder, stored in St Ninian's church [1746 Feb 1]

SP 54/45/25 Note on the recommendation by Lord Chief Baron Ord, of John Atcheson as minister of Falkirk, Stirlingshire: also on the Duke of Argyll's recommendation of Patrick Wallace as Clerk of the Wardrobe 1757 Apr 21

SP 87/20/46 To Harrington from [Colonel] John Stewart: embarkation continues despite strong winds and heavy sea. Three regiments are now aboard. Report that Hawley has been beaten by the rebels near Stirling [Falkirk]. Dated at Willemstad. PS. that evening that a fourth regiment has been embarked.

British Library

'Short Narrative of the Battle of Falkirk,' 17 Jan 1746. (Bannockburn, 1746). HARDWICKE PAPERS. Vol. DXLI f 77.

Cartographic & Illustrative Sources

British Library

Plan of Battle of Falkirk; Scale 500 paces = 2.5 inches; London, J. Millan, 1745-1746

Plan of Battle of Falkirk, 17 January, 1745. Neele sculp; London : T. Cadell & W. Davies, 1802; in The History of the Rebellion in the year 1745. J. Home, etc. p. 168. [2nd copy in NLS]

Plan of the Battle on Falkirk Muir... Jan. 17th, 1745-6. By an Officer in Batterau's. A View of Stirling Castle. T. Jefferys sculp; London: E. Cave, 1746 [2nd copy in NLS]

National Library of Scotland

Plan of the battle near Falkirk: S.I., 1746; Ref: EMS.s.164

Plan of the battle of Falkirk; scale: 600 paces to an inch; London: For R. Baldwin, 1746; in The London Magazine... for Jan. 1746

Secondary Sources

Anon. 1804 Ascanius... in which is given a particular account of the battle of Prestonpans, and the death of Col. Gardiner. Martin, Edinburgh.

Bailey, G. B. 1996 Falkirk or Paradise: the Battle of Falkirk Muir, 17 January 1746. John Donald, Edinburgh.

Black, C. S. 1936 Scottish Battles. Brown, Son & Ferguson, Glasgow.

Brander, M. & Macgregor, J. 1975 Scottish and Border Battles and Ballads. : Seeley, London. 210-12

Chambers, R. 1829 History of the Rebellions in Scotland, Under Montrose, Dundee, Mar, and Prince Charles Stuart. Constable & Co, Edinburgh.

Chandler, D. 1998 A Guide to the Battlefields of Europe. Wordsworth Editions, Ware.

Edwards H. N. 1924 'Battle of Falkirk, 17 January 1745/6', J Soc Army Hist Res, 4 (1924).

Graham, D. 1812 An Impartial History of the Rise, Progress, and Extinction of the late Rebellion in Britain in the years 1745 & 1746: Falkirk. T. Johnston.

Groome, F. H. 1901 Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland. Edinburgh.

Home, J. 1802 The History of the Rebellion in the year 1745. T. Cadell Jnr and W. Davies, London. 1802.

Hunter, D. M. 1959 The Second Battle of Falkirk, 1746. [Falkirk?: s.n.].

Lawson, L. & Panel Stirlingshire Teachers of History. 1971 The Jacobites in Stirlingshire. [Stirling] (c/o James T. Cameron, County Offices, Viewforth, Stirling): [Stirlingshire Teachers of History Local History Panel].

Neele, S. J. 1802 Battle of Falkirk, 17 January, 1745. Neele sculp. T. Cadell & W. Davies, London.

Reid, S. 2004 Battles of the Scottish Lowlands. Pen & Sword, Barnsley.

Seymour, W. 1979 Battles in Britain and their Political Background, 1066-1746. Book Club Associates, London.

Tomasson, K. & Buist, F. 1962 Battles of the Forty-five. Pan, London.

Whyte, I. & Whyte, K. 1990 On the Trail of the Jacobites. Routledge, London.

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