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Siege of Stirling Castle
Part of the Jacobite Rising of 1745
StirlingCastle1900.jpg
Stirling Castle as viewed from the town cemetery
DateJanuary 18, 1746 – February 1, 1746
LocationStirling, Scotland
Result British-Hanoverian Government victory
Belligerents
Kingdom of Great BritainHanoverian Jacobite
 Kingdom of France: French artillerymen
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain General William Blakeney, 1st Baron Blakeney.[1] Charles Edward Stuart[2]
Mirabelle de Gordon[3]


The Siege of Stirling Castle took place in Stirling, Scotland between 18 January 1746 and 1 February 1746, and was part of the Jacobite rising of 1745. The castle was defended by British-Hanoverian Government troops against the besieging Jacobites.[4]

Background[edit | edit source]

In September 1745, during the Jacobite rising of 1745, the advancing Jacobite army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was heading towards Edinburgh, but in order to get there had to pass by Stirling Castle which was being held by British-Hanoverian forces under the command of Major General William Blakeney.[1] On 14 September the Jacobites squeezed through the space between the extremity of the Touch Hills and the castle rock, bringing them within range of Blakeney’s artillery.[1] Blakeney opened fire at the Jacobite’s white flag hoping to hit the Chevalier (Stuart) himself, but the bullet landed about twenty yards from him.[1] He fired four times but without success, the cannon being only a 6-pounder and at a distance of a mile and a half.[1] The people of Stirling then emerged to watch the Jacobites pass through St. Ninians on the far side of the narrows.[1] The Prince and the Jacobites had at that time no intention of conflict with the Red coats in Stirling Castle and instead had their sights set firmly on Edinburgh.[1]

By 26 December 1745 Prince Charles's army were in Glasgow,[5] and they departed from there on 3 January 1746.[2] Charles and his army arrived in the neighbourhood of Stirling on 4 January with Charles making his headquarters at Bannockburn House which was the seat of Sir Hugh Paterson, and where he also was able make a closer acquaintance with Paterson’s niece Clementina Walkinshaw.[6] Charles's military priority was now to seize Stirling Castle which commanded the high-arched Stirling Bridge which was the lowest permanent crossing of the River Forth.[6] A British-Hanoverian commander, James Ray, stated that by capturing Stirling Castle, firstly it would give the Jacobites a reputation abroad as it is a famous place, secondly that if they could have also fortified Perth then it might have secured them the country for the winter and thirdly that it would have afforded them the means of maintaining themselves along the coasts, which would have facilitated their supplies from abroad.[6]

The regular garrison of Stirling had actually been reduced to bolster the forces at Edinburgh.[7] However Major Genral William Blakeney could call on the service of the remaining regulars, 320 (eight companies) of militia, his Volunteer Battalion of 200 men and a number of armed townsmen.[7] The castle was strong both by its nature and also thanks to a recent programme of re-fortification.[7] The Jacobites would need a heavy cannon to crack it open and their French allies had landed a consignment of such artillery at Montrose, including two 18-pounders, two 12-pounders and two 9-pounders, which Lord John Drummond was bringing from the north-east.[7]

The town of Stirling surrendered to the Jacobites on 8 January 1746 and this freed the expert gunner Colonel James Grant to bring three 4-pounders to bear on Stirling Castle.[8] On 16 January Prince Charles Edward Stuart left the regiments of Perth and John Roy Stuart and most of the Royal Ecossais at Stirling to maintain the siege against the castle, while he and the rest of the Jacobite army headed south-east of Stirling on Plean Muir,[9] towards what would be a significant Jacobite victory at the Battle of Falkirk (1746).[10]

The siege[edit | edit source]

Prince Charles Edward Stuart had been in ill health when he stayed at Hugh Paterson’s Bannockburn House and this may account for the questionable decisions he made including that to continue the siege of Stirling Castle regardless of the changed conditions that their victory at the Battle of Falkirk had brought them.[3] It has been speculated that had they made a sustained pursuit of the defeated British Army at Falkirk that the castle at Stirling might have surrendered anyway being isolated and without any possible hope of relief.[3] Instead on 19 January 1746 Prince Charles left Lord George Murray with the clan regiments in Falkirk and brought the Lowland Jacobites back to Stirling to reinforce the siege of the castle.[3] The castle would certainly have been a major prize for the Jacobites, being at the narrowest point of the British mainland, whether for offensive or defensive purposes, and was at the intersection of the principal axis of Scottish communications from north to south and east to west.[3]

The French artillery train having arrived, Colonel James Grant proposed that the castle should be attacked from the classic direction of the town cemetery where the guns would be nearly level with the fortifications.[3] However, Prince Charles was allegedly afraid that the return fire from the castle would wreck the town of Stirling and therefore opted for an alternative that was offered by the Franco-Scottish engineer Mirabelle de Gordon, who had arrived with Lord John Drummond.[3] Mirablle de Gordon stated that an attack from the little Gowan Hill, which lay hard under the north-eastern side of the castle, which would be totally dominated by whatever cannon the besiegers might choose to fire against it.[3] The bedrock at this location however, was only 15 inches below the surface making it difficult for the besiegers to throw up effective cover, and the ramparts of the castle on this side were at the top of a near vertical cliff which would make it impossible even for the agile Highlanders to scale.[3] The Prince accepted Mirabelle de Gordon’s advice and in doing so is probably the tactical mistake that can be most firmly pinned on him.[3]

The siege works on Gowan Hill fell chiefly on the Irish picquets, who suffered daily casualties from snipers and bombs from the coehorn mortars.[3] Further mistakes of Mirabelle de Gordon included that he opened fire on 29 January having completed only three of the six intended embrasures in the protective breastwork of their siege works, leaving the Jacobite guns unprotected.[3] The garrison in the castle soon returned fire and the Jacobite guns were soon dismounted and in less than half an hour the Jacobites were obliged to abandon their battery altogether as "no one could approach it without meeting certain destruction".[3] One of the Jacobite cannon barrels was found afterwards to have been hit no less than nine times, with some gouges in it being "of surprising depth".[3]

The garrison in Stirling Castle was in danger of succumbing to a lack of provisions, if not to Marebelle de Gordon’s siege, and with a sense of urgency Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, commander of the British-Hanoverian forces, departed with his army towards Linlithgow on 31 January 1746 and many of his troops took up their quarters in Linlithgow Palace.[3][11] On hearing of the Duke’s arrival, Prince Charles sent his Secretary of State, Sir John Murray of Broughton to Lord George Murrray at Falkirk to prepare a battle plan.[3] However Charles had recently received a letter from Lord George Murray explaining how is army had been weakened by desertion, was in no state to meet the enemy, and that it must retreat to the Highlands where it can spend the winter reducing government forts and recruiting itself to a strength of 10,000 men to operate a new campaign in the spring.[3] As a result, the heavy guns on Gowan Hill were spiked and before day break on 1 February 1746 the Jacobite forces at Stirling and Falkirk withdrew making their way towards their rendezvous at St Ninians,[3][12] abandoning the siege of Stirling Castle.[11]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

During the Jacobite’s retreat from Stirling to St Ninians, the church of St Ninians was blown up.[3] It was believed by the local Presbyterians that it had been blown up deliberately, but it is more likely that it was blown up when the powder was being removed.[3] One of the Protestant Jacobites, John Cameron, who was minister to the regiment of Cameron of Lochiel, was passing by the church in open carriage when it blew up.[3] He was in the company of the wife of Murray of Broughton who was thrown from the chaise and was concussed.[3] Nine of the townspeople and a number of Jacobites were buried in the ruins of the church.[3]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. p. 403. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. pp. 426 - 433. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  4. Pollard, Tony. (2009). Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the last Clan Battle. p.28. ISBN 978-1-84884-020-1.
  5. Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. p. 399. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. p. 404. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. p. 405. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  8. Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. pp. 406 - 407. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  9. Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. pp. 410. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  10. Pollard, Tony. (2009). Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the last Clan Battle. pp.28 - 29. ISBN 978-1-84884-020-1.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Pollard, Tony. (2009). Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the last Clan Battle. p.31. ISBN 978-1-84884-020-1.
  12. Stair-Kerr, Eric (1928). Stirling Castle, its place in Scots history. (2nd ed.). Eneas Mackay. p. 131.

See also[edit | edit source]

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