You may have
read elsewhere about the
"Canter of Coatbridge" please be aware that this story is totally incorrect.
Someone has been confused - possibly deliberately? - by the name Coltsbridge - a suburb in west of Edinburgh.
The last Jacobite uprising was initially intended to support a French led invasion of Britain in 1744, which it was hoped would lead English Jacobites to rise up in support, but this invasion was aborted. Finally, on the 25th July 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, landed in Scotland to launch a Jacobite rebellion, which proved to be wholly based in Scotland. As with many earlier campaigns fought in Scotland, the rising was able to exploit the weakness caused by the British (and in earlier centuries English) government army being stretched by a continental war with France; in this case the action was part of the War of the Austrian Succession.
The old bridge of Coltsbridge
Coltbridge was a mill village, and until the middle of the 19th century the district was almost entirely rural. The Poll Tax returns for 1690 show the inhabitants of Coltbridge as a few farmers, and the census of 1841 shows little change from this.
The Canter of Coltbridge
In 1745 there were only two regular cavalry regiments in Scotland, Gardiners (13th) and Hamilltons (16th) Dragoons.
When the1745 Rising began, Gardiners were at Stirling and Hamiltons at Leith Links. On the approach of the Jacobite Army to cross the Forth at the Fords of Frew, Gardiners Dragoons retired to Linlithgow whither they were pursued by a large Jacobite force before retiring again to Corstorphine on the outskirts of Edinburgh where they were joined by Hamiltons Dragoons.
Before daybreak on Monday 16 September 1745 Brigadier Fowkes sent his major to ask the Lord Provost of Edinburgh (Archibald Stewart) for permission to march out the town-guard and the Edinburgh Regiment for the support of the dragoons at Coltbridge, The provost granted the request and the men duly arrived at the dragoons camp in a field east of Coltbridge. Here they learned that Colonel James Gardiner had come in during the night with his regiment in a terrible state of fatigue after their hasty retreat from Stirling.
Fearing surprise by the pursuing Jacobites Gardiner had kept the men under arms all night and they could scarcely keep awake. Their horses were equally exhausted. Brigadier Fowkes therefore sent his brigade-major to inform Lieut-General Guest, at Edinburgh Castle, of the condition of the men and horses and to request supplies from the Lord Provost.
Fowkes also requested permission to advance with the cavalry to attack the Jacobites. This last request was refused, as the ground was considered unsuitable for cavalry and owing to their poor condition the General thought it would be better if they retired eastwards to join Sir John Cope, whose landing at Dunbar was imminently expected. Fowkes, however, sent out a small scouting party to discover the position of the Jacobite outposts.
The scouting party returned in mid-afternoon with the alarming news that the enemy was at Corstorphine and had fired upon them as they approached. This news caused panic among the troops which their officers could not appease. Fowkes, therefore, marched off the front squadrons more or less in order but those in the rear, fearful of the proximity of the enemy, broke ranks and galloped off as fast as they could.
The panic then became general and the whole cavalry brigade, thrown into disorder by the cowardice of the rear squadron, rode wildly along the north side of the city, on what is now George Street, towards Leith Links where it was hoped they might bivouac for the night, but the lack of food or forage there made it necessary for them to continue their flight to Musselburgh. The hasty flight of the dragoons had been observed by many Edinburgh citizens from the castle hill and the news spread rapidly through the city where it created great alarm.
This disgraceful incident has become known as, "The Canter of Coltbridge".
Norman H. MacDonald, September 2009
The Battle of Prestonpans 1745
War: The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745
British Regiments: This battle is not a battle honour for British Regiments. The regiments present at the battle were: Gardiners (13th) and Hamiltons (14th) Dragoons, Guises (6th), Lees (44th), Murrays (46th) and Lascelles (47th) Foot
On 25th July 1745 Prince Charles landed near Moidart in the Highlands of Scotland with seven companions. He raised his standard at Glenfinnan and assembled an army from the clans that supported his bid for the throne. This army marched into Edinburgh on 17th September 1745. The two royal dragoons regiments fled at the highland approach in the infamous "Colterbrigg canter".
General Sir John Cope, the commander of the small royal force in Scotland, had marched to Inverness with his four regiments of foot. Cope brought his troops south to Dunbar by sea and met up with the dragoons. None of his troops, dragoons or foot, were experienced or even adequately trained. Copes artillery can only be described as a "scratch" force comprising invalids and seamen under headed by one aged gunner. Cope marched North along the coast road towards Edinburgh.
The cavalry found the rebel army to be inland and to the south, causing Cope to form his army against the sea behind a marsh. During the night of 20th September 1745 the rebels made use of a path through the marsh to come up on the left flank of the royal army.
Cope reformed his line to the left with the foot in the centre, the guns and mortars on their right and dragoon regiments on each end of the line. The highland army launched a charge at which the gunners fled leaving two officers to fire the six guns and six mortars
On being threatened the dragoon regiments also fled and the foot began to give way. Finally under the impact of the highland attack the whole royal army, other than small groups of men under officers such as Lieutenant Colonel Peter Halkett, fled the field. Only the dragoons were able to get away in any numbers. All the foot bar some 170 were killed, wounded or captured. The injuries inflicted by the highlanders using broad swords and bill hooks are reported to have been horrific.