On Gladsmuir Shall the Battle Be!

The Battle of Prestonpans 1745

Arran Johnston

A study of Britain's best-documented but least studied battle, Prestonpans 1745, fought during the Jacobite Rebellion.
Date Published :
October 2017
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Reason to Revolution
Illustration :
25 b/w ills, 13 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781911512837
Pages : 232
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


In the summer of 1745, a charismatic (but inexperienced) young Prince sailed to Scotland - determined to wrest the crowns of Great Britain from the head of George II. In a few short weeks, he raised an army large enough to challenge the government’s forces in Scotland and, against the odds, stormed to a shocking victory over them at the Battle of Prestonpans. Celebrated ever since in song and art, Prestonpans nevertheless proved to be a false dawn on the road to defeat at the Battle of Culloden seven months later, but without his victory at Prestonpans and all the opportunities it provided, Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie') could never have invaded England and his short uprising would then have been but a footnote in the history of Georgian Britain.

This book - the climax of years of on-site investigation and source analysis - pieces together the events of the Prestonpans campaign in unprecedented detail. Focusing on the week of the battle, the author’s knowledge of the towns and villages through which the armies marched brings their motions vividly to life. Combined with eyewitness testimonies and close scrutiny of the evidence presented to the Board of Inquiry in 1746, this allows the reader to understand the buildup to the battle from an individual, as well as strategic, level. Such an understanding is revealed as critical, as the effects of morale, landscape and personality are shown to have determined the fate of the battle far more than the relative power of broadsword and bayonet.

The book opens with an exploration of the battlefield area prior to the Rising, before analyzing the political and military strengths and weaknesses of the opposing causes; this includes rarely-provided information on the career of Sir John Cope. After following the opening campaign in the Highlands, the reader is then taken on a detailed day-by-day journey through the week leading to the battle. The account of the engagement itself - driven by eyewitness testimony and contemporary evidence - also incorporates the latest archaeological analysis of the site to create the most detailed and engaging presentation yet of this famous and dramatic event. Its aftermath and legacy, both on a local and national level, is then considered before the book concludes with a look at the changes which have occurred across the battlefield landscape up to the present day.

This is a study of one of Britain’s best-documented, but least analyzed, battles - seen from within the landscape and communities around which it was fought. No longer should the two days of events which make up the Battle of Prestonpans be viewed simply as the prologue to a future defeat; instead, they are presented as they were understood at the time: as the climax of a month-long campaign which, it seemed, would determine the fate of Scotland.

About The Author

Dr Arran Paul Johnston was born and raised in Derbyshire, where he first discovered the interest in the Jacobite Risings which would later lead him to Scotland. Arran graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA(hons) in Latin and Ancient History, and achieved his doctorate on the Scottish diaspora at the University of the West of Scotland. Arran is the founder and director of the Scottish Battlefields Trust, campaigning for greater understanding and protection for Scotland’s battlefield heritage. He lives with his wife and two children in Dunbar, where he is leading new interpretation and engagement initiatives raising the profile of the 1650 battlefield.


“ … An amazing and vivid account of the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.”

- Books Monthly

“Even if the Jacobite wars are not your main interest, you will enjoy this book as a good example of modern military historical writing; if you are at all interested in the 'Forty-five' it should definitely be on your shelves.”

- Miniature Wargames

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the Jacobite rising "

- Battlefield Magazine

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