Battle of  Preston


Battle of Preston

Preston, Lancashire The 12th of November 1715 AD

For some this was the last battle fought on English soil, although the skirmish at Clifton Moor in 1745 has a claim to that Ďhonourí too.

The Battle of Preston in 1715 is often better referred to as the Preston Fight, an action in several phases with more manoeuvring (political as well as military) than martial clashes.

George I had ascended to the throne, and the Whigs had taken power in the election forced by the constitution within six months of Queen Anne ís death. The new administration wanted revenge on their Tory predecessors, leading to Bolingbrooke defecting to the Jacobite pretender James in France, Ormonde soon joining him. There was resentment in Scotland about the Union with England in 1707 , and ill-feeling about the German king and his Dutch soldiers. Rebellion started in Scotland, and also in Northumberland under the leadership of MP Thomas Forster.

Forster meaninglessly took Holy Island for a day, was repulsed by Newcastle , then made for traditionally Catholic Lancashire with a force that at its height reached 4,000 men including a significant contingent of Highlanders.

On the 9th of November Forsterís cavalry entered Preston, two troops of the kingís dragoons and some militia scampering off to Wigan at the sight of them.

General Wills arrived from Manchester with 2,500 men on the 12th to confront the rebels. Forster stupidly withdrew his forces from their easily defended position at the Ribble Bridge south of Preston, and had them barricade the town, effectively waiting to be defeated.

Wills attacked at once, met with heavy fire, and was beaten back, taking perhaps 150 casualties in the attempt. To beat the barricades General Wills had houses burned, and Forsterís men retaliated by firing government occupied buildings. That night Wills, his foolishness nearly matching Forsterís, had his troops light fires at their positions so they could be identified, which they were by Jacobite snipers, though half the rebels were busy running away.

On the 13th government reinforcements arrived under General Carpenter. Preston was sealed. Forster negotiated for surrender, even botching this by not telling his Highlanders, by now the majority of his force. The Scots went on the rampage when they found out.

Unconditional surrender was agreed early on 14th November. The English rebels numbered 463, with just over 1,000 Scots, many later transported to the Americas.

The timid Forster lost 17 dead and 25 wounded in the inglorious action. Even the aftermath was farcical, several of the Jacobite leaders escaping from the tower, including Thomas Forster aided by his more courageous sister, Dorothy .

Links: Chowbent Unitarian Chapel, Atheton, has links with this battle there is a page on the chapel web site containing the information

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