Prestonpans, a village in Haddingtonshire, Scotland, on the frith of Forth, 8 1/2 m. E. of Edinburgh, where was fought a memorable action between the Scottish Jacobites under the young pretender, Charles Edward, and the royal troops under Sir John Cope, Sept. 21, 1745. The opposing armies came within sight of each other on the afternoon of the 20th, Cope occupying a strong position adjoining the village of Prestonpans, and having his front protected by a deep morass, while the pretender's troops, mostly highlanders, were posted on a ridge about a mile distant. The royalists had about 2,200 men, with six pieces of artillery, and the insurgents 2,500; but in appointments and discipline the former had decidedly the advantage, the highlanders being a hastily gathered rabble, roughly armed. The armies bivouacked in sight of each other. At midnight the pretender was informed that a path leading to the plain below and avoiding the morass had been discovered, and it was determined to march at once to the attack.
The highlanders reached the plain in safety, but Cope's forces had been alarmed by the firing of their outposts, and were drawn up to receive them. As the sun rose, the high-landers, who were formed in two lines, the second of which was led by the pretender, uncovered, uttered a short prayer, and rushed with a terrific yell upon their enemy. The artillery and dragoons were overpowered, and the infantry, uncovered at both flanks, were completely routed after a brief though brave resistance. " So rapid was this highland onset," says Lord Mahon, " that in five or six minutes the whole brunt of the battle was over." Of the royal army about 400 were slain (among them the celebrated Col. James Gardiner), and the pretender lost about 100, killed and wounded. The battle was called by the Jacobites that of Gladsmuir, out of respect to a passage in a book of prophecies printed in Edinburgh in 1615, " On Gladsmuir shall the battle* be," although that place is a mile distant from the field of conflict. On the following day the pretender made a triumphal entry into Edinburgh.