The Battle of Edmonton, which began early in the morning of 12 December 1745, appeared to the combatants to have decided the nation's future. The military details will be familiar to many from school history lessons. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, having overcome the doubts of some of his own commanders, marched south from Derby to confront the hastily mustered Hanoverian army under the direct command of George II. As in previous engagements, the numerical superiority of the Government forces was more than matched by the mobility of the Scottish irregulars and the imaginativeness of their leaders. When the Jacobites swung east from Barnet to approach London through Tottenham, the Hanoverians encamped at Finchley were forced into a hurried countermeasure, meeting their enemy in a disorganised state and without most of their artillery, which was still being dragged through Colney Hatch. Though many of the Hanoverian troops fought hard, they included a large number of raw recruits, unable to display the necessary discipline of moving in formation in response to changing orders. Their greater firepower was never properly exploited, and the rapid charges of the broadsword-wielding Highlanders broke their southern flank. Soon they were fleeing, many to be cut down as they tried to cross the Lea River marshes. This was a rare case in the period of a clear and complete victory.
LRB 22 January 2004 | PDF Download