Fascinating analysis of eighteen century army at Preston

26th May 2024

The Society’s latest volume sheds a fascinating light on the last battle to be fought on English soil. The Jacobite Prisoners of the Fifteen (Volume 159) provides detailed evidence about the people who fought unsuccessfully for James Stuart at the Battle of Preston in 1715. The main document that is described by Jonathan Oates lists 1,301 men who were taken prisoner and sent to gaols in Chester, Lancaster, Preston and Wigan. It gives their places of origin, their occupations and military details. Together with other sources, Oates uses the list to analyse the composition of the Jacobite army and what happened to the losers. A minority were executed – 49 out of a total of 1,877 known individuals; many were transported: 638 were “sold” into indented servitude in Carolina, Jamaica, Maryland, St Kitts and Barbados. Others escaped, died in prison or were even acquitted and released. The volume also reproduces the pleas of desperate prisoners. John Clavering was late applying for mercy because he had been ill with a “violent Fever” in prison, but eventually agreed that he had been “unfortunately engaged in the late unnatural Rebellion and is now a prisonser in Chester Gaol, but out of a deep sense & Detestation of his Crime throws himself at his Majesty’s Feet for mercy”. He was lucky enough to be released and discharged. This is a valuable volume for anyone interested in Britain’s military history, its justice system, the political machinations of the jacobite Rebellion or in Lancashire and Cheshire in the early eighteenth century.