Outlander history: The anniversary of the real Battle of Prestonpans

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

Today in Outlander history is a connection to the real stories told. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Prestonpans.

Outlander is based on real history in part. The second season sees the Jacobite rising of 1745, during which the Battle of Prestonpans took place. This day in Outlander history is a chance to look at the real battle.

Last year, I looked at how the books took elements from the real battle but changed minor ones. These are more of the finer details that don’t necessarily get recorded fully, allowing for creative license, and they don’t distract from the story.

This year, I want to take a look at the real battle, as we commemorate the loss of the men (on both sides) on this day 273 years ago.

The Jacobite’s first significant battle

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While there were others to come and the Battle of Culloden is now the most infamous of the ’45, it was the Battle of Prestonpans that arguably started it all. This was the first significant battle and it resulted in a win for the Jacobites.

We’ve seen how it played out. Very much of what happened in the book, “Dragonfly in Amber,” and subsequently in the second season is what’s recorded in the historical documents. The Jacobites charged at dawn, taking the Redcoats by surprise.

Originally, the battle was known as the Battle of Gladsmuir, despite being fought at Prestonpans. I always find that fact fascinating.

The Hanoverian baggage train

Something that is overlooked in the story is the events that came directly after. A total of 1,500 of the British troops were taken prisoner and the Hanoverian baggage train was captured. To capture that train, just one shot was fired.

The Jacobites walked away with £5,000 and more muskets and ammunition. Also, only 100 of their troops were wounded or killed (in Outlander history, we mourn the loss of Angus on this day). One thing the book and show did get right was that the wounded prisoners were taken care of because Bonnie Prince Charlie wanted it.

Outlander history
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

What the British soldiers would have seen

There’s no doubt about the view from the British. They were in awe and fear of the Jacobites. After all, they were woken from the Gaelic screams of the Jacobites running towards them with axes and broad swords. It makes me think a little of the Vikings’ method of war.

The Gaelic war cries would have been used to intimidate and they certainly would. Despite the British having the numbers, the element of surprise always works.

This was a battle that took just 15 minutes and left devastation behind for the British. They would have looked around at their loss and the scatter of dead bodies, some with limbs and heads missing.

dark. Next. 10 best moments from Outlander Season 2

The Battle of Prestonpans was a sign of what the Jacobites were capable of. If led well and when working as a team, they were scary and unstoppable. What could have been had this remained that way?

What are you doing on this day in Outlander history? Will you watch “Prestonpans” again? Share your thoughts in the comments below.