John Cope (British Army officer)
Sir John Cope KB (1690–1760) was a British general and member of parliament. Although a successful officer in the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession, he is best known for his defeat at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.
Cope was educated at Westminster School and from there joined the British Army. He rose quickly, and was appointed a Knight of the Bath (KB) for his performance in battle in Germany during the War of the Austrian Succession.
In 1745 in his role as Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, Cope was in command of the government forces at the Battle of Prestonpans and was defeated by the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). His men broke and ran as the result of a highland charge.
In his popular book The Life of Colonel Gardiner (1747), the nonconformist author Philip Doddridge alleged that when Cope surveyed the forces that Bonnie Prince Charlie had amassed against him, he chose to gain the dubious honour of being the first British general to deliver the news of his own defeat by fleeing the battle and leaving his men without a commander.
However, Cope was later court-martialled and exonerated of such charges:
The Report of the Board's proceedings was published in 1749. Anyone who scrutinizes it closely can only conclude that the Board was correct. What emerges from the pages is not, perhaps, the portrait of a military genius but one of an able, energetic and conscientious officer who weighed his options carefully and who anticipated - with almost obsessive attention to detail - every eventuality except the one which he could not have provided for in any case: that his men would panic and flee.
- Cadell, General Sir Robert (1898), Sir John Cope and the Rebellion of 1745, pp. 2–4
- Martin B. Margulies, History of Scotland magazine
- Tomasson & Buist "Battles of the 'Forty Five"
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