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The centuries of military struggle between Scotland and England produced some epic contests, and they are still seared into the folk memory of the two countries, from the humbling of English knighthood at the spear points of doughty Scots commoners at Bannockburn in 1314 to the death of Scotland’s impetuous but chivalrous King James IV at Flodden in 1513.

Scotland's development was influenced by the outcome of the many battles and conflicts which took place on her soil – or over the Border in England. There were glorious victories and terrible defeats. Many battles, but not all, were fought against the English. And, it has to be said, it was not unknown for the Scots to initiate the contest by invading their larger neighbor. They also fought against each other; clan against clan. Following is a list of the more notable battles and conflicts:

 

84 AD – Battle of Mons Grauius. The precise place where the Caledonian leader, Calgacus, met the Roman advance led by Agricola is not known but it was probably in northeast Scotland in what is now Aberdeenshire. It is said that there were up to 30,000 Caledonii who were defeated by the disciplined Roman legions in the only known battle in the north. Some 1,300 years later, a transcription error led to the name becoming "Grampian" which is the name now given to the Cairngorm Mountains, east and south of the river Spey.

 

1138 – Battle of Northallerton, The Battle of Northallerton, also known as the Battle of the Standard, was the first major engagement between English and Scots since the Norman Conquest. It was one of just two major battles during the Civil War of Stephen and Matilda. In most cases, whether in medieval or modern times, the weaker side would avoid pitched battle and concentrate on small scale action and guerrilla warfare. But at Northallerton, on August 22, 1138, for reasons that are not clear, King David forced a battle and the English met that challenge.

The English army chose the ground, deploying across the Great North Road two miles north of Northallerton, blocking the southward advance of King David I’s Scottish army. David probably was confident in his superiority in numbers and may have attempted to advance and strike the English by surprise but, despite the early morning fog, he found the English ready for him. Although outnumbered, the English forces repulsed a series of Scottish attacks. The unarmoured and supposedly “wild” Galwegian infantry, who insisted on spearheading the Scottish attack in place of the well armoured knights, fell in large numbers to the English arrow storm. When they did reach the English lines they were generally cut down in hand to hand fighting with the local levies and the well-armed and armoured English men at arms.

The English first line was at times hard pressed, but they held, for the most part, and any breach that the enemy forced was rapidly closed by troops held in reserve. Late in the battle the Scots did mount one successful attack, when Prince Henry’s small detachment of cavalry punched a hole through the English battle formation. However, this opportunity could not be exploited by the infantry that followed the charge who, just like the Galwegians, were forced to retreat. The retreat soon turned into a rout.

After perhaps no more than two hours of fighting, the Scots began to flee, leaving many of their number dead on the field. But the victorious English were unwilling or unable to follow up with an effective pursuit and execution of the broken enemy forces. If they had, then the destruction of the Scottish army would surely have been far more complete.

 

1263 – Battle of Largs. Norse lords controlled the Isles and Argyll, and they maintained their rule in a semi-autonomous fashion under the control of the kings of Norway. In response to the continued pressure from the Scots to move into their territory, the king of Norway mounted a pre-emptive attack. In July 1263 King Haco is said to have sailed from Bergen with 200 ships. In the Hebrides he was joined by the King of Man with additional forces. From there they sailed down the coast of Scotland, raiding the mainland. On October 2, 1263, initial negotiations were opened, but the time was used by the Scots to increase their forces. Then, in a storm, some of the Norse ships were beached at Largs and an armed engagement began. This forced Haco to land his main force in disadvantageous circumstances on a difficult coast.

Little is known of the actual details of the action, which soon escalated into a full battle, but it seems that the Norse were never able to form up fully in battle array before they were engaged. The arrival of Scottish reinforcements may finally have turned the tide of the action, forcing the Norse army to break. It is said that they were then pursued with great slaughter, with most fleeing to their boats.

 

1264 – Battle of Lewes. The reign of Henry III was plagued by conflict with the Barons. Henry’s autocratic rule, his antagonism at Court towards unpopular French nobles – especially his despised half- brothers – his foreign policies, and his refusal to discuss or negotiate policy with his Barons, led ultimately to the Barons War of 1263 – 1267.

In 1258, a scheme of constitutional reform, known as the Provisions of Oxford, was imposed upon Henry. This provided for a council under Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, to meet three times a year to discuss government administration, particularly taxation and inheritance laws. But Henry looked for ways to escape the Provisions and in a climate of increasing antagonism, King Louis IX of France was called on to act as an arbitrator. In January 1264, in the Mise of Amiens, Louis announced the annulment of the Provisions of Oxford.

The barons, having expected a form of compromise, were furious at the dismissal of their grievances. Simon de Montfort now led the unhappy barons against the king. A campaign followed in which both sides ranged the countryside, taking castles loyal to their enemy and gathering support, but not coming to open combat. In May the king’s forces had reached Lewes where they hoped to rest and await reinforcements. De Montfort was determined not to let them stall, and if unable to negotiate a truce, to draw the king to battle. Proposals for peace were offered to the King who vehemently rejected them. On May 14, 1264, de Montfort’s army marched from their camp at Fletching and took up position on Offam Hill just over a mile to the northwest of Lewes.

The King’s forces were routed, and King Henry and Prince Edward were held by de Montfort who governed in their name. But ultimately the victory did not prove decisive, for de Montfort eventually lost the support of many of the disgruntled Barons. Edward eventually escaped and raised forces against de Montfort culminating in the Battle of Evesham.

 

1265 – Battle of Evesham. The Battle of Evesham was fought on the morning of August 4, 1265. The army of Simon de Montfort had probably not long entered Evesham when, from lookouts on the tower of the Abbey, news came of the approach of the royal army under Prince Edward. Taking the captive king Henry III with him, and despite being outnumbered more than three to one, de Montfort rode out with his cavalry, with his infantry in support, to engage the enemy.

Less than a mile to the north of the town, somewhere on the summit of Greenhill, de Montfort found the royal forces deployed in three divisions. He appears to have made a bold cavalry attack, perhaps in the hope of breaking through. At first some of the royal forces retreated, but then there was a counter attack and de Montfort’s army, or at least his knights, were soon encircled. Unusual for a medieval battle, no quarter was to be given, and de Montfort and most of his main supporters were cut down. It appears likely that the infantry had already broken and begun to flee, but if not then they were soon routed. The rebel forces were pursed mercilessly back into the town, the killing continuing right through the streets and even in the abbey itself.

Though peace was not finally restored across the country for another two years, the Battle of Evesham had completely broken the rebellion, for almost all of its major supporters had been intentionally killed on the field.

 

1296 – Battle of Dunbar. With the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris between Scotland and France, King Edward I of England ordered his feudal army to assemble at Newcastle on Tyne on March 1, 1296. Intending to attack north to punish the Scots for refusing to raise troops on his behalf, as well as making a treaty with his enemy, Edward first set his sights on the rich commercial town of Berwick. To counter this, the Scottish army was ordered to muster at Caddonlea, near Selkirk, on March 18. Led by the weak King John Balliol, the Scottish forces were outnumbered and dominated by the king's nobles.

Arriving at his army's camp, Edward began moving north through Alnwick and reached Wark Castle, just south of the Tweed, by March 25. Pausing for Easter, he received oaths of fealty from those Scottish nobles who remained loyal to him. Striking first, a strong Scottish force crossed the border on March 26 and attacked Carlisle. Led by the Earl of Buchan and John III Comyn (The Red Comyn), these troops were unable to breach the town's defenses, which were held for Edward by the Lord of Annandale. Ironically, Annandale's son, Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, was to become Scotland's liberator and future king.

While the Scottish attack was failing, Edward crossed the border at Coldstream and, on March 30, launched a massive assault on Berwick. Overcoming the town's weak defenses, his troops massacred over 7,000 of Berwick's 12,500 inhabitants. In retribution, the Scots raided south into Northumberland on April 8, burning villages and abbeys as far south as Hexham. Ignoring the Scottish foray, Edward paused at Berwick for the better part of a month to enhance the town's defenses and re-populate it with loyal burgesses. Moving back into Scotland, the raiders marched north and sought refuge at Dunbar Castle.

The castle, belonging to the Earl of March who was aligned with Edward, was turned over the Scots by his wife who favored their cause. Dispatching John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey (and John Balliol's father-in-law), with a large force, Edward ordered the castle retaken. Learning of the approach of the English army, the defenders asked for aid from John Balliol, who was camped nearby at with the main Scottish army. Unwilling to personally lead the army, John placed the Red Comyn in command. Marching east to Dunbar, Comyn occupied a strong position on high ground just west of the town on April 27.

Arriving on the field, Surrey began advancing against the Scottish position. As they approached, they were forced to cross a gully and a small stream. In doing so, the English ranks began to break up. Witnessing this, Comyn misinterpreted the situation and ordered his men forward under the belief that the English were retreating. Surging forward in a disorganized charge, the Scots were surprised to find Surrey's lines reorganized. Leading a disciplined attack, Surrey's cavalry drove off their Scottish counterparts before routing the enemy foot soldiers and forcing them from the field.

Casualties for the Battle of Dunbar are not known, but the engagement effectively ended the campaign of 1296. Among those captured was the Red Comyn, as well as the earls of Atholl, Mentieth, and Ross. Dunbar Castle surrendered the next day, and with the Scottish army effectively destroyed, Edward soon controlled the castles at Roxburgh, Edinburgh, Stirling, and Perth. Out of options, John surrendered on July 2 and was forced to resign his kingdom six days later at Montrose.

Forced to endure a humiliating ceremony, John had the royal arms torn from his surcoat giving him the nickname Toom Tabard (empty coat) by which he has been known through history. Taken into captivity, he was sent south to London along with the royal Stone of Scone.

 

1297 – Battle of Stirling Bridge. This was a battle of the First War of Scottish Independence. On September 11, 1297, the forces of Andrew Moray and William Wallace defeated the combined English forces of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham near Stirling, on the River Forth.

John de Warenne had won a victory over the aristocracy of Scotland at the Battle of Dunbar, and his belief that he was now dealing with a rabble proved that he had greatly underestimated the Scottish forces. The small bridge at Stirling was only broad enough to allow two horsemen to cross abreast. The Scots deployed in a commanding position dominating the soft, flat ground to the north of the river. Sir Richard Lundie, a Scots knight who joined the English after the “Capitulation at Irvine,”* offered to outflank the enemy by leading a cavalry force over a nearby ford, where sixty horsemen could cross at the same time. Hugh Cressingham, King Edward's treasurer in Scotland, was anxious to avoid any unnecessary expense in prolonging the war and he persuaded the Earl to reject this advice and order a direct attack across the bridge.

The Scots waited as the English knights and infantry made their slow progress across the bridge on the morning of September 11th. The disorderly Scottish army of 1296 was gone; Wallace and Moray's hold over their men was tight. They had held back earlier in the day when many of the English and Welsh archers had crossed, only to be recalled because de Warenne had overslept. The two commanders now waited, according to the Chronicle of Hemingburgh, until “as many of the enemy had come over as they believed they could overcome.” When the vanguard, comprising 5,400 English and Welsh infantry, plus several hundred cavalry, had crossed the Bridge, the attack was ordered.

The Scots spearmen came down from the high ground in rapid advance towards Stirling Bridge, quickly seizing control of the English bridgehead. De Warenne's vanguard was now cut off from the rest of the army. The heavy cavalry to the north of the river was trapped and cut to pieces (due, in part, to the strewing of caltrops** to unseat the cavalry making them easy targets for the Scottish forces); their comrades to the south powerless to help Hugh de Cressingham, whose body was subsequently flayed and the skin cut into small pieces as tokens of the victory. Losses among the infantry, many of them Welsh, were also high. Those who could throw off their armor swam across the river.

*Irvine was the site of Scotland's 12th century Military Capital and former headquarters of the Lord High Constable of Scotland, Hugh de Morville. It also served as the Capital of Cunninghame. July 9, 1297, the nobles of Scotland gathered on the banks of a loch between Irvine and Bourtreehill House. They were prepared to go into battle against the approaching English forces and had made camp on the north side of the loch. When the English arrived, they too camped on the side of the loch but on the opposite banks to the south. Both armies could see and hear each other. The English soldiers watched on as the Scottish nobles began to fight among themselves. Robert the Bruce, Robert Wishart and various other notables were present. It was once thought that William Wallace also attended but there is no evidence one way or another. The infighting and bickering became so intolerable to the English soldiers that they left the field. The event has subsequently become known as “The Capitulation of Irvine.”

**Caltrops were a military device with four spikes arranged so that one was always point upward. They were scattered on the ground to lame horses. A similar device is used by modern-day police to stop vehicles.

 

1298 – Battle of Falkirk I. In March 1298, following the English defeat at Stirling Bridge, William Wallace led a punitive raid into Northumberland. In response, later in 1298, Edward I assembled an army of 15,000, including veterans from his campaigns in France as well as Welsh and Irish troops. In the campaign that followed Wallace was outnumbered and forced to employ hit and run tactics. He avoided open battle, and implemented a policy of removing or destroying resources in the path of the English army in order to weaken its ability to fight. In response, Edward, however, had mustered his army at Roxburgh, and had his supplies delivered by ship, thus enabling his army to march on Edinburgh without delay.

On July 22, 1298, the battle began. Wallace had planned a night time attack on Edward’s army near Kirkliston, just to the north and west of Edinburgh, but was betrayed by two Scottish nobles who resented Wallace’s rise to power. He now had little alternative but to face Edward in open battle before he reached Stirling, with its strategically important castle. He chose Falkirk as the location. Though outnumbered, Wallace was forced to engage the English, choosing terrain in which he could use an area of marshy ground to protect his deployment.

Falkirk is a battle of international significance involving major military commanders of the period. It saw the Scottish army destroyed, leaving Edward I in control of southeast Scotland, which he held with only a few garrisons. Thereafter, during the reign of Edward I, another Scottish army could not be raised capable of challenging the English in the field.

 

1513 – Battle of Flodden, September 9, 1513. King Henry VIII of England acceded to the throne in 1509 and from the outset wanted to secure England’s position on the Continental stage. To this end he made an alliance in 1511with Spain and Pope Julius II against France. King James IV of Scotland was married to Henry’s sister, but also had an alliance with France. When Henry invaded France in 1513 King Louis XII of France called on James for assistance. James was persuaded to invade England, and so divert troops away from the war on the continent.

Assisted with French arms, ammunition and some troops, James crossed into England in August with an army of around 60,000. His intent was to draw English forces north so that Henry had fewer troops available for war in France. To this end he confined his activities to capturing the border castles of Etal and Ford, and using the latter as his base, he sent raiding parties into the countryside. But Henry had anticipated an invasion from Scotland and had assembled his forces for the continental campaign mainly from the counties of southern England, leaving Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, in command in the north.

In response to the Scottish invasion, the Earl of Surrey mustered troops from across the northern and midland counties. By early September he had an army of some 26,000 assembled at Alnwick. James' army had now shrunk, by desertion and through troops being detached for garrison duty, to around 40,000. Surrey now issued a challenge to James, which was eventually accepted, with a battle to take place by September 9th at the latest.

James moved his army to the steep hill of Flodden Edge. When Surrey arrived on September 7th, and saw the tactical advantage the Scots had taken, he requested James to take a more level ground where each had the same chance. Not surprisingly, James declined to move, stating that he would “take and keep his ground at his own pleasure.”

In response, on September 8th Surrey marched his army in a wide sweep to the northeast, several miles east of the Scottish position and on the opposite side of the River Till. Now he could advance against the Scots from the north, avoiding the entrenched Scottish artillery which were facing south against the expected direction of English attack, and also stopping the Scottish army retreating across the border without engaging.

James saw this manoeuver from his vantage point on Flodden Edge, but it was not until the morning of the 9th that he realized Surrey's intent. He then ordering his army to turn about and march a mile to the north from Flodden Edge to Branxton Hill, which formed the northern edge of this area of high ground. As the English, somewhat delayed by the crossing of the Pattins Burn, drew up to the south of Branxton village on a slight rise below Branxton Hill, the Scots were already in battle formation and ready to attack.

Despite initial success, the Battle of Flodden was to prove a devastating defeat for the Scots. Casualties were very heavy and among the 10,000 killed were twelve earls, thirteen barons, five heirs to titles, three bishops, two abbots and even the King himself.

 

1314 – Battle of Bannockburn. English King Edward II, along with approximately 20,000 troops, advanced through the Lowlands of Scotland with relative ease. Arriving at Edinburgh on June 17, 1314, the army progressed to Leith, where they stopped for five days to collect supplies. The next step for the invading army was a twenty-two-mile forced march to Falkirk. On Saturday June 23rd they progressed along the old Roman road from Falkirk, advancing on Stirling Castle, which they meant to relieve.  

Scottish King Robert the Bruce strategically blocked Edward's path, planting his men in the dense wood of the New Park and set his standard in the Borestone there. This meant that he had an impassable scrub on his right, the stream-riddled and boggy Carse on his left, Stirling Castle behind him and the Bannock Burn, which Edward would have to cross, before him.

Among Bruce's army is said to have been a contingent of men from the "youthful" Clan Cameron, perhaps being led by John de Cameron, the supposed VII Chief and Captain of Clan Cameron. It should be noted that this collection of West Highlanders would probably not have been referred to as "Clan Cameron" at this early period. As to the Cameron men's numbers, it is thought that they made up only a very slight portion of Bruce's 5,500 trained men. In addition to being outnumbered approximately four-to-one, the Scots brought just 500 light cavalry to the field, in comparison to Edward's 2,000 heavy cavalry. Edward also brought 17,000 archers and spear-wielding foot soldiers, in comparison to the "few" archers which the Scots army had recruited from the Ettrick Forest.

As the battle began that June 24th Edward II foolishly advanced his cavalry across the Bannockburn, taking up a position on the Carse between the Pelstreamburn and the Bannockburn, falling into Bruce's trap by confining his mobile force into an impossibly narrow area. Robert the Bruce's brother Edward, commanding the men of Galloway, Aberdeen and the southeast Highlands, met the English frontal assault. Edward Bruce's schiltrons repulsed the English cavalry, killing their commander. When the English archers opened their massive assault upon the Scottish army's left flank, Bruce immediately brought his cavalry into action, driving the celebrated bowmen from the field. Then, at this key moment of battle, Bruce brought in his reserve division so explosively that the rapidly retreating English army became unavoidable targets for their own back line of archers.  

Edward II decided at this point that he had seen enough, rushing to the relative safety of Stirling Castle. However, Sir Phillip Mowbray, governor of the castle, refused to admit him entry. Consequently, Edward II fled towards Dunbar. Knowing that their king had deserted them left the English army with little fighting spirit. Suddenly, from behind Coxet Hill, there appeared the "small folk," kept in reserve for this purpose. To the battle-weary eyes of the English, this looked like a wild attack by fresh Scottish troops. The English right flank tried to follow their king from the field, while their center headed for the waters of the Forth, and their left fell back like "human debris" into the Bannockburn.

One of the most memorable episodes in Scottish history was when Bruce met Henry de Bohun, nephew of the Earl of Hereford, in the Battle of Bannockburn. De Bohun was riding ahead of his companions when he caught sight of the Scottish king. He lowered his lance and began a charge that carried him to lasting fame. King Robert was armed only with a battle-axe and had no armor on. As de Bohun's great war-horse thundered towards him, he stood his ground, watched with mounting anxiety by his own army. With the Englishman only feet away, Bruce turned his mount aside, stood in his stirrups and hit the knight so hard with his axe that it split his helmet and head almost in two. This small incident became in a larger sense a symbol of the war itself: the one side heavily armed but lacking agility; the other highly mobile and open to opportunity. Rebuked by his commanders for the enormous risk he had taken, the king only expressed regret that he had broken the shaft of his axe. The photo at right, from a 1906 Scottish children's history book, depicts Bruce about to dispatch de Bohun with his battle axe.

Not only were the English totally defeated in pitched battle, but Bruce grabbed valuable hostages and Edward II's mighty train of equipment, all £200,000 of it, was left to the Scots. Although it would be an additional fourteen years until the war with England was officially over, there was no doubt that Robert the Bruce and his men had won its most decisive battle.

                                                                                                                                       

1547 – Battle of Pinkie. King Henry VIII of England tried to persuade Mary Queen of Scots to marry his son, and undertook a series of incursions into Scotland. The battle on the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland was part of the conflict known as the “Rough Wooing.”

The Duke of Somerset assembled an English army in Newcastle in 1547 and marched into the Borders of Scotland with 16,000 men. The Regent of Scotland at the time was the Earl of Arran. On September 10, 1547, he allowed the English to advance as far as the river Esk in Lothian. The Scots army of 25,000 men looked formidable but the greater fire power of English cannon (both on land and from a fleet off the coast) and better tactics crushed the Scottish army. It is estimated that 10,000 Scots fell that day while the English losses were said to be only 250.

It was the last pitched battle between Scottish and English armies, and is seen as the first modern battle in the British Isles. It was a catastrophic defeat for Scotland, and became known there as Black Saturday.

 

1603 – Battle of Glen Fruin, February 9, 1603. This was a clash between Clan Gregor and its allies on one side, and the Clan Colquhoun and its allies on the other. Glen Fruin is located in the Loch Lomond area in Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

According to the Clan Gregor, two MacGregor clansmen, away from home, were forced to spend a night in Colquhoun lands. After being refused shelter, the two MacGregors found refuge in an abandoned house, and then slaughtered a sheep for food. When the two were discovered they were seized and brought forward to Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, Laird of Luss, who was also chief of Clan Colquhoun. He had the men tried by summary trial; both of whom were sentenced to death and executed.

To avenge the two clansmen, the chief of Clan Gregor, Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, led 300 to 400 men under his command from the banks of Loch Long towards the Colquhoun lands of Luss.

The Laird of Luss, received word of their coming quickly assembled nearly twice the number of the invaders. Among them were Buchanans, Grahams, and men from the surrounding Lennox district. Nevertheless, MacGregors were victorious.

All who fell into the hands of the victors were immediately killed, and the chief of the Colquhouns barely escaped with his life after his horse had been killed under him. One hundred and forty of the Colquhouns were slaughtered, and many more were wounded, among them were several women and children.

A tradition grew that a group of clerical students from the town of Dumbarton, who had assembled to watch the battle, were slaughtered by the MacGregors during the rout of the Colquhouns. It is remarked by historians that this alleged slaughter is curiously not part of the indictment against the chief of the MacGregors.

According to MacGregor tradition, the man who committed the deed was Dugald Ciar Mhor, (Dugald the great, mouse coloured), a foster brother of the chief, who was renowned for his great size and strength. It was during the battle that the chief entrusted the youths to Dugald's protection, with directions to keep them from leaving the safety of their vantage point. For reasons unknown, Dugald slaughtered the defenseless students. When Alasdair, the clan chief, demanded to know where the youths were, Dugald is said to have drawn his bloody dirk, saying in Gaelic, "Ask that, and God save me!"

When the killing ended the plundering and devastation commenced. Large numbers of horse, cattle, sheep and goats were carried off, and many of the houses and outbuildings of the tenant farmers were burned to the ground. The MacGregors were not allowed to enjoy their victory very long though. The government took instant and severe measures against them. A price was put on the heads of seventy or eighty of them by name, and on a number of their confederates of other clans.

By an Act of Privy Council on April 3, 1603, only two days before James VI left Scotland for England to take possession of the English throne, the name of Gregor or MacGregor was forever abolished. All with these two surnames were commanded, under penalty of death, to change it for another; and the same death penalty was decreed for those who might give food or shelter to any of the clan. All who had been at the conflict at Glenfruin, and at the plundering and burning of the lands of the Laird of Luss, were prohibited, under penalty of death, from carrying any weapon except a pointless knife to eat their meat (This was to remain in effect until 1775 when the penalty was repealed). Thirty-five members of Clan Gregor were executed after a trial in early 1603. Among them was Allaster MacGregor, who surrendered himself to the Earl of Argyll.

 

1640 – Battle of Newburn, August 28, 1640. This battle was fought during the Second Bishops' War between a Scottish Covenanter army led by General Alexander Leslie and English royalist forces commanded by Lord Edward Conway. Conway, heavily outnumbered, was defeated, and the Scots went on to occupy the town of Newcastle, obtaining a stranglehold on London's coal supply. Charles I had no choice but to agree to a truce, under which the Scottish army in northern England would be paid daily expenses, pending a final treaty of peace. To raise the necessary funds Charles had to call the Long Parliament, thus setting in motion a process that would lead to the outbreak of the English Civil War two years later.

In an attempt to force the Scots to accept a new Prayer Book in 1637, Charles sparked a crisis that led to the compilation and subscription of the National Covenant in early 1638, a document which rejected all innovations in worship that had not been subject to the approval of both the Scottish Parliament and the General Assembly of the church. In November of the same year a General Assembly in Glasgow not only rejected the Prayer Book, but also expelled the bishops from the church, as suspect agents of the crown. Charles' refusal to accept this led to the outbreak of the First Bishops' War in 1639.

This war saw much posturing but little real action. In the end the two sides, reluctant to push the issue, concluded hostilities in the Pacification of Berwick, an agreement without an agreement, and was at best a breathing space. The Scots agreed that the Glasgow Assembly had been “illegal,” and Charles agreed that a new Assembly, together with a Parliament, should meet in Edinburgh in the summer of 1640.

As none of the issues that had led to the signing of the National Covenant* had been settled and it was obvious to all that the Edinburgh Assembly would simply confirm the decisions taken at Glasgow. This lead directly to the outbreak of the Second Bishop’s War. To raise the necessary funds Charles summoned a new Parliament to Westminster, the first to meet for eleven years. He hoped to use English patriotism as a counter to the rebel Scots. But the Short Parliament was more interested in voicing various grievances long suppressed, and was quickly dismissed, leaving the king worse off than before.

*National Covenant was a solemn agreement inaugurated by Scottish churchmen on Feb. 28, 1638, in the Greyfriars’ churchyard, Edinburgh. It rejected the attempt by King Charles I and William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, to force the Scottish church to conform to English liturgical practice and church governance. The National Covenant was composed of the King’s Confession (1581), additional statements by Alexander Henderson (a leader in the Church of Scotland), and an oath. The covenant reaffirmed Reformed faith and Presbyterian discipline and denounced the attempted changes, but it also urged loyalty to the king. It was signed by many Scotsmen.

 

 

1644 – The Siege of Newcastle, June – October 1644. The English civil war began in 1642, but there had been unrest and conflict with Scotland since the re-establishment of Presbyterian government in 1638. The English government dispatched Sir Jacob Astley, a professional soldier, to review the state of Newcastle's defenses in 1638 and 1639. Astley found that the medieval walls of the town were indefensible against “modern” siege warfare and recommended that new artillery positions be added to or close to the towers on the walls.

The Scottish army, led by the Earl of Leven, crossed the border in support of the Parliamentarian cause and arrived outside Newcastle in February 1644. The royalist mayor, Sir John Marley refused to meet with the Scots, and destroyed the northern suburbs and part of Sandgate “lest the enemy should tak advantage their of'.”

Leven's forces seized the fort at Sheildfield and then moved on south to try and secure the Durham coal pits and other strategic coastal positions such as the fort at South Shields. For a time the army based itself at Sunderland. Although the royalist forces were unable to defeat the Scot's in battle, they did succeed in preventing them from living off the land. At the end of March 1644 Leven led his army south, later to join the Parliamentarian foces at the siege of York.

In June preparations for the capture of Newcastle began in earnest. A smaller Scottish army, under the command of the Earl of Callender, crossed the border, and after securing several other northeast towns, marched on Newcastle and took possesion of the Gateshead side of the Tyne Bridge. Reinforcements were needed before a full scale siege could be mounted, and these were available in July after the fall of York when Leven's army was able to march back north.

Leven's forces arrived at Gateshead on August 12th, and after a few days operations were fully under way. A Parliamentarian correspondent gave a vivid picture of the struggle:

"The enemy from the castle doth mightily annoy us with their great artillery, but the Scots are casting up with incessant labout what works they can both by day and night to defend themselves. In the meanwhile, our pioneers are as busie at works underground as our canons are playing above it. The endeavors of both sides are indefatigable and in the thick clouds of smoke the thunder of the canon perpetually disputing."

 The royalist garrison rejected commands to surrender, and at 5:00 PM on October 19, 1644, after a day of artillery bombardment and mine explosions had left huge gaps in the town walls, the town was finally stormed and captured. John Marley and some of the garrison retreated to the castle keep and resisted for a few more days before surrendering.

The whole town had suffered damage in the course of the siege. It was reported that people in the lower part of the town were forced to flee to the upper parts to escape gunfire from Callender's batteries on the Gateshead riverbank. Large sections of the town wall were completely destroyed, and St Andrew's church was badly damaged.

After the capture of Newcastle the Scottish army occupied it until 1647. Houses near the gates in the town wall were requisitioned to serve as guardhouses; an unpopular practice even though the occupants were compensated for the inconvenience.

 

1644 – Battle of Tippermuir, In  August of 1644 James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, combined his force of cavalry and Highland foot soldiers with Alasdair MacDonald's Irish soldiers to begin a campaign against the Covenanters on behalf of Charles I. Their first target for reclamation was Perth, and on September 1st they arrived at Tippermuir, a village four miles west of Perth. Lord Elcho was in command of the area's Covenanters, more numerous and with better equipment than the Royalists. Montrose reached an area with a slight strategic advantage while MacDonald positioned his men centrally, with Montrose's men and cavalry on both blanks. When the Covenaters advanced to within a hundred yards a section of their cavalry raced ahead to draw fire. The Irishmen attacked at once with such ferocity that Elcho's men lost their coordination, broke their ranks and began to flee the field. Only a few Covenanters died on the field but the rout that followed took two thousand of their lives. Perth belonged to Charles and the military genius of Montrose had brought triumph, despite the odds, for the first of many times.

 

1645 – Battle of Inverlochy. The Battle of Inverlochy, fought on February 2, 1645, was a battle of the Scottish Civil War in which Montrose routed the pursuing forces of the Marquess of Argyll.

On January 14, 1645, having sacked Inverary, the seat of the Campbells of Argyll, the Royalist forces left Inverary and headed north. It is believed that Montrose split his army at Glen Etive sending part of it up past Ballachulish while the bulk continued to Glencoe.

At Glencoe the army crossed the high passes into Glen Nevis, moved around the north slopes of Ben Nevis, circumventing Inverlochy Castle, and then continued to Kilcummin to re-supply. Montroses' army was dwindling as his highlanders continued to head home, leaving him with about 1500 men. He was aware that a Covenanter army under the command of the Earl of Seaforth was waiting to confront him at Inverness. Montrose was also aware that Argyll, with a force of 3000 men, was pursuing him and was only thirty miles behind at Inverlochy.

What followed was one of the greatest flanking marches in British history across some of the toughest and wildest terrain in the British Isles. Instead of marching back down the glen, Montrose decided to surprise Argyll and marched south through the mountains around Ben Nevis to mount a surprise attack. The Montrose army spent a cold night in the open on the side of Ben Nevis. Argyll was aware that a small force was operating in the area, but he did not know that it was the entire royal army. Just before dawn on February 2, 1645, Argyll and his covenanters were discouraged and disheartend by they saw; they thought Montrose and his forces were thirty miles north.

Argyll did not stay for the battle, but instead left the command of his army to his General, Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, while he retired to his galley that was anchored on Loch Linnhe. Auchinbreck lined up the covenanters in front of Inverlochy castle, which he reinforced with 200 musketeers to protect his left flank. In the center he placed the Campbells of Argyll and put the lowland militias on the flanks. Unlike at Tippermuir and Aberdeen, where Montrose had annihilated hastily conscripted and poorly trained militias, the troops he faced at Inverlochy were veterans of the war in England. Montrose lined up his army in only two lines deep to avoid being out flanked, placing his 600 highlanders in the center with the Irish on the flanks.

The fight did not start straight away and instead skirmishes broke out along the line. This is probably due to the fact that Auchinbreck and his officers believed that they were only fighting one of Montrose's lieutenants and not the man himself, believing he was still far up the glen. Just before first light, the Royalists launched their attack. The Irish clashed violently with the lowlanders on both flanks and routed them while the highlanders closed with the Campbells in the center. The Campbells broke, but their retreat to the castle was blocked by the Royalist reserve cavalry under the command of Sir Thomas Ogilvie. Auchinbreck was shot in the thigh while trying to rally his men and died shortly afterwards. The remaining Covenanters briefly rallied around their standard, then broke and ran, trying to reach Lochaber. The small garrison in Inverlochy castle surrendered without a fight. Over 1500 Covenanter troops died, while Montrose is reputed to have only lost 250 men, the most notable being Sir Thomas Ogilvie who was killed by a stray bullet.

Montrose, through his lieutenant, MacColla (who commanded the 2000 Irish troops sent by the Irish Confederates), was able to use this conflict to rally Clan Donald against Clan Campbell. In many respects, the Battle of Inverlochy was as much part of the clan war between these two deadly enemies and their allies as it was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, and that is how it was portrayed in Gaelic folklore.

 

1645 – Battle of Kilsyth. This engagement was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms which took place on August 15, 1645 at Kilsyth. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the battle was another victory for Royalist forces over the Covenanters, and marked the end of William Baillie's pursuit of the Royalists.

The Royalist troops were clearly visible, undisturbed by the arrival of the main army of their enemies. Having a healthy respect for his opposition, and appreciating that his own forces had already marched several miles in full battle gear, Baillie decided to take up positions where he was and wait for Lanark's force to appear. If Lanark arrived on the field, Baillie would have Montrose trapped between his force and the reinforcements, and if Montrose decided to attack Lanark as he arrived, Baillie could advance against the Royalist army from the rear. A direct attack by Montrose against the Covenanter line would face daunting high ground held by a numerically superior opponent.

Although Baillie's decision was sound, he was not allowed to adhere to it. His orders were subject to the approval of the Committee of the Estates. Worried by the possibility of Montrose escaping to fight another day, they were ordered make a flank march around the Royalist position. Baillie protested against the redeployment, but was overruled.

Clashes soon broke out as the Covenanter army made their flanking march, with the left wing of Baillie's force (now the rear of the flanking column) attacking the MacLean infantry occupying cottages on Montrose's left flank, and the cavalry on the Covenant right flank attacked the Royalist cavalry. Other Covenant and Royalist units joined the fray, acting without orders. Montrose seized the unexpected opportunity, and sent his cavalry and Highlanders against the now disrupted Covenant column. The mass of the Royalist infantry subsequently joined in the attack. Baillie's army soon broke and ran.

Approximately three-quarters of the Covenanter troops perished. Baillie himself fled south with an escort of cavalry, but was caught in the notorious Dullatur Bog, a marshy area lying between the head waters of the Kelvin and the Bonny. He managed to escape, although he left most of his escort behind, and reached safety at Stirling Castle. During construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal, the bodies of several troopers, one still seated on a horse, were recovered from the bog.

 

1645 – Battle of Philiphaugh. This battle was fought on September 13 1645 during the Civil War near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. The Royalist army of the Marquess of Montrose was destroyed by the Covenanter army of Sir David Leslie, restoring the power of the Committee of Estates. The Committee of Estates governed Scotland during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms when the Parliament of Scotland was not sitting. It was dominated by Covenanters of which the most influential faction was that of the Earl of Argyll. The name was derived from the "Estates of Scotland" which was an alternative name for the Parliament of Scotland.

Montrose and many of his officers, as well as some of the cavalry, were quartered in the town of Selkirk, while the infantry and the rest of the cavalry were camped on flat ground the other side of the river (the Ettrick Water) at Philiphaugh.

Leslie had arrived at nearby Melrose the evening before, and advanced up the valley of the Tweed, getting through the Royalist outposts at Sunderland (at the junction of the Ettrick Water with the Tweed, downstream of Selkirk) without alerting the main Royalist force. The following morning was misty, and whatever scouting was done by the Royalists failed to reveal the presence of Leslie's forces. Leslie divided his force into two wings, one of which attacked the Royalist position directly, getting to within half a mile before the alarm was raised. The other did a flanking manoeuver, probably on the south bank of the Ettrick Water. 

Montrose was alerted to Leslie's attack by the sound of gunfire, but arrived on the battlefield to find his forces in considerable confusion. Although the Royalist infantry's strong defensive position enabled them to repel at least two Covenanter attacks, the arrival of Leslie's flanking force ensured their defeat. After Montrose made a brief attempt to restore the situation by charging 2,000 Covenanter dragoons with only 100 cavalry of his own, he was urged by his friends that the Royalist cause in Scotland would die without him. He made his way out with thirty men, and retreated over the Minchmoor road toward Peebles.

Many of Montrose's Irish foot soldiers from Manus O'Cahan's regiment had been killed in the battle, but after fighting on for some time after the flight of the cavalry about 100 of them surrendered on promise of quarter. Some Presbyterian Ministers who accompanied Leslie persuaded him that this clemency was foolish. Consequently, the prisoners and 300 camp followers (many of them women and children) were slaughtered in cold blood.

 

1646 – Battle of Benburb. The Scots had landed an army in Ulster in 1642, in order to protect the Scottish settlers there from the massacres that followed the Irish Rebellion of 1641. They also hoped to conquer the country, destroy Catholicism there, and impose Presbyterianism as the state religion. They landed at Carrickfergus and linked up with an army of British settlers based around Derry who were led by Robert Stewart. They cleared Ulster of Irish rebels by 1643, but were unable to advance south of the middle part of Ulster, which was held by Owen Roe O'Neill, the general of the Irish Confederate Ulster army.

Both sides robbed and killed civilians in territory controlled by their enemy. By 1646 there was a no man's land of scorched earth between the two sides. While both armies continued to raid into each other’s territory, neither could gain enough strength and supplies to hold any captured territory.

The Battle of Benburb took place on June 5, 1646 during the Irish Confederate Wars. It was fought between the forces of Confederate Ireland under Owen Roe O'Neill, and a Scottish Covenanter and Anglo-Irish army under Robert Monro. The battle ended in a decisive victory for the Irish Confederates and ended the Scottish hopes of conquering Ireland and imposing their own religious settlement there.

 

1648 - Battle of Preston. This military action was August 17 – 19, 1648, largely at Walton-le-Dale near Preston in Lancashire. . After this battle, a defeated Charles I stood no chance of overthrowing Parliament’s power. The Battle of Preston allied a Scottish force with the Royalists who had also gathered in Scotland. By simply doing this, should Charles ever be captured again, he faced the real peril of being charged with treason. At the very least, no one in Parliament would trust him again.  

In April 1648 a small force of Scots commanded by Marmaduke Langsdale had crossed the border and taken Berwick and Carlisle. On July 8th, a much larger force commanded by the Marquis of Hamilton marched into Carlisle. By mid-July, 12,000 men (8,000 Scots and 4,000 Royalists) looked poised to march south in support of Charles. However, there were delays in the Scottish advance and this allowed a Parliamentarian force, led by General John Lambert, to cross the Pennines east to west to confront the invaders. The Pennines are a low-rising mountain range, separating the North West of England from Yorkshire and the North East. A force led by Oliver Cromwell helped him. Pembroke Castle had fallen to Cromwell on July 11th and freed up men to march north and support Lambert. They met at Wetherby, but they were confronted by a much larger force. Hamilton’s army numbered 20,000 men while Cromwell had 9,000, of whom only 6,500 were experienced soldiers.

 What Cromwell had on his side was discipline, while the Scots had become a severely undisciplined. Hamilton had allowed his army to spread itself over twenty miles – a distance far too great to allow for good communication, without which Hamilton had little ability to fully control his force. Hamilton’s cavalry was in the front while the infantry trailed behind; each was unable to support the other. While Hamilton’s cavalry had the advantage of travelling by horse, the terrain in the area was not conducive to speedy travel and the rain that had been falling made the ground even more boggy than normal. 

The battle was initially fought with little finesse as Cromwell used his horse to simply bludgeon the Scots into submission. He then turned on Hamilton’s main force, many of whom had been based in Preston. The fighting in Preston was bloody even by the standards of the English Civil War. It was now that it became clear to Hamilton that keeping his force spread out over such a large distance was a fatal flaw. Cromwell fought mainly foot soldiers. Hamilton had to get his horse to Preston but they were mainly in Wigan, some miles away. The fighting on August 17th at Preston cost the Scots 8,000 men – 4,000 killed and 4,000 captured. The battle continued on August 18th.

 It rained the night of August 17-18, and the Scots who were still in the field were both wet and hungry, plus, many had not eaten properly for days. To make matters worse, a lot of their ammunition had become damp and unusable. On the 18th, about 4,000 Scots laid down their weapons at Warrington rather than fight a smaller Parliamentarian force. Men under the command of Hamilton marched south away from Preston. Hamilton’s plan was to march south and then back north away from Cromwell’s men and back to Scotland. The plan had some credibility to it but Hamilton’s men were unwilling to follow him and he surrendered his forces at Uttoxeter to John Lambert. Hamilton himself was sent to Windsor.

The fighting during the Battle of Preston was particularly vicious and as a result of this those who had volunteered to fight for Hamilton, and who had been captured or surrendered, were harshly treated. They were sent as virtual slaves to the plantations in Barbados and Virginia. Those conscripted into Hamilton’s army were sent home.

The loss of the Scots and the accompanying Royalists who had fought at Preston was a devastating blow for Charles. He now had no decent power base in England, Wales, Ireland or Scotland.

 

1650 – Battle of Inverkeithing. “Many a white-headed champion fell into rank around your banner, and many a handsome youth was mangled under horses' hooves...” “Song to Sir Hector,” by Eachan Bacach.

The execution of King Charles I at Whitehall on January 30, 1649 changed the whole course of the Civil War. The Scots, who had been foremost in their opposition to the king, were appalled at his judicial murder and recognized his successor. Cromwell hurried north to deal with his former allies, and on the September 3, 1650 destroyed Leslie's army at Dunbar.

The Scots still held Scotland north of the Forth. Charles II threw in his lot with the moderate covenanters, led by the Marquess of Argyll, and on January 1, 1651 received the crown from Argyll's hand at Scone. Ten days later the Scots Parliament appointed twenty-seven – year-old Sir Hector Maclean of Duart as colonel of a regiment of infantry.

Not all Macleans were eligible to serve in the regiment. Murdoch Maclean of Lochbuie, for instance, was still under sentence of excommunication for serving under the Marquess of Montrose. Even in its hour of need the Scots government would not employ such men. Fortunately, veterans such as Donald Maclean of Brolas, John Maclean of Kinlochaline and Allan Maequarrie, younger of Ulva, had not been excommunicated and had made public repentance for serving with Montrose.

Cromwell was sick from February to June 1651 and there was a stalemate between the opposing armies. However, it did not stop the naval campaign, and gunboats bombarded royalist coastal fortifications in Fife. In April Inchgarvie was assaulted and its artillery silenced.

The main Scots army covered the fords across the Forth at Torwood. Cromwell considered this position too strong to attack and feinted against Fife. After a naval bombardment on July 16th, a task force was sent across the Forth. By the morning of July 17th almost 2000 of Cromwell’s troops were ashore and had taken the Ferry Hills position at North Queensferry. The English began to dig in. They were now at their most vulnerable point. The Royalists, however, perhaps believing that the landing in Fife was a trick to persuade them to weaken their position covering Stirling, did not react fast enough, and it was not until July 19th that the Royalists began to arrive at Dunfermline. By this time Cromwell had sent Major General Lambert more reinforcements.

The Royalists established a strong position in the hills overlooking Cromwell's men. However, Lambert learning that more Royalist reinforcements were on their way, decided to attack.

The Macleans reached Inverkeithing after the battle had already begun, which is not surprising considering the distance they had to cover from as far as Borreray. Many of them were recruits, who were too young to have fought under Montrose. They will have been keen to prove themselves to their elder brothers. Their leader Sir Hector was also untried in battle, but he had already proved himself in his dealings with cattle raiders. There were, however, many veterans in the ranks of Macleans and their allies who had marched to Fife, and morale was high.

As the Macleans reached Inverkeithing they met the first fugitives fleeing from the royalist right wing. Cromwell’s cavalry, infantry and artillery, were close behind them. The Macleans stood their ground. It was then that they achieved immortality. Shot down by cannon fire, trampled under horses' hooves and finally overcome by Cromwell’s pike-men, they still fought furiously. Eight of them are said to have thrown themselves between their chief and the enemy pike-men crying out as they did so: “Fear eu airson Echuin” (“Another for Hector”). There were 750 Macleans slaughtered. Since Cromwell’s forces regarded Gaels as little more than vermin few were given quarter. Only forty eventually found their way back to Mull.

Inverkeithing was as great a disaster for the Macleans, as Inverlochy had been six years earlier for the Campbells. Both battles demonstrate the enormous influence of a chief on his clansmen. At Inverlochy Argyll had watched the slaughter of his men from his galley, and then slipped away to sea. The Campbells ran. At Inverkeithing, however, Sir Hector stood his ground. His clansmen surrounded him and they were all slaughtered together. A cynic might say that the result was the same on both occasions.

 

1650 – Battle of Carbisdale. This took place close to the Village of Culrain on April 27, 1650, and was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It was fought by the Royalist leader James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, against the Scottish Government of the time, dominated by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll and a grouping of radical Covenanters, known as the Kirk (Church) Party.

After the execution of Charles I in January 1649, Scotland entered a period of complex political maneuvering. His son was immediately proclaimed as Charles II in Edinburgh, though it was soon made clear to him that if he were ever to exercise real power he would be obliged to subscribe to a radical Presbyterian agenda. Among other things, he would be required to take the Covenants* of 1638 and 1643, a move his father had always resisted.

After some wrangling, a document called the Solemn League and Covenant was drawn up. Basically, this was a treaty between England and Scotland for the preservation of the reformed religion in Scotland, the reformation of religion in England and Ireland “according to the word of God and the example of the best reformed churches,” which amounted to outlawing Catholicism. This agreement meant that the Covenanters sent another army south to England to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the First English Civil War.

In exile at The Hague, Charles was anxious to take the quickest way back to the throne. He initially favored calling on the assistance of the Catholic Irish authorities at Kilkenny, until this option was removed by Oliver Cromwell in the summer of 1649. In falling back on the Covenanters Charles hoped to put them in a more accommodating frame of mind. One way of doing this was to take the advice of the ultra-royalist James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, who had led a military campaign against the Covenanters in 1644 and 1645, enjoying some notable successes.

On 22 February 1649 Charles appointed Montrose as Lieutenant-Governor of Scotland and Captain General of all of his forces there. Throughout the course of the year Montrose kept busy using his commission in an attempt to raise troops and money in the German state of Brandenburg, as well as Sweden and Denmark. This met with limited success; but by September he had managed to raise and equip a small force of eighty officers and 100 Danish soldiers. Under the leadership of the Earl of Kinnoul these men were sent as an advance party to occupy the Orkney Isles, charged with recruiting local Orkadian** forces, while Montrose remained on the Continent employing professional troops.

In Edinburgh the Committee of Estates, the executive authority of the Scottish Parliament, was soon aware that Montrose had crossed to the mainland. General David Leslie, Lord Newark, was instructed to take his forces north to prevent this incursion from developing into a major rising. A rendezvous was held at Brechin on April 25th. From here Colonel Archibald Strachan was sent ahead to gather the cavalry that had wintered in the north. He now had five troops of horse under his command, including three that had been with him for some time.

Montrose's army was in a narrow glen, where the Culrain Burn flows into the Kyle of Sutherland. To his rear the ground rose up to the wooded hill of Creag a' Choineachan. With a good view of the surrounding countryside he would be able to deploy his men on the hill if subject to a sudden attack. Yet, believing there was only a small body of enemy horse in the area, he failed to carry out a thorough reconnaissance, thus making the same mistake that led to the disaster at the Battle of Philiphaugh.

Strachan had now reached a point to the southeast of Carbisdale. He still had the River Carron to cross by a ford that left him some miles short of the enemy position. A direct approach would only alert the royalists to his position. Fortunately, much of the way was covered by thick brush, which ended just before the Culrain Burn was reached. Close to the Burn, Strachan concealed his men in a gully, allowing only a single troop to emerge into the open. Montrose sent his cavalry under Major John Lisle to investigate, while the infantry took cover in the woods of Creag a' Choineachan.

Before these deployments were complete Strachan's whole force emerged and charged. Lisle was immediately overwhelmed, as the Covenanters rode on towards the infantry. The Germans and Danes, seeing their cavalry defeated, retreated into nearby Scroggie Wood. Here Clan Munro and Clan Ross joined in the fight, eager to grab their share of any plunder. The Germans and Danes fought gallantly, retreating deeper and deeper into the wood, but they were losing the battle. The need for self-preservation took over and those that were left attempted to flee, with the bloodshed in the wood continuing for over two hours. Even after the battle ended the slaughter did not cease; for many days afterward the clansmen of Ross-shire and Sutherland pursued and killed those who had escaped the battle.

Some of the Danish and German musketeers attempted to make a stand, but the Orcadians crumbled in panic. Two hundred of them were drowned trying to escape across the waters of the Kyle of Sutherland. In a matter of minutes the whole affair was over. Carbisdale was not a battle: it was a rout.

Despite his wounds Montrose managed to escape, and for several days, disguised as a shepherd, he avoided capture, but he was eventually by the troops of Neil Macleod of Assynt. Already condemned to death in absentia, he was taken to Edinburgh where he heard his fate read out by Archibald Johnston at Parliament House. He was hanged on May 21, and after execution his body was dismembered, the quarters were publicly displayed in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Perth and Stirling, and his head at the Tolbooth prison in Edinburgh, where it remained for eleven years.

With all options now exhausted Charles took the Covenants.

*The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the leaders of the English Parliamentarians. It was agreed to in 1643, during the First English Civil War. The Protestant leaders of the embattled English parliament, faced with the threat of Irish Catholic troops joining with the Royalist army, requested the aid of the Scots. The Presbyterian Covenanters promised their aid against the “papists” on the condition that the Scottish system of church government was adopted in England. This was acceptable to the majority of the English Long Parliament, as many of them were Presbyterians, while others preferred allying with the Scots to losing the Civil War.

**Orcadians, who reside primarily in Orkney, are the descendants of Iron Age Picts, Norwegian Vikings and Scots.

 

1650 – Battle of Dunbar. This was a battle of the Third English Civil War, and it occurred September 3, 1650.

Following a Parliamentary victory in the first and the second Civil Wars, Charles I had been executed in January 1649 and a Commonwealth declared in England. In June 1650 his son landed in Scotland, where he was proclaimed King Charles II. In July the English Parliament, expecting Charles to initiate a Scottish led campaign for the English crown, launched a pre-emptive invasion of Scotland.

A largely veteran force of 10,000 infantry & 5000 cavalry from the New Model Army was sent north under the command of Oliver Cromwell. Scottish forces numbering some 25,000 were raised in response, even though the recruiting effort was limited to Presbyterians only. Highly experienced David Leslie was the commander.  Leslie fought a defensive campaign near Edinburgh, denying Cromwell the opportunity to fight a pitched battle. The New Model Army was supplied by sea via the port of Dunbar. Having failed to bring Leslie to battle they were forced by the weather, sickness and supply problems, to retire to Dunbar, first in early August and then again in late August. Leslie’s forces, outnumbering the New Model two to one, saw his opportunity and marched around Dunbar to cut Cromwell’s road connection to border fortress of Berwick. Cromwell now finally had Leslie offering battle, but his New Model Army was at a severe disadvantage. Despite this, rather than evacuate by sea, Cromwell met the challenge, achieving what was arguably the most dramatic victory of the Civil Wars

Of the estimated 5,000 Scottish soldiers in Leslie’s army, over 3,500 died either on the march or during imprisonment in Durham Cathedral, more than the total number killed on the battlefield. Of the 1,400 survivors, the majority were eventually transported as convict laborers to English colonies in the New World and the Caribbean. After formally accepting the Solemn League and Covenant, Charles was finally crowned King in Scotland on 1 January 1651.

 

1651 – Battle of Worcester. The Battle of Worcester was the last battle of the Civil Wars, and was fought on September 3, 1651. Nine years earlier the first major action of the war had taken place at Powick Bridge, about two miles south of the city. Although that first skirmish had been a dramatic success for Prince Rupert's Royalist cavalry, by 1651 it was Parliament's New Model Army that was the dominant military force.

The battle of Worcester destroyed any hope that the Royalists might regain power by military force. Charles was forced into exile and the long and bitter Civil War was over, ending where it had begun. This was Cromwell's last great victory in battle and it secured his dominant position, politically as well as militarily, and contributing to his appointment in 1653 as Lord Protector.

 

1688 – Battle of Killiecrankie. Parliament, unhappy to have a Catholic king, invited William of Orange to England. William invaded in 1688, and King James fled the country on December 23 and, in February 1689, the English Parliament declared that, by fleeing, James had abdicated. Parliament then offered the throne jointly to William and Mary, the Protestant daughter of James to whom William owed his claim to the throne.

Scotland was a divided country politically, culturally, and religiously. The Stewarts had ruled Scotland since the time of Robert II late in the fourteenth century, and had been on the English throne since 1603. The Scottish Gaelic-speaking, mostly Catholic and Episcopalian Highlanders tended to stay loyal to the Stewart king James VII, while the English-speaking, mostly Presbyterian Lowlanders – who were the majority and held most of the political power in Scotland – tended to support William of Orange.

A convention held on March 14, 1689, in Edinburgh, decided that the Scottish government would pledge loyalty to William of Orange. A number of people opposed this, including many of the Highland clans and John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, a lowland Scot and an Episcopalian. Dundee left the Convention, planning, with others loyal to King James (called Jacobites, from the Latin for James, "Jacobus") to summon another convention at Stirling in James’ name. The others, irresolute, decided to attend the Edinburgh Convention once more, and asked Dundee to delay his departure. He refused, and with some retainers retired to his home, Dudhope Castle near Dundee.

When summoned to lay down his arms and return to the Convention, he wrote back, pointing out that he was not, in fact, in arms, that there were threats against his life in Edinburgh, and that his wife was about to give birth, and requested that the summons be either revoked or delayed. Instead, the Estates declared him a rebel and a fugitive on March 30th. On April 4th they declared that King James had forfeited the throne, and on April 11, offered it to William and Mary. Dundee raised the royal standard on Dundee Law, and left for the Highlands to raise an army.

Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, Chief of Clan Cameron, had set about forming a confederation of Highland clans loyal to James as soon as William had arrived in England, and Dundee was in contact with him. When Dundee went north, he was pursued by a governmental force of about 3,500, led by General Hugh Mackay of Scourie, a Highlander who had been in Dutch service with the Scots Brigade for many years. Dundee, moving quickly, out-maneuvered Mackay, and on May 16 arrived in Glenroy, where the clans had been summoned to meet him. With a total of some 1800 men, Dundee marched, in hopes of meeting Mackay on grounds favorable to the Highlanders. Unable to do so, he retreated back to Glenroy, where he arrived on June 11. Many of the Highlanders returned to their homes, but some remained.

Blair Castle was a key position that controlled access to the Lowlands. It was owned by the Marquis of Atholl, and he promptly headed south to Bath to take the waters for his health. His heir, Lord Murray, was on the government's side. Dundee ordered Patrick Steuart of Ballechin, a relative of the Murrays', to hold Blair Castle for the King; Lord Murray ended up besieging his own castle. Dundee learned that Mackay was at Perth, on his way to assist in taking Blair Castle.

Dundee was determined to intercept Mackay near Blair Atholl. Many of the clans had not arrived yet, but he set out anyway and ordered them to follow "with all haste." Ewen himself also had a force of about 240 Camerons with him at the time, and tried to catch up while he dispatched his sons to raise support along the path of the march. Ewen overtook Dundee just before he reached Athole, where they were joined by about 300 Irish, under the command of Major-General Cannon.

Dundee held a quick war council with those clan leaders that had arrived, and then immediately set out for the field with his force, now numbering about 2,400. He arrived at the pass before Mackay and set up position on a ridge above the pass. When Mackay arrived and saw they had no hope of attacking Dundee's force, they instead deployed in a line and started firing on them with muskets.

The Jacobite line was shorter than the Government, due to the disparity in numbers, leaving Ewen in the middle with an open flank on his left. By the time all of the forces were formed up it was late afternoon and the Jacobites had the sun in their eyes, so they simply waited for sunset. 

At seven o'clock Dundee gave the order to advance, at which point all of the Highlanders dropped their gear, fired what muskets they had, and charged. Mackay's forces, realizing the battle was on, stepped up their rate of fire, but due to a shallow terrace on the hillside shielding the advancing Jacobites, their fire was partly masked. Eventually the lines met and Mackay's men in the center were “swept away by the furious onset of the Camerons.” So fast was the Jacobite charge that many Government troops had insufficient time to fix their bayonets, leaving them defenseless at close-quarters (during this period, the plug bayonet was used, which fitted into the barrel of the musket and prevented further reloading or firing - this meant that fixing bayonets was delayed till the last possible moment). The battle soon ended with the entirety of Mackay's force fleeing the field, quickly turning into a rout that killed 2,000.

The cost of victory, however, was enormous. About one-third of the Highlander force was killed, and Dundee was fatally wounded towards the end of the battle. The Jacobite advance continued until being stopped by government forces at the Battle of Dunkeld.

 

1689 – Battle of Dunkeld. Wednesday 21 August 1689. John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, “Bonnie Dundee” of legend and song, headed an army, mainly of Highlanders with an Irish contingent, which defeated a government force at the Battle of Killiecrankie. They fought on behalf of the catholic King James VII of Scotland and II of England who had fled in self-imposed exile. His opponents were loyal to his protestant successor, King William. The Highland charge swept all before it and the government forces were routed. Dundee was fatally wounded at the very start and did not survive to enjoy his convincing victory. The government was seriously rattled and feared that the Jacobites would gain more recruits and sweep south as their cause gathered momentum. They had to be stopped.

The government had few forces at their disposal and of these the largest single one was an untried quantity. Indeed it has been described as a band of enthusiastic amateurs. They were The Cameronian Regiment (Angus’s), which had been formed barely weeks before. Their origins lay in the turbulent period of religious and political strife of the 1680’s. They were zealous Covenanters. Their devotion to the National Covenant (1638) and the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) meant that they would even do battle to defend their freedom to worship as they chose. Their heartland was in southwest Scotland.

When the Crown ejected ministers from their parishes for refusing to submit to the rule of bishops, the Covenanters followed them to the hills and worshiped at open-air services which came to be called conventicles. As the threat from government forces increased the Covenanters began to carry weapons to their conventicles and to post armed pickets to keep a lookout. This tradition was carried on through war and in peace until the day the Cameronians were eventually disbanded nearly 300 years later.

The Regiment was formed in one day, 14 May 1689, ‘without beat of drum’. They mustered on the holm, on the banks of the Douglas Water in South Lanarkshire. Their first Commanding Officer was William Cleland, a scholar and a poet, whilst their Colonel was the 19-year-old Earl of Angus. As the need for more government forces spread they were deployed north and eventually to the town of Dunkeld where, it was hoped, they would halt the advance of the Highlanders.

The only defendable part of Dunkeld was the wall which surrounded the cathedral. The Cameronians (named after Richard Cameron, the Lion of the Covenant) made their stand there. The defending force was a mere 800 against some 5,000 which comprised the Jacobite force, now led by Major General Cannon. In military terms a superiority of three to one would normally be sufficient for a successful attack.

The attack started early and went on till last light sixteen hours later. Though wave after wave of Highlanders made repeated assaults they did not have the space or scope to repeat their famous charge and were cut down time after time by the staunch, determined Lowlanders. So much ammunition was used that they had to strip the lead from the roofs to make musket balls.

Cleland, still only ywenty-eight, was an inspired and inspiring leader. The night before the battle some of his men expressed anxiety that some of the officers might not relish the fight. Cleland ordered all of their horses to be shot, though it proved unnecessary to carry that out, but the gesture had been enough. He fell early in the day, wounded in his head and abdomen. Rather than let his men see this he crawled away and died on his own.
The Battle of Dunkeld ended the hopes of the Jacobites. Many of their remnants split up and returned to their clan lands so that they could harvest their crops. It was not the end of their movement. Armies were raised armies again in 1715 and 1745, but Dunkeld was truly the turning point.

 

1715 – Battle of Sheriffmuir. This battle was fought on November 13, 1715. Queen Anne, the last of the Royal Stewarts in the Protestant succession, died in 1714. Her successor was the Hanoverian King George I. In Scotland the antagonism to the succession of a German “princeling” who spoke little English was acute, especially among the Highlanders. King James III, from his exile in France, believed that the time was right to launch another Jacobite uprising. He chose “the clever, devious” Earl of Mar as his commander-in-chief in Scotland.

In September 1715 Mar raised the Royal standard at Braemar and eventually found himself in command of 12,000 men, the largest Jacobite army which had ever been raised in Scotland. Opposing Mar's further passage into Lowland Scotland were 6,000 of King George's troops, under the command of the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell.

John Cameron, Captain and chief of Clan Cameron, led the men of Clan Cameron at Sheriffmuir. Unaware of the dispositions of the other, the opposing generals drew up their forces so that their right wings overlapped the other's left. The Jacobite troops, which were intended to comprise the left wing (among which were the Camerons) who were hurrying uphill in four columns were suddenly confronted by the right wing of the Hanoverian army. A confused, incomplete deployment followed. A Lowland Jacobite regiment of the left wing (either Huntly's or Panmure's foot) which had gotten itself out of place and in front of the Camerons, broke after receiving fire from the Hanoverian army. John Cameron later said that as this regiment broke and ran it carried the Camerons along with them. He had gone a little way ahead to reconnoiter and could only watch in dismay at the headlong flight.

In contrast, the right wing of Mar's Jacobite army – consisting of Clan Donald, the Macleans and the Campbells – had swept away the Hanoverian left wing. As a result of their respective general's deployment, both opposing left wings were defeated. When night fell, and the fight was over, neither side knew which had won, although Argyll had lost more men than Mar. The next morning, however, Mar's army was not to be seen, having withdrawn north towards Perth. The Duke of Argyll was master of the field.

 

1719 – Battle of Glenshiel. The year 1719 saw what was known as the “Little Rising.” A small force of Spanish soldiers (only around three hundred Spaniards reached Scotland) landed at Lochalsh to form the nucleus for a rising of the Highland clans. The only battle of this rising occurred between a government army led by General Wightman, and Jacobites under the 10th Earl Marischal at Glenshiel. The Jacobite cause was supported by France, and occasionally Spain. Cardinal Alberoni, on behalf of Philip V of Spain, sent five thousand men to aid the new Rising.

Less than a thousand men assembled to be led by John Cameron of Lochiel, captain and chief of Clan Cameron, along with Lord George Murray and the Earl of Seaforth. A reported 150 Cameron men were among the assembled Jacobites. Eilean Donan Castle became their supply base while they headed off for Inverness through the Great Glen. The army's plan of action was to capture Inverness.

The Hanoverians were aware of their moves and attacked Eilean Donan Castle from the sea, destroying it with the cannon fire of three warships. General Wightman came from Inverness and confronted the Jacobites at Glenshiel on the June 10, 1719.

The forces were well matched and the battle continued for hours with no clear victor. When the expected Jacobite support from the Lowlanders did not arrive spirits fell completely. The Rising was abandoned and the Highlanders dispersed to their homes. The Spaniards had to surrender to Wightman. Lochiel, after skulking for a time in the Highlands, made his way back to exile in France.

 

1745 - Battle of Prestonpans. Hanoverian General Cope landed at Dunbar on September 17, 1745. Along with approximately 2,500 troops he marched toward Edinburgh. With forces somewhat equal in number to the Jacobites, Cope decided to make a stand at Prestonpans and wait for Prince Charles Edward Stewart, who he knew would inevitably march to meet him in battle. The Hanoverian defensive position was thought to be ideal, with two stone walls on their right, a bog on their left, the sea behind and a deep moat-like ditch in front.

Despite the poor state of his cavalry and artillery, Cope determined to engage the Jacobite army. He had good intelligence that the Jacobite army numbered just under 2,000 men, mostly composed of fit and hardy men, but badly armed. His officers apparently believed that the rebels would never attack a single force including both infantry and cavalry. They assured locals during their march that there would be no battle.

On September 20th Cope's forces encountered Charles' advance guard. Cope decided to stand his ground and engage the Jacobite army. He drew up his army facing south with a marshy ditch to their front, and the park walls around Preston House protecting their right flank. He mounted his cannon behind the low embankment of the Tranent Colliery wagon-way, which crossed the battlefield.

Although the Jacobite army had secured the high ground to the south of Cope's army, they were dismayed by the natural advantages of Cope's position. A frontal highland charge would flounder in the marshy ground in front of the Royalist army's center and be shot to pieces by musket and cannon fire. Although there was much argument among the senior Jacobite officers, Lord George Murray was convinced that only an attack against the open left flank of Cope's army stood any chance of success. Jacobite Lieutenant Anderson was a local farmer's son who knew the area well and convinced Murray that he knew an excellent route through the marshlands. Following his advice, Murray began to move the entire Jacobite force at 4:00 AM, walking three abreast along a defile far to the east of Cope's position.

Cope, meanwhile, had observed some eastward movement of the Jacobite army as it grew dark, though this move was the result of confusion in the Jacobite ranks and was abandoned. He feared an attack against both his flanks, and realigned his army on a north-south front, in the position they would fight in on the next day. Three companies of Loudon's Highlanders were detailed to guard the baggage park in Cockenzie. Some 100 Volunteers were dismissed and ordered to report again the next morning, thus missing the ensuing battle. Cope also made a last-minute attempt to get some artillerymen from Edinburgh Castle. Some half-dozen gunners left the Castle disguised as tradesmen but their guide became lost.

To prevent a surprise attack during the night, Cope kept fires burning in front of his position and posted no less than 200 dragoons and 300 infantry as pickets. At the crack of dawn however, at 6:00 AM on September 21, 1745, Cope's dragoons saw 1,400 Highlanders charging through the early mist making “wild Highland war cries and with the bloodcurdling skirl of the pipes....” Cope's inexperienced army wheeled to its left by platoons to face the Highlanders, who were charging in from the east following their night march. Cope managed to scramble some cannon up onto his right flank. Although most of his artillerymen (most of whom were aged or “invalids”) broke and ran, the two officers in charge of them opened fire as soon as the Highlanders were in range. Undaunted by the light, inaccurate guns, the Highlander army continued its charge. However, the center became bogged down in marshy terrain, and as they continued forward their different speeds of advance caused them to form into a "V" formation. The wings on either side met the inexperienced dragoons on either side of the British center, and the dragoons immediately fled the field.

This left the British center, containing the experienced royal infantry, facing the center of the "V" on their front, and the two unopposed wings on either side. The effect of this unplanned flanking maneuver meant that the royal foot soldiers were effectively sandwiched. They suffered heavy casualties and gave way. The battle was over in less than ten minutes, with hundreds of government troops killed or wounded and 1500 taken prisoner. Cope's baggage train at Cockenzie was captured with only a single shot fired. It contained £5000, many muskets and ammunition. The Jacobite Army suffered fewer than 100 troops killed or wounded. The wounded and prisoners were given the best care possible at Prince Charles Stewart’s insistence.

Cope tried to rally his men, but could only lead about two hundred stragglers up a side to reorganize in an adjacent field, where they refused further engagement. Cope and his aide-de-camp had no choice but to abandon any further attempt to rally their troops. Out of the 2,300 men in the royal army, only 170 troops managed to escape

After such a complete and relatively easy victory Prince Charles believed that he and his Highlanders were invincible, and that the victory had been God's will. His thoughts began turning to the south, toward England.

 

1746 – Battle of Culloden. This was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite movement. On April 16, 1746, the Jacobite forces of Prince Charles Edward Stewart fought loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, at Culloden east of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The loyalist victory decisively halted the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stewart to the British throne. Charles Stewart never mounted any further attempts to challenge Hanoverian power in Britain. The conflict was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.

Charles Stewart’s Jacobite army consisted largely of Scottish Highlanders, as well as a number of Lowland Scots and a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment. The Jacobites were supported and supplied by the Kingdom of France and French and Irish units loyal to France were part of the Jacobite army. The government force was mostly English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders, a battalion of Ulster men from Ireland, and a small number of Hessians from Germany. The battle on Culloden Moor was both quick and bloody, all taking place within an hour. Following an unsuccessful Highland charge against the government lines, the Jacobites were routed and driven from the field.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the brief but furious battle, while government losses were very light, with only fifty dead and 259 wounded. The aftermath of the battle and subsequent crackdown on Jacobitism was brutal, earning the Duke of Cumberland the label of “Butcher.” Efforts were subsequently taken to further integrate the comparatively wild Highlands into the Kingdom of Great Britain. Civil penalties were introduced to weaken Gaelic culture and attack the Scottish clan system.

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