Scotland in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Scotland in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
Wars of the Three Kingdoms
casus=Conflict between Covenanters and Royalists, supporters of Charles I
Covenantersdefeat Royalists but are themselves defeated by an English Parliamentarian conquest of Scotland in 1650-51.
combatant1=Scottish Royalists and Irish Catholic Confederate troops
James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose
Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argylland David Leslie
strength1=Fluctuating, 2000-4000 troops at any one time
strength2=over 30,000 troops, but many based in England and Ireland
casualties3=Total of 28,000 battlefield deaths on both sides, more soldiers die from disease, c. 45,000 civilian deaths, both from disease and deliberate targeting |
Scotland in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms covers Scotland's involvement in the wider conflict known as the
Wars of the Three Kingdomsbetween 1644 and 1650. The Wars of the Three Kingdoms were a series of civil wars that were fought in Scotland, England and Ireland, and also included the Bishops Wars, the English Civil Warand Irish Confederate Wars.
In Scotland itself, from 1644-45 a Scottish civil war was fought between Scottish Royalists — supporters of Charles I — under
James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, and the Covenanters, who had controlled Scotlandsince 1639 and allied themselves with the English Parliament. The Scottish Royalists, aided by Irish troops, had a rapid series of victories in 1644–45, but were eventually defeated by the Covenanters.
However, the Covenanters then found themselves at odds with the English Parliament and backed the claims of Charles II to the thrones of England and Scotland. This led to the Third English Civil War, when Scotland was invaded and occupied by the Parliamentarian
New Model Armyunder Oliver Cromwell.
Origins of the war — wars in three kingdoms
Scotlandhad helped to spark this series of civil wars in 1638, when it had risen in revolt against Charles I's religious policies. The National Covenantof Scotland was formulated to resist the King's innovations, particularly the Prayer Book. In practice, the Covenant also expressed a wider Scottish dissatisfaction with Charles's policies, especially the sidelining of Scotland since the Stuart Kings had also become monarchs of Englandin 1603. The Covenanters raised a large army from the dependants of their landed class and successfully resisted Charles I's attempt to impose his will on Scotland in the so called Bishops Wars. The Scottish uprising triggered civil war in Charles' other two Kingdoms, first in Ireland, then in England. Charles and his minister Thomas Wentworthwere unable to persuade the English Parliament, which itself was unhappy with Charles's civil and religious policies, to pay for an army to put down the Scots. As a result, they had proposed raising an army from Irish Catholics, in return for abolishing discriminatory laws against them. This prospect alarmed Charles' enemies in England and Scotland and the Covenanters threatened to invade Ireland. In response a group of Irish conspirators launched the Irish Rebellion of 1641, which quickly degenerated into a series of massacres of English and Scottish Protestantsettlers in Ireland.
This in turn sparked civil war in England, because the
Long Parliamentdid not trust Charles with command of an army to put down the Irish rebellion, fearing that it would also be used against them. The English Civil Warbroke out in 1642.
Covenanterssent an army to Ulsterin Irelandin 1642 to protect the Scottish settlers there. In 1644, following the signing of a treaty — The Solemn League and Covenant— with the English Parliament, the bulk of the Covenanters armed forces were sent south to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the English Civil War.
However, some in Scotland continued to side with the King. These were most prominent in the Highlands and north-east of Scotland. There were several factors that inclined people towards Royalism. Among them were religion, culture, clan politics and political allegiance.
The Covenanters were committed to establishing
Presbyterianismas the national religion of Scotland, however many people in the northern and Highlands regions were Episcopalian or Roman Catholics.
Furthermore, the Highlands was a distinct cultural, political and economic region of Scotland. It was Gaelic in language and customs and at this time was largely outside of the control of the governments of Englandclarifyme and Scotland. Some Highland
clanspreferred the more distant authority of Charles Stuart to the powerful and well organised Lowlandsbased government of the Covenanters.
However, the largest Highland clan, the
Campbells, led by their chief, Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, did side with the Covenanters. This meant that the Campbells' rivals in the violent world of clan politics, notably the MacDonalds, automatically took the opposing side. It should be said that some of these factors overl
Gaelic (Irish as well as Highland) identity.
Finally, there were those like
James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, who were both Lowlanders and Presbyteriansbut who saw allegiance to the King as more important than any other religious or political principle.
The Irish intervention
Montrose had already tried and failed to lead a Royalist uprising by
1644, when he was presented with a ready made Royalist army. The Irish Confederates, who were loosely aligned with the Royalists, agreed in that year to send an expedition to Scotland. From their point of view, this would tie up Scottish Covenanter troops who would otherwise be used in Ireland or England. The Irish sent 1500 men to Scotland under the command of Alasdair MacCollaMacDonald, a MacDonald clansman from the Western Islesof Scotland. They included Manus O'Cahan (an Irish cousin to MacColla) and his 500 man regiment. Shortly after landing, the Irish linked up with Montrose at Blair Atholland proceeded to raise forces from the MacDonalds and other anti-Campbell Highland clans.
The new Royalist army led by Montrose and MacColla was in some respects very formidable. Its Irish and Highland troops were extremely mobile, marching quickly over long distances - even over the rugged Highland terrain — and were capable of enduring very harsh conditions and poor rations. They did not fight in the conventional pike and
musketformations used by most armies at the time, but launched rapid charges, firing their muskets at close range before closing with swords and half-pikes. This tactic swept away the poorly trained Covenanter militias that were sent against them. These locally raised levies frequently ran away when faced with a terrifying Highland charge, and were slaughtered as they ran.
On the other hand, the clans from the west of Scotland could not be persuaded to fight for long away from their homes — seeing their principal enemy as the Campbells rather than the Covenanters. The Royalists also lacked
cavalry, leaving them vulnerable in open country. Finally, although they won a string of victories, the Scottish Royalists were unable to hold territory after they had taken it, retreating again and again to the safety of the Highlands.
Tippermuir, Aberdeen and Inverlochy
In the Autumn of
1644, the Royalists marched across the Highlands to Perth, where they smashed a Covenanter force at the battle of Tippermuir. Shortly afterwards, another Covenanter militia met a similar fate outside Aberdeen. Unwisely, Montrose let his men pillage Perth and Aberdeen after taking them, leading to hostility to his forces in an area where Royalist sympathies had been strong.
Following these victories, MacColla insisted on pursuing the MacDonald's war against the Campbells in
Argyllin western Scotland. In December 1644, the Royalists rampaged through the Campbells' country, killing around 900 civilian men of military age and burning their homesteads.
In response to the attack on his clansmen,
Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyllassembled the Campbell clansmen to repel the invaders. In February 1645, the Campbells met the Royalist and Highland force at the battle of Inverlochy, close to Ben Nevisin Lochaber. The Campbells were crushed, taking heavy casualties.
Montrose's troops, in particular the
Clan Donaldclansmen and Irish Confederates, gained a very bad reputation among the general Scottish population. They committed a series of atrocities against enemy civilians, especially when campaigning in the Campbell territory of Argyll. By modern standards, the Scottish Royalists were certainly guilty of war crimes, although it should be said that the Covenanters' troops behaved equally badly in the Highlands, north-east Scotland, and Ulster towards civilians in Royalist or Confederate controlled territory.
Triumph and disaster for the Royalists
Their victory at Inverlochy gave the Royalists control over the western Highlands and attracted other clans and noblemen to their cause. The most important of these were the Gordons, who provided the Royalists with
cavalryfor the first time. Another Covenanter army under John Urry was hastily assembled and sent against the Royalists but was defeated at Auldearn, near Nairn. Yet another Covenanter levy was crushed by Montrose's men at Alford, and another at Kilsyth when it tried to block the victorious Royalists' advance into the Lowlands. This string of battles showed the dangers of sending half-trained, or even untrained, troops into battle and resulted in giving Montrose temporary control over almost all of Scotland. In late 1645, such prominent towns as Dundeeand Glasgowfell to his forces.
However, whereas Montrose wanted to further Royalist objectives by raising troops in the south east of Scotland and marching on England, MacColla showed that his priorities lay with war of the MacDonalds against the Campbells and occupied Argyll. The Gordons also returned home, to defend their own lands in the north-east. Montrose, his forces having split up, was routed by the Covenanters at the
battle of Philiphaugh. MacColla retreated to Kintyre, where he held out until the following year.
The Royalist victories in Scotland therefore evaporated almost overnight owing to the disunited nature of their forces.
The end of the civil war in Scotland
English Civil Warhad ended in May 1646, when Charles I surrendered to the Scottish Covenanter army in England. After failing to persuade the King to take the Covenant, the Scots finally handed him over to the commissioners of Parliament in early 1647. At the same time they received part payment for the service of their army in England, which then returned north. In 1646, Montrose left for Norway, while MacColla returned to Ireland with his remaining Irish and Highland troops to re-join the Confederates. Those who had fought for Montrose, particularly the Irish, were massacred by the Covenanters whenever they were captured, in reprisal for the atrocities the Royalists had committed in Argyll.
cotland and the Second and Third English Civil Wars
econd Civil War
Ironically, no sooner had the
Covenanters defeated the Royalists at home than they were negotiating with Charles I against the English Parliament. The Covenanters could not get their erstwhile allies to agree on a political and religious settlement to the wars, failing to get Presbyterianismestablished as the official religion in the Three Kingdoms and fearing that the Parliamentarianswould threaten Scottish independence. Many Covenanters feared that under Parliament, "our poor country should be made a province of England." A faction of the Covenanters known as the Engagers, led by the Duke of Hamilton, therefore sent an army to England to try to restore Charles I in 1648. However it was routed by Oliver Cromwell's New Model Armyat the Battle of Preston. This intervention on behalf of the King caused a brief civil war within the Covenanting movement. The most hardline Presbyterians under the Earl of Argyll rebelled against the main Scottish army under David Leslie. The two factions came to blows at the Battle of Stirling in September 1648, before a peace was hastily negotiated.
Charles was executed by the
Rump Parliamentin 1649, and Hamilton, who had been captured after Preston, was executed soon after. This left the extreme covenanters, still led by Argyll, as the main force in the Kingdom.
Montrose's defeat and death
1649, Montrose was restored by the exiled Charles II to the now nominal lieutenancy of Scotland. Charles also open negotiations with the Covenanters, now dominated by the radical Presbyterian " Kirk Party" or "Whigs". Because Montrose had very little support in the lowlands, Charles was willing to disavow his most consistent supporter in order to become a king on terms dictated by the Covenanters. In March 1650Montrose landed in Orkneyto take the command of a small force, composed mainly of continental mercenaries, which he had sent on before him. Crossing to the mainland, Montrose tried in vain to raise the clans, and on 27 Aprilhe was surprised and routed at the Battle of Carbisdale (1650)in Ross-shire. After wandering for some time he was surrendered by Neil Macleod of Assynt, to whose protection, in ignorance of Macleod's political enmity, he had entrusted himself. He was brought a prisoner to Edinburgh, and on 20 Maysentenced to death by the Parliament. He was hanged on the 21st, with Wishart's laudatory biography of him put round his neck. To the last he protested that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.
Third Civil War
In spite of their conflict with the Scottish Royalists, the Covenanters then committed themselves to the cause of Charles II, signing the
Treaty of Breda (1650)with him in the hope of securing an independent Presbyterian Scotland free of English Parliamentary interference. Charles landed in Scotland at Garmouthin Morayon June 23 1650and signed the 1638 Covenant and the 1643 Solemn League immediately after coming ashore.
The threat posed by King Charles II with his new Covenanter allies was considered to be the greatest facing the new English Republic so
Oliver Cromwellleft some of his lieutenants in Ireland to continue the suppression of the Irish Royalists and returned to England in May. He arrived in Scotland on July 221650, advancing along the east coast towards Edinburgh. By the end of August, his army was reduced by disease and running out of supplies, so he was forced to order a retreat towards his base at the port of Dunbar. A Scottish Covenanter army under the command of David Leslie had been shadowing his progress. Seeing some of Cromwell's sick troops being taken on board the waiting ships, Leslie made ready to attack what he believed was a weakened remnant (though some historians report that he was ordered to fight against his better judgment by the Covenanter General Assembly). Cromwell seized the opportunity, and the New Model Armyinflicted a crushing defeat on the Scots at the subsequent Battle of Dunbar on September 3. Leslie's army, which had strong ideological ties to the radical Kirk Party, was destroyed, losing over 14,000 men killed, wounded and taken prisoner. Cromwell's army then took Edinburghand by the end of the year his army had occupied much of southern Scotland.
This military disaster discredited the radical Covenanters known as the
Kirk Partyand caused the Covenanters and Scottish Royalists to bury their differences (at least temporarily) to try and repel the English parliamentarian invasion of Scotland. The Scottish Parliament passed the Act of Levy in December 1650, requiring every burgh and shire to raise a quota of soldiers. A new round of conscription was undertaken, both in the Highlands and the Lowlands, to form a truly national army named the Army of the Kingdom, that was put under the command of Charles II himself. Although this was actually the largest force put into the field by the Scots during the Wars, it was badly trained and its morale was low as many of its constituent Royalist and Covenanter parts had until recently been killing each other.
1651, under the command of General John Lambert, part of Cromwell's force crossed the Firth of Forthinto Fifeand defeated the Scots at the Battle of Inverkeithing. The New Model Army advanced towards the royal base at Perth. In danger of being outflanked, Charles ordered his army south into England in a desperate last ditch attempt to evade Cromwell and spark a Royalist uprising there. Cromwell followed Charles into England leaving George Monckto finish the campaign in Scotland. Meanwhile, Monck took Stirlingon the August 14and Dundeeon September 1, reportedly killing up to 2,000 of its 12,000 population and destroying every ship in the city's harbour, 60 in total.
The Scottish Army of the Kingdom marched towards the west of England because it was in that area that English Royalist sympathies were strongest. However, although some English Royalists joined the army, they came in far fewer numbers than Charles and his Scottish supporters had hoped. Cromwell finally engaged the new king at Worcester on
September 3, 1651, and beat him — in the process all but wiping out his army, killing 3,000 and taking 10,000 more prisoners. Many of the Scottish prisoners taken by Cromwell were sold into indentured labour in the West Indies, Virginia and Berwick, Maine. This defeat marked the real end of the Scottish war effort. Charles escaped to the European continent and with his flight the Covenanters' hopes for political independence from the Commonwealth of Englandwere dashed.
From occupation to restoration
See main article:
Royalist rising of 1651 to 1654.
Between 1651 and 1654 a royalist rising took place in Scotland.
Dunnottar Castlewas the last stronghold to fall to the English Parliament's troops in May 1652. Under the terms of the Tender of Union, the Scots were given 30 seats in a united Parliament in London, with General Monck appointed as the military governor of Scotland. During the Interregnum, Scotlandwas kept under the military occupation of an English army under George Monck. Sporadic Royalist rebellions continued throughout the Commonwealth period in Scotland, particularly in western Highlands, where Alasdair MacCollahad raised his forces in the 1640s. The north west Highlands was the scene of another pro-royalist uprising in 1653-55, which was only put down with deployment of 6,000 English troops there. Monck garrisoned forts all over the Highlands — for example at Inverness, and finally put an end to Royalist resistance when he began deporting prisoners to the West Indiesas slaves. However, lawlessness remained a problem, with bandits known as mosstroopers, very often former Royalist or Covenanter soldiers, plundering both the English troops and the civilian population.
After the death of Oliver Cromwell in
1658, the factions and divisions which had struggled for supremacy during the early years of the interregnum reemerged. Monck, who had served Cromwell and the English Parliament throughout the civil wars, judged that his best interests and those of his country lay in the Restoration of Charles II. In 1660, he marched his troops south from Scotland to ensure the monarchy's reinstatement. Scotland's Parliament and legislative autonomy were restored under The Restorationthough many issues that had led to the wars; religion, Scotland's form of government and the status of the Highlands, remained unresolved. After the Glorious Revolutionof 1688, many more Scots would die over the same disputes in Jacobite rebellions.
Its is estimated that roughly 28,000 men were killed in combat in Scotland itself during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. More soldiers usually died of disease than in action at this time (the ratio was often 3-1), so it is reasonable to speculate that the true military death toll is higher than this figure. In addition, it is estimated that around 15,000 civilians died as direct result of the war — either through massacres or by disease. More indirectly, another 30,000 people died of the plague in Scotland between 1645 and 1649, a disease that was partly spread by the movement of armies throughout the country. If we also take into account the thousands of Scottish troops who died in the civil wars in England and Ireland (another 20,000 soldiers at least), the
Wars of the Three Kingdomscertainly represents one of the bloodiest episodes in Scottish history.
*David Stephenson. "Highland Warrior: Alasdair MacColla and the Civil Wars." John Donald, Edinburgh, 1980, 2003.
*John Kenyon and Jane Ohlmeyer, ed. "The Civil Wars:A Military History of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1638-1660." Oxford University Press, 1998. (The chapter on the Civil Wars in Scotland is by Edward Furgol.)
History of Scotland
* [http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/military/1644-5-montrose-scotland.htm The Campaigns of 1644-45]
* [http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/military/1650-carbisdale.htm Montrose's Defeat]
* [http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/military/1650-dunbar.htm Cromwell's victory at Dunbar]
* [http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/glossary/settlement-scotland.htm The settlement of Scotland]
* [http://www.scotwars.com/html/home.htm Portal to all things relevant to the military history of Scotland]
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