The failure of the 1648 rising was largely due to the inability of the Scots either to act in unison or to act positively. In the attitude to Charles II in Scotland, there was more or less a three-way split: the old Montrose royalists, the Engagers (residue of Hamilton's party) and the hard-line Covenanters. The two latter shared a mutual dislike of Montrose. It was unfortunate for Charles II, therefore, that after the events of 1649/50 he was obliged to depend upon the Scots for a military resolution of his pretensions. Initially he looked to risings within England, and to a resurgent Montrose, to achieve his ends, but he looked in vain. On 23 March 1650 Montrose landed on the Orkneys, crossed the Pentland Firth into Sutherland on 12 April and began to raise forces. He took Thurso and Dunbeath Castle, but was repulsed from before Dunrobin and turned back into the Kyle of Sutherland. A force from David Leslie's covenanting army established at Brechin, moved from its base at Inverness and slaughtered the royalist forces near Carbisdale. Montrose was taken, tried, and hanged in Edinburgh on 21 May.
Charles II did not move rapidly into rapprochement with the Covenanters. Although the Queen Mother and her favourite, Henry Jermyn, through the Louvre Group (Catholics who favoured a scottish alliance), dominated policy decisions at the court in exile, Charles still hoped for something from the old cavaliers in England. They, however, lacked the resources, the manpower and the major landowners to foment anything but patchy unrest, however well-intentioned. With royalist garrisons still intact in the Isles of Stilly and on Jersey, the likeliest area for action would be the South-West of England, and particularly Cornwall, which had proved itself doggedly loyal during the first civil war. The royalists moved easily about the sea lanes, and in July 1650 there were abortive minor risings in Portland and Weymouth. A Western Association was formed to co-ordinate plans, secret gatherings of cavaliers under the cover of race meetings were frequent, and the government embarked on a series of arrests to nip plots in the bud. The regicide, Thomas Scot, directed effective intelligence operations for the Council of State, the machinery later taken over and made more effective by John Thurloe. Throughout England, royalist groups came together and dispersed without achieving anything, and only the Western Association seems to have developed a network of reliable supporters, extending into Gloucestershire and the Welsh border country. Laudable as it was, it was not enough, and on 23 June 1650 Charles II arrived in Scotland and took the Covenant with much distaste and considerable personal reservations, as a means of gaining for himself the armed support of Scotland. The Covenanters, having dealt with Montrose, and having barred the Engagers from involvement, were now more than willing to assist the King, and David Leslie began to raise a formidable army. The English government, however, were kept wellinformed, and began to expect some Scottish action or other long before June; the Council of State was resolved to strike first. Cromwell, returning from his triumphant campaigns in Ireland, was an advocate of this policy, but Sir Thomas Fairfax, commander of the New Model, resisted it —he seems to have begun to mislike his position since the execution of Charles I. Parliament voted for an invasion of Scotland on 20 June, Fairfax argued that this breached their earlier agreement with that kingdom
made in 1643, and on 26 June resigned his commission. His place was filled by Cromwell, troops were posted at the crucial towns of London, Oxford, Newcastle, Bristol, Gloucester, Wallingford and Berwick to contain the country in the event of a rising, and old elements of the provincial armies were called out again. A marching army of 15,000 men was prepared, and on 19 July this force was at Berwick, It crossed into Scotland on 22 July.
MAP 47 1650: The Dunbar Campaign
David Leslie's Scottish army, although superior in numbers, was in fact not up to scratch, the direct consequence of the hard line taken by the Covenanters. Ex-royalists were barred from serving, whether Scottish or English, thus depriving the army of good commanders and large numbers of veteran troops. The regiments were largely raw and inexperienced, whilst those of the New Model were battle-hardened. Cromwell's de facto second in command was John Lambert, his major general of the cavalry.
When Cromwell crossed into Scotland on 22 July, David Leslie's army was drawn up defensively between Edinburgh and Leith, the country was stripped of provisions, and the English were thus obliged to move along the sea coast to obtain war materials from the navy. Between Berwick and Edinburgh lay the port of Dunbar. Cromwell occupied the port on 26 July, then moved on to Haddington, Lambert skirmishing with Scottish forces near Musselburgh, around which point the English army quartered. Lambert's attempt to fall back on the main body at that place induced Leslie to launch an attack on him, but after hard fighting in which Lambert was wounded and almost fell into enemy hands, the English cavalry drove off their Scottish counterparts. On 31 July Scottish cavalry under Robert Montgomery launched an attack on the dispirited English at Musselburgh, but despite initial success, failed to achieve anything, and withdrew. The Musselburgh position was untenable for, due to stormy and wet weather, it had proved impossible to land supplies at Dunbar for conveying to the encamped army, and about a third of the English army had been rendered useless due to casualties in the fighting or to ailments associated with the wretched weather. Cromwell, therefore, drew off towards Dunbar, returning to Musselburgh on 12 August. Acting a little more energetically, he had decided to try to turn the Scottish flank and march in co-ordination with the movement of his ships down the Firth of Forth. This imaginative plan came to nothing, and after assaulting and taking a Scottish strongpoint at Redhall on 26 August, Cromwell moved to the west towards Stirling.
The Scottish army marched parallel to him, drawing up on excellent defensive ground near Gogar. The English, unable to launch an assault, again withdrew to Musselburgh, whilst David Leslie withdrew towards Edinburgh. The New Model had been out-marched and outmanoeuvred, and Cromwell knew it. On 31 August he ordered a general withdrawal to Dunbar, followed at a distance by Scottish cavalry. The English took up positions around Dunbar anticipating an attack, for the fall of Dunbar would wreck the army by depriving it of essential supplies: morale was anyway very low. On 1 September David Leslie tightened the net around the port by closing its only road link, forcing the English either to fight with nowhere to run to, or else to evacuate. Leslie, who had come through Marston Moor in July 1644 much in Cromwell's shadow, had shown himself the better general. He now swung to the south of Dunbar, occupied Doon Hill, and so stood between the English and Berwick. On 2 September the Scottish forces prepared for battle, and it seems that Leslie intended an all-out assault on the port. It may be that he believed Cromwell was already organising an evacuation, in which case he was wrong. Whilst his army was well positioned for an attack, it was no longer secure defensively, and this Cromwell was able to see from Dunbar. Having advocated a preemptive strike into Scotland, Cromwell now determined to break out of Dunbar with a single battle, taking the war to the enemy.
The Battle of Dunbar, 3 September 1650 and Its Aftermath
On 2 September preparatory to an assault on Dunbar, Leslie had put the bulk of his cavalry on the right flank between the road to Berwick and the coast, whilst his infantry lay between the road and their original position on Doon Hill, His army was perhaps 22,000 strong, more than double the size of the New Model, and Cromwell's decision to attack was by no means popular with his commanders. However, he carried the day at a hastily summoned council of war, where it was decided that a straightforward frontal assault along the Berwick road would be attempted. The foul weather showed no sign of abating, and it may be that the Scots were lulled into believing such an attack was improbable. Thus, when just before daybreak on 3 September Lambert crossed the Broxburn and reformed for his attack, he met light resistance and stormed into the enemy cavalry lines with the maximum of impact. After giving ground, the Scots rallied and by sheer weight of numbers held Lambert at bay. The Scottish infantry found themselves engaged by George Monck's cavalry. Cromwell himself now moved into the attack, passing between Broxmouth House and the coast, and this charge coupled with Lambert's renewed pressure, put the Scottish cavalry to flight. Their infantry collapsed— 10,000 were taken prisoner—and Leslie withdrew in all haste towards Stirling. It was a massive defeat, all the more so in that it was unexpected. The New Model marched on Edinburgh, occupied the town, and besieged the castle (which fell in December), whilst Cromwell made movements towards Stirling but, on 17 September, refused to attempt an assault, and withdrew to Edinburgh.
Charles II, very much out of it all at Perth, now tried to assemble an army of Covenanters and royalists. Some of the Covenanter army, who were hostile to alliance with royalists but resolved to fight Cromwell, chose to operate alone and were systematically broken by the New Model. On 1 January 1651 Charles was crowned at Scone in a humiliating ceremony, although he was more able to endure it than his father would have been. A lull in operations prevailed until June, Cromwell being incapacitated through illness, and David Leslie trying to recruit a new field army. This royalist army was more truly that, since it included not only numbers of old cavaliers from both sides of the border, but also had, as its commander of the English, the ex-parliamentarian Edward Massey. On 30 June, Cromwell, also heavily reinforced from England, marched out towards Linlithgow, with David Leslie, second in command to Charles II but de facto commander, established at Torwood. After skirmishing between the two armies, Cromwell decided not to try to force a battle, and withdrew upon Linlithgow on 13 July. Three days later elements of the New Model crossed the Forth near Queensferry to come between Leslie and the King in Perth, and were reinforced on 19/20 July by Lambert. A Scottish force, almost 5,000 strong, sent to counter such a move, hesitated, began to withdraw, and was promptly attacked by Lambert who killed and took almost half of the enemy. David Leslie made as if to launch a counter-attack, moved towards Inverkeithing, but withdrew instead to Stirling. Cromwell now had the momentum in his favour, ferried more men across the Forth, and crossed over himself, coming before Perth on 31 July. Charles II and Leslie disputed as to the best course to take, Leslie favouring a direct battle, but Charles resolved upon a march into England, and left Perth on 1 August, the town surrendering next day. Cromwell now had to pursue the King's army, since Charles' objective was almost certainly London, and the capital had no means of resisting him. By 6 August advance regiments of the New Model were on the Tyne, Newcastle was garrisoned, and so was Carlisle.
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