Monday, June 28, 2010

Scots Wha Hae

As a kind of sequel to the Bannockburn post, I thought I would post this wee thing about one of the most famous poems/songs in Scottish history. I imagine most of you have heard about the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and perhaps, most of you have also heard about his "hit song" "Scots Wha Hae". This was his fictitious address of Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn and is dear in the hearts of all the Scots since his day up to this, as one of the most memorable and heart-warming songs known in the country. It's one of my personal favorites as well, simple prose and lines, yet beautiful and heartfelt like so many of Burns poems. "Scots Wha Hae" has been one of the many candidates for the Scottish National Anthem, and I personally think it should be the official one. Here are the words to it:

Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled-
Scots wham Bruce has aften led-
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie!

Now's the day and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lower;
See approach proud Edward's power-
Chains and slaverie!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or freeman fa'-
Let him on wi' me!

By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die!

And here is a link to the song on Youtube sung by Scocha. 

I will be back next month for more of the Summer Battle Season! Until now, have a good week!

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, June 24, 2010


And now we come to the big event of this month: The Battle of Bannockburn.

A little backstory before I go into the actual battle:

When William Wallace was executed in 1305, six months later, Robert the Bruce stepped onto the scene. Well, he had been on the scene before, but was fluctuating throughout all of Wallace's campaign as to which side he was on. After Wallace's death, however, he took up his sword against England, and was crowned King of Scots at Scone in 1306. His campaign was a long and bloody one. He was always on the run, often fighting illness and the bitter climate, but in 1314, eight years since he had been crowned at Scone, eighteen years since William Wallace began his fight, Bruce and his men charged the fields of Bannockburn and won Scotland's freedom.

It happened on the twenty-fourth of June, in the middle of summer, on a battlefield not too far from Wallace's victory at Stirling bridge almost eighteen years earlier. The battle was actual fought on two days total, starting on the twenty-third and ending gloriously on the twenty-fourth. 

Edward II of England (Son of the notorious Edward Longshanks) led an army northwards to defeat the Scots army once and for all. It is said--though the actual numbers are not known-- that he had somewhere around fifteen thousand men including the infantry, cavalry and archers. Bruce on the other hand, had about six thousand men. He had about five hundred light cavalry led by Robert Keith besides his infantry, and then he had some "small folk"--the poor farmers and such--waiting in reserve. As was usual, he was outnumbered.

Bruce did not want to originally engage the English army in full scale battle. He did however, set up the field at Bannockburn with booby traps in the form of spiked trenches to ward off the heavy English cavalry. His vanguard was led by his nephew, Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray and behind him two devisions, one led by his brother Edward Bruce, and the other by his trusted general, James the Good the Black Douglas. The "small folk" were camped as a reserve on the Coxet Hill out of sight, guarding the extra supplies until they were needed in battle.

When the English army appeared from the Torwood on the afternoon of the twenty-third, they watched the Scots deploying in the southern fringes of the New Park ahead of them. As this was happening, one of the most talked about stories of this battle took place. One of the English knights, Sir Henry de Bohun, saw Bruce on the back of his small gray pony mustering his men and getting them into position. Sir Henry, thinking, most likely of the praise he would get if he were able to kill the Scottish king before the battle even started, charged forward, meaning to strike Bruce off his pony. Bruce however saw him coming and before Sir Henry could strike at him, he sidestepped his pony and raised his battle axe, striking out at the English knight. Sir Henry de Bohun, was cleaved to the breastbone, and the force of the blow was so hard that Bruce's axe broke in half. When he went back to the Scottish ranks, the men were shocked at what he had done saying something along the lines of "Why did ye do that? Ye're the king, that was stupid!!" And then Bruce just says, "I know, I broke my good axe."

Bruce also used a tactic that William Wallace had used at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. The Schiltron. This was a group of spear men who would stand in a circle, some standing, some kneeling and they would form a huge spiked circle that could withstand cavalry charge. And that's what it did at the Battle of Bannockburn. The English cavalry thought they would have a go, but ran into more trouble then they had imagined. The Scots did now break formation as the English thought they would, and their horses were impaled on the spears of the schiltron men. Eventually, after several tries and heavy losses, the English gave up retreated for the night.

That night, the Scots would rest on a reasonably comfortable spot of the field while the English would sleep on the carseland where it was wet and uncomfortable, made even more so by the fear of a night attack.

The next day, Bruce, having seen that his men wanting to fight or die, decided the best thing would be to charge. He gathered all his men up, said a few profound words, and then led the charge against the English.  

The English longbowmen set up their volley of arrows, trying to take down the schiltrons as they had at the Battle of Falkirk, but Bruce's schiltrons were no longer standing still. They were marching across the field in perfect unbreakable formation. Every time the English tried to charge one, they ended in defeat. The Earl of Moray and James Douglas as well were fighting off the rest of the English army with their brigades, forcing the Englishmen to be pressed back and caught between the Scottish brigades and the schiltrons. Unable to maneuver properly, the English ranks were cut down at an alarming rate. This was what Bruce had been waiting for. He released his light calvary under Sir Robert Keith who's charge was so fierce that they sent the English archers running. 

Bruce then sent his own brigade into the fight, mainly Highlanders and Islanders under Angus Og MacDonald of Islay. It was then that the English began to realize they were loosing the battle. They were now desperate to do whatever needed to be done to win. But then, Bruce sent out his "small folk" who had been hidden behind the Coxet Hill and waiting with anticipation for their part in the battle. 

It was done by then. The English could not withstand the might and energy of the Scottish people. They fell into a retreat, dragging their unwilling king off the field with them and left Bruce and his men to revel over their victory that had won freedom for their country that they had not possessed for far too long.

So that was how the battle of Bannockburn went down. Before this month is over, I will try to have at least one more post to go along with this one, so I will probably be back next week sometime.

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Battle of Bothwell Brig

So, a couple weeks ago, we talked about the Battle of Drumclog and I said that I would write the sequel to it later in the month. Now, on this day in 1679, came the Battle of Bothwell Brig. 

After the Covenanters had one the last battle, they camped near Hamilton at Bothwell Brig just south of the river Bothwell. Over the next three weeks they camped there, more and more Covenanters rallied to their banner. Unfortunately for them, the majority of their time in that three weeks was not spent in drilling and training the new troops as it should have been, but in arguing about the wording of the Rutherglen Declaration--a declaration made in May of that year after the Covenanter army rode into Rutherglen and burned copies of all the oppressive acts of Parliament--and caused division among the Covenanter ranks. There were now three different groups among the Covenanters, the most extreme being the "Cameronians". They were so named after a young school teacher Richard Cameron. The second was led by Reverend John Welch and the third was led by Reverend John Blackadder. This caused, one more a split between the "Resolutioners" and the "Protesters".

While the Covenanters were busy arguing, the Government took action. They quickly gathered up a new army to deal with them. The command was given to one of King Charles II's sons, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. He was well known in Scotland, having a wife of Scotch blood (Anne, Countess of Beccleuch) but he had never set foot in Scotland before. 

On the 22nd of June, he reached Bothwell Brig where the Covenanters were to make their stand. They had about four thousand foot and two thousand cavalry drawn up a little ways from the bridge on the risen part of ground called Little Park. While they looked formidable standing there in formation, they were poorly armed. Not to mention under officered and still fighting about their differences in thinking. They had only one small brass cannon they had picked up somewhere and on the other side of the Clyde, across Bothwell Brig, the Duke of Monmouth stood with fifteen thousand Government troops and trained officers (including Claverhouse). At the last minute, the Covenanters decided to sent a letter of truce, but Monmouth refused it. He just promised them that if they were prepared to surrender, he would intercede on their behalf with the King. They refused. Monmouth attacked.

For two hours, the Government emptied their heavy artillery at the Covenanters but they held their positions until a new barrel of gunpowder for their little cannon turned out to be a barrel of raisins. They were then forced to pull back and the Government dragoons swept across the bridge. The Covenanters' foot, having run out of shot and powder after their first volley, could not withstand the strength of the Government troops. They held on for a while, but then they broke, mostly due to John Graham of Claverhouse taking full part in the fray, hoping to avenge his earlier defeat. 

Monmouth did his best to stay the slaughter, not wanting men killed in cold blood, but after the battle was all over, about eight hundred Covenanters were killed and some fourteen thousand were taken prisoner. The next day, General Tam Dalyell came to the Government camp with a commission for Monmouth to succeed as commander-in-chief. 

After that, the Covenanter Rising ended.  There were lots of hangings and such things as that that most often follow a war. It turned out though, that that was not the last time they would have to face the Covenanters on the battle field (more about that next month!)

As of now, I will leave you till thursday when we will be talking about the Battle of Bannockburn!!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, June 14, 2010

Betsy Ross

I will apologize right now that this is a rather lazy post, but I have family in town and have been incredibly busy the last few days! However, today is Flag Day in America, and that is the day that the first real American flag was adopted in the Revolutionary War. The person who created the original design was Betsy Ross. She was Scottish, don't you know?

Betsy was the niece of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. (On that subject, did you know that there were nine Scots who signed it?) and she created the stars and stripes--then only bearing thirteen stars in a circle for the thirteen original colonies of America--and presented it to George Washington. Before this flag was created, the Americans used a flag that had the thirteen stripes but had the Union Jack in the corner where the stars are now. 

So that was just a little bit of information. I will try to be back later this week, or most likely next week to continue my summer battle season posts. 

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Battle of Glenshiel

We move on to our second battle of the summer season. This one was the Battle of Glenshiel, another Jacobite battle. It happened in 1719, later to be called the 1719 Rising. This small campaign followed the 1715 Rising and was seen as pretty much a last hurrah of the Jacobites and their attempts to get James III on the throne. This battle did not have a good outcome for the Jacobites, but we get to see some familiar faces fighting in it, including our old friend, Rob Roy MacGregor!

This was Rob's third Jacobite campaign. This battle came about because of, oddly enough, Spain. They had been paying James III a pension of 5,000 pounds a year. The main Spanish fleet had been destroyed by the British and Spain's chief minister, Cardinal Alberoni wanted revenge. He wanted to use the Jacobites to cause trouble for the English, and planned an assault. His men would land in strength in south-west England and the Jacobites, working as a diversion, would be stationed in north-west Scotland.

In early March, the Spanish armada set out and set sail for England with some five thousand men and extra weapons. At the same time, two frigates carrying infantrymen set off for Scotland. The invasion on England, however did not go as planned. The Spanish armada ran into foul weather and most of their ships were destroyed, leaving the survivors to sail into Corunna in tatters.

The ships headed for Scotland had better luck. In command of them was George Keith, the tenth Earl Marischal of Scotland. The ships landed in Stornoway (on the Isle of Lewis) on April 2nd where they were joined by a group of Jacobite exiles including the Earl of Seaforth, Clan MacKenzie's chief. Also there was William the Marquis of Tullibardine who was carrying a commission from James III, making him commander of the Jacobite forces.

The main problems began with these two men, the Earl Marischal and Tullibardine. They were both hot tempered and both thought they should be the proper leader. They both refused to listen to the other and had different strategies on how they wanted to fight the battle. Tullibardine wanted to stay on the Isle of Lewis and await news of the planned landing in England, but the Earl Marischal wanted to head for the mainland, get to Inverness and meet Seaforth's clansmen there. This resulted in time being wasted by useless arguing.

As it turned out, the Earl Marischal had his way. They crossed the Minch in stormy weather and made it to Loch Alsh where the Jacobites and Spaniards set up their headquarters at Eilean Donan, a MacKenzie castle. They deposited weapons here before they moved on to Loch Duich where they had more counsels of war and more arguing. Their original plan to march to Inverness kind of petered out and they heard news of the disaster that had happened to the Spanish armada. Tullibardine wanted everyone to withdraw, but the Earl Marischal disagreed and had the two Spanish frigates sail for home empty so no one would have a change to leave.

England sent a squadron of Royal Navy frigates to sail into Loch Alsh and they pommeled Eilean Donan while a government force commanded by Major-General Wightman set out for Inverness. Tullibardine was at Shiel Bridge near Loch Shiel, trying to raise the clans, when the news came of the failure of the Spanish to invade England. Less than a thousand clansmen had rallied to the cause, some Seaforth MacKenzies, Camerons and some random volunteers, including Rob Roy with forty MacGregors. 

On the 10th of June, the government army marched down Glen Shiel, Tullibardine moved up the glen to meet them, taking a defensive position in a narrow part of the glen. The government troops took the flat ground farther to the east while the jacobite forces split on both sides of the glen. Lord George Murray, Tullibardine's younger brother, was to the south of the stream, while Tullibardine himself along with the Spaniards positioned themselves to the north. The rest of the Spaniards took up positions on the slopes.

The battle started at midday and continued with musket fire until five p. m. when the government grenadiers opened fire with their mortars. The heather, being extremely dry, caught fire and covered the battlefield in smoke, making it hard to see. Lord George Murray was hit in the leg with a shrapnel and Seaforth was also wounded by the musket fire. The clansmen were not able to execute one of their favored Highland Charges and tried two assaults that failed, forcing them to withdraw up the steep hillside, carrying their wounded. The Spaniards held their ground at first but when they saw that they couldn't win, they retreated up the steep slope and over the ridge of the Five Sisters in the north. Today, the low part of the ridge they crossed is known as Bealach nan Spainnteach --Pass of the Spaniards.

The casualties were not as heavy as they could have been; the Hanoverians had lost twenty-one dead and some 131 wounded, but legend has it that only one Jacobite was killed in the fray. That night, the clansmen disappeared into their hills and the Spanish tried to continue the fight, but they had no food or any idea where they were, so they had to surrender. 

The 1719 Rising, like the 1715, did not have the desired effect of the Jacobites, but all of the leaders had escaped this one to tell the tale. Lord George Murray, Tullibardine's brother, is the same Lord George who fought at Culloden in 1746 and led the men throughout the '45.

So that was the extent of the 1719 Rising. One battle that went awry. "The best laid plans o' mice and men aft gang awry," as Robert Burns said.

I'll be back soon for another battle post, but that's all for now!

Slainte, Hazel


Friday, June 4, 2010

Battle of Drumclog

I had meant to do all the posts on the days that the battles actually happened, but monday when the Battle of Drumclog happened, I was far too busy to do any research so I had to postpone it for later. Today however, I will write a wee bit on this small battle, but the first one of the summer battle season!

Drumclog was a battle fought in the Covenanter wars during William and Mary's Glorious Revolution. It was a religious war, but also a Jacobite war. The Jacobite leader was the famous Bonnie Dundee, John Graham of Claverhouse. Drumclog is at Loudoun Hill (a very popular place for battles) and on June 1, 1679, Claverhouse met the Covenanters there. The Covenanters had cover of a ditch and quickly formed a battle line as they saw Claverhouse's dragoons advancing. Claverhouse was outnumbered almost four to one, but he kept the advance going. Knowing that a cavalry charge would not do much good in the situation, he had his men dismount and and had them advance that way. The Covenanters moved across the ditch separating them and attacked Claverhouse's men at close quarters. 

Claverhouse might have won the day for all we know, but his horse was wounded and bolted. Before he could find another horse, his men, thinking he was retreating, broke their line and followed him. Thirty-six soldiers were killed and seven were taken prisoner. Claverhouse and his men had to retreat through the narrow streets of Strathaven, having stones thrown at them as they made their way back to Glasgow where they had reinforcements. 

Drumclog was the only set battle victory for the Covananters against the government forces during the war. While Claverhouse had lost this battle, he would eventually win the war itself, though not without loss of life.

The next battle fought in this campaign was at Bothwell Brig and that was on the 22nd of June, so we will be talking about that later this month.

Also, I thought I might share this little thing with you that I found on the internet last night concerning Edward Longshanks. I had to give a good laugh at that!

As always, have a good weekend. I will be back next week for more battles and such.

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Battle Season

Well, it's finally June and that finally starts off the Summer Battle Season in Scotland (as well as other places). Within the next four or five months, we will be talking about many battles and the men who fought in them. June has several amazing battles, including the famous Battle of Bannockburn, that I will be talking about this month along, hopefully, with some other posts to go along with Scotland: The Story of a Nation by Magnus Magnusson. Then in July, we will be talking about more battles, and celebrating three birthdays of three amazing Scots! August, I am planning to make another themed month, seeing as Wallace Day is in August, I am going to be talking about William Wallace along with other things that happened that month. Then of course, in September, we have the amazing Battle of Stirling on the 11th. One of the best victory's ever one by Scotland.

So I hope you will enjoy the excitement I have planned for you this summer! To get in the mood, here's battle ballad for you to listen to:

I'll be back later this week for our first post!

Slainte, Hazel