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

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