While the Scots were wooing the heir apparent to the throne, on the 24th of June, a committee of the Council of State was meeting in England. Consisting of Oliver Cromwell, John Lambert, Thomas Harrison, Oliver St. John and Thomas Lord Fairfax. The committee was discussing Lord Fairfaxs decision not to lead the English army. Some six weeks prior to this meeting, the Council of State had planned an invasion of Scotland in response to the Scottish declaration of Charles II as king. The English had assumed that once Charles II was on Scottish soil, Argyll would direct an invasion southward to physically claim the throne. They needed to strike first to prevent that from happening.
Thomas Lord Fairfax held the position of commander-in-chief of the armed forces. To this point, Cromwell was, of course, the leader of the New Model Army, but he had hitherto acted only upon Fairfaxs bidding. And now, with the Council of State waiting for the army to move northward, Fairfax hesitated. Apparently, he did not view the unfolding events as a threat of a Scottish invasion. On the 22nd, Fairfax had announced his decision not to proceed, and so Cromwell organized the committee which met two days later to talk to Fairfax. As Fairfax noted:(2.22)
|We are joined with them [the Scots] in a olemn league and covenant,... and now for us...to enter into their country and make war upon them is what I cannot ee the jutice of.|
Cromwell pointed out that the Scots were very buy at this preent in raiing forces and money.(2.23) The Scots were raising an army of 13,400 foot soldiers and 5,440 cavalry. If it were not to make war upon the English, then what could it be for?, he argued. Eventually, through the course of the meeting, Fairfax resigned his commission. The position of Lord General (i.e. commander-in-chief) of all the armed forces in the Commonwealth was offered to Oliver Cromwell. He accepted the offer and received the appointment by the Parliament on 26 June, 1650.
On 29 June, 1650, the English army under the command of Oliver Cromwell began their march northward. All along the way, the people of England cheered the army on. At York, the lord-mayor and aldermen entertained Cromwell and his officers at a stately dinner.
As news of the approaching English army reached Scotland, the committee of estates sent a letter to the parliament inquiring about the activity. A similar letter was sent to Cromwell. The letters stated:(2.24)
|That they wondered at the report of the Englih armys advance towards their country, and that many of their hips were ecurd by the Englih contrary to the act of pacification in the large treaty, whereby no acts of hotility were to be ued againt each other, without three months warning given before-hand; That the forces they were raiing were only for their own defence; and therefore they deired to know, if the Englih army, now on their march northward, were deignd for offence or defence; to guard their own borders, or invade Scotland.|
In defence of their actions, the English parliament issued the following declaration:(2.25)
|Firt, That the Scots, contrary to their agreement, had once already invaded England under duke Hamilton, and were now ready for a econd invaion; o that the Englih were advancd againt them only by way of prevention. Secondly, That altho they could not claim to themelves any authority or dominion over the Englih, yet in Scotland they proclaimed Charles Stuart king of England and Ireland; and ince that, promid to asit him againt this commonwealth. Thirdly, That they declared againt the Englih parliament and army, as Sectaries, ranking them with malignants and papits; and had reolved to impoe their form of religion upon the Englih nation.|
Rumors spread throughout Scotland that the English army intended to destroy everything and everyone in its path. The ministers told their congregations that:(2.26)
|Cromwell had a commision to come for Scotland with fire and word, and was to give no quarter to any Scot; and that he was to have all he could conquer for himelf and his oldiers...That the Englih army intended to put all men to the word, and to thrut hot irons thro the womens breats. That the English would cut the throats of all between ixty and ixteen years old, cut off the right hands of all the youths under ixteen and above ix, burn the womens breats with hot irons, and detroy all before them|
In actuality, the English were no more uncivilized beasts than the Scots. But the rumors were believed and the common citizens became alarmed.
Cromwell issued a declaration stating that the English army had no intention of causing inhuman harm to the people of Scotland. He reminded them that only a couple years previous, the same army had come into Scotland at the bidding of the Scottish Parliament, and had done no harm to the people. There was no reason for them to assume that this time would be any different. Only those persons, who by their conduct of inciting the restoration of the Stuart monarchy, who had laid the foundation for the invasion, would be in any danger. In fact, as the army moved northward into Scotland, Cromwell issued general orders:(2.27)
|That none, on pain of death, hould offer violence or injury to the perons or goods of any in Scotland not in arms; and withal, that none on the ame penalty do preume, without pecial licence, to traggle half a mile from their quarters.|
Cromwells army traveled from York to Northallerton, and then to Darlington. From there it went to Durham, Newcastle, and then crossed over the River Tweed into Scotland to Berwick where, on the 19th of July, a general rendezvous was held on the grounds of Lord Greys Chilllingham Castle on the Haggerston-Moor. The army, at this time, consisted of about five thousand horse and eleven thousand foot soldiers. (A muster revealed a total figure of sixteen thousand, three hundred and fifty-four.) On the 22nd, the English army made an encampment on a field near Mordington Castle at Ayton, about four miles from the Tweed. The army fired their cannon as a sort of warning to the Scots that they had arrived. They remained at that encampment for three days. From there the army moved on to Cockburnspath (variously, Coberspath) and two days later reached Dunbar.
At Dunbar, the army received much needed provisions from supply ships. Cromwell correctly guessed that he would not be able to obtain provisions along the way, so he had arranged with the Admiralty Committee to supply ships to meet the army at certain points along the way. Twenty-three ships were outfitted with supplies to sustain the army in its campaign.
From Dunbar, the army marched to Haddington. The Scottish outposts could be seen from Haddington, only six miles away at Gladsmuir. At no time during the entire march did the English meet with any resistance by the Scots. But reaching the outskirts of Edinburgh, the English got word that the Scots were dipoed to give them battle on a heath called Gladmoor.(2.28) The Scots, though, were not disposed to give battle at that time. Cromwell sent out a detachment of nearly fourteen hundred cavalry troops under generals Lambert and Whalley to reconnoiter the Scots outposts near Musselburgh; the small force of Scottish cavalry withdrew without a fight. From Haddington, the army moved on Musselburgh and then on to Edinburgh, only between three to four miles distant, reaching the Scottish capital on 28 July.
The Scottish army was still under the general command of Alexander Leslie, but he being near the age of seventy and unfit for active combat, the command of the army in the field went to his nephew, David Leslie. The Scots constructed a system of fortified trenches outside the city of Edinburgh to protect it and Leath. The trenches ran from Holyroodhouse and Abbey Hill to the east of Edinburghs Canongate northward to the walls surrounding Leath. The Scots had positioned nearly forty cannon along the line. Cromwell was to find out that the Scots had done a good job at constructing the works.
The English army moved out of its camp at Musselburgh on the morning of 29 July. It rained that day. The first initiative was the capture of Arthurs Seat, a hill to the east of Edinburghs defences. A detachment of Scottish soldiers had been stationed there, but were easily routed by the English. The English then hauled two cannon into position on the hill and began a bombardment of the Scottish right flank near Colton Hill. A Scots regiment led by Colonel James Campbell attacked and took Arthurs Seat back for the Scots, but it was almost immediately retaken by the English. The English also took possession of a church and several houses near the hill.
While the action at Arthurs Seat was occurring, English ships began a bombardment of the town of Leath. It was to no avail; the Scottish defences were too strong for any impression to be made against them.
The rain continued throughout the evening and night, and by the following morning of the 30th, Cromwell gave up and pulled his troops back toward Musselburgh. As noted in the book, The Life Of Oliver Cromwell, published in 1755, Cromwell was quite discouraged by the fact that the Scots would not meet him in battle in the open field.(2.29)
|But all thee provocations could not prevail on the Scots to forake their trenches, nor would they by any means be drawn forth to engage in a general combat. The lord-general intended to have made an attempt upon them; but there fell o great a rain, which continued all night, and part of the next day, and his men were o wearied out with hard duty, that he was obligd to draw off his army to Mucel-borough, there to refreh and recruit it with proviions.|
In the removal to Musselburgh, the English regiments did not keep together, providing the Scottish cavalry with the opportunity to badger the English rear as the withdrawal was being made.
Cromwell was in for a surprise when he arrived back at Musselburgh. The local inhabitants had fled from the English when they arrived three days previous, and had hid in the coal pits near the town. After the English had moved on toward Edinburgh, the inhabitants came back to the town and erected some defences. So when the English army returned, they found that they had to put up a fight to retake the town.
Cromwell directed his army to establish an encampment at Musselburgh. He discovered, soon enough though, that his supply ships could not anchor in the small harbour nearby. So the English army was pulled back to Dunbar on 5 August.
During the time that the English were backing away from Edinburgh, the Scottish Kirk Parliament became engaged in a heated debate over the effectiveness of their army. Granted, they had just succeeded in preventing the capture of Edinburgh; but the extremists argued that if the Lord was on their side, they should be carrying on an offensive, rather than a defensive, war. Back in June, with the prospect of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy to the throne, a committee of the General Assembly of the Kirk Parliament had been created for the purpose of ensuring that there would be no factions within the parliament who would assist the king-to-be with diminishing the power of the Kirk. The Purging Committee, as it was known, had not accomplished much to this point. But now, with the English army at its doorstep, the Kirk wanted the Purging Committee to step up its activities in locating and removing anyone who was not a devout Covenanter.
The plan that grew out of the discussions called for the Purging Committee to identify anyone currently serving in the army who had participated in the Engagement of two years prior or who were Royalists. The chaplains of each regiment were given the task of identifying and compiling lists of former Engagers who were currently in their regiments. The process was got underway immediately, and by 5 August, about eighty officers and three thousand soldiers were discharged from the army.
While the English army was at Dunbar, a proclamation issued by the general assembly of the Kirk was delivered from General Leslie:(2.30)
|That the general asembly conidering there mut be grounds of tumbling, from the kings majetys refuing to ubcribe the declaration concerning his former carriage, and reolutions for the future in references to the caue of God, the enemies and friends thereof; doth therefore declare, That the kirk and kingdom will not own any malignant party, their quarrel or interet, but they will fight upon their former principles, for the caue of God and the kingdom. And therefore as they diclaim all the in and guilt of the king and his houe, o they will not own him nor his interet, any further than he hall diclaim his and his fathers oppoition to the work of God, and the enemies thereof. And withal, they will with convenient peed conider of the papers ent to them from Oliver Cromwell, and vindicate themelves from the falehoods contained therein.|
To this declaration, Cromwell answered:(2.31)
|That the army continued the ame as they profesd themelves to the honet people of Scotland, wihing to them as to their own ouls; it being no part of their buines to hinder them in the worhip of God according to their conciences, as by his word they ought; and that they hould be ready to perform what obligation lay upon them by the covenant. But that under the pretence of the covenant mitaken, a king hould be taken in by them, and impod on the Englih, and this calld the caue of God and the kingdom; and this done upon the atifaction of Gods people in both nations, as alledgd, together with a diowning of malignants, altho the head of them be receivd, who at this very intant hath a party fighting in Ireland, and prince Rupert at ea on a malignant account, the French and Irih hips daily making depredations upon the Englih coats, and all by the virue of his commision; therfore the army cannot believe, that whilt Malignants are fighting and plotting againt them on the one ide, the Scots declaring for him on the other, hould not be an epouing of a Malignant interet or quarrel, but a mere fighting on former grounds and principles. If the tate of the quarrel be thus, and you ay you reolve to fight the army, you will have opportunity to do that; ele what means our abode here?|
Cromwell and his army was ever anxious, waiting for the Scots to leave their entrenchments and fight a formal battle, but all the English could do in the meantime was remain ready and vigilant. On 17 August, Cromwell brought the army up to the Pentland Hills, to the south of and within view of Edinburgh. Two troops of dragoons were sent to take possession of Collington House, which they did without incident. The next day, three thousand horse of the Scots army moved out of the west side of the city in order to safeguard the bridge that crossed over the River Leath. On the 19th, the English also took possession of Sir James Hamiltons Redbaugh House, situated within a mile and a half from the city. The eighty Scottish soldiers defending the house were not relieved by their compatriots and nearly sixty were taken prisoner.
On 26 August, Cromwell received a request from the Scots to meet and discuss the resolution of the stalemate that existed between the two armies. Cromwell agreed to the meeting and later that day Lord Waristoun, the Secretary of State, Sir John Brown, Colonel Straughan, the Reverend Douglass and a few others met with Cromwell and a few of his officers. The Scots intention for the rendezvous was to correct the impression that had arisen, that the reason for their armys inactivity was due to timidity or cowardice. The delegates therefore, the better to vindicate themelves from thee calumnies, they asured the Englih,That when opportunity ervd, it hould be een that they wanted not courage to give them battle. As if to make good on their word, the Scottish army marched out into the open fields beyond the city, as if to form lines for an engagement. The English soldiers, excited that the time for a fullscale battle had arrived, struck their tents and stashed their knapsacks and other gear and formed into ranks also. But the Scots seemed simply to be taunting the English; when Cromwells army drew near to the Scots, it was found that a large bog and ditch separated the two armies. To get to the Scots, the English would have had to run the risk of attempting to cross the natural barrier while under the fire of the Scottish cannon and archers. So, both armies opened fire with their cannon., but made no move toward each other. Through the night, the two armies remained where they were, occasionally firing their cannon at each other. After engaging thusly the following morning, for the space of about an hour, Cromwell decided to pull his army back to their camp on the Pentland Hills. It was then reported to Cromwell that during the standoff of the previous day, the Scots had sent out an army to retake possession of the towns of Musselburgh and Preston-pans; the English would be cut off from their supply ships. Cromwell had no choice but to march on further eastward to investigate the report, but the night being very stormy, he decided to hold off until the following day. The march to Musselburgh, the next day, was uneventful. In anticipation of a possible confrontation between Arthurs Seat and Musselburgh, Cromwell posted two cannon on a hill near the town of Niddry. Leslies army moved somewhat in concert with the English, but the anticipated confrontation never materialized.
According to the author of the Life Of Oliver Cromwell:(2.32)
|By this means, and by frequent kirmihes and harrasing the Englih, the Scots hopd at lat to tire them out, depending much upon the diagreeablenes of the climate to their contitution, epecially, if they hould keep them in the field till winter, which begins betimes in thoe parts. And their counels ucceeded according to their wih; for by this time the Englih army, through hard duty, want of proviions (the tores brought by ea being now exhauted) and the rigour of the eaon, grew very ickly, and diminihd daily; the Scotch army in the mean time increaing, and continuing in good heart.|
2.22 Cromwell Against The Scots: The Last Anglo-Scottish War 1650-1652, by John D. Grainger, 1997, p 10.
2.23 ibid., p 11.
2.24 op cit., The Life Of Oliver Cromwell, Lord-Protector Of The Commonwealth Of England, Scotland, And Ireland, p 160.
2.25 ibid., p 160.
2.26 ibid., pp 160-161 163-164.
2.27 ibid., p 163.
2.28 ibid., p 164.
2.29 ibid., p 164-165.
2.30 ibid., p 164-165.
2.31 ibid., pp 167-168.
2.32 ibid., p 171.