Third English Civil War
|Third English Civil War|
|Part of English Civil War|
Cromwell at Dunbar, by Andrew Carrick Gow
|Commanders and leaders|
The Third English Civil War (1650–1651) was the last of the English Civil Wars (1642–1651). It consisted primarily of an invasion of Scotland by an English army controlled by the Rump Parliament and commanded by Oliver Cromwell and a subsequent Scottish invasion of England by a Scottish army loyal to King Charles II and commanded by David Leslie. It ended after 14 months with Scotland conquered and garrisoned by the English, Charles in exile abroad, the English Parliament in control of the British Isles and Cromwell as the most influential man in the new Commonwealth.
First and Second English Civil Wars
In 1639, and again in 1640, Charles I, who was king of both Scotland and England in a personal union, went to war with his Scottish subjects in the Bishops' Wars. These had arisen from the Scots' refusal to accept Charles's attempts to reform the Scottish Kirk to bring it into line with English religious practices. Charles was not successful in these endeavours, and the ensuing settlement established the Covenanters' hold on Scottish government, requiring all civil office-holders, parliamentarians and clerics to sign the National Covenant, and giving the Scottish Parliament the authority to approve all of the king's councillors in Scotland. After years of rising tensions, in part caused by Charles's defeat in the Bishops' Wars and his need to fund them, the relationship between Charles and his English Parliament also broke down in armed conflict, starting the First English Civil War in 1642.
In England Charles's supporters, the Royalists, were opposed by the combined forces of the Parliamentarians and the Scots, who in 1643 had formed an alliance bound by the Solemn League and Covenant, in which the English Parliament agreed to reform the English church along similar lines to the Scottish Kirk in return for the Scots' military assistance. After four years of war the Royalists were defeated. With his capital at Oxford under siege, Charles escaped, surrendered to the Scots at Southwell on 5 May and was taken to Newcastle, which was in Scottish hands. The Scots agreed with the English Parliament on a peace settlement that would be put before the King. Known as the Newcastle Propositions, it would have required all of the King's subjects in Scotland, England and Ireland to sign the Solemn League and Covenant, brought the church in each kingdom into accordance with the Covenant and with Presbyterianism, and ceded much of Charles's secular authority as king of England to the English Parliament. The Scots spent some months trying to persuade Charles to agree to these terms, but he refused to do so. Eventually, under pressure from the English to withdraw their forces now the war was over, the Scots handed Charles over to the English parliamentary forces in exchange for a financial settlement, and left England on 3 February 1647.
Charles now engaged in separate negotiations with different factions. Presbyterian English Parliamentarians and the Scots wanted him to accept a modified version of the Newcastle Propositions, but in June 1647, Cornet George Joyce of the New Model Army seized Charles, and the army council pressed him to accept the Heads of Proposals, a less demanding set of terms which, crucially, did not require a Presbyterian reformation of the church. He rejected these as well however, and instead signed an offer known as the Engagement, which had been thrashed out with the Scottish delegation, on 26 December 1647. Charles agreed to confirm the Solemn League and Covenant by Act of Parliament in both kingdoms, and to accept Presbyterianism in England, but only for a trial period of three years, in return for the Scots' assistance in regaining his throne in England.
When the delegation returned to Edinburgh with the Engagement, the Scots were bitterly divided on whether or not to accept its terms. Its supporters, who became known as the Engagers, argued that it offered the best chance the Scots would get of acceptance of the Covenant across the three kingdoms, and that rejecting it risked pushing Charles to accept the Heads of Proposals. It was opposed by those who believed that to send an army into England on behalf of the King would be to break the Solemn League and Covenant, and that it offered no guarantee of a lasting Presbyterian church in England; the Kirk went so far as to issue a declaration on 5 May 1648 that condemned the Engagement as a breach of God's law. After a protracted political struggle, the Engagers gained a majority in the Scottish Parliament, by which time war had again broken out in England between Royalists and Parliamentarians. The Scots sent an army under the command of the Duke of Hamilton into England to fight on behalf of the King in July, but it was heavily defeated at Preston by a force led by Oliver Cromwell. The rout of the Engager army led to further political upheaval in Scotland, and the faction opposed to the Engagement was able to regain control of the government, with the assistance of a group of English parliamentary cavalry led by Cromwell.
Accession of Charles II
Exasperated by the prolonged bloodshed, the New Model Army purged parliament and established the Rump Parliament, which had Charles tried for treason against the English people; he was executed on 30 January 1649, and the republican Commonwealth was created. The Scottish Parliament, which had not been consulted prior to the King's execution, declared his son, also Charles, king of Britain. Before they would permit him to return from exile in the Dutch Republic to take up his crown, they demanded that he first sign both Covenants: recognising the authority of the Kirk in religious matters, and that of parliament in civil affairs. Charles II was initially reluctant to accept these conditions, but after Cromwell's campaign in Ireland crushed his Royalist supporters there, he felt compelled to accept the Scottish terms, and signed the Treaty of Breda on 1 May 1650. The Scottish Parliament set about rapidly recruiting an army to support the new king, and Charles set sail to Scotland, landing on 23 June.
Scotland was actively rearming and the leaders of the English Commonwealth felt threatened. They pressured Thomas Fairfax, lord general of the New Model Army, to launch a preemptive attack. Fairfax accepted the commission to lead the army north to defend against the possibility of a Scottish invasion, but was unwilling to strike the first blow against his former allies, believing that England and Scotland were still bound by the Solemn League and Covenant. When a formal order to attack came on 20 June 1650, Fairfax resigned his commission. A parliamentary committee which included Cromwell, his close friend, attempted to dissuade him, pleading with him over the course of a whole night to change his mind, but Fairfax remained resolute, and retired from public life. Cromwell succeeded to his office as lord general, becoming commander-in-chief of the New Model Army; he received his commission on 28 June, and set out for Scotland the same day, crossing the Tweed on 22 July.
English invasion of Scotland
Once the Treaty of Breda had been signed, the Scottish Parliament started levying men to form a new army, under the command of the experienced general David Leslie. Their aim was to increase their forces to 36,000 men, but that number was never achieved; by the time Cromwell entered Scotland, Leslie had some 8,000–9,500 infantry and 2,000–3,000 cavalry, although these numbers fluctuated during the course of the campaign. The government instituted a commission to purge the army of anyone suspected of having supported the Engagement, as well as men considered sinful or undesirable.[note 1] This was opposed, unsuccessfully, by much of the Scottish nobility and the experienced military leaders, including Leslie. This purge removed many experienced men and officers, and the bulk of the army was composed of raw recruits with little training or experience.
Leslie prepared a defensive line of earthworks between Edinburgh and Leith, and employed a scorched earth policy between that line and the Scottish border. He then allowed Cromwell to advance unopposed. Lack of supplies, and the hostility of the local people towards the English invaders, forced Cromwell to rely on a seaborne supply chain, and he captured the ports of Dunbar and Musselburgh in order to facilitate this. Operations were hampered by persistent bad weather, and the adverse conditions and a shortage of food caused much sickness in the English army, substantially reducing its strength.
Cromwell attempted to bring the Scots to battle at Edinburgh. He advanced on Leslie's lines on 29 July, capturing Arthur's Seat and bombarding Leith from Salisbury Crags. Cromwell was not able to draw Leslie out, and the English retired for the night to their camp at Musselburgh; their rest was disturbed by a night raid by a party of Scottish cavalry. Cromwell's attack coincided with a visit by Charles II to the Scottish army, where he was warmly received. Members of the Covenanter government, concerned that their Godly war would be corrupted by feelings of personal loyalty to the King, asked Charles II to leave. They then ordered a new purge, which was quickly enacted in early August, removing 80 officers and 4,000 of Leslie's men, damaging morale as well as weakening the army's strength.
Throughout August Cromwell continued to try and draw the Scots out from their defences so as to enable a set piece battle. Leslie resisted, ignoring pressure from the secular and religious Scottish hierarchy to attack Cromwell's weakened army; he reasoned that the persistent bad weather, the difficult English supply situation, and the dysentery and fever that had broken out in the English camp would force Cromwell to withdraw back into England before winter set in.
On 31 August Cromwell did withdraw; the English army reached Dunbar on 1 September, having taken two days to march the 17 miles (27 km) from Musselburgh, harassed day and night by the pursuing Scots. The road was left littered with abandoned equipment and the men arrived hungry and demoralised. The Scottish army outflanked the English, blocking the road to Berwick and England at the easily defended Cockburnspath Defile. Their main force encamped on the 177-metre-high (581 ft) Doon Hill, 2 miles (3 km) south of Dunbar, where it overlooked the town and the coastal road running south west from the town. The hill was all but invulnerable to direct assault. The English army had lost its freedom of manoeuvre, although they could supply themselves by sea and, if needs be, evacuate the army the same way. On 2 September Cromwell surveyed the situation, and wrote to the governor of Newcastle warning him to prepare for a possible Scottish invasion.
Battle of Dunbar
Believing that the English army was in a hopeless situation and under pressure to finish it off rapidly, Leslie moved his army off the hill and into a position to attack Dunbar. On the night of 2/3 September Cromwell manoeuvred his army so as to be able to launch a concentrated pre-dawn attack against the Scots right wing. Whether this was part of a masterplan to decisively defeat them, or part of an attempt to break through and escape back to England is debated by historians. The Scots were caught by surprise, but put up a stout resistance. Their cavalry were pushed back by the English, while Leslie was unable to deploy most of his infantry into the battle because of the nature of the terrain. The battle was undecided when Cromwell personally led his cavalry reserve in a flank attack on the two Scottish infantry brigades that had managed to come to grips with the English and rolled up the Scottish line. Leslie executed a fighting withdrawal, but some 6,000 Scots, from his army of 12,000, were taken prisoner, and approximately 1,500 killed or wounded. The prisoners were taken to England; many died on the march south, or in captivity. At least some of those who survived were deported to become indentured workers on English possessions overseas.
When the news of the defeat reached Edinburgh, many people fled the city in panic, but Leslie sought to rally what remained of his army, and build a new defensive line at Stirling, where he was joined by the bulk of the government, clergy, and Edinburgh's mercantile elite. Cromwell dispatched Lambert to capture Edinburgh, while he marched on the port of Leith, which offered much better facilities for landing supplies and reinforcements than Dunbar. Without Leslie's army to defend them, both were captured with little difficulty. Cromwell took pains to persuade the citizens of Edinburgh that his war was not with them; he promised that their property would be respected, and allowed them to come and go freely, hold markets, and observe their usual religious services, although the latter were restricted as most of the clergy had removed to Stirling. He also took steps to secure food for the city, which by this point was short on supplies. Edinburgh Castle held out until December, but since it was cut off from reinforcement and supplies and offered no threat, Cromwell did not assault it, and treated its commander with courtesy. The historian Austin Woolrych described the behaviour of the occupying troops as "exemplary", and observed that after a short time many fugitives returned to the city, and its economic life returned to something akin to normality.
The defeat at Dunbar caused great damage to Leslie's reputation and authority. He attempted to resign as head of the army, but the Scottish government would not permit it, largely because of a lack of any plausible replacement. Several of his officers, however, refused to take orders from him, and left Leslie's forces to join a new army that was being raised by the Western Association. Divisions already present in the Scottish government were widened by the new situation. The more practical blamed the purges for Leslie's defeat, and looked to bring the Engagers back into the fold; the more dogmatic thought that God had deserted them because the purges had not gone far enough, and argued that too much faith had been put in a worldly prince who was not sufficiently committed to the cause of the Covenant. These more radical elements issued the divisive Western Remonstrance, which castigated the government for its failure to properly purge the army, and further widened the rifts amongst the Scots. The Remonstrants, as this group became known, took command of the Western Association army, and attempted to negotiate with Cromwell, urging him to depart Scotland and leave them in control; Cromwell rejected their advances, and comprehensively destroyed their army at the Battle of Hieton (near the centre of modern Hamilton) on 1 December.
Battle of Inverkeithing
During December 1650 Charles and the Scottish government reconciled with the Engagers who had been purged from it and Highland chiefs who had been excluded by their refusal to sign the Covenant. These competing factions were poorly coordinated and it was not until the late spring of 1651 that they were fully integrated into the Scottish army. In January 1651 the English attempted to outflank the Scottish-held choke point of Stirling by shipping a force across the Forth of Firth, but this was unsuccessful. In early February the English army advanced against Stirling, then retreated in dreadful weather; Cromwell himself fell ill.
In late June the Scottish army advanced south. The English moved north from Edinburgh to meet them, but Leslie positioned his army north of Falkirk, behind the River Carron. This position was too strong for Cromwell to assault; Leslie resisted every provocation to fight another open battle and eventually withdrew. Cromwell followed and attempted to bypass Stirling, but was unable to. He then marched to Glasgow and sent raiding parties into Scottish held territory. The Scottish army shadowed the English, moving south west to Kilsyth on 13 July.
Early on 17 July, an English force of 1,600 men under Colonel Robert Overton crossed the Forth of Firth at its narrowest point in 50 specially constructed flat bottomed boats, landing at North Queensferry on the Fleet Peninsula. The Scottish garrison at Burntisland moved towards the English landing place and sent for reinforcements from Stirling and Dunfermline. The Scots dug in and awaited their reinforcements, while for four days the English shipped the balance of their own force across the Forth and Major-general John Lambert took command.
On 20 July the Scots, more than 4,000 strong and commanded by Major-general James Holborne advanced against the English force of approximately 4,000 men. After a ninety-minute hiatus the cavalry of both forces engaged on each flank. In both cases the Scots initially had the better of it, but failed to exploit their advantage, were counter-charged by the English reserves, and routed. The previously unengaged Scottish infantry attempted to retreat, but in a running battle lost heavily in dead and captured.
After the battle, Lambert marched 6 miles (10 km) east and captured the deep-water port of Burntisland. Cromwell shipped most of the English army there, assembling 13,000 to 14,000 men by 26 July. He then ignored the Scottish army at Stirling and on 31 July marched on the seat of the Scottish government at Perth, which he besieged. Perth surrendered after two days, cutting off the Scottish army from reinforcements, provisions and materiel. Cromwell deliberately left the route south open, reckoning that if the Scots abandoned their defensive positions, then once in the open they could be destroyed. Charles and Leslie, seeing no hope of victory if they stayed to face Cromwell, marched south on 31 July in a desperate bid to raise Royalist support in England. By this time they had only around 12,000 men, who were very short of firearms. Cromwell and Lambert followed, shadowing the Scottish army while leaving Monck with 5,000 men in Scotland to mop up what resistance remained.
By the end of August, Monck had captured Stirling, Alyth, and St Andrews. Dundee and Aberdeen were the last significant Scottish strongholds. The strength of Dundee's fortifications meant that many Scots had deposited money and valuables there, to keep them safe from the English. Monck drew up his full army outside the town on 26 August and demanded its surrender. The governor, believing the town walls and the local militia strong enough to withstand the English, refused. Infuriated at having to risk his men's lives with an assault when the war was all but over, Monck gave permission for the town to be sacked once it was captured. After a three-day bombardment the English stormed the west and east ports on 1 September. They broke into the town and thoroughly sacked it; several hundred civilians, including women and children, were killed. Monck admitted to 500, but the total may have been as high as 1,000. Monck allowed the army 24 hours to pillage and a large amount of booty was seized. Subsequently strict military discipline was enforced. On hearing the news from Dundee, Aberdeen promptly surrendered. On 26 May 1652 the last Royalist stronghold anywhere on the eastern side of Scotland, Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven, surrendered after an eight-month siege.
Scottish invasion of England
The army which Leslie and Charles led into England, despite being 12,000 strong, was desperately short of supplies and equipment. The lack of muskets meant that many men were equipped with bows. The Scots marched rapidly south and were outside Carlisle by 8 August. The town refused Charles entry and the Scots marched further into England. Charles had hopes of a major royalist uprising, but very few Englishmen joined the army. The prospect of a renewed monarchy bound by the Covenant was unedifying. What signs of military support for Charles there were rapidly suppressed by the Parliamentarians. A force of 1,500 gathered in Lancashire and from the Isle of Man and commanded by the Earl of Derby attempted to join the royalist army, but they were intercepted at Wigan on 25 August by Parliamentarian troops under Colonel Robert Lilburne and defeated. The largest single English contingent to join the army was only 60 strong.
The Council of State called out the greater part of the militia on 7 August. Lieutenant-General Fleetwood began to draw together the Midland contingents at Banbury, the London trained bands turned out for field service 14,000 strong. Cromwell brought back his army to Leith by 5 August. Thence he dispatched Lambert with a cavalry corps to harass the invaders. Harrison was already at Newcastle picking the best of the county mounted-troops to add to his own regulars. On 9 August, Charles was at Kendal, Lambert hovering in his rear, and Harrison marching swiftly to bar his way at the Mersey. Thomas Fairfax emerged for a moment from his retirement to organize the Yorkshire levies, and the best of these as well as of the Lancashire, Cheshire and Staffordshire militias were directed to Warrington, which Harrison reached on 15 August, a few hours in front of Charles's advanced guard. Lambert too, slipping round the left flank of the enemy, joined Harrison, and the English fell back on 16 August slowly and without letting themselves be drawn into a fight, along the London road.
Cromwell meanwhile, had reached the River Tyne in seven days, and thence, marching 20 miles (32 km) a day in extreme heat with the country people carrying their arms and equipment the regulars entered Ferrybridge on 19 August, at which date Lambert, Harrison and the north-western militia were about Congleton. It seemed probable that a great battle would take place between Lichfield and Coventry on or just after 25 August, and that Cromwell, Harrison, Lambert and Fleetwood would all take part in it. But shortly after leaving Warrington Charles resolved to abandon the direct march on London and to make for the Severn valley, where his father had found numerous adherents, and which had been the centre of gravity of the English Royalist movement of 1648. However, Charles's army was perceived as a Scottish invasion, and popular sentiment was against it. Charles arrived at Worcester on 22 August, and spent five days resting the troops, and gathering and arming the few recruits who came in.
Cromwell had during his march south thrown out successively two flying columns under Colonel Robert Lilburne to deal with the Lancashire Royalists under the Earl of Derby. Lilburne entirely routed the enemy at the Battle of Wigan Lane on 25 August and as affairs turned out Cromwell merely shifted the area of his concentration two marches to the south-west, to Evesham. Early on 28 August, Lambert's brigade made a surprise crossing of the Severn at Upton, 6 miles (10 km) below Worcester.
In the action which followed Massey was severely wounded and he and his men were forced to retreat northwards along the west bank of the Severn towards the river Teme and Worcester. Fleetwood followed Lambert with reinforcements and orders to advance north towards the Teme. This western envelopment severed the Royalists lines of communications to Wales and the western counties of England. The Royalists were now only 16,000 strong with no hope of significant reinforcements and disheartened by the apathy with which they had been received in districts formerly all their own. Cromwell, for the only time in his military career, had a two-to-one numerical superiority.
Battle of Worcester
Cromwell and his forces overtook the Scottish army in England at Worcester. He secured the bridges which cut the Royalists' line of retreat and on 3 September, the anniversary of Dunbar, forced the passage of the River Teme. The Parliamentarian bridging train bridged both the Teme and the Severn and Cromwell on the left bank and George Fleetwood on the right swept in a semicircle 4 miles (6 km) long up to Worcester. In the Battle of Worcester the defences were stormed as darkness came on and most of the several thousand Royalists who escaped during the night were easily captured the next day. The battle marked the end of the English Civil War after nine years. Leslie, along with most of the Royalist commanders, was captured; he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and would remain there until 1660. Charles II himself managed to escape the field. The historian Barry Coward wrote "It was a divided enemy that Cromwell fought after Dunbar and decisively defeated at Worcester".
In the aftermath of the battle, Worcester was heavily looted by the Parliamentarian army, with an estimated £80,000 of damage Around 2,000 Scottish troops that were not captured meanwhile were attacked by locals as they fled northwards and many killed. Graves have been recovered, and occasional bodies that can be dated to the period. Around 10,000 prisoners, nearly all Scots, were held captive, and either sent to work on the Fens drainage projects, or transported to the New World to work as forced labour.
The Parliamentary garrison on the Isles of Scilly defected to the Royalists in 1648. The islands became a base for Royalists until Parliamentary admiral Robert Blake subdued them in June 1651. The militia on the Isle of Man mutinied against the Royalist Countess of Derby in 1651; with reinforcements from Robert Duckenfield, the island came under Parliamentary control in October. In Guernsey the population was Parliamentarian, but Governor Peter Osbourne and his Royalist troops had occupied Castle Cornet in 1643 and constantly exchanged fire with the town of St. Peter Port for almost nine years. In 1651, Admiral Blake blocked Royalist supply ships from Jersey and the garrison surrendered on 9 December. The island of Jersey surrendered to Parliament on 12 December 1651, after the fall of Elizabeth Castle to Blake.
Across the Atlantic, the colonies of Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, Virginia, Maryland, and Newfoundland recognised Charles II after the regicide. Parliament dispatched George Ayscue to force their compliance. His fleet arrived off Barbados in October 1651 but Lord Willoughby refused to recognise Ayscue's authority so the fleet laid siege on the island until Willoughby relented in January. The fall of Barbados shocked the other Cavalier colonies, and Ayscue received no further resistance. All of the colonies were in Commonwealth hands after Maryland's submission on 29 March 1652.
In Scotland the Covenanter government was abolished, and the English commanders imposed military rule, with Monck appointed as the military governor. In 1652, the English sought a political union between England and Scotland, which allowed the Scots representation in a united Parliament in London, but Royalist resistance continued into the mid-1650s. The leader of the Scottish Royalists, the Earl of Glencairn, surrendered to Monck in September 1654 after the Battle of Dalnaspidal.
After in-fighting among various factions in Parliament, Cromwell ruled over the Protectorate as lord protector, effectively a military dictator, until his death in 1658. On Oliver Cromwell's death, his son Richard became lord protector, but the Army had little confidence in him. After seven months the Army removed Richard, and in May 1659 it re-installed the Rump. However, military force shortly dissolved this as well. General George Monck, still governor of Scotland, marched south with his army, crossing the Tweed on 2 January 1660 and entering London on 3 February, where he called new parliamentary elections. These resulted in the Convention Parliament which on 8 May 1660 declared that Charles II had reigned as the lawful monarch since the execution of Charles I. Charles returned from exile and was crowned King of England on 23 April 1661, twelve years after being crowned by the Scots at Scone, completing the Restoration.
As the Royal army was mostly Scottish, and as the invasion was not accompanied by any major rising or support in England, the war can also be viewed as being primarily an Anglo-Scottish War rather than a continuation of the English Civil War.
Notes, citations and sources
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- Stewart 2016, pp. 258–261.
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- Young 1996, p. 215.
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- Dow 1979, p. 7.
- Kenyon & Ohlmeyer 2002, p. 32.
- Furgol 2002, p. 68.
- Woolrych 2002, p. 481.
- Dow 1979, pp. 7–8.
- Ohlmeyer 2002, pp. 98–102.
- Furgol 2002, p. 65.
- Woolrych 2002, p. 482.
- Woolrych 2002, pp. 482–483.
- Woolrych 2002, p. 483.
- Dow 1979, p. 8.
- Reid 2008, pp. 39–40.
- Reid 2008, p. 27.
- Hutton & Reeves 2002, p. 221.
- Edwards 2002, p. 258.
- Woolrych 2002, p. 484.
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- Atkinson 1911, 57. The Third Scottish Invasion of England
- Atkinson 1911, 58. Campaign of Worcester
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- Woolrych 2002, p. 398.
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