Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Battle of Inverkeithing - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1651

The Battle of Dunbar in 1650 is considered one of Scotland's worst defeats and one of Oliver Cromwell's greatest victories. It didn't mean the collapse of Scottish resistance though and north of the Forth the Scots were still in a strong position.

David Leslie retreated to Stirling and dug in. Cromwell's army was not strong enough for a frontal attack so he chose a diversionary attack through Fife threatening Leslie's flank at Perth. This would draw the Scots away from Stirling which would allow Cromwell to march north into the central belt.

Flat bottomed rafts were constructed and delivered to Cromwell at Leith. On the night of 16th / 17th July the first of Cromwell's troops crossed at the narrows between South and North Queensferry and landed in Inverkeithing Bay.

They quickly dug in because news of their landing would soon reach Leslie in Stirling.

Leslie quickly despatched a large force to Inverkeithing but still held on to plenty of men at Stirling. Cromwell was thwarted and retreated to Linlithgow but his diversionary attack at Inverkeithing was more succesful than he dared hope.

The inexperienced Scots made tactical errors in their advance and were totally outclassed by Cromwell's experienced New Model Army when the two armies met.

Nearly 800 Scots died on this day three hundred and sixty years ago and their defeat allowed the English to outflank Leslie.

The defeat of the Scots on 20th July 1651 meant Cromwell could cross the Forth with all his army. Their victory had finally ended the strategic deadlock. His New Model Army now commanded the Forth and Fife.

With Cromwell now in the North-east of Scotland King Charles II decided to make a thrust south. Charles was playing into Cromwell's trap. A small Royalist / Scottish army would be no match for his consolidated New Model Army in the flat open landscape of England.

Inverkeithing is almost forgotten today but it had far reaching consequences for Scotland and England.

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