Saturday, 3 September 2011

Scots Army crushed 100 miles from London - On this day in Scottish History 1651

Much is made of the Jacobites reaching Derby in 1745 on their march to London. It was only 150 miles to the capital and it got Londoners in a panic.

Three hundred and sixty years ago a much larger Scottish army was also on its way to London to put a Stuart monarch on the throne, and got to within nearly 100 miles of the capital.

12,000 Scots under David Leslie had streamed south with Charles II as Cromwell and Monck were behind him in Central Scotland. Leslie moved fast but worryingly very few English Royalists rallied to their cause.

Having left Monck to subdue Dundee, Cromwell was hot on Lelsie's heels. At the same time he assembled troops from his New Model Army in the North of England. Militia were raised too; instead of the panic in London in 1745 the citizens of 1651 raised 14,000 men in the Trained Bands to see off the Scots.

Cromwell eventually consolidated 28,000 men against the Scottish-led army and caught up with them as they rested in the walled town of Worcester. Now nearly 16,000 strong the Scottish / Royalist army was vastly outnumbered.

I'll not go into detail of the battle here, you can read more on this website.

The outcome was a complete destruction of the Scottish army at the hands of Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell was a natural leader and soldier; he had his experienced army behind him, many of them his well trained and led New Model Army. The relatively inexperienced Scots and Royalists were no match and although they put up a fight there was never going to be any other outcome than a Parliamentary victory.

Exact figures are not known but it is estimated 3,000 Royalists died and 10,000 were taken prisoner on this day in 1651. The Parliamentarians under Cromwell only suffered a few hundred casualties. 8,000 of the prisoners were Scottish. The 2,000 English prisoners were sent to Ireland to serve in the New Model Army; but as with the aftermath of Dunbar exactly one year earlier the Scots were once again sent to the American and West Indian colonies as indentured labourers (effectively slaves).

Worcester was the last major battle of the Wars of Three Kingdoms and paved the way for Cromwell to become Lord Protector of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. He had routed two Scots armies in a year and killed and captured thousands.

It would take a few more months for Scotland to be subdued but the defeat at Worcester sealed Scotland's fate. It would now lose its independence and be absorbed into the republican English Commonwealth.

Nine years before at Worcester the First English Civil War had broken out, and it would be another nine years in 1660 before the Restoration. Only then would Scotland once again be in charge of its own affairs.

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