Oliver Cromwell - Estelle Ross

Cromwell in Scotland

The conquering hero returned to England. He was welcomed by Fairfax and the chief officers at Hounslow Heath, and they rode with him in triumphant progress to Hyde Park, amid tumults of wild rejoicing.

While he was still absent Parliament had secured for him the use of the Cockpit, a house opposite Whitehall. Here his wife and two unmarried daughters lived, and here his married children came on visits to see their mother and hear the news of town. With what eagerness they must have welcomed him on his return! What family news there must have been to tell! What stories of the great campaign! What tender solicitude his wife must have expressed for all that he had suffered! How gladly would she have kept him at home—but the time to sheath his sword was not yet.

Scotland had still to be reckoned with. The proclamation of Charles Stuart as Charles II was no empty form. The King and the Covenant were what the nation stood for, and this not for itself alone but for England and Ireland.

If Charles would have Scotland's help to regain his father's throne he must not only accept the Covenant himself, but he must force it on his unwilling subjects when he should come into his own again. Since England would not have a king—Charles Stuart or any other—forced on her by Scotland, the issue had to be put to the test of trial by battle.

To many men of the Commonwealth the Scottish campaign was not so easily justified as the Irish one. The two warring nations were both Protestant and the difference between Presbyterian and Independent was but slight. Both sects sought guidance from the Scriptures—the Old Testament by preference—and hurled texts at one another as the last word in argument. Both believed in the direct influence of God in human affairs, and both equally distrusted and detested Roman Catholicism. Fairfax, with whom such considerations had much weight, under his wife's advice declined to take part in the campaign. Cromwell entreated his old chief to reconsider his decision but in vain, and from this time onward Fairfax no longer plays a prominent part in history. By an Act of June t 6, 1650, Cromwell was appointed Commander-in-Chief in his stead. Congratulations poured in upon him, but he had too much to do to pay much heed to them, for the Scottish expedition had to be set on foot immediately.

In spite of his many preoccupations Cromwell found time to write to Richard Mayor, and to make inquiries after his baby grandchild: "I should be glad to hear how the little brat doth. I could chide both Father and Mother for their neglects of me: I know my son is idle but I had better thoughts of Doll. . . . I hope you give my son good counsel; I believe he needs it. He is in the dangerous time of his age; and it's a very vain world. O, how good it is to close with Christ betimes!—there is nothing else worth the looking after... . Great place and business in the world is not worth the looking after; I should have no comfort in mine but that my hope is in the Lord's presence. I have not sought these things; truly I have been called unto them by the Lord; and therefore I am not without some assurance that He will enable His poor worm and weak servant to do His will, and to fulfil my generation. In this I desire your prayers."

Cromwell had under him Major-General Lambert, Fleetwood and Monk, and a force of some 16,000 men. Leaving London on June t9 he marched northward and passed through Berwick on July et. Thence he crept cautiously along the coast, using the ships of the English fleet, which had followed him up, for his base of provisions.

On reaching Musselburgh, Cromwell issued a letter to the members of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, in which he dealt straightly with them. He would have averted warfare if he could, but if it were to be: "Your own guilt is too much for you to bear, bring not therefore upon yourselves the blood of innocent men—deceived with pretences of King and Covenant; from whose eyes you hide a better Knowledge.... There may be a covenant made with Death and Hell; I will not say yours was so."

Cromwell can hardly have expected a spirited people to have laid down their arms on receipt of this communication. If he did, his expectations were vain. On. August 13 he reached Braid Hill outside Edinburgh. Here his former comrade of Marston Moor, David Leslie, was now the commander of his foes, and with some 18,000 men was strongly entrenched. Leslie had no intention of coming out into the open. His aim was to weary and starve out the English forces. By the end of August they were in a sorry plight and the half-fed men fell an easy prey to disease. Seeing that an engagement at Edinburgh was out of the question, Cromwell retreated thirty miles south to Dunbar, on the coast. Leslie followed him in close pursuit and encamped his troops on the Lammermuir Hills, occupying the rocky pass at Copperspath, thus cutting off Cromwell's retreat to England. Leslie, with his troops in the commanding position, may well have anticipated victory. Cromwell, hemmed in by the hills and the sea, and with the road to England blocked, did not blind himself to the possibility of defeat. His courage rose with difficulties—and he was ever a man of resource. He wrote a letter to ,the Governor of Newcastle, marking it "Haste, Haste": "The enemy hath blocked up our way at the pass of Copperspath, through which we cannot get without almost a miracle. He lieth so upon the hills that we know not how to come that way without great difficulty; and our lying here daily consumeth our men, who fall sick beyond imagination." He begged him to get together what forces he could, and to send to friends in the south to help with more: "Let H. Vane know what I write. I would not make it public lest danger should accrue thereby."

Fate played into Cromwell's hands. Had Leslie stuck to his original scheme—which was to fall on Cromwell's rear when he attempted to force the road south the defeat of the English forces was all but inevitable. As it was, he changed his plans—counselled, some said, by his ministers, to whom the soldiers paid more heed than to the generals. The English fleet lay at sea, the English army was on the shore, and Leslie, closely watching their movements, thought that Cromwell in his desperation was going to embark guns and foot-soldiers. Consequently he began to move his troops down from the hills to prevent their embarkation. Cromwell, walking with Lambert, noticed the change of plans and cried exultingly: "The Lord hath delivered them into our hands."

Leslie's army was now in a vulnerable position, since his left wing was shut in between hill and ravine, and the centre, with the hills at its back, was too much cramped to move freely. With his strategic eye Cromwell saw that what he had to do was to defeat the right wing, then the whole of the army would be in confusion.

The night of September was windy and wet. The harvest moon rose in the stormy sky and shed a ghastly light on the motionless figures sheltering by the stacks of sodden corn. Some slept fitfully, some prayed mournfully, but all were ready for instant action. As the early dawn rose over mountain and sea the blare of trumpets broke the silence with the call to arms. Louder and louder they sounded forth, while from the throats of thousands of Englishmen rose the battle-cry, "The Lord of Hosts!" and from the opposite camp the rallying cry, "The Covenant!" To Lambert and Fleetwood, with six regiments of horse, were entrusted the attack on Leslie's right wing; Monk attacked the central wing, while Cromwell cannonaded the whole body of the Scottish army with his big guns. The Scottish lancers gave a good account of themselves and Lambert was driven back, but, rallying his troops, he charged once more and broke through the ranks. The fight was short and sharp. "At push of pike" the English repelled, the foe. After an hour's fierce attack the sun broke out red over the northern sea and was reflected in the dyed waters of the burn. In that hour terrible execution had been done and the Scottish army was utterly defeated. In his exultatiori Cromwell cried aloud: "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered." He ordered his victorious army to sing the 117th Psalm: "0 praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him all ye people. For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord."

The men's voices rang out clear in the early autumn air. When the last sounds had died away their leader bade them pursue the enemy. For eight miles they gave chase, killing, wounding and taking prisoner. Three thousand were killed, ten thousand taken prisoner; the baggage and artillery fell into the hands of the victors; two hundred colours were taken, to be hung in Westminster Hall beside the trophies of Preston. The English losses were about thirty men and a couple of officers.

On the morrow Cromwell issued a proclamation by beat of drum, informing the country-folk they might take away their wounded provided they did not purloin any arms. He must have spent the greater part of that day writing letters. In one to Speaker Lenthall he declared that the enemy were "as stubble to their swords." He paid a fine tribute to his men: "I believe I may speak it without partiality: both your Commanders and others in their several places, and soldiers also, were acted [actuated] with as much courage, as ever hath been seen in any action since this war." He then went on to make an impassioned plea: "It is easy to say, the Lord hath done this. It would do you good to see and hear our poor foot to go up and down making their boast of God. But, sir, it's in your hands, and by these eminent mercies God puts it more into your hands. . . . We that serve you beg of you not to own us—but God alone. We pray you own His people more and more; for they are the chariots and horsemen . of Israel. Disown yourselves; but own your authority and improve it to curb the proud and the insolent, such as would disturb the tranquillity of England, though under what specious pretences soever. Relieve the oppressed, hear the groans of poor prisoners in England. Be pleased to reform the abuses of all professions;—and if there be any one that makes many poor to make a few rich, that suits not a Commonwealth." In these last few words we have the keynote to Cromwell's high ideal for the State. The army had fought the long fight of the Civil War nearly to a finish; this was to be the reward.

In the hour of victory Cromwell's thoughts turned homeward and he wrote to his wife, knowing well her terrible anxiety. She must have suffered much, separated from him and not knowing from week to week how he fared, waiting and watching. The heaviest burden of war always falls on the women. The letter runs:

"My Dearest, I have not leisure to write much. But I could chide thee that in many of thy letters thou writest to me, that I should not be unmindful of thee and thy little ones. Truly, if I love you not too well, I think I err not on the other hand much. Thou art dearer to me than any creature, let that suffice." Her heart might well have failed her as she read on. The toils of war had told on her husband and he was no longer the strong, vigorous man of yore: "I assure thee, I grow an old man and feel infirmities of age marvellously stealing upon me."

Some letters from the wife to the husband doubtless went astray, for some time later Cromwell wrote to complain that he had not heard from her. "I wonder you should blame me," she answered, "for writing no oftener, when I have sent three for one: I cannot but think they are miscarried. Truly if I know my own heart, I should as soon neglect myself as to omit the least thought toward you, who in doing it, I must do it to myself. But when I do write, my dear, I seldom have any satisfactory answer; which 'makes me think my writing is slighted; as well it may: but I cannot but think your love covers my weakness and infirmities."

Dunbar did not end the Scottish campaign, though its immediate result was that Leith and Edinburgh and part of the Lowlands were held for Parliament. Cromwell did not know what to do with his sick, wounded, and starving prisoners, and was obliged to liberate many of them. Parliament ordered that a medal should be struck in honour of the victory, bearing on one side a profiled head of Cromwell surmounted by the inscription "The Lord of Hosts," and on the reverse a representation of the House of Commons. There was work to be done in the following winter: moss-troopers had to be put down, isolated castles had to be taken. A touch of humor occasionally brightens the sordid story of warfare. Thus, when Colonel Fenwick summoned the Governor of Hume Castle to surrender to General Cromwell, the Governor replied: "I know not Cromwell, and as for my castle it is built on a rock." And, breaking out into verse, he declared

"I, William of the Wastle

Am now in my castle;

And aw the dogs in the town

Shanna gar me* gang down." (*Gar me=make me)

One cannot help feeling sorry that the spirited William was made to "gang down" by a fusillade of Colonel Fenwick's guns.

In the early part of the year the Scots, who had recovered somewhat after the Dunbar disaster, determined to crown their Scottish monarch at Scone. Charles had accepted the conditions of his northern subjects, had sworn to the Covenant which he, as his sire before him, cordially hated and intended to flout when opportunity served. He was crowned with all due ceremony, "all men making show of joy and of being united to serve His Majesty."

In the course of the spring Cromwell became so seriously ill that he thought his life's work was over. Those about him noticed that a great change had come upon him and that his arduous life was wearing him out. Parliament was in great alarm. By the middle of March the worst was over and he was able to dine with his officers and be very cheerful and pleasant. Next month he wrote a reassuring letter to his anxious wife: "I praise the Lord I am increased in strength in my outward man. But that will not satisfy me except I get a heart to love and serve my Heavenly Father better. . . . Pray for me, truly I do daily for thee, and the dear family." His daughter Betty was evidently of a frivolous turn of mind, and the father was as greatly concerned about her light-heartedness as he had been about Dick's idleness. "Mind poor Betty of the Lord's great mercy. Oh, I desire her not only to seek the Lord in her necessity, but indeed and in truth to turn to the Lord; and to keep close to Him; and to take heed of a departing heart, and of being cozened with worldly vanities and worldly company, which I doubt she is too subject to."

Cromwell still continued to be much of an invalid and Parliament sent down two doctors to see him and to report on his condition. They suggested that he should return to England for change of air in order to recover, but Cromwell remained at his post, and in June he was about once more and able to continue the campaign.

The Parliamentary army was ordered to assemble at its old camp on the Pentland Hills. Cromwell's first intention was to take Stirling, but here Leslie was too strongly entrenched and could not be dislodged. Cromwell sent Lambert and two regiments across the Forth to Fife, and at Inverkeithing Lambert encountered a force of Scottish soldiers and was able to report victory to his chief. On the receipt of this good news Cromwell crossed the Forth with the main body of the army, and, leaving Stirling on the left, he marched north to Perth, which surrendered to him on August Q. Leslie was thus cut off from his northern supplies.

A few days earlier the Royalists had decided that the best course was to invade England, and Charles, with an army of under sixteen thousand men, marched to the border and entered the country by Carlisle, taking the western route southward through Lancashire.

Cromwell decided on immediate pursuit, and on August 6, leaving Monk in Scotland to attend to affairs there, he took the eastern route southward, through Yorkshire. Both commanders hoped for reinforcements: Charles was to be grievously disappointed, for there was no popular rising in his favor, and Lord Derby, who had raised a troop, was defeated by Lilburn before he could join him. The Parliamentary army, however, was reinforced all along the line—for Cromwell had sent urgent messages to the Council of State to raise the local Militia, and so excellent was the organization that his army was increased to some thirty thousand men.

Charles was the first to reach Worcester, where he took up a strong position on the strip of land between the Severn and the Teme; he then ordered the bridges to be broken down, while he kept a detachment of his forces on the eastern bank of the river.

Cromwell marched South at the head of the Eastern Association at the average rate of some thirty miles and over a day. It was a record march in military annals, for, with none of the modern means of communication, it went without a hitch. At Coventry he was joined by Lambert and Harrison with reinforcements, and on August 28 they were on the outskirts of Worcester. In spite of Charles's precaution in breaking down the bridges, a few planks remained at Upton-on-Severn, seven miles below the town. Here a party of Fleetwood's troopers managed to scramble across, hold their own in a skirmish with a handful of Royalists, and repair the bridge sufficiently to make it possible to pass troops over. Cromwell built bridges of boats across the Severn and the, Teme almost at the junction of the two rivers, thus gaining access to both banks and being able to pass his men backward and forward according to the fortune of war. The Parliamentary army was double that of the Royalist, so that for once the advantage in numbers was largely on their side.

The battle opened on the anniversary of Dunbar, September 3. Cromwell, leading the van, was the first to pass over the bridge of boats across the Severn to the western bank, and "set foot on the enemy's ground." Fleetwood, who had previously diverted the Royalist attention by making as though he would contest Powick Bridge, closely held by the Royalists, two miles lower down the river, left reinforcements there, and crossed to the Lord General's assistance by the Teme boat-bridge. The Royalists were not immediately on the spot to oppose the landing. A fierce fight ensued. The Scottish forces fought gallantly and stubbornly, but they were largely out-numbered and were beaten from hedge to hedge until driven into Worcester.

Charles, with a few Cavaliers to bear him company, watching the issue from the cathedral tower, marked the grave danger of the situation. He sent urgent orders to attack the remainder of Cromwell's army still on the eastern bank of the Severn, and himself sallied out of Worcester town at the head of all the forces he could muster. The Lord General no sooner saw this manoeuvre than he himself and his detachments recrossed to the eastern bank to do further battle. For three hours they contested for mastery, at push of pike. At last the enemy were driven into the town, and the battle was finished in the streets, where there was a frightful carnage. The Royalist army . was utterly defeated, the cavalry fled northward, to be pursued and taken prisoner, the infantry laid down their arms. Not a single regiment, and a very few survivors, reached Scotland. Three thousand Scots were killed, ten thousand were taken prisoners. What a sight the wretched town presented—the narrow streets blocked with the dead bodies of men and horses, the cathedral thronged with prisoners, knights and noblemen, the flower of Scottish chivalry! The wounded lay by the roadside dying unattended.

Charles was among the few who escaped. The story of his romantic adventures after Worcester has become almost a legend. He hid for a couple of days in an oak-tree while the soldiers were searching the wood beneath; he lodged in the huts of the peasantry; he hid in priests' holes; he dressed as a serving-man. But though there was a reward of 1000 on his head and his description was circulated abroad, there was none to betray him and he escaped to France.

Worcester virtually ended the Scottish campaign, since there was no army left to put in the field against General Monk and his regiments in Scotland. Dundee was sacked and other important towns yielded.

Worcester was Cromwell's "crowning mercy," and from that day he sheathed his sword.