Cromwell at Dunbar by Andrew Carrick Gow

The Calvinists were in support of Charles II when he became King and signed both the Covenants in 1649. Cromwell, however, was not. With sixteen thousand men he invaded Scotland in July and headed for Edinburgh, expecting to rendezvous with his supply ships at Leith. David Leslie and the Scots army did not let him.

By August Cromwell had backtracked to Dunbar. As the Scots followed, Covenanting ministers dismissed from among them any who did not meet their godly standards. Least satisfactory were the professional soldiers, most of whom were told to leave, and Leslie’s force dropped by five thousand, leaving what was described by an appalled officer as ‘an army of clerks and ministers’ sons’.

Even so, by September Cromwell’s men were pushed up against the sea at Dunbar with no sign of their supplies, and with their premium position on Doune Hill above, the Scots had only to wait for the already weak enemy to surrender.

Patience was not among the fervent ministers’ virtues. Ignoring Leslie and knowing nothing of military tactics, they sent his twenty thousand men down the hill.

It was the consummate military blunder.

Three thousand were killed and ten thousand captured. Edinburgh Castle belonged to Cromwell by December.