John Lambert - The Third Civil War.
Scots commander, David Leslie, allowed Cromwell and his army to advance to Musselburgh, just east of Edinburgh, hoping they would be hampered and debilitated by lack of supplies and the inhospitable country.
On the 30th July Leslie launched a surprise attack which virtually routed Cromwell’s own regiment who were only extricated by the intervention of Lambert and his cavalry. Lambert was wounded twice in the engagement and briefly captured. Lambert’s and Fleetwood’s regiments were attacked by 800 Scottish lancers that night but the assault was beaten off. Leslie continued his reluctance to be drawn into a major battle but harassed Cromwell’s army at every opportunity. The Scots consistently out manoeuvred Cromwell whose army of 11000 was reduced by a third due to hunger, exposure and illness. The weather during this period had been particularly bad.
Cromwell retired to the port of Dunbar to await supplies and with the possible intention of abandoning Scotland altogether. Evacuation by ship was considered but thought impractical. Leslie position his Scottish army on Doon Hill overlooking Dunbar and sent units to block the road south at Cockburnspath. Cromwell was in a serious predicament with his back to the sea and the road south blocked.
At the instigation of the Kirk Party ministers, who accompanied the Scots army and had considerable and negative influence on military matters, Leslie moved off the hill and repositioned his army further down up to the Broxburn stream. This was a more aggressive posture and the Kirk wanted a battle. The plight of his soldiers on the hill tops out in the open in the appalling weather may also have be a factor. It would have certainly been more sheltered lower down on the slopes.
Leslie’s line stretched east across the road from Dunbar to Berwick and was noticeably weaker at this point. Leslie had positioned most of his cavalry on the right in an attempt to rectify this but they were spaced out with notable gaps. The new positions also gave the Scots less room to manoeuvre their forces in the centre of their line should an attack develop. John Lambert watched this redeployment intently and noted these weaknesses.
On the 2nd September Cromwell and Lambert rode forward to reconnoitre these new dispositions. It was clear to both men that Leslie had made an error of judgement and a well planned and co-ordinated attack against the Scottish right could succeed. The experienced Colonel Monck was consulted and also agreed with this assessment. Cromwell called his senior officers for a council of war to discuss the situation. Some were still in favour of evacuation or retreat. Lambert spoke at length in favour of attack. Cromwell backed him and the decision was made.
The weather on the night of the 2nd/3rd September was again atrocious. Cromwell positioned his army facing the Scots with most of his cavalry to his left facing the Scottish right. In the pouring rain many of the Scots officers had retired from the field to more comfortable surroundings. In the darkness, at 4:00 p.m., the battle commenced taking the Scots completely by surprise. They considered that an English retreat or evacuation far more likely. Preliminary fighting secured the crossing points over the Broxburn stream facing the Scots right flank. Lambert with Lieutenant General Fleetwood led a cavalry charge against the Scots cavalry on the right which stalled until Colonel Monck advanced with his infantry brigade and a fierce fire fight developed. With the crossing points secure the fighting subsided till dawn. Lambert and his cavalry crossed the Broxburn and led a charge which scattered the first line of Scots cavalry and reached their camp before being driven back by a series of spirited counter attacks. Lambert was quickly supported by Colonel Lilburne’s cavalry brigade which repelled the Scottish counter attacks.
Cromwell’s own cavalry regiment crossed the Broxburn further downstream and swept round into the Scots right flank as the Scots cavalry disintegrated and fled the field. Cromwell and Lambert halted their cavalry briefly to rest and regroup while considering their next move. The troopers rejoiced at their success by singing the 117th Psalm at the instruction of Cromwell.
In the meantime Monck’s infantry brigade advanced into the infantry on the Scottish right followed by Colonel Pride’s infantry brigade. Lieutenant General Lumsden’s Brigade was swept away but not before delaying Monck long enough for Sir James Campbell of Lawers Brigade to reposition to their right to face the oncoming assault. Monck’s Brigade was repulsed after hard fighting with Campbell’s Brigade which was in turn overrun by Pride’s Brigade after Sir John Haldane’s Gleneagles Regiment fought a courageous last stand which all but wiped them out after the intervention of Cromwell’s Cavalry Regiment decisively swung the balance in the favour of the English.
With collapse of their right and part of their centre the Scots lost heart and fled back towards Edinburgh harried all the way in a drawn out running fight. A reasonable estimate of Scots killed is about 1000 with about 5000 or 6000 taken prisoner, 1000 of these sick or wounded who were released. Leslie escaped with approximately half his army and in considerable disarray. The English losses are uncertain. Cromwell’s own figure of 30 or 40 is thought rather on the low side. However the English casualties killed in a number of these battles are all remarkably low figures whilst the Scots casualties are much higher. This may well be explained by the fact that when the Scots broke and fled in several of these battles they were pursued and harried for long distances by the English cavalry in what became nightmarish retreats and many Scots were killed during these later phases of battles.
It has been a great victory for Cromwell in difficult circumstances in which John Lambert had played a prominent role and may have been a prime mover in the plan. The planning of this encounter certainly had a hint of Lambert’s sharp mind about it.
Dunbar had been a serious setback to the Scots but not a total defeat. Lambert pursued and harassed the Scots back to Edinburgh. Leslie continued to retreat to Stirling. Cromwell was able to march unopposed to Edinburgh. He quickly captured the Scottish capital, although Edinburgh Castle held out until the end of December.
During the winter of 1650/51 the English set about consolidating their positions south of the River Forth. Lambert and Monck were given the task of opening the route south to Berwick and Lambert supervised the siege of Dirleton Castle which fell on the 8th November. He then set about securing the West of Scotland.
When negotiations with the Scots in this area failed Cromwell and Lambert advanced into the region. Lambert and his force of 2000 to 3000 cavalry entered the town of Hamilton on the 30th November. On the night of the 1st December a Scots army 3000 strong under Colonel George Ker attacked and met with some success catching Lambert’s men outside the town and not fully formed up in battle formation. It is suggested that once more Lambert was briefly captured. After several hours fighting the Scots secured the town but Lambert rallied his men and retook it. The Scots were annihilated and Ker captured.
Lambert’s victory at Hamilton was an important one destroying Scottish resistance in the west and denying them the opportunity of further recruiting from this area, one of their major heart lands. In the wake of this defeat the Scots holding out at Edinburgh Castle surrendered.
Charles II was crowned at Scone in January 1651 and set about building another army. By June this consisted of 16000 infantry and 6000 cavalry. Cromwell army was reinforced during the winter and by the spring numbered 21000.
In July 1651 Cromwell conducted a number of raids directed at Stirling but these were largely a diversion. On the 17th July Lambert and 4 regiments of infantry and 3 of cavalry crossed the Forth by boat landing at Inverkeithing. Approximately 4000 men. 2 of the cavalry regiments and 1 of the infantry regiments , Lambert’s own, were experienced but the remainder were largely untried. It was largely a scratch force and the crossing was something of a gamble by Cromwell and Lambert.
Leslie dispatched a large detachment of infantry under Major-General James Holburne with some cavalry, mostly of Sir John Browne’s Brigade. These were reinforced by a regiment of highland clansmen led by Sir Hector MacLean and some other smaller detachments. It is estimated that the Scots were outnumbered by Lambert’s force about 500 but they held the better ground.
After an initial brief encounter Lambert attacked up the hill in force. The subsequent battle was quickly over and resulted in a Scottish rout. As they fled the field many were killed in another nightmarish retreat. The English took over 1000 prisoners with only light losses to themselves. This was another significant victory for Lambert. It secured the bridgehead to enable Cromwell to ship over 13000 men and also split Leslie and the Scots from their lines of communication with Perth and Aberdeen. Cromwell and Lambert advanced to Perth and captured it on the 2nd August.
Leslie was now in an unenviable position with Cromwell and his army to the north and another English army threatening his position at Stirling. Leslie wanted direct confrontation with Cromwell. King Charles II advocated advancing into England in the hope of attracting support and uprisings from former Royalists particularly on his chosen route south in Lancashire, the Midlands and Wales. Leslie was firmly against the venture arguing that the Scots army would not fight well away from their own native soil.
As the Scots set off for England Cromwell sent Lambert south with 4000 cavalry to harass their communications. Cromwell marched with 10000 men south to Durham and down the east of the England where his supplies were be easier to obtain.
The Scots crossed the border on the 6th August with Lambert in pursuit. At Bolton Lambert met up with Harrison and reinforcements. They continued the chase and harried the Scots at every opportunity. It was not the intention to bring the Scots into battle but force them further south away from their homeland.
Morale in the Scottish army was very low and desertion commonplace. The Royalist support never materialised in any great numbers. Many of the Royalist sympathisers were deeply suspicious of the King’s alliance with the Scots, the “Old Enemy.” They were also conscious of the fate of many Royalists who supported the Scots in the ill fated rebellion in 1648. Lambert was careful not to draw the Scots into battle allowing them to proceed south as far as Worcester where they arrived on the 22nd August.
The King did not intend to stay long in Worcester but press on east to London. This was not possible as his army was exhausted after such a long march and needed to rest and repair their equipment. In addition Cromwell and his army were rapidly approaching and would threaten the flank of such a march. There was no other possible place of refuge in the west open to the King’s army so he had no option but to stay at Worcester and make a stand and set about strengthening the city’s fortifications.
Cromwell’s army arrived at Spetchley near Worcester on the 30th August and made preparations for the attack. Lambert arrived at the River Teme confluence with the River Severn with boats to build a bridge across the Teme near Powick. On the 2nd September the boat bridge was complete and plans were made to attack on the next day. Lambert moved with his regiment to Upton upon Severn.
On the 3rd September 1651 Lambert, along with Colonel Deane, marched from Upton in the early morning to Powick. A small skirmish took place and the Scots are driven back to the bridge which was held for the Scots by Colonel Keith. Lambert managed to cross the Teme via the boat bridge but was repulsed by Colonel Piscottie and his Highlanders. Observing the difficulties on his left wing, Cromwell personally led three brigades across the pontoon over the Severn to attack Pitscottie's flank. Attacked from the front by Lambert and the flank by Cromwell, the Highlanders gradually gave ground and were driven slowly back towards Worcester. This, in turn, forced Keith to abandon his position or risk being cut off on his left flank. Leslie was still positioned at Pitchcroft with his Brigade of Horse refusing to move and go to the aid of Piscottie and Keith. Piscottie escaped into Worcester but Keith was taken prisoner by Deane.
The Royalists led by the King counter attacked on the Parliamentarian right and make good progress as the as the battle ebbed and flowed. The Parliamentarian troops rallied again and forced another attack. Cromwell rushed his three brigades back from supporting Lambert and inspired his men to further efforts. The English counter attacked. After 3 hours of hard fighting they pushed the Royalists back into Worcester.
The city was surrounded, and troops attempting to flee were quickly captured by Cromwell's men. Charles left his bodyguard to hold off pursuit, and fled the field. In a story that has been told and retold over the years since, he hid from his pursuers in the leafy branches of an oak tree, before eventually making his way to the coast and eventual safety in France.
This defeat for the Royalists at last brought an end to 9 years of bloody civil wars. The final “Crowning Mercy” as described by Cromwell..
Lambert played a brilliant part in the general plan of the Battle of Worcester being involved in some hard fighting and having his horse shot from under him. Parliament conferred on him a grant of lands in Scotland worth £2,000 per annum in recognition of his service in this battle and the entire campaign.