Brig 22 Jun 1679

“Bothwell had been Bannockburn. But the palsy of fear united with the frenzy of faction to unman  and distract them.”  Martyrs & Heroes, Rev Geo. Gilfillan.

Brig will always be remembered as a battle of lost

Following the modest success at Drumclog three weeks
previously the hopes ( and with it perhaps, the naivety) of the Presbyterians ran high. But
they lacked decisive leadership and spent most of the time
arguing amongst themselves about doctrinal matters. If
they had pursued Claverhouse and his troopers from
Drumclog into Glasgow while the iron was hot, there may
have been a different outcome. At the heart of the problem
was Robert Hamilton (later Sir Robert, of Preston), the leader of the Covenanters elected
before Drumclog who had assumed the position at Bothwell. Along with him
were some of the leading ministers who were against
having any of the `Indulged` in the army.  Hamilton was a rigid and
unbending opponent of the Indulgences and would have no truck whatsoever
with anyone who had even associated with an indulged person. This
extremism of a few, including the commanding officer, was the Covenanters`

There was
a broad agreement that the Black Indulgence, as it was
called, was wrong but they began arguing whether or not it
should be expressly condemned in a proclamation which they
were preparing in order to justify their conduct. 
Thus occupied in theocratic bickering their minds were not focussed on the job in hand.

Indulged were Covenanters who favoured compromise and who
had in many cases accepted indulgences from the
government. They were in favour of  including 
in the proposed proclamation that they `owned the king` ie
recognised his right to rule but not the church.
Ultimately this was included and proclaimed at Glasgow on
13 June 1679.  They were still arguing frantically on 
21 June when the Duke of Monmouth and some 10,000 troops
appeared. The Duke of  Montrose commanded the cavalry, the Earl
of Linlithgow led the infantry. Claverhouse led his dragoons, Lord Mar had
a regiment of foot, and the Earls of Home and Airlie brought their
regiments. Still to come, as he waited fractiously for his appointment,
was Dalziel of the Binns who resented being only second in command on this
occasion.  Within the Covenanter camp the moderates again wanted to make
representations to the government forces, and with some
duplicity engineered a letter that Hamilton signed,
believing it to have been approved by his principal
adviser, the Rev Donald Cargill. The letter was rejected
by the Duke of Monmouth who insisted that the combatants
must surrender to the mercy of the king. The half hour
allowed to make their minds up evaporated  as the two
factions argued again and fighting became inevitable. At
this juncture there was re-run of the battle at Dunbar as
yet again, many of the `malignant` and `indulged` officers
and men were removed from the army despite the certainty
of battle – literally only minutes away.

Riven by
disagreements, reduced in number, poorly armed with one
small brass cannon, short of supplies, and with poor
generalship the 4,000 men of the Covenanter army was
decisively beaten by a substantial force, now of over 15,000
men .  The position of the
Covenanters from a military standpoint was quite good at
the beginning.  They had between them and the
royalist forces a long narrow bridge that was well fortified,
with a barricade in the middle. To either side there were
houses and thickets  on the side of the river 
which were well defended by the Covenanters. Although the
river was fordable it was a foolish soldier who tried to
cross, as soon became evident when withering musket fire
drove them back. David Hackston and his men held the
bridge, Burley ( one of the murders of Archbishop Sharp)
and Captain John Nisbet with their horse were above the
bridge and along the river bank.  But in the rear and
on the moor the main body of the Covenanters were still
arguing among themselves as the stalwarts fought fiercely
for the cause. Hackston`s party held the bridge for over
an hour but began to run out of ammunition. Repeated
demands for re supply were sent back but all they received
was one barrel that was full of raisins, not gunpowder.
They fought on until overpowered when, too late, the main
body realised they were in trouble; they wavered and some
began to run. It was a total rout in which Claverhouse and
his troopers sought their revenge for Drumclog, even
though Monmouth had given the Covenanters quarter.

The numbers
vary with the source but about 400 were killed and about
1200 prisoners were taken, stripped and made to lay down
on the moor under penalty of being shot if they lifted up
their heads. These were the prisoners who were later
marched to Edinburgh and penned in the open at
Greyfriars Kirk Yard, where some lingered for five months. The last 250 of these prisoners were
sentenced to transportation to the colonies and about 211
of them drowned on board the
when the ship sank off Orkney.

Bothwell Brig, and as had happened after the earlier
Pentland Hills rising in 1666, the government made a
declaring, both by name and generally, that all
participants were rebels and traitors . Following the
Proclamation, Claverhouse and his troopers were sent in to
settle the population. In Galloway the land owners were
summoned before the Judiciary Court on 18 February 1680
where on very dubious evidence (from paid witnesses and
informers) they were declared rebels, sentenced to death in
their absence, and their lands forfeit. Among these were
MacDougall of Freugh; William Gordon of Earlston and his
son Alexander; Gordon of Craighlaw; Gordon of Culvennan;
Dunbar of Machermore; and MacKie of Larg. William Gordon of
Earlston had in fact been killed on the way to join his
son at Bothwell Brig, but his name was included so that
his lands could be seized. Into the Galloway region
returned John Graham of Claverhouse and his brother Cornet
Graham, who had been given a commission by the Privy
Council to seize the movable property of all who had been
in the rebellion or had fled (from persecution). Much of
this found its way into their own pockets.

bothwellInscr.jpg (48204 bytes)
significance of the defeat at Bothwell Brig was  to
prove very great.  It led directly to a more
systematic oppression on the part of the government; and
it drove the persecuted into deeper seclusion, to the wild
moors and uplands further away from the  troopers
hunting them down. These were the deep wooded glens, the
morasses where there was only peaty water to drink, the
rocky exposed hills, and lonely dank caves in gorges.
Anywhere in fact where there was shelter and perhaps
safety from their pursuers. 

Robert Hamilton fled to Holland where he was a close friend of Mr Brakell, minister at Leewarden. James Renwick corresponded with both of them and kept them informed of developments, while Hamilton made a contribution on the evolving policies of the United Societies. This included the debate on the payment of the cess, or war tax, implemented some four years previous to pay for the military presence especially in the south west.

Proclamation of rebels 26th
June 1679

A Covenanter poem about the
Battle of Bothwell Brig

Mauchline Moor 12 June 1648

Rullion Green 28 November 1666

Drumclog  1 June 1679

The Fiery Cross in Moray,1679.

Ayrs Moss 22 July 1680