Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge

Account of the Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge by the Laird of Torfoot

Almost 427 years ago an estate known as ‘Torfoot’ situated in the quiet Avon Valley in the district of Avondale in Scotland was in possession of two brothers – William and John Brownlie. They had been granted a feu charter on these lands by Jacob Hamilton de Fynnart and his spouse Helene Cunningham. (Charter No.119 “Apud Linlithgow” 2.2.1547) see 

The sons had married and had families, some of whom had moved out onto other nearby properties and nothing of any great consequence had occurred to ruffle the serenity of the valley for about 133 years until the events about to be related, occurred in 1679. 

Thomas Brownlie the Laird was the father of a young family and he and his younger brother John were pious, good-living Presbyterian Scots whose main interests were built around their family hearth, their land and the Kirk. They were well respected by the local landowners and they fulfilled their feudal obligations to the great Hamilton family from whom they held their feu charter.

Whilst they were men of the Kirk and not by nature aggressive people, they were obliged under their feu obligations to provide men at arms and horses with “furniture” when called to a “wappen shau” by the local bailee, as such they were not unskilled or adverse to the use of arms. 

Brownlie known by his territorial designation as Torfoot, as well as being an able soldier, must also have been something of a scholar since his report on these battles and his philosophical utterances would indicate that he was a very learned man with an excellent turn of phrase and when one remembers that literacy was not the role in the 17th Century, he must have been a very remarkable man indeed. 

I now repeat from the pen of W.C. Brownlie an account of the Battle of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge. This account was written by a great-great-great grandson of Thomas and was published in Hamilton, Scotland in 1822. 

This narrative first appeared in the National Gazette, an American Newspaper. It is introduced by the following letter to the Editor:- 

Messrs. Editors,

Of all the Waverley Novels “Old Mortality” produced perhaps the greatest sensation in Scotland. It pleased the light readers. It was very acceptable to the Tory party. It roused the attention of the Whigs – I mean not the Radicals, but the descendants and lovers of the true “Whigs of the Covenant”. It excited a burst of admiration, and a burst of indignation, deep and severe. – The one from the Tories, and the mere admirers of fine historical romance – the other from the religious and devout body of the nation.

It was a novel affair, and it excited the public feeling to an intense degree, to see venerable clergymen descending into the arena to attack the statements and sentiments of a romance. There was reason for this. This book was read by every body, and it contains the sentiments of toryism in their most imposing form – and there is much that approaches to a degree of impiety which that sober people will not bear. Nay, the religious public deemed that they saw no less than a design to ridicule the memory of the martyrs and patriots of the days of Charles II and to vilify their holy religion. The description which he has given of the conduct and motives of the military chieftains; the personal accomplishments and the romantic gallantry with which his imagination has clothed the atrocious Claverhouse, do prove that there is too much room for the one; and the absurd balderdash and disgusting cant which he has put into the mouths of the leading preachers of that age (and they were no mean men), do altogether show a spirit of hostility and persecution not to be tamely submitted to in this enlightened age[1].

The result of this public indignation was visibly in favour of the “good old cause”. Accurate engravings of Graham of Clavers were brought forward. In opposition to the romantic paintings of the novelist, the harsh features of his iron face were revealed; and the tout ensemble exhibited an exterior in every respect befitting the gloomy and dark soul of a man whose hands were dipped in human blood to the wrists! – And, in the late additional details of his public character, it has been satisfactorily shown, from the most authentic documents, that “the gallant and enterprising officer” of Hume and of the Tories, was a cold-blooded murderer of the unarmed peasantry; that he shot down, without trial or form of law, free citizens of their own lands, and by their own firesides; that he belonged to that licensed banditti, the oppressors of their country, who “employed even the sagacity of blood-hounds to discover the lurking places of the patriots and martyrs”, whom they butchered in the presence of their wives and crying babes. (See Laing’s History of Scotland, vol. ii. Scots Worthies, & c. passim). 

Another consequence of this national excitement was a holy zeal, which put forth its activities in repairing the tombs and monuments over the bodies of the martyrs. Each sacred spot, on mountain, in valleys, and on moors, where the patriots had fallen by the steel of the life-guards, was sought out, and monuments erected, and tombstones repaired, and a host of “Old Mortalities” put in requisition to chisel deeper the names and the epitaphs of the martyrs. 

This is my introduction – I now offer you the Battle of Drumclog. And the “Battle of Bothwell Bridge” shall be forthcoming – that you may judge of the contrast between the account of these battles in the Waverley romance, and in history. 

In his “Battle of Drumclog” the “great wizard” makes the Covenanters’ army murder a gallant young officer, who came with a flag of truce. Nothing can be more erroneous and slanderous. It is an outrage to history. It is only surpassed by that more outrageous fiction of their intending murder of young Morton, in the night after Bothwell battle. 

The following is given in the words of the Laird of Torfoot, whose estate is this day in the possession of two brothers, his lineal descendants of the fifth generation. The Laird speaks of what he saw and what he did[2]. I have carefully compared his account with the statements handed down by family tradition – particularly with the statements of a venerable aunt, who died lately in Pennsylvania, aged nearly ninety, and who was grand-daughter of the Laird’s second son. I have also compared the account with the brief printed account of these battles in the “Scottish Worthies,” and the “Cloud of Witnesses”. This last book (p.334, London edit.) records the Laird’s name in the list of those driven into banishment; but who, in spite of Clavers and Charles, and shipwrecks, by the grace of god, regained his native halls to bless his afflicted family, and who finally died in peace, in the presence of his family, in a good old age. 


Battle of Bothwell Bridge


It was on a fair Sabbath morning in June, of A.D. 1679, that an assembly of Covenanters sat down on the heathy mountains of Drumclog. We had assembled not to fight, but to worship the God of our fathers. We were far from the tumult of cities. The long dark heath waved around us; and we disturbed no living creatures, saving the pees-weep and the heather-cock. As usual, we had come armed. It was for self-defence. For desperate and ferocious bands made bloody raids through the country, and, pretending to put down treason, they waged war against religion and morals. They spread ruin and havoc over the face of bleeding Scotland. 

The venerable Douglas had commenced the solemnities of the day. He was expatiating on the execrable evils of tyranny. Our souls were on fire at the remembrance of our country’s sufferings and the wrongs of the church. In this moment of intense feeling, our watchman, posted on the neighbouring height, fired his carabine (stet carbine), and ran towards the Congregation. He announced the approach of the enemy. We raised our eyes to the Minister. “I have done,” said Douglas, with his usual firmness. – “You have got the theory, – now for the practice; you know your duty; self-defence is always lawful. But the enemy approaches”. He raised his eyes to heaven and uttered a prayer – brief and emphatic – like the prayer of Richard Cameron. “Lord spare the green and take the ripe”.

The officers collected their men, and placed themselves each at the head of those of his own district. Sir Robert Hamilton placed the foot in the centre, in three ranks. A company of horse, well armed and mounted, was placed on the left; and a small squadron also on the left. These were drawn back, and they occupied the more solid ground; as well with a view to have a more firm footing, as to arrest any flanking party that might take them on the wings. A deep morass lay between us and the ground of the enemy. Our aged men, our females and children, retired but they retired slowly. They had the hearts and the courage of the females and children in those days of intense religious feeling and of suffering. They manifested more concern for the fate of relatives – for the fate of the church, than for their own personal safety. As Claverhouse descended the opposite mountains, they retired to the rising ground in the rear of our host. The aged men walked with their bonnets in hand. Their long grey locks waved in the breeze. They sang a cheering psalm. The music was that of the well-known tune of the “Martyrs,” and the sentiment breathed defiance. The music floated down on the wind. Our men gave them three cheers as they fell into their ranks. Never did I witness such animation in the looks of men. For me, my spouse and my little children were in the rear. My native plains, and the halls of my father, far below, in the dale of Aven[3], were full in view, from the heights which we occupied. My country seemed to raise her voice – the bleeding church seemed to wail aloud. “And these,” I said, as Clavers and his troops winded slowly down the dark mountain’s side, “these are the unworthy slaves and bloody executioners-by which the tyrant completes our miseries”. 

Hamilton here displayed the hero. His portly figure was seen hastening from rank to rank. He inspired courage into our raw and undisciplined troops. The brave Hackstone and Hall of Haugh-head stood at the head of the foot, and re-echoed the sentiments of their Chief. 

Burley and Cleland had inflamed the minds of the horsemen on the left to a noble enthusiasm. My small troop on the right needed no exhortation; we were a band of brothers, resolved to conquer or fall. 

The trumpet of Clavers sounded a loud note of defiance – the kettledrum mixed its tumultuous roll - they halted – they made a long pause. We could see an officer with four file conducting fifteen persons from the ranks to a knoll on their left. I could perceive one in black; it was my friend King, the chaplain of Lord Cardross, who had been taken prisoner by Clavers at Hamilton. “Let them be shot through the head,” said Clavers, with his usual dry way, “if they should offer to run away.” We could see him view our position with great care. His officers came around him. We soon learned that he wished to treat with us. He never betrayed symptoms of mercy or of justice, nor offered terms of reconciliation, unless when he dreaded that he had met his match; and, even then, it was only a manoeuvre to gain time, or to deceive. His flag approached the edge of the bog. Sir Robert held a flag sacred; had it been borne by Clavers himself, he had honoured it. He demanded the purpose for which he came. “I come,” said he, “in the name of his sacred Majesty, and of Colonel Grahame, to offer you a pardon, on condition that you lay down your arms; and deliver up your ringleaders.” “Tell your officer,” said Sir Robert, “that we are fully aware of the deception he practises. He is not clothed with any powers to treat, nor was he sent out to treat with us, and attempt a reconciliation. The Government against whom we have risen refuses to redress our grievances, or to restore to us our liberties. Had the tyrant wished to render us justice he had not sent by the hands of such a ferocious assassin as Claverhouse. Let him, however, show his powers, and we refuse not to treat; and we shall lay down our arms to treat, provided that he also lay down his. Thou hast my answer.” – “It is a perfectly hopeless case,” said Burley, while he called after the flag bearer, “Let me add one word, by your leave, General. Get thee up to that bloody dragoon, Clavers, and tell him that we will spare his life, and the lives of his troops, on condition that he, your Clavers, lay down his arms, and the arms of these troops. We will do more; as we have no prisons on these wild mountains, we will even let him go on his parole, on condition that he swear never to lift arms against the religion and the liberties of his country.” A loud burst of applause re-echoed from the ranks; and, after a long pause in deep silence, the army sung the following verse of a psalm:- 

“There arrows of the bow he brake,
The shield, the sword, the war;
More glorious thou than hills of prey,
   More excellent art far.
Those that are stout of heart are spoil’d,
   They slept their sleep outright,
And none of those their hands did find
   That were the men of might.” &c.

When the report was made to Claverhouse, he gave the word with a savage ferocity, “Their blood be on their own heads. Be No quarters the word this day[4].” His fierce dragoons raised a yell, and “no quarters” re-echoed from rank to rank, while they galloped down the mountain’s side. It is stated that Burley was heard to say, “Then be it so – even let there be no quarters – at least in my wing of the host. So God send me a meeting,” cried he aloud, “with that chief under the white plume. My country would bless my memory, could my sword give his villainous carcase to the crows.” 

Our raw troops beheld, with firmness, the approach of the foemen; and, at the moment when the enemy halted to fire, the whole of our foot dropped on the heath. Not a man was seen to remain down, when the order was given to rise and return the fire. The first rank fired, then kneeled down while the second fired. They made each bullet tell. As often as the lazy rolling smoke was carried over the enemy’s heads, a shower of bullets fell on his ranks. Many a gallant man tumbled on the heath. The fire was incessant. It resembled one blazing sheet of flame, for several minutes along the line of the Covenanters. Clavers attempted to cross the morass, and break our centre. “Spearmen, to the front” – I could hear the deep-toned voice of Hamilton say – “Kneel, and place your spears to receive the enemy’s cavalry; and you, my gallant fellows, fire – God and our Country is our word.” Our officers flew from rank to rank. Not a peasant give way that day. As the smoke rolled off, we could see Clavers urging on his men with the violence of despair. His troops fell in heaps around him, and still the gaps were filled up. A galled trooper would occasionally flinch; but ere he could turn or flee, the sword of Clavers was waving over his head. I could see him in his fury strike both man and horse. In the fearful carnage he himself sometimes reeled. He would stop short in the midst of a movement, then contradict his own orders, and strike the man because he could not comprehend his meaning. 

He ordered flanking parties to take us on our right and left. “In the name of God,” cried he, “cross the bog, and charge them on the flanks, till we get over this morass. If this fail, we are lost.” 

It now fell to my lot to come into action. Hitherto we had fired only some distant shots. A gallant officer led his band down to the borders of the swamp, in search of a proper place to cross. We threw ourselves before him. A severe firing commenced. My gallant men fired with great steadiness. We could see many tumbling from their saddles. Not content with repelling the foemen, we found our opportunity to cross, and attack them sword in hand. The Captain, whose name I afterwards ascertained to be Arrol, threw himself in my path. In the first shock I discharged my pistols. His sudden start in his saddle told me that one of them had taken effect. With one of the tremendous oaths of Charles II he closed with me. He fired his steel pistol – I was in front of him. My sword glanced on the weapon, and gave a direction to the bullet, which saved my life. By this time my men had driven the enemy before them, and had left the ground clear for the single combat. As he made a lunge at my breast, I turned his sword aside, but one of those sweeping blows, which are rather the dictate of a kind of instinct of self-defence than a movement of art. As our strokes redoubled, my antagonist’s dark features put on a look of deep and settled ferocity. No man who has not encountered the steel of his enemy in the field of battle can conceive the looks and the manner of the warrior in the moments of his intense feelings. May I never witness them again. We fought in silence. My stroke fell on his left shoulder; it cut the belt of his carabine, which fell to the ground. His blow cut me to the rib, glanced along the bone, and rid me also of the weight of my carabine. He had now advanced too near me to be struck with the sword. I grasped him by the collar. I pushed him backwards; and with an entangled blow of my Ferrara I struck him across his throat. It cut only the strap of his head-piece and it fell off. With a sudden spring he seized me by the sword belt. Our horses reared, and we both came to the ground. We rolled on the heath in deadly conflict. It was in this situation of matters that my brave fellows had returned from the rout of the flanking party to look after their Commander. One of them was actually rushing on my antagonist, when I called on him to retire[5]. We started to our feet. Each grasped his sword. We closed in conflict again. After parrying strokes of mine enemy, which indicated a hellish ferocity, I told him my object was to take him prisoner; that sooner than kill him, I should order my men to seize him. “Sooner let my soul be brandered (sic) on my ribs in hell,” said he, “than be captured by a Whigamore. No quarter is the word of my Colonel, and my word. Have at the Whig – I dare the whole of you to the combat.” “Leave the madman to me; – leave the field instantly,” said I to my party, whom I could hardly restrain. My sword fell on his right shoulder. His sword dropt (sic) from his hand. I lowered my sword, and offered him his life. “No quarter,” said he, with a shriek of despair. He snatched his sword, which I held in my hand, and made a lounge at my breast. I parried his blows till he was nearly exhausted; but gathering up his huge limbs, he put forth all his energy in a thrust at my heart. My Andro Ferrara received it so as to weaken its deadly force; but it made a deep cut. Though I was faint with loss of blood, I left him no time for another blow. My sword glanced on his shoulder, cut through his buff coat, and skin, and flesh; swept through his jaw, and laid open his throat from ear to ear. The fire of his ferocious eye was quenched in a moment. He reeled, and falling with a terrible clash, he poured out his soul, with a torrent of blood, on the heath. I sunk down insensible for a moment. My faithful men, who never lost sight of me, raised me up. In the fierce combat, the soldier suffers most from thirst. I stooped down to fill my helmet with the water, which oozed through the morass. It was deeply tinged with human blood, which flowed in the conflict above me. I started back with horror; and Gawn Witherspoon bringing up my steed, we set forward in the tumult of the battle. 

All this while the storm of war had raged on our left. Cleland and the fierce Burley had charged the strong company sent to flank them. These officers permitted them to cross the swamp, then charged them with a terrible shout. “No quarter,” cried the dragoons. “Be no quarter to you, then, ye murderous louns,” cried Burley; and at one blow he cut their leader through the steel cap, and scattered his brains on his followers. His every blow overthrew a foeman. Their whole forces were now brought up, and they drove the dragoons of Clavers into the swamp. They rolled over one another. All stuck fast. The Covenanters dismounted, and fought on foot. They left not one man to bear the tidings to their Colonel. 

The firing of the platoons had long ago ceased, and the dreadful work of death was carried on by the sword. At this moment a trumpet was heard in the rear of our army; there was an awful pause; all looked up; it was only the gallant Captain Nesbet, and his guide, Woodburn of Mains; he had no reinforcements for us, but himself was a host. With a loud huzza, and flourish of his sword, he placed himself by the side of Burley, and cried, “Jump the ditch and charge the enemy.” He and Burley struggled through the marsh. The men followed as they could. They formed, and marched on the enemy’s right flank. 

At this instant Hamilton and Hackstone brought forward the whole line of infantry in front. “God and our Country” re-echoed from all the ranks – “No quarters,” said the fierce squadrons of Clavers. Here commenced a bloody scene. 

I seized the opportunity this moment offered to me of making a movement to the left of the enemy to save my friend King and the other prisoners. We came in time to save them. Our swords speedily severed the ropes which tyranny had bound on the arms of the men. The weapons of the fallen foe supplied what was lacking of arms, and with great vigour we moved forward to charge the enemy on the left flank. Claverhouse formed a hollow square – himself in the centre; his men fought gallantly; they did all that soldiers could do in their situation. Wherever a gap was made Clavers thrust the men forward, and speedily filled it up. Three times he rolled headlong on the heath, as he hastened from rank to rank, and as often he remounted. My little band thinned his ranks. He paid us a visit. Here I distinctly saw the features and shape of this far-famed man. He was small of stature, and not well formed; his arms were long in proportion to his legs; he had a complexion unusually dark, his features were not lighted up with sprightliness, as some fabulously reported; they seemed gloomy as hell; his cheeks were lank and deeply furrowed; his eye-brows were drawn down, and gathered into a kind of knot at their junctions, and thrown up at their extremities; they had in short, the strong expression given by our painters to those on the face of Judas Iscariot; his eyes were hollow, they had not the lustre of genius, nor the fire of vivacity; they were lighted up by that dark fire of wrath which is kindled and fanned by an eternal anxiety, and consciousness of criminal deeds; his irregular and large teeth were presented through a smile, which was very unnatural on his set of features; his mouth seemed to be unusually large, from the extremities being drawn backward and downward – as if in the intense application to something cruel and disgusting; in short, his upper teeth projected over his under lip, and, on the whole, presented to my view, the mouth on the image of the Emperor Julian the Apostate. – In one of his rapid courses past us, my sword could only shear off his white plume and a fragment of his buff coat. In a moment he was at the other side of his square. Our officers eagerly sought a meeting with him. “He has the proof of lead,” cried some of our men – “Take the cold steel, or a piece of silver.” “No,” cried Burley, “it is his rapid movement on that fine charger that bids defiance to anything like an aim in the tumult of the bloody fray. I could sooner shoot ten heather cocks on the wing than one flying Clavers”. At that moment, Burley, whose eye watched his antagonist, pushed into the hollow square. But Burley was too impatient. His blow was levelled at him before he came within its reach. His heavy sword descended on the head of Clavers’ horse, and felled him to the ground. Burley’s men rushed pell-mell on the fallen Clavers, but his faithful dragoons threw themselves upon them, and by their overpowering force drove Burley back. Clavers was, in an instant, on a fresh steed. His bugleman recalled the party who were driving back the flanking party of Burley. He collected his whole troops to make his last and desperate attack. – He charged our infantry with such force that they began to reel. It was only for a moment. The gallant Hamilton snatched the white flag of the Covenant, and placed himself in the fore front of the battle. Our men shouted, “God and our Country,” and rallied under their flag. They fought like heroes. Clavers fought no less bravely. His blows were aimed at our officers. His steel fell on the helmet of Hackstone, whose sword was entangled in the body of a fierce dragoon who had just wounded him. He was borne by his men into the rear. I directed my men on Clavers. “Victory or death” was their reply to me. Clavers received us. He struck a desperate blow at me, as he raised himself, with all his force, in the saddle. My steel cap resisted it. The second stroke I received on my Ferrara, and his steel was shivered to pieces. We rushed headlong on each other. His pistol missed fire – it had been soaked in blood. Mine took effect. But the wound was not deadly. Our horses reared. We rolled on the ground. In vain we sought to grasp each other. In the melee, men and horse tumbled on us. We were for a few moments buried under our men, whose eagerness to save their respective officers brought them in multitudes down upon us. By the aid of my faithful man Gawn, I had extricated myself from my fallen horse; and we were rushing on the bloody Clavers, when we were again literally buried under a mass of men; for Hamilton had by this time brought up his whole line, and he had planted his standard where we and Clavers were rolling on the heath. Our men gave three cheers, and drove in the troops of Clavers. Here I was borne along with the moving mass of men; and, almost suffocated, and faint with the loss of blood, I knew nothing more till I opened my eyes on my faithful attendant. He had dragged me from the very grasp of the enemy, and had borne me into the rear, and was bathing my temples with water. We speedily regained our friends; and what a spectacle presented itself! It seemed that I beheld an immense moving mass heaped up together in the greatest confusion. Some shrieked, some groaned, some shouted, horses neighed and pranced, swords rung on the steel helmets. I placed around me a few of my hardy men, and we rushed into the thickest of the enemy in search of Clavers; but it was in vain. At that instant his trumpet sounded the loud notes of retreat; and we saw on a knoll Clavers borne away by his men. He threw himself on a horse, and without sword, without helmet, he fled in the first ranks of the retreating host. His troops galloped up the hill in the utmost confusion. My little line closed with that of Burley’s, and took a number of prisoners. Our main body pursued the enemy two miles, and strewed the ground with men and horses. I could see the bareheaded Clavers in front of his men, kicking and struggling up the steep sides of Calder hill. He halted only a moment on the top to look behind him, then plunged his rowels into his horse, and darted forward; nor did he recover from his panic till he found himself in the city of Glasgow.” “And, my children,” the laird would say, after he had told the adventures of this bloody day, “I visited the field of battle next day; I shall never forget the sight. Men and horses lay on their gory beds. I turned away from the horrible spectacle. I passed by the spot where God saved my life in the single combat, and where the unhappy Captain Arrol fell. I observed that, in the subsequent fray, the body had been trampled on by a horse, and his bowels were poured out[6]. Thus, my children, the defence of our lives, and the regaining of our liberty and religion, has subjected us to severe trials. And how great must be the love of liberty, when it carried men forward, under the impulse of self-defence, to witness the most disgusting spectacles, and to encounter the most cruel hardships of war!"




After the ranks of the patriotic Whigs were broken by overwhelming forces, and while Dalzell and Clavers swept the south and west of Scotland like the blast of the desert, breathing pestilence and death – the individual wanderers betook themselves to the caves and fastnesses of their rugged country. This was their situation chiefly from A.D. 1680 to the Revolution. The Laird spent his days in seclusion; but still he fearlessly attended the weekly assemblies in the fields, for the worship of Almighty God. What had he to fear? What more could he lose? His estate had been confiscated. His wife and babes stripped by the life-guards of every remnant of earthly comfort which they could take away; and himself doomed, as an outlaw, to be executed by the military assassins when taken. He became reckless of the world. “I have lived,” said he in anguish, “to see a Prince twice, of his own choice, take the oath of the covenants to support religion and the fundamental laws of the land. I have lived to see that Prince turn traitor to his country, and, with unblushing impiety, order these covenants to be burnt by the hands of the executioner. I have seen him subvert the liberty of my country, both civil and religious. – I have seen him erect a bloody inquisition. The priests, imposed upon us by tyranny, instead of wooing us over by the loveliness of religion, have thrown off the bowels of mercy. They occupy seats in bloody council. They stimulate the cruelties of Lauderdale, McKenzie and York. Their hands are dipt (sic) in blood to the wrists. This council will not permit us to live in peace. Our property they confiscate. Our houses they convert into barracks. They drag free men into chains. They bring no witnesses of our guilt. They invent new tortures to convert us. They employ the thumbscrews and bootikins. If we are silent, they condemn us. If we confess our Christian creed, they doom us to the gibbet. If we offer a defence, a judge rises from the bench, and with his naked sword, wounds us[7]. Not only our sentence, but the manner of our execution, is fixed before trial. In our last moment they command the kettle drum to beat one continued roll; and, when a strong sense of injustice extorts a complaint against our barbarous treatment, a military servant of the council strikes the dying man in his last moment[8]; and, as if this sanguinary process was too slow in extirpating us, I have seen Charles Stuart let loose a brutal soldiery upon us – on us who recalled him from exile, and who placed the crown on his head. He has murdered our men, our wives, and our children. We have, indeed, formally renounced this tyrant, by declaring war against him; but we have hitherto failed in the attempt to rouse the energies of our sleeping country. It is sunk into a deadly slumber. It has hitherto permitted the tyrant to keep us under martial law. Clavers is our judge; his dragoons are the executioners; and these savages do still continue to employ even the sagacity of blood-hounds to hunt us down. . My soul turns away from those loathsome spectacles. They have cut in pieces the friends and companions of my youth. McKail, Kid and King are no more. Cameron fell bleeding at my side. Hackstone they have butchered. My father, Cargill – they could not spare even thee! Nor thee, dear young Renwick! Brown fell by the bloody Clavers, at the feet of his wife and crying babes. I have seen my friends, and those in whose veins my blood runs, fall in the ranks on Bloody Bothwell, as the golden flowers of the meadow beneath the mower’s hands. I have seen the greedy axe of the inhuman executioner mangle the limbs of my dearest friends. I have seen the minions’ of tyranny perform their disgusting service of transporting and suspending, as on shambles, the bleeding limbs of the martyrs. I have seen the hammer of the barbarians fix the heads of my companions on thy walls, 0 bloody Edinburgh! And, O disgusting spectacle! I have seen these forms, once dear to my soul as the light of heaven, become naked and bleached bones, under the rain and sun. I have lived to see the dreadful effects of civil war. The frequent butcheries in the field and on the scaffold have rendered men callous. The ghastly heads and mangled quarters are set up before the mob. Mothers and children daily feast their eyes with the spectacle; even delicate females roll their eyes over them without a shudder. Our sufferings are not felt, for the human bosom has lost its feeling. – O God of my fathers! Bend in mercy thine eyes on my bleeding country – and on thy weeping Kirk! Shall these men spread havock without bounds? Shall our blood stream in torrents? – Shall the Stuarts and their slaves bind these chains on the neck of our country and of thy Kirk forever? 

The laird, while he was uttering those words, had thrown himself upon his knees. His arms were stretched forward and upward; his long hair, grey, not by age, but by labours and sorrow, descended on his shoulders; his eyes, lighted up by hope, in the midst of despondency, were fixed on heaven; and the tears, streaming over his sun-burnt cheeks, fell in large drops from his beard on his girdle. 

At this moment his brother John entered with looks which betrayed unusual anxiety. “My brother,” said he, “you must resume these weapons, which your studious habits have thrown into the corner. Praying must give way to fighting now. A trooper advances at full speed, and he is followed by a dark column. We have not even time to fly” – The mind of the laird, like those of the rest of the wanderers, always brightened up at the approach of danger. “I guessed some such tidings from that tragedy face of yours,” said he. “Our perils are so great that they do not allow us time to vent our complaints,” added he, as he girded on his sword, and put on his helmet. “Let us reconnoitre – What do I see, but one trooper? And that motley cloud is a rabble – not a troop. That trooper does not belong to Clavers’ band; nor does he belong to Douglas – nor to Inglis – nor to Strachan’s dragoons. He waves a small flag*. I can discover the scarlet and blue colour of the Covenanters’ flag. – Hal welcome you, John Howie of Lochgoin[9] – But what news? – Lives our country? – Lives the good old cause?” – “Glorious news,” exclaimed Howie, “Scotland for ever! She is free. The tyrant James has abdicated. The Stuarts are banished by an indignant nation. – Orange triumphs. Our wounds are binding up. – Huzza! Scotland, and King William, and the Covenant for ever!” 

The Laird made no reply. He laid his steel cap on the ground, and threw himself on his knees; he uttered a brief prayer, of which this was the close: “My bleeding country, and thy wailing Kirk, and my brethren in the furnace, have come in remembrance before thee. For ever lauded be thy name.” “Hasten to the meeting at Lesmahagow. "Our friends behind me, you see, have already set out,” said Howie. And he set off with enthusiastic ardour to spread the news. 

“These news,” said the Laird, after a long pause, while his eyes followed the courser over the plains of Aven – “These news are to me as life from the dead. Our martial toils have not been unprofitable, nor has our blood been shed in vain. We have at last roused our sleeping country – we have saved her – we have gained our civil and religious liberties. I feel a fresh vigour poured into my nerves. I feel already the full glow of liberty. I feel that I am a free man, and no tyrant’s slave. The Parliament and Assembly will, I trust, set all things right again. My forfeiture shall be restored, and my wife and babes shall surround me in the domestic circle; and, brother John – what is no small affair – I shall now have a respite – far from the horrid din of war, quietly to finish that work, over which I have literally trimmed the mid-night lamp, with my sword and musketoon lying before me. Gawn Witherspoon,” said the laird in a higher tone, “call my moss-headed hostler, and let us have our horses. I have a mind to meet my old friends at Lesmahagow. And then, when serious business is dispatched, we can take Bothwell field on our return. It will yield me at least a melancholy pleasure to visit the spot where we fought, I trust, our last battle against the enemies of our country, and of the good old cause.” 

Serious matters of church and state having been discussed at the public meeting, the brothers found themselves, on the fourth day, on the battle-ground of Bothwell. 

“On that moor,” said the Laird, after a long silence – and, without being conscious of it, he had, by a kind of instinct natural enough to a soldier, drawn his sword, and was pointing with it – “On that moor the enemy first formed under Monmouth. There, on the right, Clavers led on the life-guards, breathing fury, and resolute to wipe off the disgrace of the affair of Drumclog. Dalzell formed his men on that knoll. Lord Livingstone led the van of the foemen. We had taken care to have Bothwell Bridge strongly secured by a barricade, and our little battery of cannon was planted on that spot below us, in order to sweep the bridge. And we did rake it. The foemen’s blood streamed there. Again and again the troops of the tyrant marched on, and our cannon annihilated their columns. Sir Robert Hamilton was our Commander-in-Chief. The gallant General Hackstone stood on that spot with his brave men. Along the river, and above the bridge, Burley’s foot and Captain Nesbet’s dragoons were stationed. For one hour we kept the enemy in check; they were defeated in every attempt to cross the Clyde. Livingstone sent another strong column to storm the bridge. I shall never forget the effect of one fire from our battery, where my men stood. We saw the line of the foe advance in all the military glory of brave and beautiful men – the horses pranced – the armour gleamed. In one moment nothing was seen but a shocking mass of mortality. Human limbs and the bodies and limbs of horses were mingled in one huge heap, or blown to a great distance. Another column attempted to cross above the bridge. Some threw themselves into the current. One well-directed fire from Burley’s troops threw them into disorder, and drove them back. Meantime, while we were thus warmly engaged, Hamilton was labouring to bring down the different divisions of our main body into action; but in vain he called on Colonel Cleland’s troop – in vain he ordered Henderson’s to fall in – in vain he called on Colonel Fleming’s. Hackstone flew from troop to troop – all was confusion; in vain he besought, he intreated, he threatened. Our disputes and fiery misguided zeal, my brother, contracted a deep and deadly guilt that day. The Whig turned his arm in fierce hate that day against his own vitals. Our chaplains, Cargill, and King, and Kid, and Douglas, interposed again and again. Cargill mounted the pulpit; he preached concord; he called aloud for mutual forbearance. ‘Behold the banners of the enemy,’ cried he; ‘Hear ye not the fire of the foe, and of our own brethren. Our brothers and fathers are falling beneath their sword. Hasten to their aid. See the flag of the Covenant.’ See the motto in letters of gold – ‘Christ’s crown and covenant.’ Hear the voice of your weeping country. Hear the wailing of the bleeding Kirk. Banish discord. And let us, as a band of brothers, present a bold front to the foemen. 

Follow me, all ye who love your country and the Covenant. I go to die in the fore-front of the battle.” All the ministers and officers followed him – amidst a flourish of trumpets – but the great body remained to listen to the harangues of the factious. We sent again and again for ammunition. My men were at the last round. Treachery, or a fatal error, had sent a barrel of raisins instead of powder[10]. My heart sunk within me while I beheld the despair on the faces of my brave fellows, and I struck out the head of the vessel. Hackstone called his officers to him. We threw ourselves around him. “What must be done?” said he, in an agony of despair. “Conquer or die” we said, as if with one voice. “We have our swords yet. Lead back the men then to their places, and let the ensign bear down the blue and scarlet colours. Our God and our Country be the word.” – Hackstone rushed forward. We ran to our respective corps – we cheered our men, but they were languid and dispirited. Their ammunition was nearly expended, and they seemed anxious to husband what remained. They fought only with their carabines. The cannons could no more be loaded. The enemy soon perceived this. We saw a troop of horse approach the bridge. It was that of the life-guards. 

I recognised the plume of Clavers. They approached in rapid march. A solid column of infantry followed. I sent a request to Captain Nesbet to join his troop to mine. He was in an instant with us. – We charged the life-guards. Our swords rung on their steel caps. Many of my brave lads fell on all sides of me. But we hewed down the foe. They began to reel. The whole column was kept stationary on the bridge. Clavers’ dreadful voice was heard – more like the yell of a savage, than the commanding voice of a soldier. He pushed forward his men, and again we hewed them down. A third mass was pushed up. Our exhausted dragoons fled. Unsupported, I found myself by the brave Nesbet, and Paton, and Hackstone. We looked for a moment’s space in silence on each other. We galloped in front of our retreating men. We rallied them. We pointed to the General almost alone. We pointed to the white and to the scarlet colours floating near him. We cried, “God and our Country”. They faced about. We charged Clavers once more. – “Torfoot,” cried Nesbet, “I dare you to the fore-front of the battle.” We rushed up at full gallop. Our men seeing this, followed also at full speed – We broke the enemy’s line, bearing down those files which we encountered. We cut our way through their ranks. But they had now lengthened their front. Superior numbers drove us in. They gained entire possession of the bridge. Livingstone and Dalzell were actually taking us on the flank. A band had got between us and Burley’s infantry. “My friends,” said Hackstone to his officers, “we are the last on the field. We can do no more. – We must retreat. Let us attempt, at least, to bring aid to the deluded men behind us. They have brought ruin on themselves and on us. Not Monmouth, but our own divisions have scattered us.” 

At this moment one of the life-guards aimed a blow at Hackstone. My sword received it – and a stroke from Nesbit laid the foeman’s hand and sword in the dust. He fainted and tumbled from his saddle. We reined our horses, and galloped to our main body. But what a scene presented itself here! These misguided men had their eyes now fully opened on their fatal errors. The enemy were bringing up their whole force against them. I was not long a near spectator of it; for a ball grazed my courser. He plunged and reared – then shot off like an arrow. Several of our officers drew to the same place. On a knoll we faced about – the battle raged below us. We beheld our commander doing everything that a brave soldier could do with factious men against an overpowering foe. Burley and his troops were in close conflict with Clavers’ dragoons. We saw him dismount three troopers with his own hand. He could not turn the tide of battle, but he was covering the retreat of these misguided men. Before we could rejoin him, a party threw themselves in our way. Kennoway, one of Clavers’ officers, led them on. “Would to God that that was Grahame himself,” some of my comrades ejaculated aloud. “He falls to my share,” said I, “whoever the officer be.” I advanced – he met me. I parried several thrusts. He received a cut on the left arm; and the sword by the same stroke, shore off one of his horse’s ears; it plunged, and reared. We closed again. I received a stroke on the left shoulder. My blow fell on his sword arm. He reined his horse around, retreated a few paces, then returned at full gallop. My courser reared instinctively as he approached. I received his stroke on the back of my Ferrara; and by a back stroke, I gave him a deep cut on the cheek. And before he could recover a position of defence, my sword fell with a terrible blow on his steel cap. Stunned by the blow, he bent himself forward – and, grasping the mane, he tumbled from his saddle, and his steed galloped over the field. 

I did not repeat the blow. His left hand presented his sword; his right arm was disabled; his life was given to him. My companions having disposed of their antagonists (and some of them two a piece), we paused to see the fate of the battle. Dalzell and Livingstone were riding over the field, like furies, cutting down all in their way. Monmouth was galloping from rank to rank, and calling on his men to give quarter. Clavers, to wipe off the disgrace of Drumclog, was committing fearful havoc. “Can we not find Clavers?” said Hallhead. “No,” said Captain Paton, “the gallant Colonel takes care to have a solid guard of his rogues about him. I have sought him over the fields; but I found him, as I now perceive him, with a mass of his guards about him.” At this instant we saw our General, at some distance, disentangling himself from the men who had tumbled over him in the melee. His face, and hands, and clothes, were covered with gore. He had been dismounted, and was fighting on foot. We rushed to the spot, and cheered him. Our party drove back the scattered bands of Dalzell. “My friends,” said Sir Robert as we mounted him on a stray horse, “the day is lost”. But – you, Paton, you, Brownlee of Torfoot, and you, Hallhead, let not that flag fall into the hands of those incarnate devils. We have lost the battle, but by the grace of God, neither Dalzell nor Clavers shall say that he took our colours. My ensign has done his duty. He is down. This sword has saved it twice. I leave it to your care. You see its perilous situation.” He pointed with his sword to the spot. We collected some of our scattered troops, and flew to the place. The standard-bearer was down, but he was still fearlessly grasping the flag-staff, while he’ was borne upright by the mass of men who had thrown themselves in fierce contest around it. Its well known blue and scarlet colours, and its motto, “Christ’s crown and Covenant”, in brilliant gold letters, inspired us with a sacred enthusiasm. We gave a loud cheer to the wounded ensign, and rushed into the combat. The redemption of that flag cost the foe many a gallant man. They fell beneath our broad swords; and with horrible execrations dying on their lips, they gave up their souls to their Judge. 

Here I met in front that ferocious dragoon of Clavers named Tam Halliday, who had more than once, in his raids, plundered my halls; and had snatched the bread from my weeping babes. He had just seized the white staff of the flag. But his tremendous oath of exultation (we of the Covenant never swear), – his oath had scarcely passed its polluted threshold, when this Andro Ferrara fell on the guard of his steel, and shivered it to pieces. “Recreant loon!” said I, “thou shalt this day remember thy evil deeds.” Another blow on his helmet laid him at his huge length, and made him bite the dust. In the mêlée that followed, I lost sight of him. We fought like lions – but with the hearts of Christians. While my gallant companions stemmed the tide of battle, the standard, rent to tatters, fell across my breast. I tore it from the staff, and wrapt it round my body. We cut our way through the enemy, and carried our General off the field. 

Having gained a small knoll, we beheld once more the dreadful spectacle below. Thick volumes of smoke and dust rolled in a lazy cloud over the dark bands mingled in deadly fray. It was no longer a battle, but a massacre. In the struggle of my feelings I turned my eyes on the General and Paton. I saw, in the face of the latter an indescribable conflict of passions. His long and shaggy eye-brows were drawn over his eyes. His hand grasped his sword. “I cannot yet leave the field,” said the undaunted Paton – “With the General’s permission, I shall try to save some of our wretched men beset by those hell-hounds. Who will go? – At Kilsyth I saw service. When deserted by my troop, I cut my way through Montrose’s men, and reached the spot where Colonels Halket and Strachan were.” We left the field together. Fifteen dragoons attacked us. We cut down thirteen, and two fled. Eleven Highlanders next met us. We paused, and cheered each other. ‘Now, Johnny,’ cried Halket to me, ‘put forth your metal, else we are gone.’ Nine others we sent after their comrades, and two fled. – Now, who will join this raid[11]? “I will be your leader,” said Sir Robert, as we fell into the ranks. – We marched on the enemy’s flank. “Yonder is Clavers,” said Paton, while he directed his courser on him. The bloody man was, at that moment, nearly alone, hacking to pieces some poor fellows already on their knees disarmed, and imploring him by the common feelings of humanity to spare their lives. He had just finished his usual oath against their “feelings of humanity,” when Paton presented himself. He instantly let go his prey, and slunk back into the midst of his troopers. Having formed them, he advanced. – We formed, and made a furious onset. At our first charge his troop reeled. Clavers was dismounted – but at that moment Dalzell assailed us on the flank and rear. Our men fell around like grass before the mower. The bugle sounded a retreat. Once more in the mêlée I fell in with the General and Paton. We were covered with wounds. We directed our flight in the rear of our broken troops. By the direction of the General I had unfurled the standard. It was borne off the field flying at my sword’s point. But that honour cost me much. I was assailed by three fierce dragoons; five followed close in the rear. I called to Paton – in a moment he was by my side. I threw the standard to the General, and we rushed on the foe. They fell beneath our swords; but my faithful steed, which had carried me through all my dangers, was mortally wounded. He fell. I was thrown in among the fallen enemy. I fainted. I opened my eyes on misery. I found myself in the presence of Monmouth – a prisoner – with other wretched creatures, awaiting, in awful suspense, their ultimate destiny. 


Printed by John Graham & Co. Glasgow 

[1] The clerical characters who figured in the scenes, presented partially in “Old Mortality”, were Douglas, Cargill, and King. – Douglas had been offered a bishopric, and the see was kept vacant some time for him by Sharp. Cargill has been the accomplished and popular minister of the High Kirk of Glasgow. King, an accomplished scholar, was the companion of Lord Cardross. Sir Walter erred egregiously in putting such disgusting cant into the lips of such gentlemen, patriots and martyrs as these.

[2] Emphasis by Alan Lindsay Arnold Brownlee.

[3] Avondale. Ian Brownlee

[4] This fact I find stated also in the “Scots Worthies,” p.408, Edin. Edit. of 1818 – Coz.

[5] It was on this occasion that the Laird used these words – “Bauldy Allison! let your officer settle this trifle – I never take odds to combat a foe, be he even a life-guard.” – Coz.

[6] I find this fact recorded in Cruikshank’s History, vol 1 chapter 13. But the author does not mention the name of the Laird by whom Arrol fell. It was Thomas Brownlie - ALAB.

[7] See an instance recorded in the Scots Worthies, p.378, Edin. Edit. of AD 1818 (or 1812).

[8] See an instance in Cruikshank's History, vol. ii, ch. 7, p.137, edit. of 1818 (or 1812).

[9] The grandson of this person (John Howie) was the person whom the Great Unknown calls Old Mortality. I have been from infancy familiar with the history of this author of the epitaphs, this repairer of the tombs of the martyrs; but I never heard him called Old Mortality. Every body in the west of Scotland is familiar with the name of John Howie – Old Mortality is his name in romance.

[10] The natives of Hamilton have preserved, by tradition, the name of the merchant who did this disservice to the Covenanters’ army.

[11] This chivalrous defence is recorded, I find, in the life of Captain Paton, in the “Scots Worthies.” edit. of 1818. This celebrated officer was trained up to warfare in the army of Charles Gustavus, King of Sweden. This is a specimen of those heroic Whigs who brought about the Revolution in A.D. 1683.

Battle of Drumclog

Battle of Bothwell Bridge

From Drumclog to Shipwreck on the Orkneys