The Civil Wars: A Military History of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1638-1660

By John Kenyon; Jane Ohlmeyer et al. | Go to book overview
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2
THE CIVIL WARS IN SCOTLAND

EDWARD FURGOL

The covenanters quickly mastered the elements of the Military Revolution and created a successful war machine. However, internal conflicts and political divisions, combined with external interference from a capable foreign foe, ensured that none of their efforts lasted beyond 1651. Indeed not until the revival of the Presbyterians after 1688 would Scotland again possess significant military prowess, and even then only as an ally of England. Thus in many respects the story of the covenanters' activities in warfare seems an anomaly in the country's military history, albeit a vital one for the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Given that the last Scottish war had ended over sixty years previously, how prepared for conflict were the covenanters in 1638? The inadequate state of Scotland's fortifications is discussed below in Chapter 6. Her populace was equally unprepared for war (see Chapter 1). After the Union of the Crowns, the traditional enemy became a friendly neighbour, thus diminishing the requirement of constant training for imminent warfare. Between 1603 and 1638 the Privy Council authorized few musters, and while Edinburgh held annual musters after 1607 (and some other burghs may have followed suit), the majority of men had little or no military experience. Yet, while the covenanters did not have a large body of disciplined forces at hand, some Scots had seen active service at home -- in the western Islands and Highlands, in the northern Isles, and the central and northeastern Highlands -- during the early decades of the seventeenth century. However, these campaigns occurred sporadically and involved relatively few Lowlanders. Only the clans possessed reserves of trained manpower, since military education remained an essential part of a Highland man's upbringing. Consequently, the importance of the decision taken by the 8th earl of Argyll, chief of the Campbells, to join the covenanters can be appreciated in military terms for, in addition to his own vast following, he brought with him a formidable array of allies, who included the MacAulays, Lamonts, Malcolms, MacDougalls, Macleans, and Camerons. Nevertheless, these Gaelic-speaking covenanters could have done little to impart their military knowledge (which may have been

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