Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Battle of Bothwell Bridge

Today, June 22, 1679, the Duke of Monmouth defeated the Covenanters at the Battle of Bothwell Brig (or Bridge), ending the Covenanter Rebellion (or Rising) of 1679.

The Covenanters took their name from a document, the National Covenant, which one of them had written in 1638. Those who signed it were called Covenanters.

They were strongly against the Anglican Church, and met in fields rather than churches. In the English Civil War (1642-51) they had been a mighty force in Scotland. The King forbade field meetings a.k.a conventicles, and had soldiers policing Scotland. One troop of the King's cavalry was under a young captain named John Graham of Claverhouse.

Right: A portrait of John Graham of Claverhouse

On June 1, Claverhouse and cavalry came upon a strong conventicle prepared for battle. The Covenanters outnumbered the King's soldiers, and after a short battle, sent him back to Glasgow. Thus began the Covenanter Rebellion (or Rising) of 1679. Claverhouse stayed at Glasgow until reinforcements under James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth, arrived. But the Covenanters were gathering strength too. At Bothwell Bridge, the Covenanters had 6,000 men, while Monmouth had:

  • 3 Independent Troops of Horse under Claverhouse, the Earl of Home, and the Earl of Airlie

  • The Life Guards under young Montrose (not the same as the Marquis of Montrose in the English Civil War)

  • A troop of English Horse under Major Edmund Maine

  • The King's Regiment of Foot under Colonel the Earl of Linlithgow

  • Lord Mar's Regiment (of Foot) under Colonel the Earl of Mar

  • The Scots Dragoons (three troops) under Captain Stuart, Captain Inglis, and Captain Strachan

  • English Dragoons (two troops) under Major Oglethorpe, and Captain Cornewall

  • And two or three more English troops of Dragoons

James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth

Note: a troop was 60 men commanded by a captain

Bothwell Bridge order of battle taken from page 62 of Grahame of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee by Michael Barrington.

Monmouth and his army would have to cross a bridge to reach the Covenanter camp, so if the Covenanters could defend the bridge stoutly, the Royal Army might not be able to pass. But most of the Covenanters were arguing (either about theology or commanders) rather than preparing to fight. Still, the bridge was barricaded with stones and some Covenanters were there to defend it. Linlithgow and his men were able to cross the bridge and defeat the divided Covenanters.

Replica of a banner carried at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge by the Covenanters (from page 288 Mark Napier's Memorials and Letters Illustrative of the Life of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee)

This was not only the last action of the Covenanters in their short-lived 1679 Rising (or Rebellion), but also the last time the Covenanters would gather a strong force against the King.


  1. "the Solemn League and Covenant, which one of them had written in 1638." comment: Actually, the National Covenant was signed in 1638, the Solemn League and Covenant was signed in 1643.
    Covenanters were those who signed the Covenant

  2. Thank you very much for your comment and attention to historical detail (and willingness to point it out)! I did mix up the 1638 National Covenant with the 1643 Solemn League and Covenant. I have amended the article.
    Thanks again,

  3. You write that the Covenanters were "strongly against the Anglican Church", but there was no "Anglican Church" in Scotland. The Anglican Church, strictly speaking, was in er... England. The Covenanters reacted against episcopacy in the Church of Scotland - that is, the rule of bishops reimposed by Charles II after the 1660 Restoration.

    1. Very true. I used "Anglican" to describe the entire Episcopal church at the time. Thank you for noting this.

      Non Nobis Domini,