Battle of Dunbar II
Battle of Dunbar II
3rd September 1650
Name: Battle of Dunbar II
Date: 3 September 1650
War period: Civil War
Start time and Duration: early morning
Outcome: English parliamentarian victory
Armies and losses: English: 7500 foot, 3500 horse; Scottish: 16000 foot, 6000 horse. Losses: Scottish: 10,000 captured, 3,000 killed; English: 30 killed
Location: The land between Doon Hill and the Spott Burn south of Dunbar is the main area of the battlefield
Map details: Grid reference NT687761 (368751, 676168); OS Explorer Map 351; OS Landranger map 67
A daring early morning attack by an outnumbered but veteran New Model Army force destroyed a Scottish army by trapping it between a stream and a hill.
Following Parliamentary victory in the first and the second Civil Wars, Charles I had been executed in January 1649 and a Commonwealth declared in England. In June 1650 his son landed in Scotland, where he was proclaimed King Charles II. In July the English Parliament, expecting Charles to initiate a Scottish led campaign for the English crown, launched a pre-emptive invasion of Scotland.
A largely veteran force of 10,000 foot & 5000 horse from the New Model Army was sent north under the command of Oliver Cromwell. Scottish forces numbering some 25,000 were raised in response, under the highly experienced David Leslie, though the army was weakened by the exclusion of non-Presbyterians. Leslie fought a defensive campaign about Edinburgh, denying Cromwell the opportunity to fight a pitched battle. The New Model Army was supplied by sea via the port of Dunbar. Having failed to bring Leslie to battle they were forced by the weather, sickness and supply problems, to retire to Dunbar, first in early August and then again in late August. Leslie, outnumbering the New Model 2:1, saw his opportunity and marched around Dunbar to cut Cromwell’s road connection to border fortress of Berwick. Cromwell now finally had Leslie offering battle, but his New Model Army was at a severe disadvantage. Despite this, rather than evacuate by sea, Cromwell met the challenge, achieving what was arguably the most dramatic victory of the Civil Wars.
A REPORT ON THE BATTLE, PREPARED FOR HISTORIC SCOTLAND BY THE BATTLEFIELDS TRUST, IS AVAILABLE FROM THE DOWNLOAD AREA ON THE LEFT