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9780375725470

Yearning for the Land A Search for Homeland in Scotland and America

Yearning for the Land A Search for Homeland in Scotland and America
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  • ISBN-13: 9780375725470
  • ISBN: 0375725474
  • Publication Date: 2003
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

AUTHOR

Simpson, John W.

SUMMARY

Chapter 1 Prelude "Once you have lived on the land, been a partner with its moods, secrets, and seasons, you cannot leave. The living land remembers, touching you in unguarded moments, saying, "I am here. You are part of me." Ben Logan, The Land Remembers [1] February is dreich-cold, damp, and blustery-in the Lammermuir Hills and the coastal lowlands of East Lothian, Scotland, lending the land a gray skeletal starkness during the scarce daylight hours. I'm chilled to the bone. The rawness pervades everything, inside and out. From my promontory on Doon Hill, the northeastern face of the Lammermuirs, the inland sweep of the coastal plain lays a mile off and 500 feet below me. Dunbar sits at the nexus. Oliver Cromwell, like all southern invaders of Scotland, knew the strategic importance of the place. The bleak, rolling moors atop the 1,400-foot-high shoulders of the Lammermuirs had blocked invading armies for centuries, forcing their advance up the coast to Dunbar, despite the Dunglass and Pease Deans that dissected the plain only miles away near the small village of Cockburnspath. There, a handful of soldiers could stymie an army trying to cross the deep, steep-faced rocky ravines. But the Scots were too busy arguing religion during the spring of 1650 to seize the advantage, allowing the English lord commander's New Model Army of 16,000 soldiers uncontested entry into the country's heartland. Preliminary skirmishes ensued from Edinburgh eastward into East Lothian as the Presbyterian Scots mobilized an army of 27,000 troops led by Lord Leslie and a committee of military officers and Covenant presbyters. By late summer, Cromwell's fighting force had dwindled to less than 12,000. Months in the field, bad food, dysentery and other diseases, and battle casualties had taken a heavy toll. In response, he withdrew to Dunbar to use the crude local harbors for resupply and reinforcement. He also hoped to draw the Scots out into the open for a climactic confrontation. Leslie repositioned his main force of perhaps 22,000 Scots on the high ground where I stand. Like today, conditions then were deplorable-howling wind driving recurrent rain. But the hill offered a commanding view of Dunbar and its surrounding fields. Only a fool would attack up its face. Leslie also blocked the invaders' retreat down the coast by controlling the narrow throat of the coastal plain at Cockburnspath. Cromwell was trapped and his decimated army evacuating to England, the Scots thought. The great confrontation and a great Scottish victory were at hand. On September 1, 1650, Cromwell occupied the Duke of Roxburghe's Broxmouth Estate just outside Dunbar, gazing up at the superior Scottish force and its apparent strategic advantage. He knew the Scots couldn't stay atop the hill for long: too exposed to the harsh weather, too hard to supply. Leslie knew it too. Perhaps that's why a fortification with three concentric rings of ramparts and palisades had been built about 2,500 years ago on the flat ground of Broxmouth, rather than atop the adjacent hill. The Scots had come to fight, not to sit by and await the next English move. Cromwell's field commanders thought the situation desperate and made plans for retreat. Even the lord commander dashed off an incoherent letter to his council of state warning of possible defeat. The next morning, Leslie's massive army descended the heights, abandoning their superior position in preparation for the battle, confident in their righteous cause and command of the situation. Unknowingly, the Scots repeated the same strategic error they made in 1296 during another disastrous Battle of Dunbar fought on the same ground against the same enemy. Cromwell studied their deliberate movements and careful placement all day. Discerning their strategy, he told his commanders, "The Lord hath delivered them into my hand." That night-"a drakieSimpson, John W. is the author of 'Yearning for the Land A Search for Homeland in Scotland and America', published 2003 under ISBN 9780375725470 and ISBN 0375725474.

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