This ballad is so immediately connected with the former, that the editor
is enabled to continue his sketch of historical transactions, from the
march of Lesly.
In the insurrection of 1680, all Scotland, south from the Grampians, was
actively and zealously engaged. But, after the treaty of Rippon, the
first fury of the revolutionary torrent may be said to have foamed off
its force, and many of the nobility began to look round, with horror,
upon the rocks and shelves amongst which it had hurried them. Numbers
regarded the defence of Scotland as a just and necessary warfare, who
did not see the same reason for interfering in the affairs of England.
The visit of King Charles to the metropolis of his fathers, in all
probability, produced its effect on his nobles. Some were allied to
the house of Stuart by blood; all regarded it as the source of their
honours, and venerated the ancient in obtaining the private objects of
ambition, or selfish policy which had induced them to rise up against
the crown. Amongst these late penitents, the well known marquis of
Montrose was distinguished, as the first who endeavoured to recede from
the paths of rude rebellion. Moved by the enthusiasm of patriotism, or
perhaps of religion, but yet more by ambition, the sin of noble
minds, Montrose had engaged, eagerly and deeply, upon the side of the
covenanters He had been active in pressing the town of Aberdeen to take
the covenant, and his success against the Gordons, at the bridge of Dee,
left that royal burgh no other means of safety from pillage. At the head
of his own battalion, he waded through the Tweed, in 1640, and totally
routed the vanguard of the king's cavalry. But, in 1643, moved with
resentment against the covenanters who preferred, to his prompt and
ardent character, the caution of the wily and politic earl of Argyle, or
seeing, perhaps, that the final views of that party were inconsistent
with the interests of monarchy, and of the constitution, Montrose
espoused the falling cause of royalty and raised the Highland clans,
whom he united to a small body of Irish, commanded by Alexander
Macdonald, still renowned in the north, under the title of Colkitto.
With these tumultuary and uncertain forces, he rushed forth, like a
torrent from the mountains, and commenced a rapid and brilliant career
of victory. At Tippermoor, where he first met the covenanters, their
defeat was so effectual, as to appal the presbyterian courage, even
after the lapse of eighty years. [A] A second army was defeated under the
walls of Aberdeen; and the pillage of the ill-fated town was doomed to
expiate the principles, which Montrose himself had formerly imposed upon
them. Argyleshire next experienced his arms; the domains of his rival
were treated with more than military severity; and Argyle himself,
advancing to Inverlochy for the defence of his country, was totally
and disgracefully routed by Montrose. Pressed betwixt two armies,
well appointed, and commanded by the most experienced generals of the
Covenant, Mozitrose displayed more military skill in the astonishingly
rapid marches, by which he avoided fighting to disadvantage, than even
in the field of victory. By one of those hurried marches, from the banks
of Loch Katrine to the heart of Inverness-shire, he was enabled to
attack, and totally to defeat, the Covenanters, at Aulderne though he
brought into the field hardly one half of their forces. Baillie, a
veteran officer, was next routed by him, at the village of Alford,
in Strathbogie. Encouraged by these repeated and splendid successes,
Montrose now descended into the heart of Scotland, and fought a bloody
and decisive battle, near Kilsyth, where four thousand covenanters fell
under the Highland claymore.
This victory opened the whole of Scotland to Montrose He occupied the
capital, and marched forward to the border; not merely to complete the
subjection of the southern provinces, but with the flattering hope of
pouring his victorious army into England, and bringing to the support of
Charles the sword of his paternal tribes.
Upon the breaking out of the insurrection, in the year
1715, the earl of Rothes, sheriff and lord-lieutenant of the county of
Fife, issued out an order for "all the fencible men of the countie to
meet him, at a place called Cashmoor. The gentlemen took no notice of
his orders, nor did the commons, except those whom the ministers forced
to goe to the place of rendezvouse, to the number of fifteen hundred
men, being all that their utmost diligence could perform. But those of
that countie, having been taught by their experience, that it is not
good meddling with edge tools, especiallie in the hands of Highlandmen,
were very averse from taking armes. No sooner they reflected on the name
of the place of rendezvouse, Cashmoor, than Tippermoor was called to
mind; a place not far from thence, where Montrose had routed them, when
under the command of my great-grand-uncle the earl of Wemyss, then
generall of God's armie. In a word, the unlucky choice of a place,
called Moo, appeared ominous; and that, with the flying report of the
Highlandmen having made themselves masters of Perth, made them throw
down their armes, and run, notwithstanding the trouble that Rothes and
the ministers gave themselves to stop them."—M.S. Memoirs of Lord St
Half a century before Montrose's career, the state of the borders was
such as might have enabled him easily to have accomplished his daring
plan. The marquis of Douglas, the earls of Hume, Roxburgh, Traquair, and
Annandale, were all descended of mighty border chiefs, whose ancestors
could, each of them, have led into the field a body of their own
vassals, equal in numbers, and superior in discipline, to the army of
Montrose. But the military spirit of the borderers, and their attachment
to their chiefs, had been much broken since the union of the crowns. The
disarming acts of James had been carried rigorously into execution, and
the smaller proprietors, no longer feeling the necessity of protection
from their chiefs in war, had aspired to independence, and embraced
the tenets of the covenant. Without imputing, with Wishart, absolute
treachery to the border nobles, it may be allowed, that they looked with
envy upon Montrose, and with dread and aversion upon his rapacious and
disorderly forces. Hence, had it been in their power, it might not have
altogether suited their inclinations, to have brought the strength
of the border lances to the support of the northern clans. The once
formidable name of Douglas still sufficed to raise some bands, by
whom Montrose was joined, in his march down the Gala. With these
reinforcements, and with the remnant of his Highlanders (for a great
number had returned home with Colkitto, to deposit their plunder, and
provide for their families), Montrose after traversing the border,
finally encamped upon the field of Philiphaugh.
The river Ettrick, immediately after its junction with the Yarrow, and
previous to its falling into the Tweed, makes a large sweep to the
southward, and winds almost beneath the lofty bank, on which the town
of Selkirk stands; leaving, upon the northern side, a large and level
plain, extending in an easterly direction, from a hill, covered with
natural copse-wood, called the Harehead-wood, to the high ground which
forms the banks of the Tweed, near Sunderland-hall. This plain is called
Philliphaugh: [A] it is about a mile and a half in length, and a quarter
of a mile broad; and, being defended, to the northward, by the high
hills which separate Tweed from Yarrow, by the river in front, and by
the high grounds, already mentioned on each flank, it forms, at once,
a convenient and a secure field of encampment. On each flank Montrose
threw up some trenches, which are still visible; and here he posted his
infantry, amounting to about twelve or fifteen hundred men. He himself
took up his quarters in the burgh of Selkirk, and, with him, the
cavalry, in number hardly one thousand, but respectable, as being
chiefly composed of gentlemen, and their immediate retainers. In this
manner, by a fatal and unaccountable error, the river Ettrick was thrown
betwixt the cavalry and infantry, which were to depend upon each other
for intelligence and mutual support. But this might be overlooked by
Montrose, in the conviction, that there was no armed enemy of Charles
in the realm of Scotland; for he is said to have employed the night in
writing and dispatching this agreeable intelligence to the king. Such an
enemy was already within four miles of his camp.
Recalled by the danger of the cause of the Covenant, General David Lesly
came down from England, at the head of those iron squadrons, whose force
had been proved in the fatal battle of Long Marston Moor. His array
consisted of from five to six thousand men, chiefly cavalry. Lesly's
first plan seems to have been, to occupy the mid-land counties, so as to
intercept the return of Montrose's Highlanders, and to force him to an
unequal combat Accordingly, he marched along the eastern coast, from
Berwick to Tranent; but there he suddenly altered his direction, and,
crossing through Mid-Lothian, turned again to the southward, and,
following the course of Gala water, arrived at Melrose, the evening
before the engagement How it is possible that Montrose should have
received no notice whatever of the march of so considerable an army,
seems almost inconceivable, and proves, that the country was strongly
disaffected to his cause, or person. Still more extraordinary does it
appear, that, even with the advantage of a thick mist, Lesly should
have, the next morning, advanced towards Montrose's encampment without
being descried by a single scout. Such, however, was the case, and it
was attended with all the consequences of the most complete surprisal.
The first intimation that Montrose received of the march of Lesly,
was the noise of the conflict, or, rather, that which attended the
unresisted slaughter of his infantry, who never formed a line of battle:
the right wing alone, supported by the thickets of Harehead-wood, and
by the entrenchments which are there still visible, stood firm for some
time. But Lesly had detached two thousand men, who, crossing the Ettrick
still higher up than his main body, assaulted the rear of Montrose's
right wing. At this moment, the marquis himself arrived, and beheld
his army dispersed, for the first time, in irretrievable route. He
had thrown himself upon a horse the instant he heard the firing, and,
followed by such of his disorderly cavalry as had gathered upon the
alarm, he galloped from Selkirk, crossed the Ettrick, and made a bold
and desperate attempt to retrieve the fortune of the day. But all was
in vain; and, after cutting his way, almost singly, through a body of
Lesly's troopers, the gallant Montrose graced by his example the
retreat of the fugitives. That retreat he continued up Yarrow, and over
Minch-moor; nor did he stop till he arrived at Traquair, sixteen miles
from the field of battle. Upon Philiphaugh he lost, in one defeat, the
fruit of six splendid victories: nor was he again able effectually to
make head, in Scotland, against the covenanted cause. The number slain
in the field did not exceed three or four hundred; for the fugitives
found refuge in the mountains, which had often been the retreat of
vanquished armies, and were impervious to the pursuer's cavalry. Lesly
abused his victory, and dishonoured his arms, by slaughtering, in cold
blood, many of the prisoners whom he had taken; and the court-yard of
Newark castle is said to have been the spot, upon which they were
shot by his command. Many others are said, by Wishart, to have been
precipitated from a high bridge over the Tweed. This, as Mr Laing
remarks, is impossible; because there was not a bridge over the Tweed
betwixt Peebles and Berwick. But there is an old bridge, over the
Ettrick, only four miles from Philiphaugh, and another over the Yarrow,
both of which lay in the very line of flight and pursuit; and either
might have been the scene of the massacre. But if this is doubtful,
it is too certain, that several of the royalists were executed by the
Covenanters, as traitors to the king and parliament. [A]
The Scottish language is rich in words, expressive of local
situation The single word haugh, conveys, to a Scotsman, almost all
that I have endeavoured to explain in the text, by circumlocutory
I have reviewed, at some length, the details of this memorable
engagement, which, at the same time, terminated the career of a hero,
likened, by no mean judge of mankind [A] to those of antiquity, and
decided the fate of his country. It is further remarkable, as the last
field which was fought in Ettrick forest, the scene of so many bloody
actions. The unaccountable neglect of patroles, and the imprudent
separation betwixt the horse and foot, seem to have been the immediate
causes of Montrose's defeat. But the ardent and impetuous character
of this great warrior, corresponding with that of the troops which he
commanded was better calculated for attack than defence; for surprising
others, rather than for providing against surprise himself. Thus, he
suffered loss by a sudden attack upon part of his forces, stationed at
Aberdeen; [B] and, had he not extricated himself with the most singular
ability, he must have lost his whole army, when surprised by Baillie,
during the plunder of Dundee. Nor has it escaped an ingenious modern
historian, that his final defeat at Dunbeath, so nearly resembles in its
circumstances the surprise at Philiphaugh, as to throw some shade on his
military talents.—LAING'S History.
A covenanted minister, present at the execution of these
gentlemen observed, "This wark gaes bonnilie on!" an amiable
exclamation equivalent to the modern ça ira, so often used on similar
occasions.—Wishart's Memoirs of Montrose.
The following ballad, which is preserved by tradition in Selkirkshire,
coincides accurately with historical fact. This, indeed, constitutes its
sole merit. The Covenanters were not, I dare say, addicted, more
than their successors "to the profane and unprofitable art of
poem-making." [A] Still, however, they could not refrain from some
strains of exultation, over the defeat of the truculent tyrant, James
Grahame. For, gentle reader, Montrose, who, with resources which seemed
as none, gained six victories, and reconquered a kingdom; who, a poet, a
scholar, a cavalier, and a general, could have graced alike a court,
and governed a camp; this Montrose was numbered, by his covenanted
countrymen, among "the troublers of Israel, the fire-brands of hell, the
Corahs, the Balaams, the Doegs, the Rabshakahs, the Hamans, the Tobiahs,
and Sanballats of the time."
Cardinal du Retz.
Colonel Hurry, with a party of horse, surprised the town,
while Montrose's Highlanders and cavaliers were "dispersed through the
town, drinking carelessly in their lodgings; and, hearing the horse's
feet, and great noise, were astonished, never dreaming of their enemy.
However, Donald Farquharson happened to come to the causey, where he was
cruelly slain, anent the Court de Guard; a brave gentleman, and one of
the noblest captains amongst all the Highlanders of Scotland. Two or
three others were killed, and some (taken prisoners) had to Edinburgh,
and cast into irons in the tolbooth. Great lamentation was made for this
gallant, being still the king's man for life and death."—SPALDING
Vol. II. p. 281. The journalist, to whom all matters were of equal
importance, proceeds to inform us, that Hurry took the marquis of
Huntly's best horse, and, in his retreat through Montrose seized upon
the marquis's second son. He also expresses his regret, that "the said
Donald Farquharson's body was found in the street, stripped naked: for
they tirr'd from off his body a rich stand of apparel, but put on the
So little was the spirit of illiberal fanaticism decayed
in some parts of Scotland, that only thirty years ago, when Wilson,
the ingenious author of a poem, called "Clyde," now republished, was
inducted into the office of schoolmaster at Greenock, he was obliged
formally, and in writing, to abjure "the profane and unprofitable art
of poem-making." It is proper to add, that such an incident is now as
unlikely to happen in Greenock as in London.
THE BATTLE OF PHILIPHAUGH.
On Philiphaugh a fray began,
At Hairhead wood it ended;
The Scots out o'er the Graemes they ran,
Sae merrily they bended.
Sir David frae the border came,
Wi' heart an' hand came he;
Wi' him three thousand bonny Scotts,
To bear him company.
Wi' him three thousand valiant men,
A noble sight to see!
A cloud o' mist them weel concealed,
As close as e'er might be.
When they came to the Shaw burn,
Said he, "Sae weel we frame,
"I think it is convenient,
"That we should sing a psalm."[A]
When they came to the Lingly burn,
As day-light did appear,
They spy'd an aged father,
And he did draw them near.
"Come hither, aged father!"
Sir David he did cry,
"And tell me where Montrose lies,
"With all his great army."
"But, first, you must come tell to me,
"If friends or foes you be;
"I fear you are Montrose's men,
"Come frae the north country."
"No, we are nane o' Montrose's men,
"Nor e'er intend to be;
"I am sir David Lesly,
"That's speaking unto thee."
"If you're sir David Lesly,
"As I think weel ye be,
"I'm sorry ye hae brought so few
"Into your company.
"There's fifteen thousand armed men,
"Encamped on yon lee;
"Ye'll never be a bite to them,
"For aught that I can see.
"But, halve your men in equal parts,
"Your purpose to fulfil;
"Let ae half keep the water side,
"The rest gae round the hill.
"Your nether party fire must,
"Then beat a flying drum;
"And then they'll think the day's their ain,
"And frae the trench they'll come.
"Then, those that are behind them maun
"Gie shot, baith grit and sma';
"And so, between your armies twa,
"Ye may make them to fa'."
"O were ye ever a soldier?"
Sir David Lesly said;
"O yes; I was at Solway flow,
"Where we were all betray'd.
"Again I was at curst Dunbar,
"And was a pris'ner ta'en;
"And many weary night and day,
"In prison I hae lien."
"If ye will lead these men aright,
"Rewarded shall ye be;
"But, if that ye a traitor prove,
"I'll hang thee on a tree."
"Sir, I will not a traitor prove;
"Montrose has plundered me;
"I'll do my best to banish him
"Away frae this country."
He halv'd his men in equal parts,
His purpose to fulfill;
The one part kept the water side,
The other gaed round the hill.
The nether party fired brisk,
Then turn'd and seem'd to rin;
And then they a' came frae the trench,
And cry'd, "the day's our ain!"
The rest then ran into the trench,
And loos'd their cannons a':
And thus, between his armies twa,
He made them fast to fa'.
Now, let us a' for Lesly pray,
And his brave company!
For they hae vanquish'd great Montrose,
Our cruel enemy.
Various reading; "That we should take a dram."
NOTES ON THE BATTLE OF PHILIPHAUGH.
When they came to the Shaw burn.—P. 27. v. 1. A small stream, that
joins the Ettrick, near Selkirk, on the south side of the river.
When they came to the Lingly burn.—P. 27. v. 2. A brook, which falls
into the Ettrick, from the north, a little above the Shaw burn.
They spy'd an aged father.—P. 27. v. 2. The traditional commentary
upon the ballad states this man's name to have been Brydone, ancestor to
several families in the parish of Ettrick, particularly those occupying
the farms of Midgehope and Redford Green. It is a strange anachronism,
to make this aged father state himself at the battle of Solway flow,
which was fought a hundred years before Philiphaugh; and a still
stranger, to mention that of Dunbar, which did not take place till five
years after Montrose's defeat.
A tradition, annexed to a copy of this ballad, transmitted to me by Mr
James Hogg, bears, that the earl of Traquair, on the day of the battle,
was advancing with a large sum of money, for the payment of Montrose's
forces, attended by a blacksmith, one of his retainers. As they crossed
Minch-moor, they were alarmed by firing, which the earl conceived to
be Montrose exercising his forces, but which his attendant, from the
constancy and irregularity of the noise, affirmed to be the tumult of an
engagement. As they came below Broadmeadows, upon Yarrow, they met their
fugitive friends, hotly pursued by the parliamentary troopers. The earl,
of course, turned, and fled also: but his horse, jaded with the weight
of dollars which he carried, refused to take the hill; so that the earl
was fain to exchange with his attendant, leaving him with the breathless
horse, and bag of silver, to shift for himself; which he is supposed
to have done very effectually. Some of the dragoons, attracted by the
appearance of the horse and trappings, gave chase to the smith, who
fled up the Yarrow; but finding himself as he said, encumbered with the
treasure, and unwilling that it should be taken, he flung it into a
well, or pond, near the Tinnies, above Hangingshaw. Many wells were
afterwards searched in vain; but it is the general belief, that the
smith, if he ever hid the money, knew too well how to anticipate the
scrutiny. There is, however, a pond, which some peasants began to drain,
not long ago, in hopes of finding the golden prize, but were prevented,
as they pretended, by supernatural interference.