Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Significant Scots
David Leslie

LESLIE, DAVID, a celebrated military commander during the civil wars, and the first lord Newark, was the fifth son of Patrick Leslie of Pitcairly, commendator of Lindores, by his wife, lady Jean Stuart, second daughter of Robert, first earl of Orkney. Of his early life little more is known than that, like many others of his countrymen, he went into the service of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, where he distinguished himself by his military talents, and attained to the rank of colonel of horse. Returning from the continent at, or shortly after, the commencement of the civil wars, he was appointed major-general to the army that was sent into England under the command of the earl of Leven, to the assistance of the parliament. This army, which marched for England in the month of January, 1644, after suffering greatly from the state of the roads and want of provisions, joined the parliamentary forces at Tadcaster, on the 20th of April, with whom they were united in the siege of York, which was raised on the night of Sunday, the 30th of June, by the advance of prince Rupert, with all the strength of the royal army. Determined to give him battle, the confederates took post on Marston Moor, on the south side of the Ouse, about five miles distant from the scene of their former operations. Here they hoped to have interrupted the march of the prince towards the city, which he was desirous of gaining; but permitting their attention to be engrossed by a party of horse which he dispatched for this purpose, to contest the passage of a river, he in the mean time succeeded in throwing the whole of his army into the town. His immediate object thus gained, he was advised by his colleague, the marquis of Newcastle, to rest satisfied till he should receive reinforcements, or till the dissensions which new appeared among the confederates should arise to such a height as to destroy the unanimity of their proceedings. Rupert, however, was not of a disposition to wait for remote contingencies, when he conceived the chances to be already in his favour; he therefore hastened to Marston moor, the position the enemy themselves had chosen, and came upon their rear when they were already on their march for Tadcaster, Cawwood, and Selby, by occupying which, they intended to cut off his supplies, and to hem him in till the arrival of additional forces should render his capture easy, and his escape impossible. The Scottish troops in advance of the army were already within a mile of Tadcaster, when about nine o’clock of the morning of the 22nd of July, 1644, the alarm was given that prince Rupert’s horse, to the number of five thousand, were pressing on the rear of the confederates, while the main body of his army occupied the moor which they had just left. The march was instantly countermanded, and preparations for an engagement made with the least possible delay. The prince, however, having full possession of the moor, they were compelled to draw up part of their troops in an adjoining field of rye, their right bearing upon the town of Marston, and their line extending about a mile and a half fronting the moor. By three o’clock in the afternoon, both armies, amounting to 25,000 men each, were formed in order of battle. The royal army was commanded on the right by prince Rupert in person; on the left by Sir Charles Lucas, assisted by colonel Harvey; while the centre was led by generals Goring, Porter, and Tilyard. The marquis of Newcastle was also in the action, but the place he occupied has not been ascertained. The parliamentary army was composed, on the right, of horse, partly Scottish, commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax; on the left, likewise horse, by the earl of Manchester, and Cromwell his lieutenant-general, assisted by major-general David Leslie, and in the centre by lord Fairfax and the earl of Leven. The battle commenced with a discharge of great guns, which did little execution on either side. A ditch, separating the combatants, rendered the assault a matter of difficulty and peculiar danger, and both stood for some minutes in breathless expectation waiting the signal for attack. On that signal being made, Manchester’s foot and the Scots of the main body in a running march cleared the ditch, and advanced boldly to the charge, accompanied by the horse, who also rushed forward to the attack. The fiery Rupert with his squadrons instantly advanced upon the no less fiery, but far more cautious Cromwell. The conflict was terrible; every individual being under the eye of his leader, exerted himself as if the fate of the day had been intrusted to his single arm. The troops of Cromwell, however, supported by David Leslie and the Scottish horse, charged through the very flower of the cavaliers, putting them completely to flight, while Manchester’s foot, keeping pace with them, cut down and dispersed the infantry. The marquis of Newcastle’s regiment alone disdained to fly, and their dead bodies, distinguished by their white uniforms, covered the ground they had occupied when alive. On the other extremity of the line Sir Thomas Fairfax and colonel Lambert, with a few troops of horse, charged through the royal army, and met their own victorious left wing. The remainder, however, were completely defeated, and even Fairfax’s victorious brigade was thrown into confusion by some new raised regiments wheeling back upon it, and treading down in their flight the Scottish reserve under the earl of Leven, who, driven from the field, fled to Tadcaster, carrying with them the news of a total defeat. Cromwell, Leslie, and Manchester, perceiving the rout of their friends, returned to the field as the victors were about to seize upon the spoil. The fate of the day was now reversed. The royal troops occupied the field of rye, and the parliamentary forces the moor. Each, however, determined, if possible, to preserve the advantage they had gained, and both once more joined battle. The struggle now, however, though bloody, was short and decisive. The shattered remains of the royal army sought shelter in York, leaving all their baggage, artillery, military stores, and above a hundred stand of colours in the hands of the conquerors. Upwards of three thousand men were left dead on the field; and upwards of fifteen hundred prisoners—more than a hundred of whom were principal officers—fell into the hands of the conquerors. This victory was the death-blow to the affairs of the king, and greatly added to the reputation of Cromwell and Leslie, between whom the whole merit of the affair was divided; the independents claiming the largest share for Cromwell, and the presbyterians for Leslie. The combined army immediately laid siege to York, which surrendered by capitulation in a few days. The confederates, after the capture of York, separated; the Scottish troops marching northward to meet the earl of Callander, whom they joined before Newcastle in the month of August.

General Baillie, in the mean time, had been recalled from England to command the raw levies that were raised for the defence of the country; but he was accompanied in his progress by a committee of the estates, who controlled all his movements; and contrary to the opinion of the general himself, commanded him to leave a strong position and expose himself with an army of inexperienced soldiers to certain destruction on the fatal field of Kilsyth, August 15th, 1645. The issue of this battle left the kingdom entirely in the power of Montrose and his army. In this emergency, David Leslie, with the whole of the cavalry attached to the Scottish army, then lying before Hereford, was recalled. Arriving at Berwick, whither the Estates had fled from the plague, which was then raging in Edinburgh, Leslie took measures for cutting off the retreat of Montrose to the north, amongst whose mountains he had formerly found refuse. For this purpose he proceeded as far as Gladsmuir, about three miles to the west of Haddington, where he learned that Montrose was lying secure in Ettrick forest, near Selkirk. Leslie was no sooner apprized of this, than he wheeled to the left, and marched southward by the vale of Gala. The darkness of the night concealed his motions, and the first notice Montrose had of his approach was by his scouts informing him that Leslie was within half a mile of him. A sanguinary encounter soon followed; but Montrose’s troops, though they fought with a desperation peculiar to their character, were completely broken and driven from the field, leaving one thousand dead bodies behind them. Their leader, however, had the good fortune to escape, as did also the marquis of Douglas, with the lords Crawford, Sir Robert Spotiswood, A. Leslie, William Rollock, Erskine, Fleming, and Napier. The lords Hartfield, Drummond, and Ogilvy, Philip Nisbet, William Murray, brother to lord Tullibardine, Ogilvy of Innerquharity, Nathaniel Gordon, Andrew Guthrie, son to the bishop of Moray, and two Irish colonels, O’Kean and Lauchlin, were made prisoners, and reserved for trial in the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling. Upwards of a hundred Irish soldiers taken, were, in conformity to a decree of the legislatures of both kingdoms, shot upon the field.

Leslie now proceeded with his victorious army to Lothian, and from thence, accompanied by the committee of Estates, to Glasgow, where, in conjunction with the committee of the church, they deliberated on the measures necessary for completing the reduction of Montrose, and securing the internal peace of the kingdom. Some of the prisoners taken at Philiphaugh were here tried and executed, and as a mark of gratitude, the committee, out of a fine they imposed on the marquis of Douglas, voted to Leslie fifty thousand merks, with a gold chain, and to Middleton, who was second in command, thirty thousand. Montrose, restless and intriguing, in the mean time wandered from place to place, endeavouring to raise a new army. Leslie now returned to his station in the Scottish army, under the earl of Leven, whom he joined in the siege of Newark upon Trent.. It was here that Charles, baffled in all his projects, came into the Scottish camp a flying fugitive, on the 5th day of May, 1646. He was received with great respect, the commander-in-chief, the earl of Leven, presenting him with his sword upon his knee. On the return of the Scottish army it was reduced to about six thousand men, of whom Leslie was declared lieutenant- general, with a pension of one thousand pounds a month over and above his pay as colonel of the Perthshire horse. With this force Leslie proceeded to the north, where the Gordons still kept up a party for the king. These men, who had been so formidable to Argyle, Hurry, and Baillie, with the parliamentary commissioners, scarcely made the shadow of resistance to Leslie. He seized upon all their principal strengths, and sent their leaders prisoners to Edinburgh. The lives of the inhabitants, according to his instructions, he uniformly spared; but upon the Irish auxiliaries he as uniformly did military execution. Having gone over the northern districts, and secured every castle belonging to the disaffected, he left Middleton to garrison the country, and with instructions to seize upon the person of Huntly, who had taken refuge among the hills. The arrangements made, he passed into the peninsula of Kintyre, to look after Montrose’s colleague, Alaster M’Coll. This chieftain, after making some resistance, took to his boats with his followers, and sought safety among the western isles, leaving his castle of Dunavertie to the care of a body of Irish and Highlanders, to the number of three hundred men. As this force, however, was wholly inadequate to the defence of the fort, it was taken, and the garrison put to the sword. Alaster himself was pursued by Leslie, with eighty soldiers, to his castle in Isla. He had, however, fled to Ireland, leaving two hundred men under the command of Colkittoch, his father, to defend his castle of Dunevey. This stronghold Leslie also reduced, the garrison having surrendered, on condition of having their lives spared, but to be sent to serve under Henry Sinclair, a lieutenant-colonel in the French service. Colkittoch being given to the Campbells, was hanged. Having gone over the other islands with the same success, Leslie returned to the low country in the month of September, where he was honoured with the approbation of his party for the fidelity, diligence, and success with which he had executed his commission. The king, in the mean time, had been delivered up to the English parliament, and passed through that series of adventures which ended in his taking refuge in the isle of Wight. When the duke of Hamilton in 1648, raised an army of moderate Scottish covenanters, to attempt the rescue of his royal master, Leslie was offered the command; but, the church being averse to the undertaking, he declined accepting it. After the duke had marched on his unfortunate expedition, the remaining strength of the country was modelled into a new army under the less moderate covenanters, and of this the earl of Leven was appointed commander, and David Leslie major-general, as formerly. Immediately after the death of Charles I, when the cavaliers rose in the north for his son, in what was called "Pluscardine’s Raid," Leslie sent a party against them in the month of May, 1649, under the command of Charles Ker, Hacket, and Strahan, by whom they were totally dispersed. On the resignation of the earl of Leven, Leslie was appointed to the chief command of the army raised on behalf of Charles II., after he had accepted the covenant, and been admitted to the government.. In this situation he showed himself an able general, repeatedly baffling by his skill the superior forces of Cromwell, whom he at last shut up at Dunbar; and but for the folly of the church and state committee, which had been the plague of the army during all the previous troubles, had undoubtedly cut off his whole army. Yielding to the importunities of this committee, he rashly descended from his commanding position, and was signally defeated on the 3rd of September, 1650. Upwards of three thousand men were left dead on the field, ten thousand were taken prisoners, two hundred colours, fifteen thousand stand of arms, with all the baggage and artillery, fell into the hands of the English. Leslie, with the wreck of his army, retired upon Stirling, and again made such dispositions for defending that important line of defence as Cromwell found himself unable to force. Here he was joined by Charles, who himself assumed the command of the army, having the duke of Hamilton and Leslie for his lieutenants. In this capacity Leslie accompanied the king to Worcester, where, on the 3rd of September, 1651, Cromwell completely routed the royal army. Leslie was intercepted in his retreat through Yorkshire, and committed to the tower of London, where he remained till the Restoration in the year 1660. By Cromwell’s act of grace he was fined in four thousand pounds in the year 1654. After the Restoration he was created, in consideration of his services and sufferings in the royal cause, lord Newark, by patent dated the 31st of August, 1661, to him and the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten, with a pension of five hundred pounds per annum. His lordship, however, does not seem to have been without enemies, as the following letter from the king, assuring him of his unabated confidence, sufficiently implies:—"Although we have on all occasions, both abroad and since our happy return, declared ourself fully satisfied with your conduct and loyalty in our service, and although in consideration of the same, we have given you the title and honour of a lord; yet, seeing we are told, that malice and slander do not give over to persecute you, we have thought fit to give you this further testimony, and to declare under our hand, that while you was the lieutenant-general of our army, you did, both in England and Scotland, behave yourself with as much conduct, resolution, and honesty as was possible or could be expected from a person in that trust: and as we told you, so we again repeat it, that if we had occasion to levy an army fit for ourself to command, we would not fail to give you an employment in it fit for your quality." His lordship died in the year 1682. He married Jean, daughter of Sir John York, by whom he had a son, David, who succeeded him as lord Newark, and three daughters; the eldest of whom, Elizabeth, was married to Archibald Kennedy of Cullean, and was mother to Susanna, the celebrated countess of Eglintoune.

Return to our Significant Scots page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus