Robert Junkins at Dunbar

By Alan D. Junkins; published in JFA newsletter no. 6, Summer 1992


In 1625, at the age of 25, Charles I became King of all of Great Britain. During the next four years, he called four Parliaments into session but dissolved each because the members would not submit to his demands. Charles believed strongly in the "divine right of kings." For the next 11 years, Charles ruled without a Parliament. In 1639, he tried to force Scotland to use the English forms of worship but the Scots rebelled and Charles had to call a new Parliament to raise the money he needed to fight the rebels.

In 1642, when the new Parliament would not support Charles' demands. he tried to seize five of the Parliamentary leaders. Although the nobility, gentry and clergy supported Charles, the Puritan and the merchant class supported Parliament and civil war soon broke out. Charles I fled to the Netherlands.

The Scottish Parliament proclaimed Charles as their King but proclamation was on the condition that he subscribe to their Covenant and accept Parliamentary direction in civil affairs and to the Presbyterian Assembly in ecclesiastical matters. Charles returned to Scotland and complied with this for a period of time but eventually the Scottish leaders sent Charles back to the English Parliament and he was convicted of treason and beheaded.

Very early in the summer of 1650, it became clear to the English Parliament that the rebellious Scots intended to invade England. Parliament decided that it would be better to fight on Scottish soil rather than at home, and on June 26th appointed Oliver Cromwell, Captain-General and Commander-in-Chief of the English army, with orders to invade Scotland and put down the rebellion.

Cromwell's army, often called "Ironsides," consisted of 10,500 foot soldiers under Major-General Lambert and 5,500 horse under Lieutenant-General Fleetwood. Most of Lambert's foot soldiers were equipped with new flintlock rifles, which played an important role in the ensuing battles.

A Scottish army of 27,000 foot and 5,000 horse had been called up during the past six weeks and was commanded by David Leslie.. There was good material among the officers at Leslie's command but he could not make use of all his assets. An intolerant church was in power and was suspicious of the fighters and might exclude all who did not sign the Covenant. This also excluded a lot of the best fighting material in all of Scotland, the Highland clans. Leslie took up a defensive position at Musselburgh in front of Edinburgh, the capitol. The land between Edinburgh and the English border was burned with all the crops destroyed and all stock moved north. This meant that the English army would have to be provisioned by sea somewhere between Berwick and Leith. An Advance base was established at Dunbar.

The Battle of Dunbar

On Monday, July 22nd, Cromwell crossed the border from Berwick. He could see the beacon fires across the Lammermuir Hills warning Edinburgh of his coming. By Friday, he had picked up supplies from his ships at Dunbar and on Sunday, July 28th, he met David Leslie's whole army at Musselburgh, four miles from the capitol, Edinburgh. For a week, Cromwell tried to seize a position on high ground but failed. Western gales and floods forced Cromwell to fall back to Dunbar on Monday, August 5th.

A week later, on August 12, he had replenished his supplies and was back at Musselburgh. There were two weeks of maneuvering and stalemate and on Friday the 30th, Cromwell's council of war decided to fall back to Dunbar again and fortify a base there. Sunday, September 1st, Cromwell's army reached Dunbar. The Scots did not pursue vigorously because of their disinclination to fight on the Sabbath but by the end of the day they had maneuvered the English into a trap from which they could not retreat, and where, if they fought, it would be at odds which would spell certain disaster. The most that Cromwell could do was to fortify Dunbar and trust the sea for his supplies.

David Leslie had blocked their escape to the south and occupied the high ground of the Doon Hills around Dunbar. He hoped that the English would only halt for a night at Dunbar and then continue their march to the south, in which case he intended to fall on their rear from the Doon. Sunday night had been difficult on the Doon for it rained all night and the men had no tents. Leslie was anxious about his supplies for everything had to be brought from Edinburgh. He could not continue indefinitely perched on the Doon.

Monday, September 2, 1650

Monday morning, the Scots began their descent and Robert Junkins was among the Highlanders. It rained all that day. During the afternoon, it became clear to Cromwell that the Scots were astir and were slowly moving down the hill. By four o'clock in the afternoon, there was no doubt that Leslie was preparing for battle. Leslie was drawing up most of his troops on the gentle slopes to the south and east of Cromwell to prevent an escape during the night, which meant an attack in the early morning.

After a conference with his commanders, Monk, Lambert and Fleetwood, Olive Cromwell decided to forestall the Scots by an attack before dawn. It was a wild night, cold and wet and gusty, and the moon did not show itself. The Scots' position was the outfield and infields of the two farms of the Doon and they spent a night of misery crouching among the oat sheaves. Many of the officers left their men and sought shelter. About two in the morning, the order was passed to the foot soldiers to extinguish their matches except for their file leaders — a dangerous economy in the face of so near an enemy, but probably the rain had already extinguished many. Matches were cords or fuses used to fire the priming of match-lock guns. Flintlock funs were more practical, their spark being available on a moment's notice but they were new and in short supply with the Scots.

About four o'clock, the moment had come. The English guns opened on the far right and under cover, a small body of horse crossed the Brock ravine and attacked the Scottish left. Robert Junkins, like all the others, had almost forgotten what it was like to be dry. He struggled from a deep slumber and hastily unwrapped his musket, which he had been trying to keep dry under his plaids. Those with match-locks ran about seeking a light from those too few whose matches had not been extinguished. Pikemen milled this way and that trying to form ranks and gunners crawled from beneath their weapons to fumble with shot and charges. Everywhere there was utter confusion.

On the right wing near the highway, came a thundering clash of metal on metal. Robert Junkins could make out a mass of English horsemen and a tremendous wave of weapons pressing on the Scottish army. The onrushing horse halted and then fell back. The English were beaten. A few moments later, the English were ridding forward again and the Scottish calvary moved to clash with them shouting "The Covenant! The Covenant!" Highlanders and Lowlanders shouted their defiance.

Robert moved down the hill over wet grass and through mud, side by side with the men of his clan. The Scottish officers shouted commands, striving to make themselves heard above the din. Leslie's forces churned in utter chaos. Flashes of fire from the match-locks, bursts of smoke, and the thunder of fieldpieces as artillery and infantry fired into the milling Scots. Robert heard shrieks of pain all around him. Some men surged forward and others backward, tripping over the fallen and slain. Never in his blackest nightmares had Robert pictured such a frightful pandemonium.

By six o'clock in the morning, the battle was over. Leslie's horse troops were drive back on his foot soldiers, and they were penned between the enemy and the upper ravine of the burn. The Scots were a helpless mob, many had never come into action. Bewildered souls the must have been for their Lord had strangely forsaken them.

Three thousand Scots were slain and not more than thirty English. Ten thousand prisoners were taken, two hundred colors, and the whole of the Scottish baggage and artillery. The wounded were released, but Robert Junkins, along with five thousand others were dispatched to Haselrig, the governor of Newcastle. They sat on the battlefield all the rest of the morning and the early afternoon. In the middle of the afternoon, they were formed into lines of two on the Great Road to Berwick. One mile south of Cove Harbor, they spent the first night between the road and the cliffs that went down to the sea. From there you could see Bass Rock and the conical shape of North Berwick Law.

Wednesday, September 4, 1650

They were marched south. At noon they were fed sacks of horse fodder. That night, they stopped near the moors. There were divided into two groups and slept in the rough grass between the road and the sea.

Thursday, September 5

By mid-morning, they reached the edge of Berwick at the Lamberton Toll. Three miles further they traveled to the Scots Gate at Berwick-Upon-Tweed, and onto English soil, never to see Scotland again. When they reached Berwick, they had marched 28 miles. Across the fifteen-arch stone bridge spanning the Tweed to Tweedmouth. Each prisoner was given three hard biscuits and a measure of peas. In the afternoon, the two groups were merged together again. That night they lay in a field beyond Tweedmouth. It rained all night.

Sunday, September 8

In the afternoon, the long lines of prisoners came in sight of Alnwick Castle. There had been no food distributed since the peas and biscuits four days ago. They were penned up in the middle bailey of the castle. Many had died during the past four days.

Monday, September 9

The prisoners spent the day in Alnwick Castle. There was no food. More died. It rained all afternoon.

Tuesday, September 10

More died. No food.

Wednesday, September 11

The same. No food.

Thursday, September 12

By this day, more than one third of the prisoners had died.

Saturday, September 14

Seven days in Alnwick with no food.

Sunday, September 15

The gates of Alnwick opened and the 2,500 remaining prisoners of the original 5,000 were each given one biscuit and then forced to continue the march south.

Tuesday, September 17

In the afternoon they reached the town of Morpeth. Beyond the center of town they were turned into a large walled garden, which ran down to the River Wansbeck. The ground inside the garden was covered with cabbages. Fresh green cabbage! Before long, the ground was bare, without a green leaf to be seen. The Scots had not had anything green to eat in 15 days. Nothing but a few biscuits, some horse fodder, and water. Now, they consumed the raw cabbages, leaves and roots. During the night, there was the sound of retching and groaning in all parts fo the garden. Men vomited or screamed that their bowels had fair dissolved.

Wednesday, September 18

By morning, more men had died from eating the raw cabbage. The march continued. Many more died on the road. In the afternoon, they reached Newcastle and went through the gates built upon part of the old Roman wall. They were locked up in a great stone church, St. Nicholas' Church. Food was distributed, three biscuits per man. More prisoners died among the pews, and many others were unable to continue the march the following morning. They were left behind to die.

Thursday, September 19

In the morning, one hundred and forty were too sick to march and were left behind to die. The sky was overcast. People lined the street, shouting, jeering and pelting the Scots with rotted vegetables and other filth. At the bridge crossing the Tyne, the crowds thinned to a few sullen onlookers.

At darkness, they reached the River Wear and the town of Durham. Through the marketplace they marched, turned right up the steep hill to a large open place. Beyond was a vast Norman church, Durham Cathedral.

Friday, September 20

Thirty more had died during the night but this day they were fed great hampers of biscuits and hogs-heads of water.

Saturday, September 21

Sixty men died of bloody flux.

Sunday, September 22

One hundred and twenty more died of bloody flux.

Monday, September 23

At noon, the English brought in baskets of coal for fires and large iron pots of thick bubbling stew. A wooden bucketful for each six men.

Wednesday, September 25

Twelve Scottish weavers were taken out at the request of the Mayor of Durham.

Thursday, September 26

Forty men were taken for the saltworks at Shields and forty more for laborers.

Friday, September 27

An officer called for all Highlanders to step forward. An order had come from the Council of War in London to deliver "one hundred and fifty Highlander Scot prisoners to Augustine Walker in London, to be shipped from Newcastle to London with all possible speed."

The Scots were marched north again to Newcastle, to a quay at the river's edge and herded aboard a ship.

Saturday, September 28

At dawn, this ship sailed for London with Robert Junkins on board.

Monday, November 11, 1650

The ship "Unity" sailed from London under the command of Augustine Walker with 150 Scots bound for the Massachusetts Colony.
They were to be sold as indentured servants, that is essentially as slaves for a period.


  • Buchan, John. Oliver Cromwell. 1934.
  • Clarke, Mary Stetson. Piper to the Clan. 1970.
  • Davis, Harry Alexander. The Junkins Family, Descendants of Robert Junkins of York County, Maine, Washington D.C., 1938.
  • Junkins, Alan D. "The Parish of Brechin in the Seventeenth Century" - JFA newsletter no. 7, Winter 1992.
  • Junkins, Alan D. "Announcement" (How Alan Junkins found Robert's birthplace) - JFA newsletter no. 7, Winter 1992.
  • Junkins, Alan D. "Brechin, Scotland, Birthplace of Robert Jonking (Junkins)" - JFA newsletter no. 11, May 1996.
  • Knight, Charles. The Popular History of England, Volume IV. 1858.
  • Stephen, Sir Leslie and Lee, Sir Sidney. The Dictionary of National Biography, Volume XI. 1971.
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