Scotland in The Early Modern Era - Warfare


In the later Middle Ages, Scottish armies were assembled on the basis of common service, feudal obligations and money contracts of bonds of manrent. In 1513 these systems were successful in producing a large and formidable force, but there is evidence that by the mid-sixteenth century the authorities were experiencing increasing difficulty in recruitment. Individuals were expected to provide their own equipment. Heavy armour was abandoned after the Flodden campaign and noblemen became indistinguishable from the majority of troops. Highland lords tended to continue to use lighter chainmail and ordinary highlanders dressed in the plaid. Weapons included various forms of axes and pole arms. Highland troops brought bows and two-handed swords (claidheamh mór). The crown took an increasing role in the supply of equipment. The pike began to replace the spear or axe and the bow began to be replaced by gunpowder firearms. The feudal heavy cavalry had begun to disappear from Scottish armies and the Scots fielded relatively large numbers of light horse, often drawn from the borders. James IV brought in experts from France, Germany and the Netherlands and established a gun foundry in 1511. Gunpowder weaponry fundamentally altered the nature of castle architecture from the mid-fifteenth century. In the period of French intervention in the 1540s and 1550s, Scotland was given a defended border of a series of earthwork forts and additions to existing castles.

There were various attempts to create royal naval forces in the fifteenth century. James IV put the enterprise on a new footing, founding a harbour at Newhaven and a dockyard at the Pools of Airth. He acquired a total of 38 ships including the Great Michael, at that time, the largest ship in Europe. Scottish ships had some success against privateers, accompanied the king on his expeditions in the islands and intervened in conflicts Scandinavia and the Baltic, but were sold after the Flodden campaign and after 1516 and Scottish naval efforts would rely on privateering captains and hired merchantmen. James V did not share his father's interest in developing a navy and shipbuilding fell behind the Low Countries. Despite truces between England and Scotland there were periodic outbreaks of a guerre de course. James V built a new harbour at Burntisland in 1542. The chief use of naval power in his reign were a series of expeditions to the Isles and France. After the Union of Crowns in 1603 conflict between Scotland and England ended, but Scotland found itself involved in England's foreign policy, opening up Scottish shipping to attack. In 1626 a squadron of three ships were bought and equipped. There were also several marque fleets of privateers. In 1627, the Royal Scots Navy and accompanying contingents of burgh privateers participated in the major expedition to Biscay. The Scots also returned to West Indies and in 1629 took part in the capture of Quebec.

In the early seventeenth century relatively large numbers of Scots took service in foreign armies involved in the Thirty Years War. As armed conflict with Charles I in the Bishops' Wars became likely, hundreds of Scots mercenaries returned home from foreign service, including experienced leaders like Alexander and David Leslie and these veterans played an important role in training recruits. These systems would form the basis of the Covenanter armies that intervened in the Civil Wars in England and Ireland. Scottish infantry were generally armed, as was almost universal in Western Europe, with a combination of pike and shot. Scottish armies may also have had individuals with a variety of weapons including bows, Lochaber axes, and halberds. Most cavalry were probably equipped with pistols and swords, although there is some evidence that they included lancers. Royalist armies, like those led by James Graham, Marquis of Montrose (1643-44) and in Glencairn's rising (1653-54) were mainly composed of conventionally armed infantry with pike and shot. Montrose's forces were short of heavy artillery suitable for siege warfare and had only a small force of cavalry. During the Bishops' Wars the king attempted to blockade Scotland and planned amphibious assaults from England on the East coast and from Ireland to the West. Scottish privateers took a number of English prizes. After the Covenanters allied with the English Parliament they established two patrol squadrons for the Atlantic and North Sea coasts, known collectively as the "Scotch Guard". The Scottish navy was unable to withstand the English fleet that accompanied the army led by Cromwell that conquered Scotland in 1649-51 and the Scottish ships and crews were split up among the Commonwealth fleet. During the English occupation of Scotland under the Commonwealth, several more fortresses in the style of the trace italienne were built, as at at Ayr, Inverness and Leith.

At the Restoration the Privy Council established a force of several infantry regiments and a few troops of horse and there were attempts to found a national militia on the English model. The standing army was mainly employed in the suppression of Covenanter rebellions and the guerilla war undertaken by the Cameronians in the East. Pikemen became less important in the late seventeenth century and after the introduction of the socket bayonet disappeared altogether, while matchlock muskets were replaced by the more reliable flintlock. On the eve of the Glorious Revolution the standing army in Scotland was about 3,000 men in various regiments and another 268 veterans in the major garrison towns. After the Glorious Revolution the Scots were drawn into King William II's continental wars, beginning with the Nine Years' War in Flanders (1689-97). Scottish seamen received protection against arbitrary impressment by English men of war, but a fixed quota of conscripts for the Royal Navy was levied from the sea-coast burghs during the second half of the seventeenth century. Royal Navy patrols were now found in Scottish waters even in peacetime. In the Second (1665–67) and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars (1672–74) between 80 and 120 captains, took Scottish letters of marque and privateers played a major part in the naval conflict. In the 1690s a small feet of five ships was established by merchants for the Darien Scheme, and a professional navy was established for the protection of commerce in home waters during the Nine Years War, with three purpose-built warships bought from English shipbuilders in 1696. After the Act of Union in 1707, these vessels were transferred to the Royal Navy. By the time of the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Scotland had a standing army of seven units of infantry, two of horse and one troop of Horse Guards, besides varying levels of fortress artillery in the garrison castles of Edinburgh, Dumbarton, and Stirling. As part of the British Army, Scottish regiments took part in the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-13), the Quadruple Alliance (1718-20), wars with Spain (1727-9) and (1738-48) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1740-48). The first official Highland regiment to be raised for the British army was the Black Watch in 1740, but the growth of Highland regiments was delayed by the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. The bulk of Jacobite armies were made up of Highlanders, serving in clan regiments. The clan gentlemen formed the front ranks of the unit and were more heavily armed than their impoverished tenants who made up the bulk of the regiment. Because they served in the front ranks, the gentlemen suffered higher proportional casualties than the common clansman. The Jacobites often started campaigns poorly armed, but arms tended to become more conventional as the campaigns progressed.

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