Timeline of ‘Battle of Dunbar’ Prisoners of War

Every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy; please independently verify all data.

Published : 24 Oct 2014
Updated: 01 Nov 2016

The following is from:
Hamilton, Marsha L.. Social and Economic Networks in Early Massachusetts: Atlantic Connections (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University, 2009), page 42. You can see it at “books.google.com”:

“After the Battle of Dunbar, Cromwell and the Council of State had to decide how to dispose of the prisoners at Newcastle. Captured soldiers traditionally would be ransomed or exchanged, but military leaders feared that healthy men would return to the Scottish army and fight again. The English also did not want to deport Scots to Europe or Ireland, for fear that they would join the armies of the Commonwealth’s enemies. The Council finally decided to send most prisoners to English colonies in the Americas – in particular, Barbados Virginia, and Massachusetts. In early November 1650, the Council ordered Sir Arthur Haselrig, the governor at Newcastle, to deliver 150 prisoners from Dunbar to the agents of John Becx and Joshua Foote, two of the principal investors in the Company of Undertakers, bound for the Saugus ironworks in Massachusetts Bay. These men sailed to London, where they boarded the Unity under master Augustine Walker of Charlestown. The ship departed from Gravesend on 11 November 1650.

The Unity arrived in Boston in mid-December, a remarkably quick voyage for that time of year. The number of Scots who survived the voyage is unknown, as are most of their names. Of the 150 men who left London, however, the Company of Undertakers kept sixty-two for ironworks operations. Thirty-six prisoners went to Saugus, and seventeen worked for manager William Aubrey in the company’s Boston warehouse. The remaining nine intended for the ironworks were sent to the Braintree forge or sold to local farmers and artisans soon after their arrival. Fifteen Unity prisoners went to the sawmills in Maine under the management of Richard Leader, the former manager of the Saugus ironworks, and his brother George. Fifteen more went to other mills in Maine and New Hampshire. The remaining men were sold to farmers and merchants in New England. Thus of the 150 Scots sent to Massachusetts in 1650, only the thirty-six sent directly to Saugus can be positively identified as part of the Unity contingent. Many others can be tentatively associated with this group, however, based on the dates that they begin to appear in court records.”

Timeline Basics:
September 3, 1650 – Battle of Dunbar – Scots are defeated by Cromwell’s Army
September 4, 1650 – Forced march begins with a 28 mile non-stop journey to Berwick.
September 5-10 – March continues south to Durham with stops in  Morpeth, Northumberland, England  and St. Nicholas Church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
September 11th – Scottish POWs arrive at Durham Cathedral.
September 12- October 31, 1650 – SPOWs still living in Durham Cathedral.
November 1-10, 1650 – Sent by sea from Newcastle to London.
November 11, 1650 -The SPOWs on the ship Unity departed from Gravesend, England.
Mid December 1650 – The ship Unity arrived in Charlestown.

September 3, 1650:
Battle of Dunbar in Scotland

Battle of Dunbar

September 4, 1650:
Forced march begins with a 28 mile non-stop journey to Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England.

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England

September 5-10,1650:
March continues down along the seacoast (the current A1 route) through Morpeth, Northumberland and on to St. Nicholas’ Church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.

Morpeth, Northumberland, England –  ” Its position as a crossing-point over the river has meant that the area has long been occupied.” From More in Morpeth, Northumberland

St. Nicholas’ Church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England:

St. Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England

September 11, 1650:

Arrive to Durham Cathedral in Durham, Durham County, England.

Durham Cathedral

November 1-10, 1650:
Leave by sea from Newcastle to London.

November 11, 1650:
Set sail for Boston, Massachusetts from Gravesend on the ship Unity.

Gravesend, England, east of London on the River Thames

Mid December 1650 – Arrived in Charlestown, Middlesex, Massachusetts – “Charlestown is the oldest neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.[1] Originally called Mishawum by the Native Americans, it is located on a peninsula north of the Charles River, across from downtown Boston, and also adjoins the Mystic River and Boston Harbor. Charlestown was laid out in 1629 by engineer Thomas Graves, one of its early settlers. It was the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; it was a town in Middlesex County when the colony was partitioned on May 10, 1643.” Wikipedia

18th Century Charlestown Map

Charlestown, MA


11 Responses to Timeline of ‘Battle of Dunbar’ Prisoners of War

  1. Dale Leathead says:

    Very interesting facts about the SPOWs of the Battle of Dunbar and their route to the Colonies. My ancestor, James Adams, was one of the few who ended up in the. Saugus Iron Works.

    Dale Leathead

  2. Norma Wilcox Barnes says:

    Thank you for posting this timeline. My ancestor, George Darling, was an SPOW from the Battle of Dunbar who is on the list at the Saugus Iron Works at Lynn.

  3. Scott Fair says:

    Fantastic research – great job! My ancestor was George Darling.

  4. Grant descendent says:

    My Scottish ancestor was John Grant. He was sold in to slavery, as a SPOW, and sent to Barbados. He was 22 when he was captured and died at the age of 43. It troubles me to know that my ancestor was ripped up from his homeland, his mother, and his loved ones to be sold in to servitude by a greedy nation who, obviously, used him to make even more money. It is sad his life was cut short by a nation who used him.

    • Yes, definitely unjust, but like so many stories of the past…lots of injustice in history! Are you a member of our Yahoo Group?
      Please join and you may learn more about your ancestor.

    • hinchinbrooke says:

      If he was a soldier at Dunbar, he was probably a conscript. He had been forced to leave his home and family who would have had no means of subsistence because of a ‘Scorched Earth Policy’ by Sir David Leslie. It is a matter of record that Cromwell had to feed the people of Dunbar and the surrounding area because of famine.
      The Conscripts were ‘driven’ to Edinburgh, kept uncovered, on short rations and without much training. They had not eaten for four days prior to the Battle. Also, as a matter of record is that Cromwell released a number of prisoners, many of whom were starving.
      Had the committee of Estates been allowed to pursue their designs with Charles II, THey would have imposed a King and a system of worship on the English People. They had tried three times previously to impose Presbyterianism on the English people.
      Had it not been for the Committee of Estates and David Leslie’s inability to challenge them, Cromwell would have been destroyed at Dunbar.
      Then, you need to look at David Leslie’s treatment of Prisoners. The Committee of Estates said that it didn’t matter what you did to them. If you read the Biography of the marquis of Montrose you will see that Leslie offered quarter, agreed terms, disarmed the foe and then massacred them.

      Worcester was the last straw as far as Cromwell, the Army and Parliament were concerned. Cromwell had let conscripts go at Preston. He let the sick and wounded go at Dunbar but Worcester just pushed the Scots luck too far. Orders were sent out to catch and kill any Scotsman trying to make his way back to Scotland. Prisoners were kept in the open but fed on as much food as most of Cromwell’s soldiers. Some went to America on the John and Sarah. The unfortunate ones went to Barbados. They died, not because of slave labour but due to an alien climate and the problem that ships had of reaching there safely with food. Many American Scots died fighting alongside their masters. Many Barbados Scots died of starvation and disease alongside their masters.

      Whatever you do, don’t try to apply today’s standards to 1650. But do look at today’s
      standards and see the 200,000 non combatant casualties in Iraq and the total still mounting in Syria because Britain and America didn’t see what their target should have been two years ago.

      Cromwell had not qualms about sending Scots to the European armies but the Scots weren’t trained. They had no battle experience. Spain and France wanted seasoned soldiers which is why Cromwell allowed Royalist Officers to recruit men in Ireland for service in foreign armies. 25,000 into Spain and 20,000 into France. In one fell swoop, he reduced Ormonde’s men by 45,000. Not a drop shed.

      Something you may be interested in is that the Leader of the Council for Scottish Affairs in England was Sir Henry Vane the Younger. One time Governor of Massachusetts.
      He was also the man who negotiated the Solemn League and Covenant with the Scots.

  5. Melinda Meador says:

    Is there a list of the officers captured at Preston in 1648? If so, could someone direct me to it?

    • The short answer is…I do not know if there is a list of the officers captured at Preston. I am assuming you have been googling already? Do please join our Yahoo Site where others may be more helpful.Vhttps://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/scottish_war_prisoners/info
      Cheers! Teresa (Hamilton) Rust

    • hinchinbrooke says:

      The fighting was spread over 50 or 60 miles. In fact, Hamilton was caught at Uttoxeter, about 100 miles from Preston. The only people to gain merciful treatment were the Conscripts. The battle that Cromwell won followed a forced march of 462 miles. Many officers, except those of worth, were knocked on the head.

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