At the weekend Historic Scotland held a re-enactment of the defence of Dumbarton Castle during the Scottish Civil War. It was a cold, wet and windy day, but it was still very entertaining and the Castle was very busy.
Dumbarton Castle is situated on an extinct volcano and there are 540 steps to climb to get to the top of it. We did it twice. It is not too difficult for a reasonably fit person.
On March 26th,1639 the Covenanters seized Dumbarton Castle. Dumbarton Castle was located on the River Clyde and controlling it would prevent unauthorised access to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
Who Were ‘The Covenanters’?
These were the Scottish Presbyterians who in 1638 signed the “National Covenant” to uphold the Presbyterian religion and the “Solemn League and Covenant” of 1643, which was a treaty with the English Parliamentarians.
The Covenanters made a stand for political and religious liberty that led to almost a century of persecution and their widespread migration to Ulster and the American colonies.
|Covenanters used the base of muskets to attack the enemy|
The Covenanters sought to have the church organised as written in the Scriptures. There was only one Head of the Kirk – Jesus Christ and they refused to accept the King in that role. Charles I was a Stuart King who believed in the divine right of kings.
|Close-up of an officer refilling his musket with gunpowder|
The muskets were filled with gunpowder and lit by a rope soaked in saltpeter. If it was wet, the muskets often misfired. The gunpower was kept in small wooden containers worn on a belt across the body.
|The Covenanters were not taught swordfighting|
The Covenanters were issued with a short sword but were not taught to swordfight. Only gentlemen were taught this. They preferred to use the end of their muskets or a small dagger to attack the enemy.
The officer on the right in the above photograph is a man of substance as he can afford boots. Ordinary soldiers wore shoes instead.
|Clothing of the Covenanters|
The Covenanters wore clothing which they could get a hold of and did not have an official uniform. They mostly wore grey. The gentleman in red is a man of substance as he can afford better quality cloth.
A seargent could be identified by the long wooded pole he held with a curved dagger at the top.
|Blowing the doors of the castle open|
|Using a charge to open the doors|
To open the doors of the castle, a tripod was used to hold a charge which caused a small explosion.
|Making the lead pellets for the muskets|
The Covenanters had a few watchwords including ‘Jesus and no quarter’ and ‘God is with us’. On entering the Castle we had to say these words.
It was a very interesting day and we learned a lot about this important period in Scottish history.
Grid reference: NS 398 744.