So often we equate New England almost exclusively with the English. Of course, there were Dutch in Manhattan, Swedes in Delaware, Germans and Welsh in Pennsylvania, but New England was the English. Right?
Mostly, but there were also a few Scots here and there. Maybe most notably some Scots taken prisoner by English and deported to America as punishment and for “national security”.
The story goes like this. The Puritans rebelled against Charles I, deposed him, and executed him. Oliver Cromwell took his place. (I’m not so sympathetic nowadays but my confirmation name is Carroll, after this king, Bl. Charles the Martyr. Shows my Anglo-Catholic past.)
The Scottish Covenanters remained loyal to the royal family under Charles I’s son Charles II. Long story short, The English under Cromwell defeated the Scots under Sir David Leslie at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. They repeated their victory a year later at the Battle of Worcester.
The Scottish survivors of Dunbar, 5000 of them, were force-marched to imprisonment in the cathedral at Durham in northern England. 2000 of them died on the march south. Another 1500 died in captivity, mostly from untended injuries. The rest were sold into slavery in America.
Now there’s been an outstanding discovery. Excavations at Durham have uncovered a mass grave that almost certainly contains the remains of these soldiers.
Now that we’re all paying attention, my hope is that the renewed interest will lead to discovering the parents of my ancestors Peter Grant and John Sinclair, two of the prisoners who ended up in America. Plenty of guesses there, but no facts as yet.
- “Discovery of Scots Prisoners of War at Durham Cathedral in England!” (Sept. 3, 2015), at Nutfield Genealogy. Accessed Sept. 3, 2015.