My next source is the one which first brought the Dumbarton’s Rebellion to my attention a few years back. “An ACCOUNT OF THE Defeat of the Rebels At WISBICH in the Isle of Ely”, another single broadsheet. Although, unlike the “Account of the Barbarous Rebellion” it does not mention the printers name, its nearly identical format and fonts strongly suggest the same printer and the dramatic, essentially pro-Williamite tone makes it probable that it was the same author. It refers to an “Account already been given” of the rebellion, which is probably the previous broadsheet.
The Account tell us that despite the 1300 guineas of money sent by the king in arrears and the “great Civility shew’d them by their Collonel and other Officers” they set off to join the “Northern Road” to Scotland, i.e. the Great North Road, approximately on the route of the modern A1, which they look to have aimed to meet at Newark or Grantham.
They left Ipswich for Stowmarket, but before reaching there one of their powder-carrying wagons exploded, killing one of their number and hurting others. They then moved on through Mildenhall to Wisbech.
Meanwhile the pursuing force had reached St. Ives and learned of the Rebels location in Wisbech.
Here it is worth introducing another source, the one found over at Rod Collins’ site, which overlaps with this publication. “A True ACCOUNT OF THE Reduction of the Rebellious Party OF THE Earl of Dumbarton’s Late REGIMENT”. This is by a different author and printer from our previous publications (Imprimatur James Fraser. London Printed for Richard Baldwin, next to the Black Bull in the Old Bailey), purporting to be according to report made by the Secretary of State in Whitehall, from a letter from Edward King esq, a Deputy Lieutenant and JP from Lincolnshire.
It is worth quoting the preamble in full
THAT His Majesty’s Loving Subjects may not be abused with a false or mistaken relation of the Reduction of the Rebellious Party of the Early of Dumbarton’s late Regiment, the following Account, being True, is allowed to be Published.
This is interesting as it suggests, that there were other accounts which contradict this one and did not meet with government approval- presumably being sympathetic to the rebels. The “Account of the Defeat” is unlikely to have caused such offense- it differs in detail to the “Account of the Reduction”, but is essentially pro-government. Conceivably this “false Relation” may have been oral, but it seems likely that there was another, more pro-rebel publication abroad. I’d love to see it, if it is extant as a counterpoint to the somewhat one sided propaganda we have seen so far.
But back to the events of March 1689. According to the “Account of the Defeat” learning that the pursuing force was nearby, the Rebels took their first stand.
they had got themselves into a Fastness almost impassible for horse, being Fenny Countrey; and ; and had planted their Cannon upon a Cause-way, where they must be approached
It isn’t clear to me at the moment whether this is the “Bridge-end Causey” (along the route of the modern A52, east of Swaton) mentioned in Deputy Lieutenant King’s account which the rebels passed long immediately prior to their last stand or another location nearer to Wisbech
With the Royal troops approaching, intending to attack despite the strong position
some of their Hearts began to fail, and were desirous to surrender; upon whom they held a Council of War and hang’d , as it’s said, Fourteen or Fifteen
This is an intriguing turn of phrase. As the council was held upon the waiverers who were then allegedly hung. This was not a council of rebels democratised by rebellion, determining their future course, but a drum-head court martial. I have not, however, seen reference to these hangings anywhere else and the author seems keen to make clear this was rumour.
They then “not judging that place of sufficient security” retreated towards Sleaford. Here Edward King takes up the tale as the Dragoons caught up with the Rebels
The King’s own Regiment of Dragoons met the main body of them in the Field under Spanby Hedge, as they came off from Bridge-end Causey in their March from Spalding. They no sooner perceived the King’s Party, but they formed themselves into a Half-Moon, and placed Four Field Pieces, they had, in the crescent which the King’s Drogoons discovering, they wheeled the their Reer quicker than the Rebellious Souldiers could transplant their Cannon, upon which they beat a Chamade and were allowed a Parley
The average contemporary London reader was probably quite indifferent to which hedge this occurred alongside, but thankfully for students 300 years hence King, concerned with local affairs is quite precise in his description, allowing the local historians at Rod’s site to map very closely where these events occurred.
During the parley, the Rebels offered to surrender if they were offered a promise of a pardon. The “Principal Officer” (not named here, probably General Ginkle) said that this was beyond his authority and the rebels had to make do with a promise that the Principle Officer would endeavour to obtain the pardon
“Account of the Defeat” adds some more colour
Being surrounded, and Fire being ready to be given, they sent forth their commander, with his Cravat about his neck Halter-wise, who submitted intirely to the Mercy of the King forthwith laying down their arms.
So the Rebellion had been put down, quickly and fairly bloodlessly by an admirably efficient operation by William’s troops. It is notable that Edward King says
Had His Majesty sent down no Troops at all, ‘tis believed that the County Militia and Posse Comitatus that were up , being unanimously resolved to oppose such Rebels would have been able to reduce them
but I think that this may have been his pride as Deputy Lieutenant speaking after the event rather than a confident assessment of the ability of his part time troops to mobilise and concentrate in sufficient numbers to stand up to the veteran Dunbartons and their field guns, certainly with enough force to cow them into a bloodless surrender.
This article has got overlong, so I will relate a bloody related incident in a later post, before we move on to the trial.