John Graham of Claverhouse, the Enterkin Rescue and the Society People’s Fifteenth Convention in 1684
A letter of John Graham of Claverhouse of 5 August, 1684, reveals how the Army responded to the open defiance of the Society people at the end of July.
His letter details how the Army reacted to two sets of events.
First, the capture of three of Renwick’s followers and the Societies’ fifteenth convention. On 30 July, twenty-two dragoons led by Cornet James Dundas of the Sorn garrison encountered James Renwick and three Society people at Dungavel. Renwick narrowly escaped from them, but three of his companions were captured. Two of the latter may have been William Young (executed 27 August, 1684) and Gabriel Thomson (executed on 14 November, 1684). (Shields, Life of Renwick, 63.)
The capture of three Society people was not a significant enough event to trigger the mobilisation of military units across the South and West of Scotland, discussed below. However, on the following day, the 31 July, the Societies held their fifteenth convention in the hills and moors behind Dungavel.
It is likely that the fifteen convention was part of the reason for the mobilisation of government forces, as the previous convention at Auchengilloch seven weeks earlier had led to an ambuscade with government forces, alarmed the privy council and led to a substantial increase in the number of military units in the West to counter the threat posed by the Society people. As will be seen below, Claverhouse’s search pattern was in part a response to the fifteenth convention.
At the same time in the South-West, the armed rescue of captured Society people at Enterkin Pass, which lies by Wanlockhead and straddles the boundary between Nithsdale and Lanarkshire, led to an intensive military effort to discover the culprits.
In the wake of the rescue, three Society people, Andrew Clark, Thomas Harkness and Samuel McEwen, were captured and executed on 15 August.
There is no doubt that Claverhouse’s coordinated sweep through the Southern Uplands, as discussed below, was mainly due to the Enterkin rescue.
Letter of John Graham of Claverhouse at Strathaven to William Douglas, duke of Queensberry, 5 August, 1684.
‘At Streven, August the 5th, 1684.
My Lord:—I came by Douglas and Ochiltree, and by Mauchlin[e] and New mills [on the night of 4 August], which is the moor-country;’
His journey in early August certainly took him the long way round the hills from Douglas to Strathaven, which both lie in Lanarkshire.. According to the letter, he had went west through the hills via Douglas and Muirkirk to Ochiltree and then turned north to Mauchline and Newmilns, before he finally turned east to Strathaven.
‘and from this [i.e., at Strathaven, and with his own troop of horse,] I am going through Renfrew, and through the low parts of the shire of Ayr, up to Dalmellington.’
Again, Claverhouse’s intended route was far from straightforward. From Strathaven, he intended to go west through Eaglesham Moor in Renfrewshire before turning into Ayrshire and riding across the shire to Dalmellington in the south. It appears that Claverhouse wanted to sweep the hills to the north of the site of the fifteenth convention before he headed south to join the hunt for the Enterkin rescuers. As discussed below, Claverhouse had already initiated a search of the area where the fifteenth convention had been held in order to flush the Society people out of those moors and into the surrounding hills.
To aide in the task of apprehending the Enterkin rescuers, Claverhouse order the foot based around Ayr to march south into the Galloway hills.
‘The foot is marched this night [of Tuesday, 5 August] from Ayr to the foggy road, and from that they go east all the way through the hills to Moffat.’
The foot at Ayr were probably the two companies of His Majesty’s Foot Guard ordered there on 22 July.
The ‘foggy road’ ran south from Crosshill across Carrick and into Galloway. The planned route for the foot was to descend to foggy road and proceed east through the hills of Carrick and northern Kirkcudbrightshire to Moffat in Dumfriesshire. (For he Foggy Road see Road 14 here.)
Claverhouse also called out the dragoons in Galloway to take part in the search for the Enterkin rescuers:
‘I have written to the garrisons of Galloway to draw out, and march all along on the right [of the foot], and I, with the troops I have here [at Strathaven], will march on their left, on this side the hills.’
His plan appears to have involved a three pronged search pattern through the southern hills. From Dalmellington, Claverhouse and the horse would sweep the northern part of the hills, the foot would sweep through the centre of the hills and the dragoons would search the southern portion of the hills.
The garrisons in Galloway probably consisted of the two troops of dragoons who were ordered there on 22 July. They were Dalyell’s troop of dragoons, which were under the command of Captain-Lieutenant Thomas Winram, and Captain John Strachan’s dragoons.
At Strathaven, Claverhouse probably met up with his own troop of horse and could call on Lord Ross’s troop of horse which lay nearby at Newmilns. He probably also either mobilised, or could call on the use of, two troops of dragoons, those of Captain John Inglis and Captain William Cleland, which had been ordered into Ayrshire and Lanarkshire on 22 July. At least some of those forces had already been put into the field to respond to the Societies’ convention near Auchengilloch.
‘I caused make a search through their moors [around Auchengilloch], a-purpose to chase them from this to the hills and make them think themselves secure there. But they have such intelligence that there is no surprising them. When we came here [to Strathaven], they told they heard of my coming; and last night [i.e., Monday, 4 August] I was asking if there were any troops at Newmills, as I came from Mauchline, and though it was under night, and nobody but my own servants, they told me my Lord Ross’s troop [of horse] was there [at Newmilns], and that I was expected. I fear we do nothing; for, so soon as I come, I find they acquaint all the country, expecting a search.’
It was almost certainly during the sweep through ‘their moors’ that Lord Ross’ troop of horse captured William and John Campbell near Upper/Over Wellwood in Muirkirk parish on c4 August. Their cousin, John Campbell, tenant in Muirkirk and brother of the heritor of Midwellwood, was also captured at around the same time, but by whom he was taken is not known.
Claverhouse’s sweeps had already had some success, however, he clearly believed that intelligence leaks about the movement of the troops were undermining his efforts to apprehend the Society people.
At the time that he wrote his letter, he believed that the forthcoming sweeps involving most of the army in the South-West would occupy him for most of the next week:
‘I shall be with your Lordship [in Edinburgh?] on Monday [11 August], and give you my opinion of the state of things here. I am, my Lord, your most faithful and most humble servant,
(Napier, Memorialls of Viscount Dundee, II, 405-6.)
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine