On 3 September 1650 Oliver Cromwell won a decisive victory over the Scottish Covenanters at the Battle of Dunbar – a victory that is often regarded as his finest hour – but the aftermath, the forced march of 5,000 prisoners from the battlefield to Durham, was one of the cruellest episodes in his career. The march took them seven days, without food and with little water, no medical care, the property of a ruthless regime determined to eradicate any possibility of further threat. Those who survived long enough to reach Durham found no refuge, only pestilence and despair. Exhausted, starving and dreadfully weakened, perhaps as many as 1,700 died from typhus and dysentery. Those who survived were condemned to hard labour and enforced exile in conditions of virtual slavery in a harsh new world across the Atlantic. Cromwell’s Convicts describes their ordeal in detail and, by using archaeological evidence, brings the story right up to date. John Sadler and Rosie Serdiville describe the battle at Dunbar, but their main focus is on the lethal week-long march of the captives that followed.
CROMWELL’S CONVICTS The Death March from Dunbar 1650
The authors make extensive use of archive material, retrace the route taken by the prisoners and describe the recent archaeological excavations in Durham which have identified some of the victims and given us a graphic reminder of their fate.