What happened in the Monmouth Rebellion?
The Monmouth Rebellion was the planned invasion of Britain by two combined Whigs Armies. The first was led by Archibald, 9th Earl of Argyll and landed in Scotland. The second was led by James, Duke of Monmouth and landed in England. Argyll held a strong position in Argyllshire, diverting Government troops his way. Meanwhile, an uprising in Chester was to draw forces out of London, as Monmouth advanced on the capital, the city would also rise up. However, due to good and then poor weather, followed by delays created by the unexpected arrival of English warships the two invasions were no longer synchronised.
Opposing the Whigs were the forces of the new King James II, funded by French money. Through a network of spies James had advanced warning that the invasions were coming but not when or where. At the start of Monmouth Rebellion, the Whigs Armies had some success, after initial skirmishes with Argyll wins the Battle of Ardkinglas on June 12, 1685. With Monmouth landing at Lyme on June 11, his Army grew rapidly clashing with Government forces at Bridport on June 14, Axminster on June 15 and Keynsham on June 25. On June 27, at Norton St Philip, Monmouth’s Army defeated the main Government force under the Earl of Feversham. However, with supplies running short, the Whigs retired to Bridgwater.
In Scotland, Argyll’s was surrounded on the Cowal Peninsula, but breaks out towards Glasgow leaving his supplies to be captured on Island of Eilean Dearg.
On the night of June 17, the Whigs are at Killearn facing the Earl of Dumbarton with a Government force three times their size. During the night they slip south across the Kilpatrick hills towards the River Clyde at Old Kilpatrick. Although the Whigs captured the crossing, by sunrise the Argyll’s Army had broken up, with some lost in the hills, others fleeing home. With his Army destroyed Argyll, crosses the Clyde and is captured on June 18, trying to get to Glasgow. However, a force of Whigs under Sir John Cochrane marched south and that evening defeated a Government detachment four times bigger at the Battle of Muirdyke. Over the following days news reached Cochrane of Argyll’s capture, and with a heavy heart he dismissed the remaining Whigs. The Monmouth Rebellion in Scottish was over, Monmouth was on his own. After his captured, Argyll was executed in Edinburgh on June 30, 1685.
In England the Monmouth Rebellion was reaching its climax. After arriving at Bridgwater on July 3, Monmouth set about fortifying the town. Two days later on July 5, Feversham arrived in Westonzoyland some 5 miles from the Whig. Early the following morning Monmouth attempted to surprise the Government force. However, Feversham’s well deployed pickets alerted the camp. This forced the Duke to deploy before reaching the tents and giving the Government Army time to form up. What followed was the Battle of Sedgemoor, and Monmouth’s Whig Army was defeated and broken. The day after James II wrote to Orange with news of his victory. In the months after the battle, the King inflicted a harsh penalty on those that had rebelled. What followed was the Bloody Assizes which saw the quartered bodies of over three hundred and twenty Whigs being posted across Somerset and Dorset. Monmouth did not escape, and was captured three days later. He was taken to London and on July 15, the Duke of Monmouth was executed on Tower Hill. The Monmouth Rebellion was over.
This account is based on a more detail description of the Earl of Argyll’s & the Duke of Monmouth’s campaign of 1685 available from Helion & Company in my Book Fighting For Liberty.