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The Scottish Prisoner of War

Welcome to my 100th Post!

Woodland on Atholl Estate, Blair-Atholl, Pertshire, Scotland

As mentioned in the previous post "The Clann Donnachaidh," Daniel Robertson was the first of the Robbins (Robins) line in America. He was born in Blair-Athol, Pertshire, Scotland in 1627 to Richard and Mary Robertson, who belonged to the Clan Donnachaidh. Like other Highland clans, his family most likely raised cattle.

Charles I (1600-1649)

The Scotland of Daniel's youth was one of political, economic and religious turmoil. It began two years before his birth, on 27 March 1625 when King Charles I began his reign. Charles was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603 (as King James I), he moved to England, where he resided for the majority of his life. Charles eventually became estranged from his northern kingdom. His first visit since early childhood was for his Scottish coronation in 1633. To the dismay of the Scots, who had removed many traditional rituals from their liturgical practice, Charles insisted that the coronation be conducted using the Anglican rite.

Charles further alienated the Scottish nobility by an act of revocation whereby lands claimed by the crown or the church were subject to forfeiture. He also disapproved of the "plainness" of the Scottish service so he, together with his Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, sought to introduce the kind of liturgical practice in use in England. When Charles attempted to impose his religious policies in Scotland he faced numerous difficulties. In 1637, the king ordered the use of a new prayer book in Scotland that was almost identical to the English Book of Common Prayer, without consulting either the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Church (or Scots Kirk). Although it had been written, under Charles's direction, by Scottish bishops, many Scots resisted it, seeing the new prayer book as a vehicle for introducing Anglicanism to Scotland. On 23 July, riots erupted in Edinburgh upon the first Sunday of the prayer book's usage, and unrest spread throughout the Kirk. These attempts to force the Church of Scotland to adopt high Anglican practices led to the Bishops' Wars (1639-1640). From this point on, Scotland became involved in 12 years of war, a period that became known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (England, Scotland and Ireland). Long supporters of the Stuart Kings, the Clan Donnachaidh would share in the triumphs and defeats of the Royalist cause.

With the outbreak of the English Civil War in August 1642, the clan rallied to the cause of King Charles I against Cromwell. James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, began his campaign by walking on foot in highland dress into Atholl and raised the Royal Standard at Blair in 1644. Montrose soon had a strong force of about 800 Athollmen led by his kinsman Patrick "Black Pate" Graham of Inchbrakie, who was also an uncle of the underaged 12th Donnachaidh Chief, Alexander. Alexander's own clansmen were led by another uncle, Donald Robertson, the Tutor of Struan. Throughout Montrose's campaign, the Athollmen played a predominant part and another uncle, Duncan Mor Robertson of Drumachuine, was instrumental in preventing the sack of Perth after its capture by the victorious Royalists after the battle of Tippermuir. This Duncan's descendants eventually became the chiefs of the clan when the direct line failed.

From 1644 to 1645 a Scottish civil war was fought between the Scottish Royalists (supporters of Charles I and the Marquis of Montrose) and the Covenanters (Scottish Presbyterians), who had controlled Scotland since 1639 and allied with the English Parliament. The Scottish Royalists, aided by Irish troops, had a rapid series of victories in 1644–45, but were eventually defeated by the Covenanters.

In England, Charles I surrendered to Cromwell and ordered Montrose to disband his army. After Charles I's trial and execution in 1649, Montrose again attempted a rising, but he was quickly defeated and was executed in 1650.

After the execution of Charles I, England became a Commonwealth under the control of Oliver Cromwell. The Covenanters then found themselves at odds with the English Parliament, so, in spite of their conflict with the Scottish Royalists, they invited Charles' son to return from exile in the Netherlands and crowned Charles II at Scone in June 1650. They then stated their intention to place him on the thrones of England and Ireland as well.

The threat posed by King Charles II with his new Covenanter allies was considered to be the greatest facing the new English Republic so Cromwell, having completed his campaign to exterminate the Catholics in Ireland, then turned his attention to the subjugation of Scotland. This led to the Third English Civil War (1649-1651), when the Roundhead New Model Army under Cromwell moved northward in July 1650 and invaded Scotland. On 3 September 1650, Cromwell and his army defeated the Scots at Dunbar, who suffered 300-500 killed, 1,000 wounded and 6,000 taken as prisoners.

At this time, Daniel Robertson, age 23, was fighting with his fellow clansmen against the invading English forces.

The commander of the Scots, David Leslie, supported the plan of continued fighting in Scotland, where royal support was strongest. Charles, however, insisted on making war in England. He calculated that Cromwell's campaign north of the River Forth would allow the main Scottish Royalist army, which was south of the Forth, to steal the march on the New Model Army in a race to London. However, Cromwell anticipated such a maneuver.

On 3 September 1651, one year after defeat at Dunbar, the Battle of Worcester, England took place and would prove to be the final action of the English Civil Wars. The Royalist commander David Leslie had gathered an army of some 16,000 Scotsmen to fight the cause. Opposing them was Cromwell's army, 28,000 strong. The Royalist forces took up defensive positions in and around the city of Worcester. Following the storming of a major redoubt to the east of the city, the Parliamentarians entered Worcester and organized Royalist resistance collapsed. Charles II was able to escape capture. About 3,000 men were killed during the battle and a further 10,000 were taken prisoner at Worcester or soon afterwards.

Daniel was one of those captured. He was marched to London and confined there for a few months on the artillery grounds at Tuthill fields, which were about a half mile from Westminster Palace. Here they were allowed daily rations of a pound of bread and a half a pound of cheese. Shelter is thought to be provided only for the sick. Many died from disease and starvation at Tothill Fields and other makeshift prison camps while awaiting their fate.

At the time, Cromwell dealt with prisoners of war in good physical condition by shipping them of to the colonies in America, Bermuda and the West Indies. There, they were sentenced to six to eight years of servitude. The term that the Puritans used to justify this type of labor was "apprenticeship." About 900 prisoners were sent to Virginia and 150 to New England. The men sent to New England were consigned to Joshua Foote and John Becx of London, partners in the Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works. Becx and Foote specified that the prisoners selected be "well and sound, and free from wounds." To them, this was a commercial venture, since the twenty to thirty pounds for which the men could be sold would more than cover the approximately five pounds per man expense involved.

Daniel sailed aboard the John and Sarah, which carried approximately two hundred and seventy-four other Scottish prisoners of war. They were destined to be sold as indentured servants to ironworks, sawmills, merchants and plantation owners. The voyage from London to Boston normally took six weeks and most likely was an unpleasant experience for the Scots. While the dimensions of the ship are unknown, the accommodations that it afforded the Scots would have been far from spacious. It also took place in the dead of winter, which caused as many as 10 percent of the men to die from the adverse conditions, such as scurvy, ill treatment, and freezing temperatures.

In addition to Daniel Robinson, six other men with the same surname were listed on the ship's manifest and were most like his kinsmen. Only one, Patrick Robertson, was recorded correctly. This was due to the fact that the Scots were illiterate and spoke little to no English, only Gaelic, the dominant language in the Highlands. The English, when transcribing the names, most likely had a difficult time understanding their accent, resulting in phonetic spellings or English versions. The name of Robinson is of English origin. Documents for Daniel Robinson in New England show his name recorded as Robinson, Robison and Robbinson. Daniel was unable to write. Therefore, the spelling of his name was left to the discretion of the recorder. Hence, Daniel Robertson became Daniel Robinson.

The John and Sarah reached Boston Harbor sometime in February 1652. The prisoners were then sold on the auction block to New England mill owners and planters.

Daniel was purchased by Nathaniel Foote, Jr. of Connecticut to serve for eight years. It is unknown if Nathaniel was a relative of Joshua Foote, partner in the ironworks. Daniel was taken to the Foote's New Haven plantation to tend the livestock. He appears to have been fortunate, being well treated by the Footes. He held Nathaniel in the highest esteem, later naming one of his sons Nathaniel in his honor. Daniel allegedly stayed on with the Foote family after his eight year indenture ended, possibly since Nathaniel died in 1655 and left a widow and four children.

It is believe that Daniel met his wife, Hope Potter, through her sister, Sarah, who was married to Nathaniel's brother, Robert in 1659. Daniel and Hope Potter were married by Mr. Gilbert on 10 February 1663. Hope was the daughter of William and Frances Potter. The births of Daniel and Hope's first two children, Mary and Daniel, Jr., were recorded in the New Haven Vital Records. When England opened land in New Jersey for settlement, Daniel, Hope and their two children migrated from New Haven to Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ. Their third child, Lydia, was born in Woodbridge on 25 July 1668. After migrating to New Jersey, he was known as Daniel Robins. Although it has been speculated that the name was changed to help protect Hope from gossip surrounding the execution of her father, William Potter in 1662, none of their other family members changed their names. It was more likely a clerical error, most likely on the original land grant, especially since Daniel could not write and signed his will with a mark instead of signing his name.

Daniel Robins purchased 17 acres of land at Woodbridge on 15 October 1669 and another 173 acres on 18 March 1669/70. He served the Woodbridge community as tax collector, constable and overseer of highways. Nine children were born to Daniel and Hope at Woodbridge.

On 7 November 1695 Daniel bought 500 acres of land on Chestnut Brook near Clarksburg in Monmouth County, NJ. Sometime after 31 January 31 1695/6 he settled on his land in Monmouth County. Daniel's will was written on 22 June 1714 and proved on 18 August 1714. The date of Hope's death is unknown.

Daniel and his sons Daniel, Jr. and Moses became associated with the Quakers. His son Richard Robins, became a Baptist.

Although no portraits of Daniel exist, he was described as "being about five feet in height, with bright blue eyes and dark, thick, curly hair in his younger days." It was also said that he had a talent for playing the harp.


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