When Cromwell returned to England he landed at Bristol, which is the port through which nearly all the Irish trade with England passes. In the old days, Bristol was very famous. It was from there that Cabot, and many another brave sailor, set out to discover and claim new lands in the west. From Bristol inland, roads easily pass from the Severn to the Thames valley, and so on to London. Thus, naturally, in early days, all the new trade of America passed through Bristol. But now Liverpool has beaten it, and most of the American trade goes to the Mersey.
When Cromwell arrived in London, everybody thronged to see him. The streets were packed with eager people, cheering wildly. Guns were fired and bells were rung.
"What a crowd has come to see your lordship's triumph," said some one.
"Yes, but if it were to see me hanged, how many more there would be," replied Oliver grimly.
There was little rest for the great soldier, for the Scots were again in arms.
The very day after the news of the death of King Charles had reached Edinburgh, they had proclaimed his son King. They would have nothing more to do with the English Parliament and the Union.
But the English Parliament resolved to have to do with them. And soon after Cromwell returned from Ireland, they commanded him and Fairfax to march into Scotland to fight the Scots. But Fairfax did not think it right to fight the Scots, who had been friends so lately. So he laid down his command, and Oliver was made Captain-General and Commander-in-Chief of the whole Parliamentarian army. So at last he was both in name and in fact the greatest man in the kingdom. For ever since the King had been taken prisoner. and then beheaded, there had been no ruler in the land. But the army was the greatest power, and Cromwell was now head of the whole army.
Three days after he was made Commander-in-Chief, Cromwell set out for Scotland. And on the 22nd of July, with great blowing of trumpets, he marched across the border at Berwick.
The Cheviot Hills guard the border between England and Scotland. It is only in the east where they drop to the sea at Berwick, or by the shores of the Solway Firth on the west, that it is possible for an army to cross from the one country to the other. Cromwell chose to keep to the east, as it was the road which he knew, having marched that way once before. He wanted, too, to keep in touch with his ships, which sailed along the coast to bring food for his army. For he knew he dared not trust to finding food in the country through which he had to pass.
Oliver was right. It was a barren and deserted land through which he and his men marched. In order that the English might find no food, the Scots had laid bare their best farming counties, Edinburghshire, Haddingtonshire, and Linlithgowshire, called the Lothians. The sheep and cattle had all been driven away to the hills. The standing corn, nearly ripe for harvest, had been trampled and destroyed.
Keeping by the sea, the Ironsides marched on by a wild and beautiful valley to Cockburnspath, at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills. Then on again through the fruitful fields of Haddington. There a few weeks before the fields had been beautiful in the sunshine with the promise of a glorious harvest. Now the country was a barren desert.
Dunbar, with its now ruined castle standing on a rugged rock thrust out into the sea, was their next resting-place. Here the little port grew noisy and busy, while the ships unloaded the food brought for the army.
The next day, being thus provided, the Ironsides marched westwards, and inland to the town of Haddington, which, being in the midst of the best farming country of Scotland, is one of the centres of the grain trade. Next day, Sunday though it was, the Ironsides marched on again, for they had heard that the enemy was near. But they reached Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, with nothing more than a skirmish.
And here, between Leith and the Calton Hill, Cromwell found the Scots encamped. Their leader was General David Leslie, that same Leslie who at Marston Moor had fought side by side with Oliver, and helped him to turn defeat into victory. Now these two brave generals were arrayed against each other.
Leslie had gathered a good army. They numbered nearly half as many again as Cromwell's. But most of them were raw recruits, men brought from the plough and the harvest field, boys unused to war. For Scotland had not yet recovered the terrible blow dealt by Cromwell at Preston. Cromwell's army was full of tried men, the most perfect soldiers the world had ever seen.