The Bishops' Wars: military overview
Religious war between King Charles I and the Scottish Covenanters
The Bishops' Wars are two conflicts between England and Scotland in 1639 and 1640. They were caused by fierce Scottish reaction against King Charles the First's attempt to reform the Scottish church. After the implementation of the Scottish National Covenant against the King's reforms in 1638, the Covenanters became the dominant political and religious force in Scotland.
Determined to assert his authority, the King formulated an ambitious military campaign against the Covenanters. However, his plans were thwarted by lack of funds, by lack of support for the war among his subjects and by lack of experience among his commanders. In contrast, the Covenanters organised Scottish resistance quickly and efficiently. The English army that finally mustered on the Scottish border in mid-1639 was untrained, ill-equipped and clearly no match for the Covenanter army. The King agreed to negotiate a truce and the first Bishops War ended in an inconclusive treaty known as the Pacification of Berwick.
In 1640, King Charles attempted a second campaign against the Scots, but once again, the army he raised was inadequate. Under the direction of the newly-formed Committee of Estates in Edinburgh, the Covenanters quickly mobilized their forces to suppress Royalist clans in the Highlands while the main Covenanter army under General Leslie marched into England. Leslie by-passed ineffective English defences on the borders and advanced on Newcastle. After Viscount Conway's forces were routed at the battle of Newburn in August 1640, the English abandoned Newcastle to the Covenanters and fell back to Durham.
With morale in the English army shattered, the King was forced to negotiate a truce at Ripon. The second Bishops War was concluded at the treaty of London of August 1641. It resulted in the summoning of the Long Parliament to ratify the treaty.