In September 1650 a Scottish and French force of some 20,000 was on the verge of a great victory against the forces of the hated Oliver Cromwell. Riddled with desertion and sickness, Cromwell’s forces had been reduced to 11,000 and were encamped with their backs to the sea near Dunbar. Yet as the enemy moved down a hill to prepare to finish Cromwell off, Cromwell noticed two things.
First of all, the enemy’s left flank was moving towards a steep slope and was unlikely to deploy; and second, he saw a blind spot; a slight depression in the ground across the enemy’s front. In a brilliant move, he marched most of his army silently along the depression, unseen because of darkness and rain. At daybreak, Cromwell attacked with complete surprise, totally destroying the opposition’s right flank. The battle lasted an hour, Cromwell victorious.
Dunbar was typical of the forces and battles that arose out of the inefficiency of the Middle Ages, and Oliver Cromwell, a perfect example of the new type of General. At Dunbar, he showed brilliantly the importance of knowing the enemy, and of surprise, turning certain defeat into glorious victory.
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