This is a short extract from the work of historical fiction written by John Galt and published in 1823 which tells the story of the Protestant uprising that began at Dalry and ended in their defeat at Rullion Green. The full book was published in 2 volumes is available at Google Books. Vol 1 - Vol 2 

Ringan Gilhaize; or The Covenanters

I heard the murmuring, deep and sad, of my neighbours, at the insult and the contumely which they were obligated to endure from the irresponsible licentiousness of military domination - but I said nothing; I was driven, with my pious wife and our simple babies, from my own hearth by the lewd conversation of the commissioned freebooters, and obligated to make our home in an out-house, that we might not be molested in our prayers by their wicked ribaldry, - but I said nothing; I saw my honest neighbours plundered - their sons insulted - and their daughters put to shame, - but I said nothing; I was a witness when our godly minister, after having been driven with his wife and family out to the mercy of the winter's wind, was seized in the very time while he was worshipping the Maker of us all, and taken like a malefactor to prison, - but I said nothing; and I was told the story of the machinations against his innocent virgin daughter, when she was left defenceless among us, - and still I said nothing. Like the icy winter, tyranny had so incrusted my soul, that my taciturnity seemed as hard, impenetrable, cold, and cruel, as the frozen river's surface, but the stream of my feelings ran stronger and fiercer beneath; and the time soon came when, in proportion to the still apathy that made my brother and my friends to wonder how I so quietly bore the events of so much, my inward struggles burst through all outward passive forms, and, like the hurling and the drifting ice, found no effectual obstacle to its irresistible and natural destination.

Mrs. Swinton, the worthy lady of that saint, our pastor, on hearing what had been plotted against the chaste innocence of her fair and blooming child, came to me, and with tears, in a sense the tears of a widow, very earnestly entreated of me that I would take the gentle Martha to her cousin, the Laird of Garlin's, in Dumfries-shire, she having heard that some intromissions, arising out of pacts and covenants between my wife's cousin and the Laird of Barscob, obligated me to go thither. This was on the Monday after the battering that the cavalier got from Zachariah Smylie's black ram; and I reasonably thinking that there was judgment in the request, and that I might serve, by my compliance, the helpless residue, and the objects of a persecuted Christian's affections, I consented to take the damsel with me as far as Garlin's, in Galloway; the which I did.

When I had left Martha Swinton with her friends, who, being persons of pedigree and opulence, were better able to guard her, I went to the end of my own journey; and here, from what ensued, it is needful I should relate that, in this undertaking, I left my own house under the care of my brother, and that I was armed with my grandfather's sword.

It happened that, on Tuesday the 13th November, 1866, as I was returning homeward from Barscob, I fell in with three godly countrymen about a mile south of the village of Dalry in Galloway, and we entered into a holy and most salutary conversation anent the sufferings and the fortitude of God's people in that time of trouble. Discoursing with great sobriety on that melancholious theme, we met a gang of Turner's blackcuffs, driving before them, like beasts to the slaughter, several miserable persons to thresh out the corn, that it might be sold, of one of my companions, who, being himself a persecuted man, and unable to pay the fine forfeited by his piety, had some days before been forced to flee his house.

On seeing the soldiers and their prey coming towards us, the poor man would have run away; but we exhorted him not to be afraid, for he might pass unnoticed, and so he did; for, although those whom the military rabiators were driving to thresh his corn knew him well, they were enabled to bear up, and were so endowed with the strength of martyrdom, that each of them, only by a look, signified that they were in the spirit of fellowship with him.

After they had gone by, his heart, however, was so afflicted that so many worthy persons should be so harmed for his sake, that he turned back, and, in despite of all our entreaties, went to them, while we went forward to Dalry, where we entered a small public, and having ordered some refreshment, for we were all weary, we sat meditating on what could be the upshot of such tyranny.

While we were so sitting, a cry got up, that our companion was seized by the soldiers, and that they were tormenting him on a red-hot gridiron for not having paid his fine.

My blood boiled at the news. I rose, and those who were with me followed, and we ran to the house - his own house - where the poor man was. I beseeched two of the soldiers, who were at the door, to desist from their cruelty; but while I was speaking, other two, that were within, came raging out like curs from a kennel, and flew at me; and one of them flared to strike me with his nieve in the mouth. My grandfather's sword flew out at the blow, and the insulter lay wounded and bleeding at my feet. My companions in the same moment rushed on the other soldiers, dashed their teeth down their throats, and twisting their firelocks from their hands, set the prisoner free.

In this there was rashness, but there was also redemption and glory. We could not stop at what we had done; - we called on those who had been brought to thresh the corn to join with us, and they joined; - we hastened to the next farm; - the spirit of indignation was there before us, and master and man, and father and son, there likewise found that the hilts of their fathers' covenanted swords fitted their avenging grasps. We had now fired the dry stubble of the land - the flame spread - we advanced, and grew stronger and stronger. The hills, as it were, clapped their hands, and the valleys shouted of freedom. From all sides men and horse came exulting towards us; the gentleman and the hind knew no distinction. The cry was, "Down with tyranny - we are and we will make free!'' The fields rejoiced with the multitude of our feet as we advanced towards Dumfries, where Turner lay. His blackcuffs flung down their arms and implored our mercy. We entered Dumfries, and the Oppressor was our prisoner.

Hitherto the rising at Dalry had been as a passion and a spreading fire. The strength of the soldiers was consumed before us, and their arms became our weapons; but when we had gained possession of Dumfries, and had set a ward over the house where we had seized Turner, I saw that we had waded owre far into the river to think of returning, and that to go on was safer than to come back. It was indeed manifest that we had been triumphant rather by our haste than by the achievements of victorious battle; and it could be hidden from no man's thought that the power and the vengeance both of the government and the prelacy would soon be set in array against us. I therefore bethought myself, in that peril of our lives and cause, of two things which seemed most needful; first, Not to falter in our enterprise until we had proved the utmost of the Lord's pleasure in our behalf; and, second, To use the means under Him which, in all human undertakings, are required to bring whatsoever is ordained to pass.

Whether in these things I did well, or wisely, I leave to the adjudication of the courteous reader; but I can lay my hand upon my heart, and say aloud, yea, even to the holy skies, "I thought not of myself nor of mine, but only of the religious rights of my sorely oppressed countrymen."

From the moment in which I received the blow of the soldier up till the hour when Turner was taken, I had been the head and leader of the people. My sword was never out of my grip, and I marched as it were in a path of light, so wonderful was the immediate instinct with which I was directed to the accomplishment of that adventure, the success of which overwhelmed the fierce and cruel Antichrists at Edinburgh, with unspeakable consternation and panic. But I lacked that knowledge of the art of war by which men are banded into companies and ruled, however manifold their diversities, to one end and effect, so that our numbers having by this time increased to a great multitude, I felt myself utterly unable to govern them. We were as a sea of billows, that move onward all in one way, obedient to the impulse and deep fetchings of the tempestuous breath of the awakened winds of heaven, but which often break into foam, and waste their force in a roar of ineffectual rage.

Seeing this, and dreading the consequences thereof, I conferred with some of those whom I had observed the most discreet and considerate in the course of the raid, and we came to a resolve to constitute and appoint Captain Learmont our chief commander, he having earned an experience of the art and stratagems of war under the renowned Lesley. Had we abided by that determination, some have thought our expedition might have come to a happier issue; but no human helps and means could change what was evidently ordained otherwise. It happened, however, that Colonel Wallace, another officer of some repute, also joined us, and his name made him bright and resplendent to our enthusiasm. While we were deliberating whom to choose for our leader, Colonel Wallace was in the same breath, for his name's sake, proposed, and was united in the command with Learmont. This, was a deadly error, and ought in all time coming be a warning and an admonition to people and nations in their straits and difficulties, never to be guided, in the weighty shocks and controversies of disordered fortunes, by any prejudice or affection so unsubstantial as the echo of an honoured name. For this Wallace, though a man of question less bravery, and a gentleman of good account among all who knew him, had not received any gift from Nature of that spirit of masterdom without which there can be no command; so that he was no sooner appointed to lead us on, with Learmont as his second, than his mind fell into a strange confusion, and he heightened disorder into anarchy by ordering overmuch. We could not however undo the evil, without violating the discipline that we were all conscious our forces so grievously lacked; but, from the very moment that I saw in what manner he took upon him the command, I augured of nothing but disaster.

Learmont was a collected and an urbane character, and did much to temper and turn aside the thriftless ordinances of his superior. He, seeing how much our prosperity was dependent on the speed with which we could reach Edinburgh, hastened forward everything with such alacrity, that we were ready on the morrow by mid-day to set out from Dumfries. But the element of discord was now in our cause, and I was reproached by many for having abdicated my natural right to the command. It was in vain that I tried to redeem the fault by taking part with Learmont, under the determination, when the black hour of defeat or dismay should come upon us, to take my stand with him, and, regardless of Wallace, to consider him as the chief and champion of our covenanted liberties. But why do I dwell on these intents? Let me hasten to describe the upshot of our enterprise.

As soon as we had formed, in the manner herein related, something like a head and council for ourselves, we considered, before leaving Dumfries, what ought to be done with General Turner, and ordered him to be brought before us; for those who had suffered from his fell orders and licentious soldiery were clamorous for his blood. But when the man was brought in, he was so manifestly mastered by his wine, as his vice often made him, that we thought it would be as it were to ask a man mad, or possessed, to account for his actions, as at that time to put the frantic drunkard on his defence; so we heeded not his obstreperous menaces, but ordered him to be put into bed, and his papers to be searched for and laid before us.

In this moderation there was wisdom; for, by dealing so gently by one who had proved himself so ruthless an agent of the prelatic aggressions, we bespoke the good opinion even of many among our adversaries ; and in the end it likewise proved a measure of justice as well as of mercy. For, on examining his papers, it appeared that pitiless as his domineering had been, it was far short of the universal cruelty of his instructions from the apostate James Sharp, and those in the council with him, who had delivered themselves over as instruments to the arbitrary prerogatives and tyrannous pretensions of the court. We therefore resolved to proceed no farther against him, but to keep him as an hostage in our hands. Many, however, among the commonalty, complained of our lenity; for they had endured in their persons, their gear, and their families, great severities; and they grudged that he was not obligated to taste the bitterness of the cup of which he had forced them to drink so deeply.

In the meantime all the country became alive with the news of our exploit. The Covenanters of the shire of Ayr, headed by several of their ejected ministers whom they had cherished in the solitary dens and hidings in the moors and hills, to which they had been forced to flee from the proclamation against the field-preachings, advanced to meet us on our march. Verily it was a sight that made the heart of man dinle at once with gladness and sorrow to behold, as the day dawned on our course, in crossing the wide and lonely wilderness of Cumnock-moor, those religious brethren coming towards us, moving in silence over the heath, like the shadows of the slowly-sailing clouds of the summer sky.

As we were toiling through the deep heather on the eastern skirts of the Mearns-moor, a mist hovered all the morning over the pad of Neilston, covering like a snowy fleece the sides of the hills down almost to the course of our route, in such a manner that we could see nothing on the left beyond it. We were then within less than fourteen miles of Glasgow, where General Dalziel lay with the King's forces, keeping in thraldom the godly of that pious city and its neighbourhood. Captain Learmont, well aware, from the eager character of the man, that he would be fain to intercept us, and fearful of being drawn into jeopardy by the mist, persuaded Wallace to halt us some time.
As November was far advanced, it was thought by the country-folk that the mist would clear away about noon. We accordingly made a pause, and sat down on the ground; for many were weary, having over-fatigued themselves in their zeal to come up with the main body, and we all stood in need of rest.

Scarcely, however, had we cast ourselves in a desultory manner on the heather, when someone heard the thud of a distant drum in the mist, and gave the alarm at which we all again suddenly started to our feet, and listening, were not long left in doubt of the sound. Orders were accordingly given to place ourselves in array for battle; and while we were obeying the command in the best manner our little skill allowed, the beating of the drum came louder and nearer, intermingled with the shrill war-note of the spirity fife.

Every one naturally thought of the King's forces; and the Reverend Mr. Semple, seeing that we were in some measure prepared to meet them, stepped out in front with all his worthy brethren in the camp, and having solemneezed us for worship, gave out a psalm.

By the time we had sung the first three verses, the drum and fife sounded so near, that I could discern they played the tune of "John, come kiss me now," which left me in no doubt that the soldiers in the mist were my own friends and neighbours; for it was the same tune which was played when the men of our parish went to the raid of Dunse-hill, and which, in memorial of that era, had been preserved as a sacred melody among us.

Being thus convinced, I stepped out from my place to the ministers, and said, "They are friends that are coming." The worship was in consequence for a short space suspended, and I presently after saw my brother at the head of our neighbours coming out of the cloud whereupon I went forward to meet him, and we shook hands sorrowfully.

"This is an unco thing, Ringan," were his first words; "but it's the Lord's will, and He is able to work out a great salvation."

I made no answer; but inquiring for my family, of whom it was a cheering consolation to hear as blithe an account as could reasonably be hoped for, I walked with him to our captains, and made him known to them as my brother.