Friday, June 22, 2012

James Todd, Laird of Dunbar

We typically play wargames at a level that is abstracted from the individual soldiers and leadership (with the exception of some of the larger-than-life characters of history such as Napoleon, Cromwell or Hannibal); however, it is the stories, struggles and histories of the regular man during these conflicts that can lend some character, context and depth to the games we play. Plus, we can learn a lot about history from the bottom-up.

A descendant of James Todd
As an example, James Todd, born in Scotland in 1639,  is a distant relative to my wife's family and has a very interesting story. James Todd was the Laird of Dunbar and he, unlike my own Macpherson heritage, found himself fighting on the side of the Covenanters during the English Civil War. James Todd fought in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679, and like so many other Covenanter soldiers that day, was captured, forced marched to Edinburgh and held as prisoner in an open pen deep into the harsh winter. It is here that the story takes a dramatic turn. The Royalists contracted with a merchant named Patterson to transport 250 of these rebel prisoners to the West Indies where they were to be sold as slaves. James Todd was aboard this ship, The Crown, when it sank in a storm just off the Orkney Islands. James Todd could not escape the ship as he had been locked in a hold at the time.

I was completely unaware of the practice of shipping prisoners of the English Civil War to the New World as slaves, and I'm glad I learned about this practice during my reading and research.

John Todd, the son of James, fled from the persecutions of Claverhouse, in Scotland, to find refuge in the north of Ireland. Two of his grandsons, Andrew and Robert Todd, came with their families to America in 1737.

I've included a photo in this post that I found of a 
descendant of James Todd, Laird of Dunbar. I do not know when or where this photo was taken (probably in Edinburgh), but it is fantastic because it shows the style of dress and accessories of the time.


  1. Most of the Scots who came to America, pre-1800, didn't do it voluntarily. Whether it was slavery or indentured servitude or penal debt, they were forced out of their country.

  2. Aye, this I knew - but I guess I never thought about it specifically in the context of war prisoners...

  3. Hello Jonathan, I to am a decedent of James Todd. Laird of Dunbar. I would love to compair notes with your wife.

  4. I am also a defendant of Lord James and have a list of linage to present day

  5. Jonathan-I read your about James Todd, Laird of Dunbar. I do 28mm ECW and genealogy. After Cromwell's army beat the Scots at Dunbar in 1650, thousands of prisoners were marched to Durham. While upwards of 1,000 were sent to the colonies, some 500 reportedly were 'indentured' into the French army. Question- Have you ever heard of this Scots-French army connection? Thank you Bruce Rutherford/USA

  6. Hi, I am researching family lineage as well. I have encountered sources that state that John (son of the Laird James) fled to Ireland and assumed the name of Todd. He was given the nickname "Tod" (fox) because of his escape from the ship. Any proof of this legend being reality?

    1. This is not consistent with my research. However, one of the later Todd's took "Tod" as his nickname. Tod Todd. (-:
      I am John Andrew Todd from the Pennsylvania branch of James Todd's son John Todd who emigrated to the US in 1737.

  7. I am tracing this line as well and headed to Scotland to see what I can

  8. This can not be a picture of James Tod the camera was invented until around 1839. he was already dead by then

  9. I am John Andrew Todd. I am a descendant of John Todd, the son of James. John's sons, Andrew and Robert came to Pennsylvania in 1737. Part of the family moved to Virginia, and the rest lived for generations in Montgomery County, PA. My father, Richard Henry Todd, was born in Pottstown, PA 1905.