General Tam Dalyell of the Binns lived from 1615 to 1685. His surname is sometimes spelled Dalziell, Dalziel or Dalzell. He was a noted Royalist general particularly remembered for his uncompromising suppression of Covenanters. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Tam, or Thomas, Dalyell was born at the family seat, the House of the Binns near Linlithgow. His father was Thomas Dalyell of the House of the Binns, and his mother was Janet, daughter of the 1st Lord Bruce of Kinloss. Dalyell seems to have entered military service at the age of 13, accompanying the Duke of Buckingham's forces to support the Hugenots during the siege of La Rochelle in 1628.
During the Wars of The Three Kingdoms in the middle decades of the 1600s, Dalyell rose to the rank of colonel, largely serving in Ireland until the fall of Carrickfergus in August 1650. Dalyell then fought on the losing, Royalist, side at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651. In the aftermath he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He escaped, then in 1654 joined the unsuccessful Royalist rising in Scotland. As a result a price of 200 guineas, a huge sum at the time, was placed on his head by Oliver Cromwell.
Dalyell evaded capture and went to Russia, where he became a general in the army of Tsar Alexis I fighting with great distinction against the Turks and Tartars. He returned to Britain after the Restoration of Charles II, and by 1666 was serving as commander-in-chief of the King's army in Scotland, with orders to suppress the Covenanters, signatories of the National Covenant of 1638, an anti-Royalist document calling for religious freedoms which had in many ways sparked the 20 years of wars that then consumed Scotland, Ireland and England.
Dalyell led the Government troops who defeated a force of Covenanters at Rullion Green in the Pentlands on 28 November 1666. Dalyell had promised quarter to all who surrendered. In the event many of the prisoners were subsequently executed, and Dalyell resigned his commission in protest. Despite this, he was widely held responsible by Covenanters for the fate of the prisoners, and became known at the time as Bluidy Tam. or the Muscovite Devil.
At the King's request, Dalyell resumed his role of commander-in-chief in Scotland after a 13 year gap in 1679, when Covenanters were once more becoming a threat. On 25 November 1681, General Dalyell formed The Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons, who because of their use of grey horses later became known as the Scots Greys. Dalyell's commission was confirmed by King James VII/II on his accession in February 1685, but Dalyell died soon afterwards.