The Scottish Campaign of James Graham the Marquess of Montrose

By Geoff Geddes

This is the first part of a major article aimed at simulating the entire
campaign using SPI's "Musket and Pike". Part 1 recalls the historical
and later issues of Phoenix will carry the various scenarios covering
each of the battles

The Historical Background.

During the First Civil War (1642-1646) Scotland was lost to King Charles
1 by the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant in September 1643.
The signing of this document brought Scotland into the English Civil War
on the side of Parliament. But not all Scots were Covenanters, and in an
attempt to raise the western highland clans, King Charles sent James
Graham the Marquis Montrose to Scotland in 1644.

After an abortive start, caused in the main by the Royalists disaster at
Marston Moor, Montrose set out with just two companions to conquer
Scotland for the King. The Earl of Antrim had been ordered by the King
to raise his Northern Irish MacDonalds and land them on the western
coast of Scotland. On arrival in the highlands Montrose found the Irish
troops about to fight their supposed Scottish allies. With great
diplomacy Montrose settled the arguments and raised the King's banner
over his new army of 2000 Scots and Irish clansmen.

Montrose now set out on a brilliant campaign in which he was frequently
out numbered but never outfought. Reliant on clansmen who were fierce
fighters but who often left for home with the plunder from successful
battles, Montrose's forces flucuated in size from 4000 to only 1500. The
nucleus of Montrose's army were the Irish troops under Alasdair
Macdonald. These soldiers were experienced professionals who could be
relied on at all times. The Covenanters were presented with many
problems in their attempts to deal with Montrose. The main Scottish army
was away in England fighting alongside the armies of Parliament. Most of
the more experienced soldiers were with this army. Manpower was not a
problem: the Covenanters could raise and arm many men, but they were
inexperienced levies and in the main badly led. In the end it became
necessary to call a substantial part of the army in England back to
Scotland to deal with Montrose. Incompetance was not the only reason for
Covenanter commanders' failure, for these men suffered from the
attentions of a committee of ministers and 'interested parties' which
accompanied the army wherever it went. These zealous gentlemen could,
and frequently did, override military decisions for reasons of their
own. On many occasions the interference of the committee led to disaster
on the battle field, Kilsyth being a case in point.
The Campaign.

Montrose set out towards Perth recruiting local men as he went. A
covenanting army under Lord Elcho blocked his approach to the city and
brought about the battle of Tippermuir on 1st of September 1644. Lord
Elcho's 7000 levies were no match for the experienced soldiers of
Montrose, and were soon routed. Montrose then found himself without his
undisciplined Scots who went home with the spoils of the battle. Despite
this he moved on and took the town of Dundee. From there Montrose moved
to Aberdeen where a second battle was fought, on the second of September
1644. The opponent this time was Lord Balfour of Burleigh. As the
Covenanters advanced they were taken in flank by Montrose and

During this time Montrose's small army was being pursued by yet another
Covenanter army under the command of the Duke of Argyle. Montrose's
Scottish Macdonalds were the hereditary enemies of the Duke of Argle's
Campbells and the campaign took on an aspect of Clan warfare.

Montrose could not stop the Macdonalds from attacking Clan Campbell, so,
despite the desperate lack of supplies and powder his army was
suffering, he invaded Campbell country. The small army reached
Inverarary, the principle Campbell fortress on Loch Fyne, and surprised
the Campbell forces in the area. Montrose's army laid waste to the area
and looted the surrounding country side. The Covenanter leaders now
decided to withdraw part of Lord Leven's army from England. William
Baillie was sent north with a detachment, and working with the Duke of
Argyle, attempted to trap Montrose as he withdrew from Campbell country.
But Montrose doubled back and on the second of February 1645 after an
incredible forced march over the Loch aber hills descended on the
Campbells at Inverlochy. The Duke of Argyle's army was cut to pieces.
1500 men of his initial force of 3000 were killed. Montrose lost only a
handful of men due to the complete surprise of his attack. The
Covenanter commander in the north was Colonel Hurry, who had fought for
the Royalists at Marston Moor, and then changed sides. He decided that
the best chance of defeating Montrose lay in luring him away from his
areas of support, and then ambushing him. Hurry fell back before
advancing Montrose and then turned on him near the village of Auldearn.
On the 9th of May 1645 after a night march, the Covenanters ran into the
trap that Montrose had hastily set for them. A flank attack by the main
Royalist force, which had been concealed behind the brow of a hill,
routed the Covenanters. Hurry's army fought well and it was not an easy
victory, but it was a complete one, and the Covenanters were totally

There were still Covenanter armies in the field despite this victory,
and Montrose needed time to recruit and reorganise. Now it was
Montrose's turn to lure his enemies into unfavorable country, and the
new Covenanter commander in Scotland, William Baillie followed Montrose
to Alford. When Baillie saw the strength of the Royalist army's position
he did not want to give battle. The Committee of the Estates, following
the Covenanter Army, overruled Baillie and ordered him to proceed. The
battle of Alford on July the second 1645 was a disaster for the

Caught between the river Don and the high ground at Alford, they
suffered heavy losses. Royalist losses were again slight, but among them
was Lord Gordon killed by a stray bullet.

Across the border in England, things were not going so well for the
Royalist cause. Royalist jokes about the 'New Noddle Army' had turned
sour, after the battle of Naseby. The New Model Army under Fairfax and
Cromwell had out-thought and out-fought the King's army. Montrose
realised that he must march into England and assist the King. Montrose
began to march south cross ing the Forth above Stirling. General Baillie
was raising a new army at Perth and was determined to cut Montrose off
before he reached England. On the 15th of August 1645, Baillie caught up
with Montrose outside the town of Kilsyth. At this battle Baillie was
again dogged by the interference of the Committee of Estates. Thinking
that at last they had Montrose trapped, the Committee ordered Baillie to
march part of his force round the flank of the Royalist army. The result
was a disaster, the divided Convenanter army was attacked and
annihilated. Little mercy was shown to the fleeing remnants of the army
and many were slaughtered.

Montrose was now the last Royalist hope and the King, hearing of his
successes, considered joining Montrose in Scotland with what remained of
his army. As a reward for his services, Montrose was appointed Captain
General and Lieutenant Governor of Scotland. There was now no army left
in Scotland to oppose Montrose and complete victory seemed to be his,
but all was not well. The highland clansmen began to return to their
homes with the plunder they had obtained. The Macleans, worried that
their enemies the Campbells would raid their lands while they were away,
went home. Montrose's army was melting away. Internal disension, and
intrigue weakened Montrose's position still more. But Montrose continued
to campaign, moving south and hopeful that he could pick up new recruits
in the border country .

The Scottish army in England was besieging Hereford when news came of
the disaster at Kilsyth. Lord Leven decided at once to send General Sir
David Leslie north with 4000 cavalry and dragoons. Leslie moved north
with great speed, picking up reinforcements on the way. As he crossed
the border, Leslie obtained news of the weak state of Montrose's forces.
General David Leslie was a different kind of commander to those Montrose
had fought and beaten. He was an able and professional soldier, and
acted in a decisive manner. Changing direction he set off in the
direction of Montrose's camp.

On the 13th September 1645 he approached the Royalist camp at

Attacking in two wings, he obtained complete surprise. Montrose,
believing Leslie to be miles away, had spent the night in the nearby
town of Selkirk, and by the time he arrived the battle had begun. It was
soon over and Montrose was urged to flee by his lieutenants.

Reluctantly he left, and with a few horse men escaped. After Montrose
left, what remained of his army surrendered. The prisoners were all
slaughtered in cold blood by the Covenanter army, acting on the orders
of the committee. The King's cause was now lost in Scotland as well as
England and the First Civil War soon ended. Montrose attempted to raise
another army, but winter was beginning to set in and little could be
done. In the spring of 1646 things began to go Montrose's way again, but
after a minor success at Callander, Montrose received a letter from King
Charles ordering him to lay down his arms and leave the country.
Montrose went into exile and his Scottish campaign was over.

Bibliography: Various studies of Montrose have been written, perhaps the
most easily available is C.V.Wedgewood's 'Montrose', Collins 1952. For
the military side of things, the following books are helpful and easily
found. William Seymour 'Battles in Britain :Vol.2 1642-1746'. Published
by Sidgwick and Jackson (Good on Auldearn, AIford and Kilsyth). Philip
Warner. 'Famous Scottish Battles'. Published by Eyre Methuen 1974. (A
military history of all three Civil Wars). John Tucker and Lewis S
Winstock. (Editors). 'The English Civil War, a military handbook'.
Published by Arms & Armour Press, 1972. (Good for background