Monday, 23 December 2013

All The King's Men

The Scots Royalist Army at Inverlochy, 2nd February 1645

During the latter months of 1644 Montrose had led his small army on a bold and daring raid through the Campbell heartlands of Argyll.  For Montrose this was an opportunity to strike at the centre of his greatest enemy's power base.  For Montrose's lieutenant, Alasdair MacDonald (MacColla), this 'Chevauchée' was even more significant as it demonstrated to the other Western Clans that the power of the Campbell's could be challenged even in their very strongholds.

As Campbell resistance to Montrose began to be organised at the beginning of 1645 Montrose had led his army out of Argyll's lands, through Lochaber, towards the North West and up the Great Glen. As so often happened, some of those clansmen who were weighed down with Campbell booty, set off for their homes diminishing the numbers in Montroses's force.  Thus Montrose found himself at Kilcumin with only 1500 men when news reached him that Earl of Seaforth was ahead of him with large force at Inverness and the Marquis of Argyll with his avenging Campbell clansmen was now behind him with another 3000 men.  At a council of war with his commanders, Montrose settled on an audacious plan to thwart the enemies of the King by attacking one of the enemy forces before they could combine. Knowing that Argyll would be likely avoid battle if Montrose simply turned about and marched back down the Great Glen toward him, instead Montrose formed a plan of marching the little known tracks through the Scottish mountain ranges to fall upon Argyll's force before the Campbells knew what was upon them.

This march is worthy of its own chapter, but for the purposes of describing Montrose's army it is sufficient to say that the Royalists appeared at Inverlochy on 2nd February achieving their surprise, and in full battle array, much to the consternation of the Marquis of Argyll!

There are no finer figures for the Irish Brigade than those from Warlord Games!
The core of Montrose's army was the Irish Brigade which was led by MacColla.  This brigade was made up of three regular foot regiments; each consisting of pike and shot.  The brigade was recruited by the Earl of Antrim in Ulster for the King's cause so would have had a large proportion of Roman Catholic Irishmen, but also Scottish Highlanders, many of whom had found employment in the armies fighting in Ulster.  This was a tough formation of hard marching, and hard fighting men.  In Montrose's campaign in Scotland they were fighting in a generally hostile country where their religion alone made them marked men, and they could expect little clemency if they were captured.  This certainly led to their "do or die" attitude.  They were a dependable, trained and experienced formation, if often short of supplies such a powder for their muskets.

The Irish Brigade had no means of receiving new recruits and so casualties in battle, desertions and the rigours of hard campaigning took their toll and gradually wore down their numbers.  The three regiments, Laghtman's, O'Cahans and McDonnell's, together numbered probably just under 1,000 men.  The rest of Montrose's force was made up of Highland Clansmen and a small troop of the only horse at the battle, led by Sir Thomas Ogilvy.

The Highlanders fighting for Montrose were not from the general raising of their clans, such as many of those in the Campbell ranks, but were instead the men selected to follow their clan chiefs and war-leaders on Montrose and MacColla's raid. So, although smaller in numbers than the Campbells, these Highlanders from the Western clans would have had a much higher proportion of the better trained and equipped Highland 'Gentlemen' than the 'rabble and arrant scum' that typically made up the back ranks of Highland war bands.

Ogilvie's troopers would most likely have been pistol armed cavalry, mounted on small but doughty highland garrons.   While perhaps not a match for larger English horses on the gentle wolds of the South, these hardy ponies were able to withstand winter conditions in the mountains, and to carry their riders safely across heath and moorland.

Commander In Chief

James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, and the King's Lieutenant General in Scotland.

Montrose was accompanied by the Royal Standard, as the King's representative.  It would have been this banner more than any other sign that indicated to Argyll and Auchinbreck that it was the whole of Montrose's army before them at Inverlochy on the morning of 2nd February.

Right Wing

(Right wing commanded by) Major General Alasdair MacDonald (MacColla, the Devastator!)

As well as being Montrose's second in command MacColla led in the initial attack on the right wing with his Irish Brigade infantry.   MacColla was an experienced soldier and this renowned swordsmen must have been a fearsome opponent, especially when he and his followers were 'falling on' with claymore, targe and musket butt!
Major Thomas Laghtman's Regiment, commanded by Ranald Og MacDonnell - 400
One of the three regiments making up the redoubtable Irish Brigade, and holding the position of honour at the right hand of the army, MacColla no doubt expected this formation to lead his attack on Auchibreck's position.  As a regular regiment of foot they would have been equipped with matchlock muskets and pikes, probably somewhere in the region of two muskets to every pike as the recognised ideal at the time.  With their mixed backgrounds, and their hard campaigning around the Highalnds, they no doubt had a somewhat eclectic appearance and levels of equipment.

Left Wing

(Left wing commanded by) Colonel Manus O'Cahan 

Colonel Manus O'Cahan's Regiment - 300
The second of the three regiments from the Irish Brigade, O'Cahan's were stationed on the left wing of the army providing another reliable anchor for the battle line.

Main Body

Montrose's centre was divided in to three divisions

Vanguard - 250 Highlanders

(Vanguard commanded by) Patrick Graham of Inchbrakie (Montrose's close personal friend and advisor, otherwise known as Black Pate after suffering a severe powder burn on his face.)

Highlanders from the Stewarts of Appin and Atholl, the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and the Camerons of Lochaber (whose chief, Old Lochiel, was a 'captive' aboard Argyll's birlinn)

Main Division - 250 Highlanders
(Main Division commanded by) The Captain of Clanranald

Highlanders from the MacDonalds of Glengarry, and the Macleans of Duart, Coll, Lochaline, Treshnish and Ardgour


Colonel James MacDonnell's Regiment - 300
The third regiment of the Irish Brigade provided Montrose's reserve.
Sir Thomas Ogilvy's Troop of Horse - 50
Also in the reserve was the only body off horse in either army; Ogilvy's troopers on their Highland ponies.

Total Force

Around 1500 foot and 50 horse.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Meet the Campbells

The Scottish Government order of battle for Inverlochy 1645. 

The Scottish government force at the battle of Inverlochy was different in one key respect to all of the other forces that fought in battles against Montrose. The majority of the troops were from a general rising of highlanders from the Campbell clan and their close allies, rather than regular soldiers. This rising was in response to the Winter campaign in which the Scottish royalists had marched unopposed through the Campbell heartland, pillaging and plundering for all they were worth. After initially being taken by surprise at the invasion of his heartland in late 1644, the Marquis of Argyle was now intent on reasserting his authority on Argyle and Lochaber. Strategically he was also trying to trap Montrose between his forces and the Northern Covenanters based around Inverness. In addition to the irregular clansmen of Clan Campbell and their allies, Argyle was also supported by a lowland force from the Covenanting Scottish Government regular army. The Covenanters sent these lowland soldiers freshly returned from their campaign in Northern England to the North West under General William Baillie. Baillie, a professional soldier, was not prepared to abdicate his command to The Marquis of Argyle despite Argyle's importance in the government. Baillie and Argyle seemed to have compromised through Baillie agreeing to transfer 16 companies of infantry (the best part of two infantry regiments) to Argyle's command, while Baillie then marched the rest of his force Northward, via a different route.  

The Covenanters had around 3,000 men at Inverlochy and about 1,000 of these were made up of the regular infantry from the Government army. The make-up and detailed organisation of the remaining 2,000 is not clear. Argyle had delegated military command of his army to Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck. Auchinbreck was an experienced soldier and also Lieutenant Colonel of Argyle's Highland Regiment. Auchinbreck and his regiment had been serving with the Covenanting Scottish army in Ulster when he was recalled by Argyle to help deal with the Royalist 'invasion'. It is assumed that the whole regiment returned with its commander. Not only would Argyle have wanted this trusty cadre of experienced and well equipped men in his force, but they themselves no doubt wanted the opportunity to avenge themselves on the various MacDonalds, Papist Irish and other Royalists who had been laying waste to their very homes. 

So, we have an army made up of irregular highlanders, a strong force of lowland infantry, and also Argyle's regular highland regiment. The accounts of the battle also provide Argyle with some pieces of artillery, almost certainly light pieces, due to the extreme difficulty of moving anything around the highlands, let alone large field guns, and particularly during the winter. There is no record of any Covenanter horse at the battle. The very small number of Royalist Horse who were present seem to have caused some alarm to the Covenanters suggesting they indeed felt exposed by their own lack of horse.


"The flight of Argyll from Inverlochy". An evocative print showing the fleeing Campbell troops at the end of battle, with Argyle's birlinn slipping away down Loch Linnhe
(Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyle, 8th Earl of Argyle, chief of Clan Campbell, and the most influential man in the Scottish Government abdicated command in the battle to the far more martial character of his relative, Auchinbreck.  Argyle, spent the battle as a spectator, safely aboard his birlinn (or galley) on Loch Linnhe, a situation that can have done little to inspire his clansmen!)

Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, 2nd Baronet and 6th Lord Auchinbreck, hereditary Lieutenant Colonel to the Campbell clan.  

Auchinbreck was an experienced military officer although he can have had little experience of major field actions, his fighting in Ulster being confined to small scale sieges and skirmishes.  He was considered cruel and heartless by his enemies, and even his fellow Covenanter, General Baillie, thought him "a stout soldier but a vicious man".


(Vanguard commanded by) Gillespie, son of Gillespie Og, Lord of the Bingingeadhs.

The Marquis of Argyle's Highland Regiment - 500 men

This is the formation described in the sources as being made up of the Campbell's "prime men" armed with "guns, bows and axes", which we can speculate was the Marquis' own regiment returned from Ulster to protect their chief's honour and avenge the wasting of their lands.  To reconcile their status as a regular regiment, with the slightly anachronistic description of their arms, I intend to field this unit organised as a regular regiment with a central melee armed block with two missile armed sleeves.  The central block will be armed with fearsome Lochaber axes, which makes sense both as they are fighting in defence of part of their homeland known as Lochaber, and that pikes would have provided little or no advantage against an enemy with little or no Horse.  One of the two sleeves will be armed with matchlock muskets, and the other with bows, which gives a nice 'highland' feel while matching the contemporary account.  At 500 men the regiment, although well below full establishment strength, would be considered a strong regiment.

Main Body

Campbell Highland Levies - 1000 men

These men would have been the result of the general raising of the highland clansmen by the lairds and chieftains who owed fealty to Argyle as Chief of Clan Campbell, the MacCailen Mor in gaelic.  Although mostly drawn from clan Campbell, there were also allied clans included in this great levy such as MacDougalls and Lamonts.  The lists of dead and captured after the battle provide a long list of the gentlemen who lead these highlanders.  With no regular organisation the highlanders would have fought side by side with their kith and kin, following their own chiefs and lairds.  For the purposes of the war-game this conglomerate of soldiers is split in to 4 large highland units which will be lead by:

  • Archibald Campbell, The Provost of Kilmun
  • John Campbell, Laird of Lochnell
  • Sir James Lamont
  • Captain Hew MacDougall

This force also contained the Campbell battle standard, and two pieces of light artillery.

Right Wing

(Right wing commanded by) Lieutenant Colonel Lachlan Roughe

Lieutenant Colonel Lachlan Roughe's provisional battalion - 500 men

Roughe was commander of 8 Companies of infantry from the Earl of Tullibardine's Regiment that were transferred from General Baillie's force to Argyle's army.  These would have been conventional pike and shot armed, lowland infantry.  They had been raised in 1643 for the invasion of England and so would have seen action around the North of England in 1644 (including the siege of Newcastle), but did not take part in the Battle of Marston Moor itself, so although veterans to some degree they had probably not seen a major field action.

Archibald Campbell, Laird of Glencarradale - 250 men

Roughe's lowland regulars were supported by further Campbell highland levies (see the Main Body above).  For the purpose of the war-game these are formed in to another large highland unit and command by one of the Campbell Lairds known to be present at the battle.

Left Wing

(Left wing commanded by) Lieutenant Colonel John Cockburn

Lieutenant Colonel John Cockburn's provisional battalion - 500 men

Cockburn was commander of 8 Companies of infantry from Sir John Wauchope of Niddrie's Regiment that were transferred from General Baillie's force to Argyle's army.  These would have been conventional pike and shot armed, lowland infantry.  They had been raised in 1644 for the invasion of England and so would have seen action around the North of England in 1644 (including Newcastle), but did not take part in the Battle of Marston Moor itself, so although veterans to some degree they had probably not seen a major field action.

John Campbell, Laird of Ardchattan - 250 men

Cockburn's lowland regulars were supported by further Campbell highland levies (see the Main Body above).  For the purpose of the war-game these are formed in to another large highland unit and command by one of the Campbell Lairds known to be present at the battle.

Detachment - 50 men

A small body of lowland musketeers were detached to man the remains of Inverlochy Castle walls, which stood on the army's extreme left flank, and to provide flanking fire in to the Royalists as they advanced against Cockburn's wing.

Total Forces 

Around 3,000 infantry, 2 pieces of artillery and a Birlinn (!).

Sunday, 8 December 2013

An Introduction

"Heard ye not! heard ye not! how that whirlwind the Gael -
To Lochaber swept down from Loch Ness to Loch Eil, - ..."

From 'The Day of Inverlochy', by Iain Lom MacDonald 1625-1710. 

The Battle of Inverlochy was the Royalist Marquis of Montrose's  third great victory over the Covenanting Scottish Government's forces during the Great Rebellion, or English Civil War 1642-1652.  It is set apart from his other battles in having a large proportion of Highlanders fighting on either side.  Indeed, it could be said that the battle had little to do with the King or his enemies in the English Parliament, and much to do with two of the great Scottish Clans; Clan Campbell and Clan Donald.  As such the battle can be seen as the last Highlander versus Highlander battle in Britain.

As a long standing student of the 17th century and wargamer (i.e. toy soldier wrangler) the campaign of the Marquis of Montrose and his ally Alisdair MacDonald have always held a great fascination. The campaign was the desperate struggle of a disparate band of Scottish Royalists, Irish Confederates and Scottish Highlanders to wrest control of Scotland from the dominant Covenanting Scottish Government based in Edinburgh.  Their hope was to raise Scotland in support of King Charles, defeat his enemies in Scotland, and then march South to the King's support in England.   Montrose fought a remarkable campaign around Scotland in which he defeated a number of larger, and more professional, forces sent against him over a 12 month period during which he had little in the way of a standing army, and no permanent base of operations.

This blog will form an account of the journey to re-create in miniature the battle between the Marquis of Montrose's Royalist army, and the army of his great rival the Marquis of Argyll, at Inverlochy.  The blog will cover the research carried out into the battle, as well as the collection and fielding of the two miniature armies.

Alba gu bràth!