The Army of Montrose

As I have almost run out of Royalists and Parliamentarians to paint, and I have a small Covenanter force it would make sense to create the Army of Montrose. Something I have been shying away from for a very long time due to tartan*, but anything is preferable to painting Napoleonic Austrians.

James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose
portrait on display at Broughton Castle

My Covenanters, and the Scots from the Army of Montrose, could also be combined to form a Scots Royalist Army for the Preston and Worcester campaigns.

We know very little about about Montrose's Army; the Scots seem to swap sides and allegiance at the drop of a hat, so much of what we know about Montrose's men dates from a short period of their existence when they fought for the Covenant. Montrose never really had a base for his army, the bigger Scottish towns and cities were firmly with the Solemn League, Montrose drawing soldiers from many much smaller settlements (where diarists and chroniclers, on the whole, were notably absent).

Top tip: if you are researching an individual try searching for their 'title' name, and also their actual name, for example the Marquis of Montrose will also return search engine hits as James Graham. Whilst this can be said to be true for the great and good in England, it is particularly so for Scots gentry.

My sources are the ever present Men-At-Arms volume "Scots Armies of the English Civil Wars", the title alone winning the prize for inaccuracy. This is a highly edited version of Reid's "Scots Armies of the Seventeenth Century" which in turn is an older version of his souped up edition "Scots Armies In The Great Rebellion 1638-1658".

As already mentioned some Regiments fought for the Covenant so Furgol's "A Regimental History of The Covenanting Armies 1639-1651" can provide a few snippets of information. Out of print, copies occasionally appear on ABE Books.

The most recent volume on the topic "Famous By My Sword" sadly doesn't contribute anything new to the subject, apart from the very useful printed eyewitness accounts. But then there doesn't really seem to be a treasure trove of information for researchers to get their teeth into: there's scant source material.

For those wanting a one volume slim easy read I'd go for the Men-At-Arms, those wanting some depth and substance Furgol, and Great Rebellion are the ones for you.

At this point I have to mention the Project Auldearn 1645 blog which has a number of excellent sources, links, as well as their own theories on flags etc. (Those wanting a single easy to read volume would be better served saving your money and reading the Project Auldearn blog instead - you'll probably learn more.)

Our knowledge of flags carried is a bit scratchy, Blount describes a handful of flags, as does the True Informer. So it is time for some poetic licence following descriptions and the flag conventions of the day. For foot regiments colonel's colours were usually white with a variation of his coat of arms, company flags usually a variation on the saltaire. We have descriptions of both the Strathbogie and Aberdeen Militia so that's pretty much Montrose's conventional infantry sorted. We also have descriptions of the flags of the Irish Brigade, but we don't now which flag belonged to which regiment. Highlanders, thankfully, generally didn't carry flags.

As for cavalry, Montrose pretty much didn't have any, what he did have we have descriptions of some of Montrose's colours. As for the Gordon Horse it will have to be conjecture based around his coat of arms and possibly the motto born on the Strathbogie flags 'for God and the King against all traitouris'.

This motto from the Strathbogie flags could well be the motto which will be etched on my Montrose casualty markers, but seeing as Montrose was a bit of a poet, a line from one his poems might be more fitting "to win or lose it all".

Those of you wanting to access online primary documents: there is a similar Irish database to the Civil Wars Petitions site, hosted by Trinity College, Dublin - 1641 Depositions

As far as I can make out, the core of Montrose's army is as follows:-

The Irish Brigade, led by Alasdair MacColla. Each Regiment supposedly 400 men strong at the start of the campaigns. Debate rages as to whether they carried pikes, carried cut down pikes, or just carried muskets.

Lieutenant-General Alexander MacDonnell's Regiment (Major Thomas Laghtman commanding, often known by his name. The regiment was twice as strong as the other two at the start)

Colonel James MacDonnell's Regiment

Colonel Manus O'Cahan's Regiment

The Scots

The Strathbogie Regiment a regular foot regiment armed with pike and musket, 500-600 men strong

Col. Donald Farquharson of Monaltire's Regiment. Later commanded by Col. James Farquharson of Inverey. A highland unit but armed in the regular manner with musket and pike. Around 200 men strong

Col. William Gordon of Minimore's Regiment, another highland unit equipped with pike and musket but only 100-300 men strong.

Lord Gordon's Regiment of Horse a regular regiment of the Scots army, some of whom followed their laird when he defected to Montrose. Around 200 troopers strong

James Ogilvie, Earl of Airlie's Regiment of Horse, a reinforced troop of horse up to 80 strong.

Col. Patrick Graham of Inchbrackie's Regiment (The Atholl Regiment), a semi-regular unit 200-500 men strong, raised from the Atholl area. Had mixed weaponry at first but rearmed with captured muskets and possibly pikes.

Lord Kilpont's Regiment, another 500 man strong regular regiment which defect to Montrose, armed with musket and pike. Lord Kilpont would be murdered by his Major, the Regiment fell apart not long after.

Highlanders. From time to time Montrose was joined by a varied number of highlanders in their clan warbands, believed that he had at most 1400 men of the western clans under his command (at Kilsyth)

Plus there were a number of units which drifted in and out of Montrose's Army, as well as some very small units such as Montrose's Lifeguard.

*Purists will of course be shuddering at my use of the word tartan; whilst 'clan tartan' was recorded as early as the 1740s, 'clan tartan' as we know it was a Victorian invention (it's always the bloody Victorians) in their attempt at romanticising Scotland. Scotland wasn't Scottish enough for them, so they took the traditional woven checked cloth and created clan tartan; and 'a traditional cottage industry' was invented to fleece American tourists on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Also, don't, whatever you do, describe the criss cross pattern as plaid - that's even worse. A plaid is not a checked pattern, it is in fact a term for a large length of cloth which can be worn as a traditional kilt/shawl covering, or even used as a blanket. Don't think that kilts are kilts either, little kilts (the sort of kilt rented out by wedding outfitters) are known to have existed in the seventeenth century but they too were popularised by the Victorians. The great kilt, or more properly the belted plaid, was wrapped around the waist, gathered up and belted, then excess material was thrown over the shoulder and worn like a shawl/cloak. It very definitely does not look like a skirt type garment. For a slightly less tongue in cheek look at tartan in the C17th see here. It is thought that highlanders removed their plaids before going into battle so maybe the term 'hairy arsed Scots men' has some historical truth rather than just being pejorative.

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